Are 3 Stage Snow Blowers Worth It: 3 Stage Vs. 2 Stage

A dusting of snow is fine, a thin layer you can shovel by hand, but when we get into ankle-deep snow you need to roll the snowblower into action.

The driveway leading up to my home is a reasonable size when you include the parking space, it was money well spent when I parted with a lump of cash for my dual-stage snow blower. But should I have upgraded to a 3 Stage blower?

In hindsight, I had to question myself, what is the difference between a 2 Stage vs a 3 Stage snow blower, and are 3 Stage snow blowers worth it?

So, I decided to find out…did I really buy the right snow blower?

Are 3 Stage Snow Blowers Worth It?

For most homeowners, a good quality 2 Stage snow thrower should be more than adequate for clearing regular snowfall up to 12 inches deep. However, if you experience extensive and regular snowfall over 15-18 inches then a commercial 3 stage snow blower will be worth purchasing. Here’s a few pros and cons of a typical 3 Stage snow thrower:

Pros

  • Clear snow 100% faster
  • Clears snow and ice over 18 inches deep
  • Throws snow over 50 feet clear

Cons

  • Higher initial purchase cost
  • More expensive to run and maintain
  • Require more storage space

Let’s get to grips with what these pros and cons mean in relation to a 2 Stage Snow Blower and figure out are 3 stage snow blowers are worth the money?

2 Stage Vs. 3 Stage Snow Blower

First off let’s outline the feature differences between 2 Stage and 3 stage snow blowers. Some of these differences are relatively minimal, but there are a few functions and features that are notably different and could affect your purchasing decision

What Is a 2 Stage Snow Blower?

The dual-stage snowblower gets its name from the two stages or operations performed when clearing and blowing snow. 

Stage 1

In the first stage, the snowblower will gather and break down snow and ice with an auger.

Stage 2

In stage two, the snow is transferred into the impeller and then thrown from the machine via the discharge chute. 

I think it’s fair to say 2 stage snow blowers could be considered the domestic standard for clearing snow in residential settings. Nine times out of ten, if you ask your neighbor what type of snow blower they have the response will be… ‘a 2 Stage Snow Blower’. 

Let’s just say there are big enough and powerful enough to do the majority of clearing for most people.

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2 Stage Snow Blower

Most two-stage snow blowers can be operated with one hand and feature comfort functions such as electric hand warmers, headlights, and other helpful features. It’s common that high-end models are self-propelled, making it easier for homeowners to use the blower over prolonged distances or for longer periods of time.

With a 2 Stage snowblower, you’ll be able to clear snow and ice over 12 inches deep with little to no concern. These tools are relatively easy to operate and do a solid job at removing snow and ice from residential areas. With many 2 stage snow blowers allowing you to adjust the chute while you’re moving. 

I am happy with mine, so what is that third stage of the snowblower, and is it worth it?

What Is a 3 Stage Snow Blower?

Stage 1

In the first stage, the snowblower will gather and break down snow and ice with an auger.

Stage 2

In stage two, the snow is transferred into the impeller and then thrown from the machine via the discharge chute. 

Stage 3

Stage three refers to the snow blower’s accelerator which increases the speed of the impeller to cut through snow and ice faster. This can half the operation a time to clear a given area.

Even though 3 Stage snow blowers have been around for over 40 years, many people still consider these tools a new technology for snow blowing.

Most 3 stage snow blowers are considered a commercial tool and feature an electric starter but run-on gasoline, that powers a 4-Cycle engine. Even though 3 stage snow blowers work faster than 2 stage, they will tend to run for longer if you have a large yard, as they eat through thicker deeper snowfall. So, a gas engine can be a cheaper option than powering such a large tool with expensive Lithium-Ion battery cells.

The accelerator stage drives snow through the impeller fast and essentially cuts snow clearance time in half. Professionals favor these powerful 3-Stage tools but given their engine, and extra complexity, they are large, noisy, and require regular maintenance. 

This isn’t to say that someone who has the time and energy to maintain these tools can’t, but for most people, regularly checking to see if the snowblower is working properly and storing it well at the end of the season is more hassle than the average person needs. 

Ideally, people use 3 stage snow blowers in areas where snowfall is incredibly heavy or when someone wants to remove the snow as quickly as possible. 

Difference Between 2 Stage and 3 Stage Snow Blowers

There are several differences between these two snow blowers, many of which some people may not notice without looking deeper. The most obvious difference is the number of stages. A 2 Stage snow blower has two stages, and a 3 Stage snow blower has three…simple enough.

But there’s more to it than just 2 or 3 stage functionalities in deciding if a 3 Stage snow blower is worth it. 

  • Snow Blowing Capacity 
  • Forward Propulsion Speed
  • Augers and Impellers
  • Blower Accelerator 
  • Maintenance and Service 
  • Throwing Distance

So, let’s look at each element and see how they compare.

Snow Blowing Capacity 

A 3 Stage snow blower takes first place for snow blowing capacity. These blowers can remove snow and ice from more extensive land areas than 2 Stage blowers. If you live in an area that sees snowfall, but it’s nothing extreme, a 2 Stage snow blower can handle the job with ease. 

