Honda HS520 vs Toro 3650, why would I need a 2-stage

tdsjd(z5 MA)November 29, 2005

I'm thinking about purchasing a snow blower this winter, and have been leaning towards either the Honda HS520A or the Toro CCR 3650 single stage blowers. I live in MA just west of Boston have a level 80' long 2 car wide driveway and a 50' brick walk way that I will be clearing.

A neighbor had the Toro 3650 and last year and he was done in 1/3 the time of neighbors with bigger 2 stage blowers in snow falls of ~12" or less. This thing moved snow fast. Pulled itself along with the rubber impeller and looked like it would move snow as fast as he would let it run. And it cleared it right down the pavement. Moved slush that 2 stages leave laying.

Never saw it work in the bigger snow storms but a neighbor said it took him a little longer than a 2-stage and he had to go over it twice when he didnÂt blow it during the storm.. Should have asked him to try it out before he moved.

I've done some reading around and am leading toward the Honda HS520 as some say it's 4 stroke has higher torque which helps in the heavier snow, and that the Toro 3650 2 stroke.

Looking for comments/opinions on these blowers and my logic for buying one of these single stage blowers vs a 2 stage.

- for my flat 80Â driveway it will clear it much faster than a 2 stage for snow 12" (probably upto 18") deep or less (80+% of the storms), and I could blow during the storm or go over it twice for the 2 or so big storms per year

- moves slush much better than a 2 stage

- Much easier to maneuver (especially in the boxed in garage entrance I have)

- Smaller and easier to store in the garage

- Cleans to the pavement/brick walkway vs the 1" or so the 2 stage leaves

- Cost: ~$600 vs ~$1200 for a decent 2 stage

Open questions are how it will handle the plow pile at the end of the driveway (neighbor moved it with the toro but not sure how much work it was) and comments on the Honda vs Toro. Also looked at the Toro Snow Commander, but have been told that for my conditions the 3650 was a better bang for the buck. It would clear snow almost as fast and be $200+ cheaper and 40lb lighter.

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I also live in MA, west of boston, hae a 60' 2-car driveway, and have been doing my driveway for 18 years. A small, or underpowered Snowblower will work fine EXCEPT when snowfalls are deep (> 8" or so - not too many of these), or when snowfalls are W-E-T (lots of these, especially in March). my 5hp struggled some on the wet one we had thansgiving morning, and that's why I just bought myself a new 8HP. For a few years my neighbor had the same 5hp toro I had, except his was single-stage - he was ALWAYS borrowing mine, because the 1-stage couldn't throw the wet snow. If you're going to make a long-term investment, get an 8HP, Ariens or Toro, if you get a Toro, get at least an 826, or an 828 if you can afford it. or a 926 Ariens

Believe me, when you get a 8" of WET snow in march, and it rains in it a little before the percipitation stops, you'll be very happy you have it

    Bookmark   November 29, 2005 at 7:50PM
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newjerseybt(5b NE PA)

Here are some negatives to offset your positives. My Dad had a small 2 cycle Toro paddle type so I have experience using one.

- If you go slightly off a small path with a paddle type it rips up your lawn instantly.

- You can't clear a path for your dog to piddle and poop
else goodbye lawn.

- They are almost useless on the plowed EOD.

- When you get a 15 inch or more storm, you are going to spend more time outside in the cold than with a good quality 2 stage Simplicity, Ariens, or Honda.

- You have to push the 1 stage as opposed to a 2 stage
which has driven wheels.

- You never get a light which may be handy for night clearing.

- Most single stages are 2 cycle which means you have to do a mix.

Finally, being that you are just West of Boston, I would think that you would want to be prepared for those heavy snows. My Dad was just plain cheap which hurt him in the long run as his machine was useless in NE PA. It was only recently that he bought a deluxe Ariens at age 85 which made life much easier.

I recall someone (GW member) last year in Mass. that had a 32 inch snowfall. He had a 2 stage Noma that bailed him out. I really wonder how well your single stage would handle that monster.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2005 at 9:49PM
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tdsjd(z5 MA)

jeffw_00 and newjerseybt,

Hmmm points well taken, especially from experience. We do get a few big ones up here. I think the big one last year was 36" where I live. My plowing bill was over $500 last year. I'm guessing the neighbor with the single stage must have been out blowing every 8" or so.

