Snow Plow service vs Snow Blower

stinkytiger(z5 - z6)January 26, 2009

Hi,

I would like to ask the forum their views on if it is better to keep my existing snow plow service or get my own snow blower.

I live in Westchester County New York near the Westchester County Airport. I get on average 10 snow events per year. I have 400 ft of driveway 10 feet wide + 1,600 sq feet of car park / turn aroung area by the garage. The driveway is on a hill.

The cost of plowing the driveway is $US 50 a time for the first 6 inches of snow. An additional surcharge of $US 25 per each 6 inches after that.

On average I would say I spend $US 500 - $US 700 per year on snow clearing.

Right now I have a plow guy. He does an OK job but it is expensive. So my question is I was thinking of getting a Honda HS 1132 TA. This is in the price of about $US 3,000. So it will take me about 5 years to make it back. I like the track version, but have had no experience with snowblowers.

What are the pitfalls of going this route? Should I stick with the plow guy? Or should I go with the snowblower? If I go witht he snow blower, how long would it take to clear off 4-6 inches of snow which is a typical snow event given my driveway and area? How long would it take to do a 8-12 inch snow event, which is rare?

Thank you. warmest regards, Mike.

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tomplum

I think a lot of it depends on on your personal preference. When I lived in snow country, I did a lot of snowthrowing. I also had a house that had a shared drive for part of the way for 5 years or so. When I bought it, the lady next door sang the praises of the snowplow guy. He did the walk ways, porches and everything. It was a real luxury. I did bits of clean up, but was sure glad when the big snows came.
With that being said, to fairly compare expenses- you also need to figure the maintenance and repairs of the snow thrower. If you don't do your own maintenance, how much will the dealer charge for annual service, P&D, etc.Repairs come along too. Snow events are more trying for dealers than anything. When it snows a foot at your house, it snowed a foot all around and everyone needs service at once. You may want to check out what your dealer will do for you when that happens. It is a different world than the spring rush at the shop.
The model you picked looks to be a great machine. Is your driveway / carport area laid out so that the snowthrower will be able to throw snow off the surface w/o having to re-throw much of it? Anyways, a bit of food for thought. Good luck with your decision.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2009 at 12:22PM
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jon1

Buy the Honda.
Snowblower scrape the snow right down the pavement and through it a long distance. It will take you a little longer but it will be a better job. The Honda will last a LONG time, way more than 5 years. Oh, and they just sip gas. You will wear out long before the tank runs empty.
The pickup blade goes right down the pavement when he is going forward, but in reverse it tends to "float" over the snow.Also, the blade can tear up the sod more often.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2009 at 2:32PM
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scgekg(Z5 NY)

Do you have a lawn tractor to which a small blade might be attached? - (I am guessing from a 400 foot driveway, you might easily have more than an acre and already have something that can be adapted as a plow, rather than a separate piece of snow blower equipment). You can't beat something that is basically free (or already owned).

I have a similar length driveway, but a much larger parking area - about the size of a tennis court. I sometimes use a 5 HP two stage snow blower - it needs to be blown twice to get all the way across (and the wind is always in my face no matter which directions I blow it in). To do the whole "tennis court" usually takes me more than an hour.

I am also trying to improvise an inexpensive blade onto a trailer hitch to just plow it to a central location where I can blow it just once.

(Note: more than 6 inches the plow guy does it; less than 3 inches is ignored and I just drive over it; 3 to 6 inches I usually deal with myself with the blower, along with snow blowing successive smaller ones that begin to mount up).

Our driveway is gravel and turns to glare ice, so my solution is not perfect by any means.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2009 at 3:51PM
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stinkytiger(z5 - z6)

Hello,

Thank you all for your comments. I unfortunately do not have a tractor. My lawn area is about 1/2 to about 5/8 or an acre. So i have a Honda HRC 216 Hydrostatic. It is sort of hilly, so I was scared that a tractor might tip over. Ialso have not that much room in my garage for all my toys :).

My wife thinks we should keep the snow plow service, but we just do not like the cost. Mind you as Mr. topplum pointed out, a snow blower is not free either.

I do have lots of room to push / blow snow off fortunately, so that is an easy point.

The time factor is also sort of important to me. One hour is O.K. 30 mins is better. Two hours would be a killer. If I can clear a 3 inch snow storm in about 30-40 mins, then that is acceptable. Longger for the real big storms is OK too, but they only happen rarely.

All the best, Mike.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2009 at 6:00PM
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bill7(NW MN)

I am assuming you thought of a plow for yourself? If you already have a truck, you could get into a smaller blade setup for just a bit more than the new Honda. It seems to me 400ft of driveway is a long way to blow. I have a snowsport, not sure if I recommend it or not. It works ok, but it is limited in its usefulness (I get A LOT of drifting where I am). I have a small Toro 824 that I use as well. Between the two, I get things done.

Here is a link that might be useful: snowsport

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 9:47PM
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stinkytiger(z5 - z6)

Hi,

Unfortunately I do not have a truck so I cannot attach a blade. You sort of hit on a point of the driveway being long. What I am trying to gauge is just how long will it take to clear my 400ft driveway using a snow blower?

Just how hard will it be? I guestimate with a 32 inch wide clearance, I think I will be able to get away with four passes. My garage is at the top of the sloped driveway. So I am looking at Down-Up-Down-Up. If I go at my Honda Mower speed, walking pace, then I can go up the hill in about 4 mins. So does 16-20 mins seem reasonable to snowblow? Or am I fooling myself. I have no experince using one of these snowblowers so I am definately guessing in the dark here.

