If you're looking for maximum snow-throwing distance from a compact snow blower and have plenty of money to spare, you might be tempted to spring for the $2,200 Honda HS724WA, one of the eight snow blowers we've just added to our Ratings of 46 models. It's on our list of picks chiefly for distance and removal speed, and the brand is preferred by many shoppers. Alas, you may need a lot of muscle to move it around.
The Honda HS724WA is a two-stage snow blower, which means it has an impeller behind the usual auger that lifts snow up and out. For most of these machines, moving back and forth is typically a combination of pressing and releasing the snow blower's drive lever. You use the machine's gears and driven wheels to plunge forward into the snow you're clearing; the heavier the snow, the slower the gear. You want to avoid bogging down or clogging the machine. But when you go backwards, the usual practice is to release the drive lever (which disengages the transmission) and manually pull the machine back.
Part of the 24-inch Honda's claimed attraction is that it uses a hydrostatic transmission, which lets you vary speeds smoothly without the usual shifts and jerks. Only on gear-driven snow blowers does releasing the drive lever disengage the transmission. On this model, you'll need to use the F-R transmission switch, which means a lot of back-and-forth in changing between forward and reverse gear. We found this routine especially cumbersome, particularly for a machine that costs more than two grand.
There's more. A foot-operated switch lets you disengage the transmission to move the machine around in the garage or shed without having to keep the engine running. But just as we found last winter with the 28-inch Honda HS928K1WA, $2,580, you'll still need some serious muscle to move this 200-plus pounds of machine.
If all this sounds like too much work, our recommendations also include models from Ariens, Craftsman, Cub Cadet, and Toro that not only feature the expected hand-operated transmission disengagement but also offer freewheel steering, which lets the wheels turn independently of one another during turns. You'll find all in our updated Ratings; be sure also to read our buying advice.