I decided to update an article I wrote last year titled “Craftsman, Cub Cadet, Troy-Bilt, Yardman, Yard-Machines Snow Blowers What’s the Difference? and add a few more snowblowers made by the MTD so you can make the best decision on what Brand to buy. Again, I’m going to use the 26 inch snow blower made by MTD as the example. You can also use this information if you want to buy a 24, 28, 30, 33, and 45 inch snow blower.
It’s not which is the best snow thrower. It which snow thrower is best for you!
All of the snow blowers discussed here are manufactured by MTD Products Inc. Ariens, Toro, Husqvarana, John Deere, Poulan Pro, Brute and Snapper are also made in the U.S. but are not manufactured by MTD. This article does not cover the the more than 100 brands of 100% Chinese made snow blowers trying to get into the U.S. market.
All of the these snow blowers are similar. The main differences are who is the intended customer, features, service, and price. All of these snow blowers will give you years of service if you buy the right size for your driveway and do a little preventative maintenance each year. The 26 inch models I am using in this article can easily handle 60 to 80 inches of snow a year on a 2-car driveway up to 150 ft long.
In this article, I will take a 26 inch, Craftsman, Cub Cadet, Troy-Bilt, Yard-Machines and compare each one.
Getting the exact machine and features for you is the top priority.
Cub Cadet Model 526 SWE: Blue Poly Skid Shoes, 4-Way Chute, Headlight, Power Steering
Craftsman Model 88970: Black Poly Skid Shoes, 4-Way Chute,
Craftsman Model 88691: Black Poly Skid Shoes, 4-Way Chute, Power Steering
Troy-Bilt Model 31BM63P3711: Steel Skid Shoes, 4-Way Chute, Headlight,
Troy-Bilt Model 31BM73Q3711: Steel Skid Shoes, 4-Way Chute, Headlight, Power Steering, Track Drive
Yard Machines: Steel Skid Shoes, 2-Way Chute,
My opinion: The poly skids don’t scratch your cement driveway or sidewalks. In other words you won’t have brown (rust streaks) on your driveway in the spring. They will last as long as steel skids and they are only $30 when you need to replace them. The 4 way chute allows you to precisely put the snow where you want it. If you have never owned a snow blower where you can control both the chute and the discharge from behind the machine you don’t know what you are missing. Power Steering allows ANYONE to use this machine. It is worth the extra money if you have petite or older people use the snow blower.
All of the engines on these snow throwers are made for MTD. The Powermore engines are not Briggs ripoffs or Honda Clones. These winterized engines are designed and manufactured to specific standards for the North American Snowblower market. They are made by one of the world’s largest motorcycle engine manufactures not some fly-by-night garage and tent operation. This engine manufacture also works with other brands you know and trust like Harley Davidson to deliver high quality engine components. Just like the Bosch starter in your car these motors are licensed from the manufacture so that Sears can put the Craftsman name on it or Cub Cadet can put their own name on it. Yes, I am patriotic just like you. I would rather buy “Made in the USA” than made in China but there are currently only three “snow engine” brands being sold in the U.S. – Powermore, Briggs & Stratton and LCT.
Cub Cadet Model 526 SWE: 277 cc
Craftsman Model 88970: 208 cc
Craftsman Model 88691: 208 cc
Troy-Bilt Model 31BM63P3711: 208 cc
Troy-Bilt Model 31BM73Q3711: 208 cc
Yard Machines: 208 cc
My Opinion: The Cub Cadet clearly has the largest motor. Cub Cadet has always tried to be a little better than the other brands manufactured by MTD so this is not surprise. Parts: Craftsman has parts readily available and a Cub Cadet Servicing Dealer will also get parts quickly. With the other brands my understanding is you have to find a Service Center and then have them order the parts.
Warranty and Service:
Cub Cadet: 3 year limited. Authorized Servicing Dealers. These products can be very hard to get repaired UNLESS you buy them directly from a servicing dealer.