If neither of these single stages will do it, I may save up and get the snow blower attachment ($1500 with weights and chains, ouch!) for the John Deere LT180 lawn tractor I bought this year instead of spending nearly as much for a good 2-stage. May be overkill but speed, maneuverability, and easy of use were my top concerns.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2005 at 10:47PM
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Interesting tradeoff - if a good snowblower or tractor attachment cost the same - then - which is better at clearing the snow? which is easier to use? which can clear your walk?


    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 5:36PM
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tdsjd(z5 MA)

I'm sure the tractor with a 42"W should be much faster, but my walk is less than 30" might rip up the grass a bit.

Stopped in a shop that had both the honda hs520 and Toro 3650. Weighing all the input from here, another forum, and the dealer, I think I'm going to get the single stage. Space, speed (most of the time), maneuverability, and cost were the driving factors. If I end up regretting it after a big storm...I'll probably have little problem justifying getting the blower for my tractor next year, when I'll also have my shed to clear out room in my garage for it.

Thanks for the input.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 9:06PM
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subywu(z5 neOH KBG)

Here in Cleveland, my HS520 does just fine. Last year, a particularly bad year for snow, there were 3 instances where the snow was both deep and also wet. It was a bear getting the HS520 to clear my average sized suburban driveway but it did it--did take a while and the engine stalled a few times. The first two winters with the Honda, I had no trouble at all with the snow. As was mentioned, it is very maneuverable (although sometimes you have to rein it in to avoid going off course) and for lighter snow, gets the job done in half the time as 2 stages.

My feeling is there are tradeoffs either way. I could go either way if I were to buy again.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2005 at 8:10PM
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I have a CCR2000 that works great. It does work hard at clearing the bottom of the driveway but overall I couldn't be happier. It is the equivalent of the new CCR 3650. It's 18 years old and still starts within 2 pulls.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2005 at 5:20PM
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tdsjd(z5 MA)

I ended up getting the Honda HS520 ($599). Had 2" of wet snow the other day (not a real test) but it cleared it fast and down to the pavement. Observations and comments so far:

- The Honda 4 stroke starts extremely easy, nearly effortlessly on 1 pull. Runs smooth and noticably quieter than my 2 smaller strokes (trimmer, chainsaw,...)

- Had a little bit of tracking problems but mainly due to the plastic scrapper bar catching small bumps in the driveway. I was pushing rather than letting the rubber auger pull as this seemed to clear closer to the pavement especially in the light snowfall. Now much to pull it along.

-They should make the scraper bar out of stainless steel instead of plastic. It would glide easier and last longer. May try to fashion something my self at some point. Also could probably cut replacement rubber auger strips if I could find a 3/8" rubber sheet source. Dealer said both will probably need replaced in 3yrs at a cost of $20 +$40=$60.

- A work light option would be nice for night time snow blowing. Not sure if there is an alternator or some other source on this thing to hook one up to though. Any suggestions here?

Happy so far. Will let you know how it how it performs in heavier snow.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2005 at 12:01AM
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There are some 3-5 LED bicycle headlights that are decently bright and the batteries last pretty well. Most have a dismount so you can keep it inside, and warm, until you need it. The regular incandescent ones are cheaper to buy but go through more batteries.

I use a 3 LED camping headlight when necessary (not often). No hands required and it's useful for making adjustments on the machine, shovelling, etc.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2005 at 12:57AM
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tdsjd(z5 MA)

I couldn't find anything that looks like and alternator. So it doesn't look like the blower can power a light.

The bicycle headlight idea sounds good.

Also I have a light that plugs onto my cordless drill 12V battery but can't think of any way to convienently strap it to the snow blower. Have to think about it some more.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2005 at 4:48PM
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I just posted elsewhere on the merits of Ariens v Honda so this is also an interesting thread, since I'm west of Boston as well and my two stage 9hp sears has to be close to the end of its life....
Snow blowers have come a long way in the last few years with serrated teeth etc, but I remain convinced that two stage blowers are the only way to go.

