2018 Craftsman Snow Blower Review – What’s New – Which One Is Best For You?

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What’s New For 2018 Craftsman Snow Blowers?

This article is about the 2018 Craftsman Snow Blowers at Sears but first:

As you most likely know Stanley, Black & Decker (SBD) purchased the Craftsman name this year – but not the products. What that means for snow blowers is Stanley, Black & Decker will be independently developing their own line of Craftsman snow “throwers”, parts, and a repair network. Because of that, I will first explain the three different Craftsman snow thrower lines available this year. Then I will go through the Craftsman at Sears machines you know and love.

Three Different “Craftsman” snow blowers this year.

 1. Craftsman At Sears

Craftsman at Sears is the trusted name and products you know.  Snow Blowers are sold through Sears.com and your local Sears store. All the parts, warranty repairs, and service are the same as before through SearsPartsDirect.com and Sears Repair Services.

Craftsman at Sears will continue to have a complete line of snow throwers ranging from the most economical to models with all the features you want. In fact, they added new models this year to improve and expand the line.

2. Craftsman At Sears Hometown Stores

Sears Hometown Stores is independently owned and separate from Sears and Stanley, Black & Decker. Currently, they carry Craftsman (at Sears) snow blowers and the residential series Husqvarna machines. You can view snow blowers on the Sears Hometown Stores website but you have to go to your local HomeTown store to purchase them. They will offer you a purchase or lease option.

3. NEW BRAND! Craftsman At Lowes, ACE. Craftsman.com, etc.

As you most likely know Stanley, Black & Decker (SBD) purchased the Craftsman name this year – but not the products. What that means for snow blowers is they will be independently developing their own line of Craftsman snow blowers, parts, and repair network.

The model numbers are completely different. You will have to get parts, warranty work, and service through Stanley, Black & Decker.  Apparently, Craftsman.com was also sold to SBD and currently states,

WHO SHOULD I CALL FOR PARTS & REPAIR?
If you are in need of parts and/or repair for your CRAFTSMAN product, please call our customer service line, 888-331-4569.

WHERE CAN I GET MY TOOLS/EQUIPMENT REPAIRED?
For all repairs, call 888-331-4569 or email us at craftsman@sbdinc.com and we’ll handle all your repair needs.

(Specifically for Snow Throwers:) WARRANTY SERVICE
With proof of sale, call this number to obtain the warranty coverage stated below: 1-888-331-4569.

The four Craftsman (SBD) models currently for sale at Lowes are made by MTD but it’s unclear if SBD will continue to use them, switch to another manufacturer, or build their own.

What’s New For Craftsman At Sears

I repeat – Craftsman at Sears is the trusted name and products you know.  Snow Blowers are sold through Sears.com and your local Sears store. All the parts, warranty repairs, and service are the same as before through SearsPartsDirect.com and Sears Repair Services.

Craftsman at Sears four new models for this fall:

New 2- stage Model 88781: The old 24 inch 88172 is getting a new larger 208cc engine. Check it out here: Craftsman 88781 24″ 208cc Electric Start  At around $599 it’s a great deal if you want an inexpensive snow blower.

New 2- stage Model 88789: This new model adds the “Quiet Engine” to the best value 24 inch,  88173. The 88173 was one of the best value snow blowers and with the addition of the new engine is also one of the quietist! Check it out here: Craftsman 88789 24″ 208cc Quiet Dual-Stage Snow Thrower with Electric Start

New 2- stage Model 88794: This is a new 28-inch value model. It has the long chute with the quick turn feature, 243cc engine and power steering all for around $899. It’s $100 less than the 28 inch 88394 with the Quiet Engine making it one of the best value 28 inch snow blowers! Check it out here: Craftsman 88794 26″ 243cc Dual-Stage Snow Thrower

New Single Stage 88980: This new 21 inch, 208cc snow thrower features a new remote chute and deflector control at a much better price than before. Check it out here: Craftsman 88980 21″ 208cc Single Stage Snow Thrower with Electric Start

In addition, expect EXTREMELY AGGRESSIVE PRICING and all models this fall!

