Single Stage vs Two Stage vs Three Stage Snow Blowers

As winter approaches each year, many people contemplate the inevitable task of moving snow. The job itself can be a workout, and back-breaking if the snow is too deep or heavy. Snow blowers make this task much easier.

Many people wonder what the differences are between the types of snow blowers available today, and that is what we aim to clarify below. Once you've learned the differences between snow blower types, have a look out our gas snow blower review, our corded electric snow blower review or our cordless snow blower review.

snow blower stages

What Is a Snow Blower?

A snow blower, or snow thrower, is a machine that clears snow by gathering it up and blowing it to another location. This is accomplished with augers at the front of the machine, which draw the snow in. From there, the snow is thrown or blown out of a chute.

Is there a difference between a snow thrower and a snow blower? Technically there is – for example, see this article at Jacks Small Engines. Instead of being interchangeable terms, each describes the mechanical process of moving the snow once it has been gathered and moved into the chute.

If we are being strictly correct, we should call a single-stage device a Snow Thrower, and a two-stage or three-stage device a Snow Blower. In practice, people refer to all these machines as Snow Blowers, as we will in this article.

Read more on how a snow blower works.

What Is a Single-Stage Snow Blower?

A single-stage snow blower uses an auger to gather snow from in front of it as it moves. The housing surrounding the auger is tapered, condensing the snow into a smaller area. There is an opening in the back that the snow is then pushed through.

From here the snow travels up and then out of a chute. The snow is launched away from the path that is being cleared. All of this is done in a single continuous motion powered by the auger blades.

On a single-stage thrower, the auger makes contact with the ground. That means any loose objects will be gathered with the snow. This limits a single-stage snow blower to operating on hard surfaces such as asphalt, concrete, and brick.

The smaller and easier to handle single-stage snow blower is suited for areas that receive smaller storms through the year that drop around 6-8 inches at most with each snowfall. These smaller storms usually produce snow that is lighter and less compacted, which is what a single-stage device is best suited to. According to's article, the type & amount of snow is the single most important factor in determining which type of snow blower you need.

What Is Different About a Two-Stage Snow Blower?

The difference between single-stage and two-stage snow blowers is how the snow is moved after the auger gathers it. In a two-stage snow blower, the auger feeds the snow into a high-speed impeller that grabs it and blows it out of the chute. The impeller rotates many times faster than the auger blade does, which allows it to move snow faster and farther than a single-stage blower is able to.

The auger on a two-stage snow blower does not make contact with the ground. That means that loose material on the will not be picked up. This design allows a blower to be used on surfaces like dirt or gravel as well as hard surfaces.

Two-stage blowers are larger and heavier than their single-stage cousins, due to bigger augers and engines with more power. They are self-propelled or designed to pull themselves through the snow by the wheels (some single-stage snow blowers may be described as self-propelled, but usually this is a limited feature caused by the auger turning & pulling the machine forward - certainly the effect is much stronger in two-stage wheel-driven snow blowers). This feature allows them to take on inclines, which may prove difficult at best for a snow thrower.

These machines are designed for areas that receive storms through the year that drop more than 8-inches with each snowfall. Their design allows them to move snow that is more compact and icy. These are important considerations for consumers to consider, according to this buying guide.

The differences between single-stage and two-stage blowers in regard to distance, speed, and volume are shown in this video:

What is a Three-Stage Snow Blower?

The difference between a two and three-stage snow blower is the addition of an extra auger called an accelerator. This additional auger sits at 90 degrees to the main auger, and breaks the snow and ice into smaller chunks, before feeding it into the impeller. The addition of the accelerator allows this type of blower to move snow up to 30% faster according to Consumer Reports. This type of snow blower is the most effective (especially for wet snow, heavy snowfall, or large areas). This extra performance comes at a cost, both in dollars and in size & weight - sadly, there's no such thing as a free lunch!

​The speed and power of a three-stage snow blower is demonstrated in this YouTube video:


You should now have a better understanding of the different types of snow blowers. This understanding will help you discern the design and functions of each type. Armed with this information, you can feel confident that your purchase will be an educated one! Do check our article on FAQ about snow blowers next.

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