2 Stage vs 3 Stage Snow Blowers: Is An Extra Stage Worth It?

Researched & Written by Craig

Maybe you own a two stage snow blower and are thinking about upgrading. 

Or, you’re a snow blower virgin and have heard fantastic things about the performance of the three stage models but aren’t sure if the extra cost is worth it.

We’re here to give you the low down on both two and three stage models to help you decide.  Let’s look at how they stack up feature wise side by side.

Side by Side Comparison

FEATURE2 STAGE3 STAGE
Engine200 – 400cc300 – 400+ cc
ImpellerYes – 3 bladesYes – 4 blades
Auger(s)Conventional front typeCentre front fitted augers
Front DesignClosed Flight System front endMuch wider opening front end than 2 stage
AcceleratorNoYes
Intake Height20 – 24 inches24 inches +
Tossing Distance25 – 50 feetUsually 50 feet standard
Use on gravel/uneven terrainYesYes
PropulsionSelf – PropelledSelf – Propelled
Snow Clearing AbilityUsually 12 – 16 inches depthCan clear above 20 inches of snow depth

What all the Technical Stuff Means

Both two and three stage snow blowers are typically gas powered, but the engine on the three stage snow blower is larger in size, meaning it’s more powerful.

Snow blowers with bigger engines are able to support wider auger sizes and taller intake heights.  A snow blower with a wider auger size will be able to clear an area of snow in fewer passes, making the job quicker. 

So, the wider the auger, the quicker you’ll get done, essentially.

The three stage machines have augers that are mounted in the center front of the machine, meaning that they rotate 10x faster than the conventional front end augers on the two stage models.  This translates into a massive difference in the amount of snow collected to be dispersed.

The higher the intake height, the deeper the snow drifts that you can clear and the faster that snow will enter the machine to be dispersed elsewhere.  The three stage models do have a wider and more open front end design than the two stage models – once again taking in more snow and ensuring you need only pass over an area instead of repeated sweeps.

All of these differences combine to make the three stage snow blower more POWERFUL in general. 

It’s basically a snow blower on ‘turbo’ mode.

Both two and three stage snow blowers have collection augers and an impeller, but the accelerator on the three stage machines is what really sets it apart. 

Industry wisdom holds that the three stage models of snow blower (because of the accelerator) will gather snow about 50% faster than the two stage models, that’s a big difference in anyone’s book.

The accelerator also means that even when clearing very big drifts of snow, the three stage machines don’t have to slow down like the two stage models.  Some users report that three stage machines also leave a cleaner surface behind because even the remaining snow is immediately taken into the impeller chute.

Because of the three stage’s intensive snow intake and dispersal of around 50 feet, it also leaves the augers cleaner when you’re done which saves you on clean up and maintenance.  It kind of cleans itself in that respect. 

3-Stage Snow Blower Wrap-Up

Simply put, the three stage machines are superior in terms of snow clearing efficiency

Like the two stage machines they do a quick and effective job, they just do it quicker and more effectively because they’re bigger and more powerful and have an accelerator.

As both types of snow blower are self – propelled, you’ll find both easy to use with a minimum of user generated force needed.  And, as both two stage and three stage snow blowers have carriages slightly raised from the ground and are height adjustable by the user, you can use them over uneven terrain and gravel without worrying about picking up unwanted debris that could damage surrounding surfaces or the machine itself when it’s shot out.

Both types of machine will clear significant amounts of snow fall – you’d really only need to consider the three stage machine if you had extreme snow fall conditions on a regular basis.  

Consider Your Needs When Buying a Snow Blower

Before splurging on a three stage snow blower, and they are pricey, you need to consider what you’ll be using the machine for.

Man using a snow blower
Before shopping for a snow blower, consider what you need out of one

Do you need that kind of intensive snow busting power given your circumstances?  Most two stage snow blowers are relatively powerful and do a great job in even heavier snow fall areas, they also deal effectively with wet snow and are the biggest sellers consumer wise for non – commercial use. 