How this article is laid out:

I’m going to start with the economy models first and then the most popular Deluxe models. After that, I’ll review the heavy-duty models followed by the 3-stage snow blowers. I’ll leave the single stage machines for last.

Reading Craftsman Snow Blower Reviews:

When you read snow blower reviews you are going to find reviews that state “the engine would not start,” “the engine won’t stay running.” and “the engine runs rough.” You will find these reviews for all brands and sizes of snow blowers.

98% of the time engine problems with snow blowers are either fuel or operator related. Snow engines run/operate differently than your lawn mower engine. Educating yourself on how to store fuel, how to keep your fuel clean and how/why your snow blower engine runs the way it does will go a long way to liking your new snow blower. Please read this article to learn more: Buying A New Snow Blower FAQS – Read This For The Truth

Let’s get started!

2-Stage Economy Craftsman Snow Blowers

Craftsman has 2 snow blowers that are inexpensive, yet do the job for many homeowners. The machines use the same quality parts as the more expensive machine – they just don’t have as many features.  They have the same warranty as the more expensive models. One model, the 88781 is one of the best value snow blowers on the market today.  If you live in a subdivision with a 2 car driveway and get 80 inches of snow or less a year it’s a great choice.

Model 88789: The 24 inch 88789 keeps up the tradition of the original 88173 to be one of the best value snow blowers on the market. It works well for 2 car driveways up to 80 feet or so and can easily handle a 12 inch snow.  The high intake also means it can clear that huge snow plow drift the snow plows left you overnight. I highly recommend this snow blower if you have a 2 car driveway about 80 feet long, (or single car equivalent) get an average snowfall of 80 inches or less a year. It’s designed to work on gravel, turf, cement, and blacktop. The deep lug tires and 208cc engine are just the right size for this snow blower. It also has the poly skid shoes so it won’t scratch your stamped and decorative driveways and patio. Last but not least, the long discharge chute puts the snow where you want it and is very easy to use. This model does not have power steering but is light enough for most people to use. Yes, there are a lot of bigger, larger, and more expensive snow blowers on the market, but if you just want a decent 2-stage to clear your smaller driveway this is one of the best choices. It is still one of the best value machines out there.

Model 88781: If you have to have the least expensive 2-stage snow blower on the market this is the one.  The 208cc 24 inch 88781 is most like your old 5 hp Craftsman that you are replacing it with. It’s a simple snow blower capable of handling 8 to 12-inch snows and clear that end-of-driveway drift. This snow blower will take you longer to clear your driveway – but it will still get the job done. It’s a much better snow blower for most people than a single stage snow thrower. It’s one of the few snow blowers in this price range with electric start. The intake is higher than your 20-year-old Craftsman which means it can clear that 21-inch snow plow drift the snow plows left you overnight. This is a decent snow blower if you have a 2 car driveway about 40-50 feet long, (or single car equivalent) get an average snowfall of 50 inches or less a year. It’s designed to work on gravel, turf, cement and blacktop. The deep lug tires are the right size for this snow blower. It also has the poly skid shoes so it won’t scratch your stamped and decorative driveways and patio. This model does not have power steering but is light enough for most people to use. Don’t expect this model to clear heavy, wet snow or have a lot of traction for clearing the snow plow drift.

Sears has many sales and special offers running all the time. Please click on the links below to see the latest.  Be sure to look under the special offers tabs on their product page.

Sears Stock Item # 88781 88789 88173 (Black Friday?)
engine 4-cycle / 208 cc OHV 4-cycle / 208 cc OHV Quiet Engine 4-cycle / 208 cc OHV
starter type electric electric electric
clearing width 24” 24” 24″
intake height 21” 21” 21″
auger / impeller 12” serrated auger /
updated 12” impeller
12” serrated auger /
updated 12” impeller
12” serrated auger /
updated 12” impeller
speeds 6F/2R 6F/2R 6F/2R
Drive Control  Solid Axle Solid Axle  Solid Axle 
operation control    single hand control single hand control
chute control crank / manual EZ Rotation Chute EZ Rotation Chute
tire size 13” x 4” X-Trac 13” x 4” X-Trac 13″ x 4″ X-Trac
headlight    
skid shoes Glide-Tech™ Glide-Tech™ Glide-Tech™
handle steel panel steel panel panel
warranty 2 year limited 2 year limited 2 year limited
extended chute    Yes Yes
drift cutters      
Typical Sale Price  (Sales Change Often) $599.99 $699.99 (Black Friday?)
Check Sale Price – Buy Here -> Craftsman 88781 24″ 208cc Electric Start Craftsman 88789 24″ 208cc Quiet Dual-Stage Craftsman 88173 24″ 208cc Dual-Stage Snowblower

 

Sears always has special financing offers for you.

Sears has many sales and special offers running all the time. Please click on the links to see the latest.  Be sure to look under the special offers tabs on their product page.

2-Stage Deluxe Craftsman Snow Blowers

Craftsman snow blowers are among the most popular snow blowers. Along with the Model 88789 above the Deluxe models in this group make up a large share of snow blowers sold in the U. S. They are just the right size and power for the majority of the homes and driveways north of Interstate 80.  In other words, if you normally get 2-14 inch snows and average 40-80 inches a year these are great machines. They all have a 21-inch intake height so they will handle drifts and the occasional blizzard. No, they don’t have the capacity of the heavy-duty, “snow belt” machines but for most of us they are just the right combination of features, power and price.

Model 88640: If I wanted a new snow blower this year for my 2-car Midwest driveway this snow blower would be on my shortlist. It has large tires for the best traction on gravel and turf and power steering so anyone can use it. The discharge chute is simple to use, won’t bind up and is long so the snow goes where you want it too. The engine controls have been redesigned so they are easier to see and use.

The intake is higher than your 20-year-old Craftsman which means it can clear that 21-inch snow plow drift the snow plows left you overnight. This is a decent snow blower if you have a 2 car driveway 60-80 feet long, (or single car equivalent) get an average snowfall of 80 inches or so a year. It’s designed to work on gravel, turf, cement and blacktop. The deep lug tires are better and larger than Craftsman has ever installed on a 24-inch snow blower so it will have excellent traction. It also has the poly skid shoes so it won’t scratch your stamped and decorative driveways and patio. This model has power steering and is light enough for most people to use. Don’t expect this model to clear heavy, wet lake effect snow, but it will handle the snow plow drift at the end of your driveway well.

Model 88794: This new snow blower is the big brother of the 88640 above. 28 inch, 243cc engine. All the same features – just a larger size. This is one of the best value snow blowers for your typical midwestern driveway. Best of all this snow blower is a good, quality American made snow blower that costs the same or less than the Chinese models that are trying to sneak into the country.

Model 88394: This is one of the better value snow blowers in the 28-inch size. It has all the features you want including headlight, drift cutters, long-lasting poly skid shoes and 4-way chute control. The power steering makes it easy to use the Quiet engine makes it a great engine to operate. If you need “stealth mode” to keep peace in the neighborhood this snow blowers engine is 45% quieter than the standard Craftsman 208cc engine. This is a great snow blower if you have a 2-car drive 100-150 feet long, live in an area that gets up to 80 inches of snow a year and also have gravel and turf areas to clean.

Model 88396: This is one of the large frame snow blowers that just about anyone can operate. It’s balanced very well and the controls are right where they need to be. The controls on the redesigned engine are easy to see and use. This snow blower has been around for quite some time and has proven to be an excellent, dependable machine. It’s great for larger areas and 16” x 6.5” X-Trac tires give it the extra traction and flotation needed to work well off the pavement. It is very smooth and easy to use so it works well on 2-8 inches of snow just as well as a 14-18 inch’er.  Yes, Like I’ve been saying for the last 10 years – the electric chute control and thumb-joystick on this snow blower is bulletproof.

Sears Stock Item # 88640 88794 88394 88396
engine 4-cycle / 208 cc OHV 4-cycle / 243 cc OHV
4-cycle / 243cc OHV
Quiet Engine
New Engine Redesign 4-cycle / 357cc OHV
starter type electric electric electric electric
clearing width 24″ 28” 28″ 30”
intake height 21” 21” 21″ 21”
auger / impeller 12” serrated auger /
updated 12” impeller
12” serrated auger /
updated 12” impeller
12” serrated auger /
updated 12” impeller
12” serrated auger /
updated 12” impeller
speeds 6F/2R 6F/2R 6F/2R 6F/2R
Drive Control Power Steering Power Steering Power Steering Power Steering
operation control single hand control single hand control single hand control single hand control
chute control EZ Rotation Chute 4-way EZ Rotation Chute 4-way joystick 4-way electric
tire size 15” x 5” X-Trac 15” x 5” X-Trac 15” x 5” X-Trac 16” x 6.5” X-Trac
headlight   LED headlight  LED headlight LED headlight
skid shoes Deluxe Glide-Tech™ deluxe Glide-Tech™ deluxe Glide-Tech™ Deluxe Glide-Tech
handle deluxe panel design deluxe panel design deluxe panel design deluxe panel design
warranty 2 year limited 2 year limited 2 year limited 2 year limited
extended chute Yes Yes Yes Yes
drift cutters     Yes Yes
Typical Sale Price  (Sales Change Often) $799.99 $899.99 $999.99 $1,199.99
 Check Sale Price – Buy Here -> Craftsman 88640 24″ 208cc Dual Stage Zero-Turn Snowblower  Craftsman 88794 26″ 243cc Dual-Stage Snow Thrower  Craftsman 88394 28″ 243cc Dual-Stage Snowblower with Quiet Engine Craftsman 88396 30″ 357cc Dual Stage Zero-Turn Snow Blower

 

Did you know Sears.com has free layaway on snow blowers?

Sears has many sales and special offers running all the time. Please click on the links to see the latest.  Be sure to look under the special offers tabs on their product page.

Heavy-Duty Craftsman Pro Snow Blowers

Last year Craftsman introduced this new snow blower to replace the old, tired 33 and 45 inch models but no one really explained why it’s such a leap forward for Craftsman… I won’t spend any time explaining why the old MTD built models were so bad. Let’s just say – they are gone! – and move on.

The Model 88976 and Model 88978 snow blowers are completely new and very heavy-duty. They feature thicker steel, better components including all steel discharge chutes, 14-inch high capacity impellers, and 14-inch front auger systems. These new snow blowers even have handle supports so using them is much easier than the old models.

It’s big and awesome but balanced well and surprisingly easy to use. I highly recommend these snow blowers if you have a long driveway to clear, or you get large doses of heavy, wet snow. These are high-end homeowner snow blowers, not commercial machines but I would have no problems recommending them to a church or other business that needs to clear large areas once or twice a week.

Compare this new heavy-duty Craftsman Pro to the Troy-Bilt Arctic Storm, Ariens Platinum 30, Husqvarna ST330P and the Toro PowerMax HD 1028.

I’ll say it – “For half the price as the Honda you get a snow blower that will perform the task faster.”

This model has the new Craftsman sloped engine design. It’s much easier to see and use the engine controls.

This year Consumer Reports rated this snow blower and its fraternal twin – the Troy-Bilt Arctic Storm, as the two of the best 2-stage machines. In addition, it scored just as well as the Cub Cadet 3X HD. 

By the way, the only difference besides the service/parts between the Troy-Bilt Arctic Storm and the Craftsman Pro is the Craftsman has a separate hand crank for the chute and lever for the deflector. The Troy-Bilt uses the electric joystick. The Craftsman Pro also has drift cutters, LED lights and an extra front light. You can watch my videos of the Arctic Storm here to get an idea of how well this snow blower works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=5&v=vNHWM3JYG4c and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASJb3_PqKoI&t=121s

   
Sears Stock Item # 88976 88978
engine New Engine Redesign 4-cycle / 357 cc OHV New Engine Redesign 4-cycle / 420 cc OHV
starter type electric electric
clearing width 30″ 34″
intake height 23″ 23″
auger / impeller 14″ serrated auger /
14″ impeller
14″ serrated auger /
14″ impeller
speeds 6F/2R 6F/2R
Drive Control Power Steering Power Steering
operation control single hand control single hand control
chute control crank / remote pitch crank / remote pitch
tire size 16” x 6.5” X-Trac 16” x 6.5” X-Trac
headlight LED in dash plus LED light bar LED in dash plus LED light bar
skid shoes Large Deluxe Glide-Tech Large Deluxe Glide-Tech
handle deluxe panel design deluxe panel design
warranty 2 year limited 2 year limited
extended chute Yes – Metal Yes – Metal
drift cutters Yes Yes
Typical Sale Price  (Sales Change Often) $1,499.99 $1,699.99
  Check Sale Price – Buy Here -> Craftsman 31AH8DSH799 30″ 357cc Dual-Stage Snowblower w/ Power Steering  Craftsman 31AH8ESJ799 34″ 420cc Dual Stage Snowblower w/ Power Steering

 

You can also lease Craftsman Snow Blowers

 

Sears has many sales and special offers running all the time. Please click on the links to see the latest.  Be sure to look under the special offers tabs on their product page.

3-Stage Craftsman Pro Snow Blowers

Craftsman makes a snow blower for just about every driveway in the U.S.  So, they offer two 3-stage machines.  The snow blowers work well if you typically get 8-16 snows.  These snow blowers don’t work well on solid, frozen snow and tend to be a little messy when blowing snow falls less than 4 inches.

Someday I’d like Consumer Reports to explain how these two snow blowers rate lower than the Troy-Bilt and Cub Cadet counterparts. They are made for Craftsman by MTD and use the same parts and come off the same assembly line as the Troy-Bilt and Cub Cadet machines. The ONLY difference is the color. Maybe their way of testing is not as an exact science as they’d like you to believe…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H451OQnNgzk

   
Sears Stock Item # 88870 88874
engine 4 cycle / 277cc OHV New Engine Redesign 4-cycle / 357cc OHV
starter type electric electric
clearing width 24″ 28″
intake height 21″ 21″
auger / impeller 12″ / 12″ / 12″
3 Stage System
12″ / 12″ / 12″
3 Stage System
speeds 6F/2R 6F/2R
Drive Control Power Steering Power Steering
operation control single hand control single hand control
chute control 4-way joystick 4-way joystick
tire size 15″ x 5″ X-Trac 16″ x 6.5″ X-Trac
headlight LED headlight LED headlight
skid shoes Deluxe Glide-Tech™ Deluxe Glide-Tech™
handle deluxe panel design deluxe panel design
warranty 2 year limited 2 year limited
extended chute Yes Yes
drift cutters Yes Yes
Typical Sale Price  (Sales Change Often) $1,199.99 $1,399.99
  Check Sale Price – Buy Here -> Craftsman 88870 24″ 277cc 3-Stage Snowblower w/ Power Steering Craftsman 88874 28″ 357cc 3-Stage Snowblower w/ Power Steering

Single Stage Craftsman Snow Blowers

     
Sears Stock Item # 11683 88780 88980
engine 4-cycle / 123 cc OHV 4-cycle / 179 cc OHV 4-cycle / 208cc OHV
starter type recoil electric electric
clearing width 21” 21” 21″
intake height 13” 13” 13″
auger / impeller Snow Claw Snow Claw Snow Claw
speeds auger propelled auger propelled auger propelled
Drive Control      
operation control      
chute control manual manual 2-way joystick
tire size 8″ x 2″ 8″ x 2″ 8″ x 2″
headlight     LED
skid shoes n/a n/a n/a
handle ergonomic ergonomic ergonomic
warranty 2 year limited 2 year limited 2 year limited
extended chute      
drift cutters      
Typical Sale Price  (Sales Change Often) $399.99 $499.99 $569.99
  Check Sale Price – Buy Here -> Craftsman 11683 21″ 123cc Single-Stage Snowblower Craftsman 88780 21″ 179cc Single-Stage Snowblower w/ Electric Start Craftsman 88980 21″ 208cc Single Stage Snow Thrower with Electric Start

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I'll be glad you help you find the best snow blower. Please tell me the city, state and how large an area you want to clear.

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