Big storms over the last few years the April fools (18 wet inches plus) storm and the Presidents day weekend storm (24inch plus) convinced me that its best to go out several times during those big ones.

Snow berms that plow drivers leave are completely killable with a two stager -probably even more so with the teeth blowers now have.

I'd rather spend a few extra bucks and get one that I know is capable regardless of storm type.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2005 at 8:48AM
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tdsjd(z5 MA)

Well it didn't take long for mother nature to put my HS520 to the test. We had 12" of heavy snow yesterday today and I'll have to admit that for a a moment I though that I was going to be in for a tough day.

I purposely didn't go out until more than 10" of snow fallen. First thing I noticed is that the blower opening is only about 12" high when tilting the blower forward to allow the rubber auger to engage the snow and pavement and pull the blower forward. When blowing deeper snow (I had some 18+" drifts), I had to tilt the blower back and push it into the snow then let it drop down, requiring a bit more effort. Once one path was cleared things moved along fairly quickly.

In 10-12" or less snow I could let the blower pull itself along and a fairly fast walking pace. Could hear that the engine was under load but not overly so. The snow was heavy but not a wet (very heavy). Once a path was cut, I found that the blower would handle the 12-18" snow by doing 1/2 to 1/3 width approaches and letting it pull itself through. Snow that was above the opening would slide/crumble of the sided and fall down on the path behind and be blown on the next 1/2 pass.

For the EOD plow pile that was 24"+ of heavy somewhat solidifying snow. This was a bit slower, after cutting a path straight through it with the tilt push and drop method, I shaved of 6" or so at a time fairly fast.

Over all it was much faster than shoveling, but probably took me twice as long as my neighbor with a Ariens 2 stage. But when I went out later to clean up 2-3" of new and drift snow, this is where the single stage shines. Tilted forward it pulls itself along at a fast walking pace. I found that if I didn't let the auger pull it along I push it with ease at a near running pace and the scrapper clears right down to the pavement and brick in the case of my walkway.

Overall I was happy with how it performed. Clearing the snow every 10" or so during a big storm is the way to go. Definitely more time and and time than a 2 stage when the snow is 12+", but much faster for less and it clears all the way to the pavement vs the 1" or more left by a 2 stage.. Also my driveway is level, wouldn't recommend it for steep or even moderately inclined driveway.

It's very light (75lb) compared to a 2-stage very easy to manuever in tight places. Doesn't take up much room to store. I tilt it against a wall. The Honda 4 stroke has great lowend torque, never stalled even when I bury it in a snow bank, throws snow 20-30', and started 1st pull every time.

It will take a more time and bit more effort than a 2-stage in a big storm if I don't keep up with it, but much less in smaller (Over all still happy with the purchase.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2005 at 10:10AM
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coyotewi(Z4a South Wi)

tdsjd, why would you not recommend it for a inclined driveway? Are you thinking it will be hard to keep the front end down when going uphill?

    Bookmark   December 15, 2005 at 4:53PM
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tdsjd(z5 MA)


I think it would work ok on a moderately inclined driveway as far as pulling its self up the driveway if the snow is less than 12"...but more than 12" would be a bit more work because you'll need to push it uphill over the snow, then tilt it forward to eat down through...just a bit more work..

On a steep driveway it would be alot more work and if the driveway has ice on it your feet may do alot of slipping and sliding both up and down the hill.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2005 at 1:51AM
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I just purchased the Honda HS621.

Same situation as yours I opted to take the risk that during a big storm i may have to use my snowmachine twice.

With six horsepower and commercial grade engine i think it will handle all jobs with less matainance then the other types of machines.

I also think that it will be used more often since its fast and easy to use.

I'm waiting for snow as i write this :-)

I had 8 inches of snow on my stone patio and the honda handled it without a problem.

Important note.

I was told to stay away from 2 stroke for torque and bogging issues.