The snow-blowing capacity will vary depending on the snow blower you purchase. A 2 Stage snow blower can typically handle depths of snow that reach a little more than 12 inches. If you don’t see snowfall that exceeds 12 inches regularly, a 2 Stage snow blower may be the best option on your pocket and in practical use. 

You’ll want to keep in mind that even if you see one or two days of more than 12 inches of snow, but the rest of the season is less than that, a 2 Stage snow blower will still be the better option. 

If you live in an area where you regularly see 18 inches plus of snow in the winter or colder months of the year, a 3 Stage snow blower will definitely be worth considering. These snow blowers can handle heavy snowfall with ease, whether it’s on your driveway or throughout your yard. 

Forward Propulsion Speed

When you’re using a 2 Stage snow blower, they’re usually self-propel forward. This is obviously reducing fatigue and increases potential operation time. However, most 3 stage snow blowers also have a self-propelling function.

I strongly recommend you check the weight of a 3 Stage snow blower before buying it. Whilst the majority of 3-Stage blowers have a self-propulsion feature, not all of them do. So, pushing one of these beasts manually could be way outside of your comfort zone.

If the snow blower is a lightweight machine with self-propulsion, it will be very easy on your back. If the machine is heavy and does not have the self-propulsion feature, it can cause strain or injury, even in short bursts. 

Augers and Impellers

Both 2 Stage and 3 Stage snow blowers have an auger and impeller:

  • 2 Stage blower has two augers
  • 3 Stage blower has three augers

Augers are a corkscrew-like barrel that rotates to break and lift snow and ice. They work by pushing the snow towards the impeller, which then ejects the snow through the chute.

impeller rotated
Impeller
augur
Augur

The third auger on a 3 Stage blower can work around ten times faster than the tool’s impeller. The faster third auger contributes to the device blowing snow much quicker than a 2 Stage. 

Blower Accelerator 

An accelerator is the most significant functional difference between 2 Stage and 3 Stage snow blowers. The accelerator plays the most prominent role in why 3 stage snow blowers are faster at clearing snow.

An accelerator is not an essential function, but more of an add-on or upgrade that is useful to get the job done faster. When using a 3 Stage snow blower, you’ll be able to remove snow about 50% faster than with a 2 Stage. 

Maintenance and Service 

It’s important to note the difference in the maintenance of a 2 Stage and 3 Stage snow blower.

Due to the extra complexity of a 3 Stage snow blower, you cannot expect to keep your snowblower maintained without professional assistance on this commercial power tool. No doubt some of you will who have the technical understanding to service and maintain your power tools, but the average person will need professional help. 

Whereas a Dual Stage snowblower is easier to maintain meaning you will have a lower running cost over the lifetime of the tool. It will still need engine maintenance and basic good housekeeping but well within the capabilities of the average Joe.

Snow Blower Size

Storage should be a serious consideration when choosing your snowblower. The potential size of a snowblower may have a bearing on whether you can fit it into your garage or not. 3 Stage blower will often turn out to be a bigger unit, with a wider intake, and consequently wider body.

However, 2 and 3 stage blowers do come in all shapes and sizes, just be sure to check it out.

Which Snow Blower Blows the Farthest?

Most 3 stage snow blowers can blow about 50 feet away. Although, due to their larger size and weight, some may blow less than 50 feet. 

Typically, 2 stage snow blowers can blow snow anywhere from 20 to 50 feet, dependent on the specification of the product you purchase. 

The last thing you want is to have purchased a 3 Stage blower to clear your huge driveway, only to find it throws the snow 5 feet onto the area you just cleared…right!

Therefore, it stands to reason that commercial grade 3 stage snow blowers will throw the snow farther than most 2 stage tools.

Price Comparison

The price difference between a 2 Stage and 3 Stage snowblower will vary by specification, features, and brand. So the best way to express the price gap is to pick out two products with identical specifications from the same brand. The only difference being one is 2 Stage and the other is 3 Stage.

Cub Cadet 3X 30Pro

Price Comparison

Cub Cadet 2-Stage Power 30″ Max

$1,499.00

Cub Cadet 3-Stage Power 30″ Max

$2,099.00

The price difference is around $600 which is representative of most other brands too, but are 3 Stage snowblowers worth the money?

Which Is Better: A 2 Stage or 3 Stage Snow Blower?

It’s difficult to give a straight answer to which type of snow blower is better because they’re both excellent power tools depending on your situation.

A 2 Stage snowblower is excellent for average domestic use where snowfall is generally under 12 inches. A 2 Stage will take longer to clear the snow, but it’s a more affordable option at initial purchase and in servicing and maintenance.

A 3 Stage snowblower will clear snow around twice as fast and typically throw over 50 feet. If you have a large area of land where snowfall is regularly 18 inches deep, then a 3 Stage snow thrower may be a better choice 

Verdict: Are 3 Stage Snow Blowers Worth It?

Personally, I don’t think so.

Based on convenience, maintenance, maneuverability, and price, I am still of the opinion 90% of households will find a 2 Stage snow thrower more than capable of clearing their yard of snow.

However, if you regularly see 18 inches or more of snow, a 3 Stage snowblower may be an excellent option for you. They offer commercial-level performance, allowing you to clear extensive areas of deep snow fast.

If you see less than 18 inches of snow, a 2 stage or even 1 stage electric snow shovel may well prove to be the better option.