Warmest regards, Mike.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 6:30AM
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tomplum

When you get large snowfalls, you will be moving at a snails pace compared to using a mower. The machine needs time to process the snow. With that being said, go to the dealer and try one out. Lower speeds are on these things for a reason. You may also try the more mid-range speeds and know that is about where you will be at if you are dealing with that 4-6" ish snowfall. This is all relative to the moisture content of the snow. The dealer may have something for you to try out in the snow at his lot as well. Be aware that track drives can have a benefit for steeper hills, but there is a learning curve to learn how to maneuver the machine. You will also have snow spill out the sides at times that require another pass for clean up or a trip w/ the shovel.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 11:22AM
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farmerboybill

Hi Mike,

I have a 5o foot, 3 car wide driveway and it takes me 20 minutes to a half hour with a 28 inch wide blower. You're more likely looking at 6 passes(down, up, down, up, down, up) because the blower will only take a full swath in the first pass. After that, you'll be using 4-8 inches less per pass depending on the snow depth. I would definitely buy a blower, but I'm a tinkerer. Even new machines need maintenance like gasoline stabilizer at the end of the season and an oil change at the beginning. If you're not inclined to tinker with an engine, it may be better to stick with the plow service.

As far as the machine you're considering, why do you need such an expensive machine? There are many options for less than that machine. For example, a Simplicity L1632E of that size has a MSRP of $2000 Also, I've never owned one, but wonder how well a track type machine can be pushed around if it needs to be moved in the summer and you don't want to start it.

Good luck, Bill

    Bookmark   February 1, 2009 at 8:19PM
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stinkytiger(z5 - z6)

Hi Bill,

Thanks for your advice. Looking at yout post, you have a 50ft by maybe 30 feet, (10 feet per car) area to clear. So that is about 1,500 square feet. You are looking at about 20 - 30 mins. What is your typical snow depth there?

If I have 400 feet by 10. I have maybe 4000 sq feet. So Am I therefore looking at over an hour at a minium. In which case maybe a snow blower is not a way to go.

I guess my problem is I am just not sure how long it will take me. Anything under an hour would probablly be managable. Anything over is probablly not going to work. Is there a formula to work out given roughtly X square feet to clear and a snow depth of y inches how long it will take?

The Honda claims 71 tons per hour. And I read somewhere that snow weighed like 1 lbs per sq foot inch. So If I get an average 4 inch snow fall, it would take me:

4000 * 4 * 1 / (2000 * 71) = 0.1127 of an hour or about 7 minites. Clearly this incorrect. So what is a better formula?

Thanks for your kind help, Mike.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 6:21AM
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eal51

Mike -

I have a 1000' drive I clear with a snowblower. Takes a little over an hour. Now if we get more than 6 to 8 inches, it will take me longer because I have to go slower.

I have a Toro 826 - 5 years old. Does the job every time. Cost about $1,000.00 when I purchased it. My first Toro, a 3521, lasted 24 years before it died. I have found Toro blowers to be excellent/ reliable machines.

Enjoy the journey.
eal51 in western CT

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 9:07AM
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boltonranger

The honda figures are just snow movement. Not operator motion, turns, etc. They also assume a certain kind of snow, light fluffy, dry. The fellows above are giving you a good snapshot. Figure roughly an hour. While a 11hp setup is good; you're paying ALOT for what you're getting. Also I would consider wheels over tracs. Less to wear / break. Tracs have greater traction but will force the machine into ice or steps etc and that's not good.
Up my way Snow blowers can be had for $1500 new or if you go used for less.
I would definitely not spend 3000.00 on a new machine - particularly that model with tracs. I realize you may like Hondas but if you buy used for say 400-700 dollars and don't like snowblowing you can put it in the paper and recoup your money. You cannot do that if you buy what your proposing.

Here is a link that might be useful: A link of used - notice 10hp_33W for 600.00

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 1:12PM
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den69rs96(z6CT)

Stinkytiger,

A good snowblower such as the honda, ariens etc will be a one time purchase. If you maintain it will last for years. So spending 2-3 grand will pay for itself in a couple of seasons. Then you'll be saving money after that. Yes you will have less free time and have to go out in the cold to snow blow the driveway, but the $700 is worth it in my eyes.

I suggest you visit a local homedepot etc on a regular basis. Towards the end of the season they offer 40-50% sales on snowblowers to get rid of inventory and to make way for the lawn and garden equipment. My dad picked up a Ariens 724 for around $450 a couple years back. The inventory will not last long with those discounts so that is why I suggested going there to see when they have the sale.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 7:53AM
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tom_nwnj(z6 NJ)

I have a 500' paved drive with a parking area. I use a 1333 Yardman (downscale from an Ariens). 6" of snow takes me about 20 minutes to get both cars out, 40 minutes to clear everything. Double the snow, probably double the time.

Nuff said about time.

Do you mind being outside in 10 degree weather?

How old are you? Do you want to wrestle with a 250 pound snowblower in 10 degree weather?

Part of the allure (in my mind) of having a large snow blower is using it after a large storm. It is the contrast: blue sky, and everything is dead quiet, except your machine which is putting out about 90 decibels.

Other:

In big storms the plow guy may not show, or show late. You can get yourself out quicker.

In really bad winters, many bad snows, the blower is better.

I've been clearing my drive for 20 years. Ten years from now, I'll get a plow guy.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 6:27PM
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