    Bookmark   December 19, 2005 at 10:30PM
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tdsjd(z5 MA)

My dealer didn't carry the HS621 and I didn't find it on the honda website. Is this an older model?

    Bookmark   December 20, 2005 at 12:46AM
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I got the smallest Ariens last year, the 5520E. I'm a tad south of you in coastal CT. Other than wishing I had spent a few bucks more to get the 24" clearing path over the 20" that I got, I am very happy to have purchased a two stage. As you already know, we got most of our storms last year in the form of nor'easters, lots of heavy wet snow. I had no problems whatsoever clearing even the heavy stuff at the end of the driveway. It's a small, but hungry little monster. You won't be disappointed with a two stage.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2005 at 7:17PM
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Honda HS621C is a standard model carried in Canada...not sure about the us.

Been using this machine...

Very impressed and happy with the purchase

    Bookmark   January 26, 2006 at 9:49PM
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it was like christmas all over again at homedepot yesterday. all snowblowers were 50% off. for the price of one two stage blower, I bought an ariens 926le for $500 (reg. online price=$1126), also purchased a honda hs520 w/ electric start for $375 (normally priced at $750) plus I bought as well a toro handheld power blower plus for $65 (normally $124). I felt like a kid at a toy store. It may not snow significantly this year but I'm sure that it will come in handy in the years to come. judging from what I have read here, these two brands/models are good choices. It snowed a mere 2" four weeks ago and I almost hurt my back shoveling needless to say that it exhausted me. I own 2 homes and this is why I decided to buy all three blowers. i had a new $950 craftsman 2stage blower last year and i returned it after the end of the season; the plastic chute kept jaming or breaking off in heavy slushy snow. happy new year everyone!!

    Bookmark   February 10, 2006 at 1:34AM
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it's me again, the 50% off dude providing you guys my test results from my three new snow blowers purchased last week. my area which is nassau county, long island,ny got between 8-15" this past 2/11/06. i got to test out my honda hs520(w/electric start) vs. my two stage ariens 926le. hands down i preferred to use the ariens. for the first 3minutes of blowing snow with the hs520, i realized that it should be easier than this, i should not be struggling to push the snow. i decided to gas up the new never before used ariens and baby it was a dream to use. talk about effortless!!!! it was so easy and powerful that i decided to go over 6 other properties next to mine; i felt like i was doing my holy deed for the day. help thy neighbors out. the comparison between the 1stage and 2 stage is that of going on an outdoor road trip on a honda civic vs a nissan titan; both will get you there but the bigger and more powerful ariens got did the job easier and in style. a positive note about the hs520 it that i was able to carry it by myself, load it into my honda pilot and transport it to my sisters house to help them clear their snow. being lightweight is the 1 stage's main advantage. because i got these units at 50% off 4 days prior to the snow storm, the difference in their price was only $125. i bought a toro power hand held snowblower($65) too but did not have enough time to test it maybe nextime.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2006 at 12:27AM
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coyotewi(Z4a South Wi)

I'm soooo disappointed, I stopped at HD at lunch last week and they had 4 toro 826LE at 50% off (All the Ariens 926LE sold out at 33% off). I went home to clear it with the wife, came back the next day at lunch and they were all gone. My fault, shoulda just bought it that day.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2006 at 3:22PM
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2 cycle one stage is the way to go....they are lighter, easier to handle, easy to carry and easily outperform 2 stage machines.....because of the lawn mower wheels you clear snow at walking speed......which is really nice.....

Have used a TORO CCR2000 for 22 years now and amuse myself when I do my own driveway and two neighbour's driveways in the time it takes my 4 cycle 2 stage folks down the street.....I even do the street in front of my house sometimes.

I thought the CCR2000 was a joke in 1986 when my folks bought it until I used it for the first time.....NO LOOKING kidding here.

2 cycle machines like to work hard.......noone can argue that point......I run my chain saw at full tilt when sawing.....same thing with 2 cycle snow throwers......4 cycle machines can't throw slush either.....they are nice if you have lots of spare time and don't need to throw them into the trunk, van, or pickup to help out your other friends or relatives.....

    Bookmark   February 22, 2008 at 8:33PM
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