I found out the hard way that getting the best snow blower for gravel driveways isn’t as simple as it sounds. I’ve got a long gravel driveway that looks great in the summer but makes me curse the snow in the winter. I was feeling energetic after our first snowfall and decided I’d give it a go with the shovel. I quickly found out that shoveling snow is backbreaking work and takes forever.
I decided to borrow my neighbor’s snow blower and made my first attempt at clearing snow the easy way. I was impressed with how much snow I was shifting until the blower picked up a fist sized piece of gravel and put it through my kitchen window. Thanks for the warning Bob!
Bob has an asphalt drive so he’s never had to worry that he might pick up stones with his snow blower. Using a snow blower on a gravel drive without taking proper precautions is a completely different story. At some point in the process you can be sure that the snow blower will pick up some of the gravel and break a window or kill the neighbor’s cat. Before getting into the details of how to do this safely here’s a quick look at our top 3 picks for best snow blower for gravel driveway use.
Can You Use A Snow Blower On A Gravel Driveway?
The short answer to the old snow blower gravel driveway dilemma is: Yes, if you get the right kind of snow blower.
You’ll notice that all three of the units I recommend are two stage snow blowers. The single stage blowers have augers that come into contact with the ground. Obviously not a good option for gravel drives. The two stage blowers have augers that don’t touch the surface of the ground which makes them the best snow blower option for gravel drives. A happy bonus is that two stage blowers are self propelled so you won’t need to push them.
Once you’ve bought one of these blowers you’re going to need to hold yourself back from simply getting it out there and shifting some snow. Using snow blowers on gravel driveways successfully is all about the setup.
The trick is that you need to be able to control how deeply the auger and the scoop bite into the snow. You can change the height of the auger and scoop by adjusting the skid plates on the sides of the blower. The picture below shows an adjustable skid plate at the bottom of the scoop. The best snowblower for gravel driveway clearing must have adjustable skids.
You’re going to want to hit the Goldilocks zone where you just shift snow and no gravel. If you set the auger up too high then you’re not going to be removing enough snow. If you set it too deep you’ll be hurling gravel at your car or your neighbor’s windows. Don’t try to remove all of the snow from the drive. What you’re looking for is to get a nice 1-inch layer of solid snow pack covering your gravel. Even with a snow blower gravel driveway clearing takes a little patience.
It’s going to take a bit of practice. That being said snowblowing gravel driveway areas is not something you want to learn with a lot of trial and error. Especially when error leads to throwing stones around the yard. To do the initial set up put the blower on a smooth surface and set the auger about 1 to 2 inches above the ground. Start with the auger a little higher than you think it needs to be and make your adjustments (slowly) after checking the results you get. If you start to see gravel then you’re taking too much snow.
Even with the best technique and the most careful auger height adjustment if you're using a snow blower on gravel you are bound to pick up a stone or two. Make sure you regularly turn the chute where the snow comes out of so that it aims in the direction of least potential for damage. When spring comes around you’re going to want to take a walk around your lawn and look for any stones you may have redistributed. A sizeable piece of gravel is not something you want to find with your lawnmower blade.
Snow Blower Buying Guide
Whether you call it a snow blower, snow thrower or gas snow shovel, here are the things you should look out for before buying.
Single or Two Stage Snow Blower?
Single stage snow blowers have their augers touching the ground and so are unsuitable for gravel drives. The two stage snowblowers are self propelled and typically give you the option of setting how close to the ground the auger comes. For a gravel driveway forget the single stage and get a two-stage snow blower. Two stage blowers can get a little pricey but we've also reviewed the best 2 stage snow blower under $1000 on this site.
Size / Power
How deep is the snow? Get something with some decent power. Shifting snow is a pain as it is. You don’t want to be cursing an under powered blower while you’re out in sub-zero temperatures. When you think you’ve found one that will handle the job forget it and get the next size up. You’ll never say “Darn, I wish I bought a snow blower with less power.” That being said, remember that you're going to need to store it somewhere. Make sure you have a big enough spot in your shed or garage to park it. With the right size snowblower gravel driveway clearing should go pretty quickly.
If you can afford it then this is a great option to get. If you’ve got some tight corners on your drive then you definitely don’t want to be fighting with your blower to get it to make the turn. You'll note that one of our top picks above doesn't have power steering. The wheels are powered but it doesn't have differential braking so you need to turn the blower with a bit of elbow grease. It's really not that difficult to do but if you don't mind parting with an extra $100 then get one with power steering.
How long is your drive and how much time would you like to spend out in the cold? The wider the blower, the more snow it’ll shift with each pass. That being said, wider means more money and more storage space. Decide on the width you’ll need and then get one with a decent motor. The wider the snow blower the more power you’ll need to move it. You don’t want to get a wide blower with a small engine. Using a snowblower for gravel driveways is always going to be easier than shoveling but get a decent width scoop so you don't spend more time out there than necessary.
Snow Blower Alternatives
If you’re looking to invest in a piece of equipment you can use year round then a lawn tractor or an ATV with a snow plow is a great choice. This is a good alternative to using a snow blower. It does mean that you’ll need to do some planning as to where you push the snow though. Also, you’re going to need to practice your driving skills before you become really effective at clearing your drive. This way you’ll have one piece of kit capable of clearing snow in the winter and cutting grass in the summer. Just make sure you don’t set the plow too low or you’ll just end up ripping up your gravel. The best gravel driveway snow blower can still be tricky to setup on certain surfaces so a snow plow may be a better option.
Snow Blower Safety
Snow Blower safety should be taken very seriously. Never reach into the snow blower - ever. Sticks and stones can get stuck in the snow blower and you’ll be tempted to reach in quickly to dislodge them but that’s a sure way to lose a finger. Even if you switch the blower off the moving parts can be under tension. If you dislodge the stone or stick the blade can end up being freed and spin around to leave you minus a digit. Get yourself a crowbar and make sure that is the only thing that ventures into the danger zone around the auger.
Clearing snow from a gravel driveway is always going to be a challenge. Before heading out to shift snow first ask yourself: “Does it really need clearing?” If you’ve only got an inch or two on the gravel drive then just leave it. It’s a good idea to check what the weather will be doing for the next few days before deciding to clear the snow. If it looks like those fluffy two inches of snow might turn into hard snow-ice stuff then rather clear it while you still can. If you want the best snow blower for gravel driveway clearing then make sure you get the best 2-stage snow blower like the ones we recommend above and take your time getting the auger height right.