When considering buying anything that is used, it’s important to do your research and know what to look for. Let’s look at this in detail.
Buying a used Snowblower can be considered if it has been well-maintained and is a reputable brand. Research must be done, and the common problems must be checked before purchase: rust, fuel lines, tires, bushings, and the auger.
There may be several reasons you are looking at buying a used Snowblower. The amount of snow you get each year, to the monetary cost. No matter what the reason, if you know what to look for, use can be as good as buying new.
How Much Snow Do You Get?
The amount of snow that your state gets each year will determine whether you need a snowblower or a good snow shovel. It will also determine what size of snowblower you will require.
The state with the highest average snowfall in Vermont, followed close behind by Maine, New Hampshire, and Colorado. They receive an average snowfall of 68 – 90 inches per season. If you reside in any of these states, chances are you already have a snowblower and need to replace the one you have.
Most states receive between 25-50 inches per year. This is still a lot of snow, especially if you are moving it with pure muscle and a shovel. If you are, you may be thinking about buying a snowblower but also thinking I’m not willing to splash out for a new one.
New Snowblower vs. Used Snowblower
New snowblowers range in price anywhere from $500 – $2500. You get what you pay for, right? The snowblower at $500 is only going to be suitable for light snowfall and small areas. Whereas the snowblower at $2500, you could nearly put it to work commercially!
Of course, buying new is going to come with a warranty. You won’t have to worry about it breaking, as you just bring it back to the store.
Buying used isn’t without complications, but you may actually get a better deal. They just don’t make snowblowers like they used to. Many of the parts on new models are now plastic and give more trouble than a snowblower 15-20 years old, as they are made predominantly of metal.
You have decided you would prefer to look at what’s on offer in a used snowblower; the money you should expect to spend is $150 – $600. But buying a used snowblower is much like buying a used car.
You must be armed with all the knowledge before you begin your search.
Difference Between Snowblowers: Single-Stage and Two Stage
There are basically two snowblower options. The single-stage snowblower and the two-stage snowblower.
The single-stage rubber paddle snowblower is technically a snow-thrower, although many people just call them snowblowers. They are so-called as they use their rubber paddle to grab the snow and propel themselves forward while simultaneously throwing snow out the chute.
The two-stage snowblower is a larger model and handles the snow a little differently. It uses an auger and screw to process the snow and can do so more efficiently than a single stage. In addition, a two-stage blower has power-driven wheels, which makes a huge difference if your yard is hilly or on the large side.
There is a third option which is what’s known as a three-stage snowblower and is reserved for very large yards as a three-stage machine is large and cumbersome; it’s close to commercial-grade machinery.
|Single-Stage Snowblower (Snow-thrower)||Two-Stage Snowblower|
|Rubber Paddle||Auger Metal Auger|
|Clear 8” of Snow||Clear 24” of Snow|
|Paved Surface||All surfaces|
|21” Clearing Width||30-40” Clearing Width|
|36” Throw Distance||60” Throw Distance|
|Paddle and push drive||Engine-powered drive|
The two main types listed in the table above are specifically designed to do different jobs, so you must decide which option will suit your needs best.
The differences between the two are power and the ability to do different tasks. If you get snow every year but not very much and have a 1-2 car driveway, then the Single is sufficient. If, on the other hand, you live (or have recently moved) to a heavy snowfall state, then you need a Two-Stage.
Buying a Used Snowblower
Armed with the above knowledge, you can now start to track down a used snowblower worth the money.
Of course, there are optimum times to buy any item. Holiday decorations are always the cheapest in January. Snowblowers are always less money in the summer. However, we can’t see them in action, and so we might end up with a piece of industrial art!
So unless you are very mechanical, I would advise against buying a snowblower that you haven’t seen working.
But no matter when you buy it, there are telltale signs to watch out for when you go for a viewing.
The very first thing to do when you arrive to see a prospective purchase is to check if the snowblower has been running. If the engine is warm to the touch, then the seller has had it idling before you arrived.
They may have just been making sure everything is in order, or it may be that it’s a difficult machine to start or keep running when cold. Either way, let it cool down before you get it to start again. There are plenty of other things to check while that’s happening.
The next thing to check is rust. It’s unfortunately in a snowblower’s nature to be wet. Who wants to clear all the snow from the yard and then bring the blower back indoors and dry it down. Not too many! Most of the time, it’s put back in the garage, and it dries naturally. Which unfortunately leads to the metal rusting.