Craftsman: 2 year limited. Optional 3 and 5 year full Protection Plan through Sears. Buy the “home” plan. If you live anywhere in the United States Sears will come to you and fix the snow blower. The plans includes most wear & tear items and fuel/carburetor repair problems.
Troy-Bilt: 2 year limited. Optional 3 and 4 year full extended warranty thru Lowes. Lowes will send a technician to your home if you paid more than $800 your snow blower. Lowes.com
Yard Machines, MTD Products, MTD Gold: 2 year limited. These products can be very hard to get repiared UNLESS you buy them directly from a servicing dealer.
Yard-Man: 2 year limited. 2 year additional extended warranty that includes accidental damage through Northern Tool
MTD Pro: 2 year limited. Optional 3 and 5 year full Protection Plan through Sears. Buy the “home” plan. If you live anywhere in the United States Sears will come to you and fix the snow blower.
Craftsman®/MD Model 710352150: 2 year limited.through Sears.ca
My opinion: The most common issue I hear of today is automotive fuels (ethanol gas) messing up small engines. The Craftsman clearly is the winner here. Sears has the only Service Program that covers fuel related problems and does the repair at your house. These repairs can quickly add up to $250 or more so the 5 year repair plan is a bargain.
Limited warranties only cover manufacture defects, don’t cover getting the snowblower to the repair technician and very seldom cover the labor to replace the part. Above all, manufacture defects warranties DO NOT cover carburetor and fuel related issues.
Cub Cadet Model 526 SWE: Highest price (Can sometimes be negotiated) Note: HomeDepot carries Cub Cadet but it appears they would rather sell you an Ariens. Most of the time you will have to order the Cub Cadet from them and have it shipped to your home.
Craftsman Model 88970 & 88691: Best Value for features. Sears.com runs special on-line sales that can be better than in the stores
Troy-Bilt Model 31BM63P3711 & 31BM73Q3711: Lowes “Tries To Be Lowest Price.” But know Sears has taken their “Turf Wars” to the snow and usually will beat Lowes price on the same spec’d machine.
Troy-Bilt Model : 208 cc
Yard Machines, MTD Products, MTD Gold: You will find these at hardware stores, online through various “stores”
Yard-Man: Northern Tool has good prices this year. Order through them and have it shipped directly to your door.
Craftsman®/MD: There’s no point in comparing their price…you can’t buy one anyway
My opinion: Although the Troy-Bilt at Lowes is usually the lowest price it does not have all the features of the Craftsman, Cub Cadet and Yard-Man snow blowers. Be sure you have all the features you want before you take the lowest price.
As I said at the beginning, these brands of snow blowers are all the same, it’s just a few minor differences that differentiate them from each other. The main three differences are price, service, and a few exclusive features each retailer has. Here are a few key points to leave you with.
Getting the exact machine and features for you is the top priority. The 4-way chute control is nice. It is built better than the 2009 and older models and will hold up well. Power steering is a must if you are small or have a bad back. The rest of the features like headlights are “nice” but not really needed. (tape a $20 LED flashlight to your handles)
Getting it repaired should be your second priority. Dumb things happen with snow blowers. You forget to pickup the garden hose, your kids leave a toy in the drive, you don’t mark the edge of your patio with stakes, or some jerk throws a frozen bottle of water out of their car and you find it hiding in the snow. If you do all of the repairs yourself, know how to get parts, have a heated garage, and don’t bother with warranties, buy the cheapest model. If you don’t want to fix your machine, don’t know how to, or don’t have the time, buying an extended warranty or Protection Plan is the way to go. Sears clearly has the best value here. They use their own trained technicians, The technicians will come to you, have the longest plan, and the lowest cost per month. Just call 1-800-4MY-HOME to schedule the service and your snow blower gets fixed.
Price is the last item to think about. If you have a Cub Cadet Dealer down the street and the nearest Lowes or Home Depot is 60 miles away…….. buy the Cub Cadet. Sears is taking their 2011 “Turf War” price and availability campaign into snow blowers. Good Luck to the rest of the big box stores!
You can read more about each review by clicking on the model in the column to your right: