The Best Snow Blowers: Wirecutter Reviews

Our pick snowblower outdoors in the snow.
The Toro SnowMaster 724 QXE. Photo: Doug Mahoney

Our pick

Toro SnowMaster 724 QXE

After all of our research and testing, we believe that the Toro SnowMaster 724 QXE 24-inch snow blower is the best fit for most people. This single-stage/dual-stage hybrid offers, without question, the fastest snow-blowing experience money can buy. Introduced in 2015, the SnowMaster design is a unique style of snow blower, combining elements of single-stage and two-stage models, and before we could feel confident making this recommendation, we had to test this machine through two New Hampshire winters. We even put it head-to-head against a 30-inch two-stage Troy-Bilt (our upgrade recommendation), and in each test the smaller SnowMaster got the upper hand. In fact, with this machine in the shed, we haven’t seriously considered using any of our bigger, pricier snow blowers.

What makes the SnowMaster so fast is the combination of a unique single-auger design and Toro’s Personal Pace drive system.

The auger, while technically a single-stage design, is atypical in two ways: speed and shape. According to Toro marketing manager Christine Cheng, the SnowMaster’s auger spins 10 times faster than that of the company’s compact two-stage snow blower. It has the same turning speed as a regular single-stage version, but “it has a 25% higher tip speed due to the larger diameter rotor, which provides greater throw distance versus the single stage.” That means it throws snow faster and farther. As for the shape, the sides are designed to pull snow toward the center portion, which then throws the snow. A regular single-stage design has a more “gentle curve,” which results in “a portion of the snow that does not go up the chute.”

close up of top pick
The single auger of the SnowMaster feeds snow from the edges into the center and then up and out of the chute. Photo: Doug Mahoney

The Personal Pace drive system, the other part of the equation, is far more intuitive than the usual method of shifting through gears to speed up or slow down. Here, your pressure on the grip area determines the speed—the faster you walk, the harder you press, and the faster the SnowMaster goes. If you slow down, reducing the pressure on the grip area, the speed of the wheels slows as well. The entire time, the machine is matching your pace, and the SnowMaster will clear snow as fast as you can walk.

According to Toro, the SnowMaster is capable of speeds up to 3.5 miles per hour, in contrast to the company’s compact two-stage model, which can go only 2.3 mph. With the SnowMaster, we were always very comfortable at the higher speeds, because we knew we could slow down in an instant. We could also fly over lightly snowed areas and quickly slow down when the snow got thick. With a regular two-stage machine, we usually defaulted to a moderate speed and kept it there, because the manual shift to slow down or speed up was too tedious to bother with for a short stretch.

We tested the SnowMaster 724 QXE head-to-head against the 30-inch Troy-Bilt Storm 3090 XP, using each machine to clear a 100-foot-long, 4-foot-wide path through 8 inches of snow. The SnowMaster did the work in almost half the time the Troy-Bilt required, even though it’s 6 inches (20 percent!) narrower. Not only was it quicker, but it also cleared down to the ground better.

side by side size comparison
The 24-inch SnowMaster 724 QXE (right) moved 8 inches of snow much faster than a 30-inch two-stage blower (left). Photo: Doug Mahoney

We also ran the two blowers on 4 inches of soaking-wet driveway slush (the kind that’s more water than snow), and again the SnowMaster 724 QXE did a better job. The lumbering two-stage Troy-Bilt Storm 3090 XP constantly clogged up at the chute, so we had to keep stopping and shutting it down to clear it. On the SnowMaster, in contrast, the speed of the auger was fast enough to keep the slush flying through the chute, prohibiting any blockage.

The SnowMaster does not have power steering, but due to the light weight of the machine, we don’t think this is a problem. According to Toro, the SnowMaster 724 QXE is about 125 pounds, roughly 50 pounds lighter than Toro’s compact two-stage blower. It is very easy to maneuver, and you don’t have to shift constantly between forward and reverse when clearing a tight spot—you just pull the unit backward. We are big fans of power steering on two-stage units, but we didn’t miss it at all on the SnowMaster.

The SnowMaster also has a nice joystick-style chute control that you can operate on the fly as the blower is moving—an invaluable feature when you’re blowing, say, the area between a house and garage, or any other tight space where you have to continually move the chute and cap to put the snow right where you want it. Using this control is much easier and faster than manually adjusting the deflector every time you need a direction change. Our one quibble is that we wish the chute could turn further; at times, such as up at the end of the driveway, it’s nice to be able to toss the snow to the side and a little behind. The SnowMaster can go a few degrees more than 90, but hardly enough to make a real difference. Our other picks all go further, allowing you to throw the snow a little to the rear of the blower.

Like most decent machines, the SnowMaster 724 QXE has an electric start. (’s Paul Sikkema told us that you have to go really cheap to get a blower without an electric start.) Located on the blower engine is a reverse plug (the male end). You hook it up to an extension cord, plug it into an outlet, press the primer bulb a few times, and push a start button, and the gas engine fires up and takes over.

We tried to find the ceiling of the SnowMaster’s capabilities and discovered that at about 12 inches of wet snow, the engine starts to bog down a little. Sikkema’s site points to a video where you can hear this engine strain as someone clears the end of their driveway (with the more powerful SnowMaster 824 QXE). It’s a clear sound, and once we recognized it, we simply eased off a little and started taking smaller passes or going a bit slower. The machine still cleared the snow, but with the deeper drifts it went at more of a normal pace rather than the race-car speed we were used to.

Pull Quote

The truth is, after using the SnowMaster, we have completely changed the way we view snow clearing.

We also found that the SnowMaster is so light, it tends to ride up over packed snow rather than knife under the snow. We had 5 inches of heavy, heavy snow, and while most areas didn’t cause issues for this snow blower, the tire lines where a car had driven out took a few passes to break up and remove. We also found the crusty, crunchy next-day plow mess at the end of the driveway to be a little challenging—as Sikkema writes, “You will have to bring a shovel out with you to break up that hard snow.” That said, a similarly sized two-stage machine will have a problem in this situation, as well.

The price on this blower is excellent for the capability and convenience it offers. The SnowMaster 724 QXE costs about $750 currently, less than our previous pick, the fully loaded two-stage Craftsman Quiet 208cc Dual-Stage Zero Turn Snowblower (88694).

The truth is, after using the SnowMaster, we have completely changed the way we view snow clearing. In the past, moving snow was something we had to do after the storm, maybe even the next morning. It took hours and was a drudgery we didn’t look forward to at all. But because of the SnowMaster’s sheer speed and ease of use, the task is now something we can rattle off in less than an hour. With the SnowMaster, we also have the option to do a quick midstorm pass with larger snowfalls, when the snow is still fluffy, rather than wait until the next day. By taking this approach, we’re hardly spending any more time snow blowing (because the SnowMaster is so fast), and we’re also not stressing the SnowMaster with an inordinate amount of snow.

We’re not alone in our high opinion of the SnowMaster. Paul Sikkema thoroughly tested the larger SnowMaster 824 QXE and came away deeply impressed. You can read his detailed walkthrough, or just take this away from it: “Toro does not sell anything until it’s met their extremely high quality standards so don’t be cautious about buying this new model.“

Toro makes a few SnowMaster models. We tested (and recommend) the smaller 724 QXE, which has a 212 cc engine and sells for about $750. The larger 824 QXE, with a 252 cc engine, typically goes for a little over $900. You’ll also find a stripped-down version, the 724 ZXR, with no dash-mounted chute control, for roughly $700. Spend the extra $50 for our pick. Sikkema differentiates the models by saying that the smaller 724 series should handle snows up to about 14 inches and the larger 824 can go to roughly 18 inches.

Finally, Toro covers the SnowMaster with a three-year limited warranty (PDF), and the chute is guaranteed for life. At the company’s site, it recommends contacting your retailer for details.

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