Where the rust is, is the thing to check. If it’s at the back of the bucket, where the bolts connect to the main body, then that is a big job to fix. It usually means the whole bucket will need to be replaced. If it’s minor damage at the front, it’s going to need some attention, but it’s not going to stop it from being a snowblower.
Next to check are the fuel lines. They may be cracked or leaking. This is something again that can be fixed, but it depends on how handy you are. If you have to bring it to a shop for repair it can become a bit spendy.
While we’re talking about fuel, we also need to look in the fuel tank and check the carb bowl.
Most snowblowers run on gas, and because most snowblowers are only used sporadically through the winter, if not maintained correctly, then the fuel tank and carb can become contaminated with water.
Make sure you check both. Run a finger around the base of the carb bowl to check for moisture (either gas or water is a problem).
The next thing to check is the bushings on the handlebars, the auger, and on the inside of your wheels. It’s not a new snowblower that you are checking, so there is going to be some movement. If it’s excessive, especially at the wheel axle, then I would abandon the purchase.
The axle can be very difficult to work on if the wheels have become seized. It’s definitely a job for a shop, and the cost to repair may be more than the cost of the snowblower.
The tires on your snowblower should preferably be winter tires. They can be recognized by their large knobbly rubber. Chains can be attached but it causes extra work.
Check each tire for weather wear and cracks. As with the hot engine, the seller may have pre-pumped the tires to hide the damage. Tire replacement can be pricey, so check them closely.
The main part of a snowblower is, of course, the auger. The single stage has an auger with a rubber paddle that scrapes the ground. It’s worth noting that this paddle wears and needs to be replaced.
The two-stage auger is metal. It doesn’t touch the ground, but blades can become damaged if bushings need replacing. The main thing to check on the auger is the shear keys.
Sometimes these have broken (which is what they are designed to do) but in many instances are replaced with standard nuts and bolts. Shear keys are there for your safety. They are designed to snap if a chunk of ice gets caught in the blades to save the main shaft from damage.
If they have been replaced with bolts, the safety break won’t happen, and irreparable damage will occur.
The last thing to do before you set off to view a snowblower is check if parts are available for that particular make and model.
Many parts have been discontinued due to manufacturers no longer making their own parts. There is no point in buying a snow blower if you have no access to parts.
Which Brand Should I Buy?
There is a range of different brands available. They include Toro, Ariens, Cub Cadet, and Troybilt. All have pros and cons, and when looking at a used snowblower, it will very much depend on how the snowblower was maintained and how it has been stored when not in use. If we look at the single-stage, the Cub Cadet would be a good choice.
It has a 26” clearance, is gas-powered, and has a throw distance of 40ft. It handles well and is predominantly metal. However, they may not be widely available as a used snowblower. You might get lucky if someone is relocating and trying to get rid of one.
The larger two-stage snowblower to look out for is a Toro. It is great for larger areas, including piles of snow left by the city snowplows. It is also gas-powered, has 30” clearance, and has a throw distance of 49 ft. They are not always easy to obtain as a used model, as they are expensive to buy initially, and people tend to hold on to them.
There are electric versions of snowblowers available but may not be widely available as used. They don’t have the same clout as a gas-powered snowblower and are not built as sturdily.
Life of a Snowblower
A snowblower that has been well maintained can last in excess of 20 years. When viewing a used snowblower, you should be able to tell if a snowblower has been loved.
Have a glimpse around the yard of the seller. Is everything neat and tidy? You can tell a lot about where a snowblower lives. Ask the reasons for selling. Has it had a good service history? Have they owned it since new?
You may find these posts helpful:
- How long do snowblowers last?
- How to store a snowblower
- Storing Snowblower outdoors
- Snowblower care
- Snowblower troubleshooting symptoms table
When buying a used snowblower do your research. Don’t just buy the first one you go to see (unless it’s a minter!)
A used snowblower with some years on it will be a better purchase than a newer one. Older snowblowers are better built; they have more metal, less plastic, and better engineering. Don’t be put off by the age of the snowblower has been looked after.
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- About the Author
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John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer at Lawnmowerfixed.com.
He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and shares his know-how and hands-on experience in our DIY repair guides.
Johns’s fluff-free How-to guides help homeowners fix lawnmowers, tractor mowers, chainsaws, leaf blowers, power washers, generators, snow blowers, and more.