Today’s two stage models continue to improve and manufacturers keep adding useful or nifty features for user ease and enjoyment. 

So – when SHOULD you consider getting yourself a three stage machine?  See if any of the following applies to you:

  • Your residential property is very large
  • You live in a rural area with large spaces and tough terrain
  • You own rental property that regularly needs clearing
  • You own commercial property that regularly needs clearing
  • You will be using the machine for a snow clearing business
  • You will be buying the machine to rent out to others – i.e. for commercial use
  • You own or manage a large facility like a sports ground, academic campus or airstrip
  • You need one for agricultural use
  • You will be using the machine in a secluded or very large open area and can minimize noise disturbance – the three stage machines can be very noisy depending on the make and model
  • You simply enjoy very powerful machines, have the space to store a large machine, and want to take your snow blowing efficiency to the extreme
  • You don’t mind paying the higher fuel costs for a larger machine
  • You are very ‘handy’ or technically skilled and can do most of the maintenance on a three stage machine yourself OR you have the budget to be able to afford the higher maintenance costs that come with three stage snow blowers

Simply put, the three stage machines are the monsters of the snow blowing world and their price reflects that.   

When used regularly on larger/commercial properties they are very much worth the money because the areas covered warrant that.  If you’re a person that has a need for high performance snow clearing over large areas or in areas with an extreme level of snow fall, the three stage machines are worth looking at. 

The Case for 2-Stage Snow Blowers

For individual or residential use, the two stage machines are very good and more advanced models come onto the market regularly. 

The two stage machines also have the benefit of requiring less storage space – if you’re in a typical two garage sized property the three stage machines can simply be too bulky and cumbersome to store easily and you need to consider that. 

Snow blower in garage
Snow Blowers require certain amount of storage space

Questions to ask yourself – do I have the space to store a huge snow blower safely, will I be able to have it easily accessible to save set up hassle, and can I get it in and out of my garage or shed space without injuring myself or damaging other vehicles or equipment in the same area?

Residential properties can be limited as to storage space, so it’s something you need to consider.  It’s always wise as a consumer to look ahead and consider the space resources at your disposal – buying the machine was easy, getting it home was a doddle, but what happens after that

You may find with the current space demands of your existing vehicles and accumulated ‘stuff’ that it’s simply not feasible to move an industrial strength beast of a three stage machine into your already overtaxed storage area.

Snow Blower Hacks & Top Tips

Whether you go two or three stage snow blower, we’ve rounded up the best of user hacks and top tips to help you along. 

Here’s the inside scoop on getting the best out of your machine!

  • Worried about or irritated by the amount of noise your snow blower is creating?  Nobody likes upset neighbors or ear damage!  Angle the snow blower exhaust pipe(s) either up towards the sky or downwards either at knee level or facing the ground.  This will reduce the noise dispersion.
  • Wear earplugs/ear muffs while using your snow blower to protect your hearing.
  • If your machine is overloud consider chatting to a repair shop or the manufacturer about having a new/different style muffler fitted.
  • Look out for models of snow blower that come with a rotating snow dispersal chute.  The rotating chute saves you time on adjustments.
  • If you’re worried about collecting gravel or going over uneven or rocky terrain, most snow blowers have a ‘Transport’ setting which raises the augers to avoid damage during transit.  Use this setting on gravel and uneven/rocky terrain because it lifts the augers and raises the front end of the machine slightly so that you can ‘skim’ over unwanted surfaces.
  • Always go with the wind when using your machine.  It sounds obvious but moving in the same direction as the wind saves you effort and you won’t have snow blown back into your face.
  • Money saving tip – commercial or agricultural snow blowers are usually TAX DEDUCTIBLE, check your local tax regulations!

Useful Links

Popular Mechanics’ Top Rated Snow Blowers 2021

Snow Blower Reviews 2021

Consumer Rated Buying Guide December 2020

Lowes Guide to Snow Blower Maintenance

Sears Guide to Snow Blower Maintenance

Ideas on Snow Blower Storage Sheds