One-Stage vs Two-Stage vs Three-Stage: Which Snowblower Is Best?

There are three different stage snow blowers available on the market, single-stage (also known as one-stage), two-stage, and three-stage. The difference between a one-stage snowblower, a two-stage snow blower, and a three-stage snow blower is the capacity.

A three-stage snow blower is able to remove a larger capacity of snow quickly and easily when compared to a two-stage snowblower, and a two-stage snow blower is able to remove a larger capacity of snow quicker and easier than a one-stage snowblower.

Does that mean you shouldn’t get a one-stage or two-stage snow blower? Of course not. For many people a three-stage snowblower is overkill, however, I’ve compiled a brief explanation of each so you can better determine which stage snowblower is right for you.

Trying to decide which snowblower is right for you? Check out our snowblower brand comparison!

What Is A One-Stage Snow Blower

A one-stage snowblower often referred to as a single-stage snowblower uses one auger to pick up the snow and discharge it through the shoot. This single auger makes contact with the surface you are clearing so it should only be used on a paved surface and isn’t suitable for gravel drives or grass. For this we recommend a two-stage blower instead.

Here are the pro’s and con’s of a single stage snowblower:

Pros

  • The most affordable snowblower
  • Requires the least amount of maintenance
  • Available in both gas and electric (corded and cordless)

Cons

  • Can only move a small amount of snow compared to duel and three stage blowers
  • Is not suitable for multi-level surfaces such as gravel or grass

A single-stage snow blower is the slowest of all three snowblowers and has a limited capacity. If you have a large area you need to clear or get a lot of snow regularly during the winter then you’ll likely be better with a two-stage or three-stage snow blower instead.

On the flip side this lower capacity means that the machine is more affordable (between $100 and $1,000), lighter (and therefore easier to manoeuvre) and smaller than a two-stage or three-stage blower. Being that the single stage blower doesn’t require as much power as a duel or three-stage snowblower you’ll find that these are available in both gas and electric.

Personally, I’ve found that electric powered snow blowers require less maintenance than gas (you don’t have to change the oil for starters) however, the power source can become an issue.

Electric single stage snowblowers are available in two formats; corded and cordless. Both of these have pro’s and cons. A corded snowblower can work continuously. However, you’re limited by the location of power outlets and the cord length. There’s also a danger of tripping over or damaging the cord while you’re blowing snow (I’ve found first hand that it can easily be lost in 4 inches or more of snow when you’re concentrating on the job).

However, cordless single-stage snowblowers run from a rechargeable battery. An while there’s no risk of tripping over a wire, there is a risk that you could run out of charge (or in my case forget to charge) before blowing all the snow. To prevent this you can pick up combo deals when purchasing the snowblower or buy additional batteries as and when they are required for between $100 and $200.

What Is A Two-Stage Snow Blower

A two-stage snowblower uses two augers together with an impaler to collect snow which in turn pushes it through a fan attached which pushes the snow through a chute. The capacity and price point of a two-stage snowblower is inline with the machines primary audience, homeowners.

Here are some pros and cons of the two-stage snowblower:

Pros

  • More affordable than a three stage snowblower
  • Requires less maintenance
  • Can work on multiple surfaces including gravel

Cons

  • Significantly louder than a three-stage snowblower
  • Can take longer to clear snow
  • Leaves behind a layer of snow

As two-stage snowblowers are more commonly used by homeowners there’s a wider range of models available to purchase. I’ve found that this competition encourages new features to be added to the latest models, and helps to reduce the cost of older models at a faster rate. I’ve also found that because two-stage snow blowers don’t have an accelerator installed (unlike three-stage snowblowers) the auger is slightly angled this makes two-stage snowblowers perfect for uneven surfaces.

This includes gravel driveways as the augers are designed to prevent any gravel from being picked up, chopped up, and pushed out through the shoot along with the snow. This is important as doing so could potentially damage your machine and the surrounding people or items.

However, as two-stage snow blowers don’t have accelerator it takes longer to blow the snow. Although I’ve found the difference in time vs cost when compared to a three-stage snowblower to only be beneficial if you’re clearing a large area of land.

As well as speed another benefit to the accelerator of a three-stage snowblower is how close the machine can get to the ground. Because of the auger, two-stage snowblowers are always required to be a couple of centimeters from the ground surface and therefore leave a small layer of snow even after being cleared.

This is why three-stage snow blowers are more commonly targetted to commercial property owners and professional snow removal services. The same applies to the maintenance of two-stage and three-stage snowblowers. Three-stage snowblowers cost more to repair and maintain, meanwhile two-stage snowblowers often include a 4-cycle gas powered engine which costs less to maintain.

However, there are some drawbacks to a two-stage snowblower. My biggest one is the noise level. Two-stage snowblowers tend to be significantly louder than three-stage snowblowers. If you live in a residential area and plan to clean your drive prior to 9 am then this could be a problem.

What Is A Three Stage Snow Blower

Now you know what a two-stage snowblower is, what about a three-stage? Well, as you might expect a three-stage snowblower includes three augers instead of the two which a two-stage snow blower includes. The third auger is an accelerator that significantly improves the rate in which you’re able to remove snow.

The main pros and cons of a three-stage snowblower are:

Pros

  • One of the most powerful snowblowers on the market
  • Can move a large amount of snow quickly and easily
  • Can move wet snow which other snowblowers struggle with

Cons

  • Very expensive to purchase when compared to a two-stage
  • Cost more to maintain and take longer to repair
  • Are very large and very heavy so can be difficult to manoeuvre and store

The the major difference between a two-stage snowblower and a three-stage snowblower is the third auger which is the accelerator. This accelerator is used to mix and chop the snow it collects. This is significantly faster than the two augers and an impaler used by two-stage snow blowers and also allows you to blow wet snow which is often the most difficult type of snow to move.

The power of the accelerator within a three-stage snowblower gives the machine the ability to throw snow more than 50ft and clear a larger distance than a two-stage blower.

There are some drawbacks to a three-stage snowblower. The majority of which come down to the machines cost both initially as well as in maintenance and repairs. However, I’ve found with a good personal maintenance routine these repairs can be kept at a minimum.

As less three-stage snow blowers are purchased than two-stage snowblowers you’ll find manufacturers are slower to upgrade their models and to offer any discounts and sales. With a lack of regular upgrades and given the target market (professionals) you’ll also find a lack of new features. In fact, despite often being more expensive there are more features on a two-stage snowblower than a three-stage snowblower.

One-Stage vs Two-Stage vs Three-Stage

There’s certainly a market for all three different types of snowblower. Whether you’re best purchasing a one-stage, two-stage or three-stage snowblower will depend on your circumstances. Specifically; your budget, the power availability you have and the amount of snow you see on a regular basis during winter. I know many people who purchase a single stage.

One-StageTwo-StageThree-Stage
PriceBetween $200 and $1,000 (electric is cheaper than gas)Between $450 and $3,000Between $1,000 and $1,500
Power SourceGas and Electric (corded and cordless)GasGas
Snow Throwing Distance5 to 10 feet5 to 15 feet20 to 40 feet
Suitable For Snow DepthUp to 5 inch (sometimes 10 it depends on the type of snow)Up to 15 inchUp to 15 inch
SpeedSlowMediumFast
Range Of Makes & ModelsSomewhat limited100+Very limited
Suitable For Multi-SurfacesNoYesYes
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