How to Choose the Right Snow Shovel

It's been one of the snowiest winters in decades for much of the country. We called in expert help to find out which shovels are best for clearing it all away.

A durable snow shovel is needed for practical reasons, such as clearing a driveway or sidewalk, but it can also come in handy when the unexpected happens—for example, when your car is stuck in ice. (Caia Images / Aurora Photos)
30's

Growing up in Goffstown, New Hampshire, I watched my dad obsess about shoveling. The area gets approximately 70 inches per year, and my dad delights in getting rid of it. He estimates that he moves about 3,600 cubic feet of snow each winter and has hucked roughly 108,000 cubic feet since he moved there in 1987. For him, it’s a source of pride to have one of the cleanest driveways on the block. My dad also has no desire to “disrupt the environment with a small, loud, emission-spewing machine,” otherwise known as a snowblower.

My dad’s go-to shovel is “whatever’s on sale at the local hardware store.” He’s not a brand-conscious shovel purchaser, but he’ll typically use a plastic, straight-shaft shovel with a metal strip across the front of the blade (to chop through ice).

But I wanted to know what the pros prefer. To find out, I called up some experts in the snow-removal industry. Their answers varied. Some said they aren’t willing to shell out big dollars for shovels that will inevitably break. Others, like Martin Tirado, CEO of the Snow and Ice Management Association (SIMA), argue that “you get what you pay for.” No matter your price range, here’s what they recommend.


Best Value

True Temper 18-Inch Mountain Mover ($14)

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(Courtesy of Home Depot)

Dalton Magee, founder of Twin Peaks Snow Removal in Logan, Utah, has been shoveling residential driveways for three winters and says this is his go-to. “It meets all the criteria,” Magee says. “It has a sturdy steel handle, the shaft doesn’t flex at all, it’s lightweight (3.2 pounds), and, most important, it has a steel strip along the edge of the plastic blade [for working through ice].”

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Suncast Steel Core 18-Inch ($17)

suncast-shovel.jpg
(Courtesy of Suncast)

Jared Moore, who manages snow removal for Valley Landscaping in Jackson, Wyoming—which so far has received more than 400 inches of snow this year—also prefers a low-cost shovel. He says he’s tested dozens of products over 15 years and settled on the Suncast. He likes this model because it’s lightweight (2.4 pounds), durable enough with a plastic blade (which people like because it slides well and doesn’t get gummed up with wet snow), and affordable. His seven-man crew breaks about two shovels per week when snow is falling, so it’s not a huge expense to replace them (and he doesn’t think a more expensive shovel would make much of a difference).

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Midrange

Snowplow 24-Inch Wide Pusher ($43)

plow-pusher.jpg
(Courtesy of The Snow Plow)

Martin Tirado with SIMA says the Pusher is one of the most popular models among industry professionals. Robert Smart, the former president of SIMA who has been in the snow-removal industry since 1978, says the durability of this shovel is “ten times better than most,” because the thick plastic blade doesn’t chip, even when dealing with ice. Many of the shovel’s parts, like its fiberglass shaft, are replaceable, which extends its lifespan. The wider blade is ideal for pushing rather than lifting snow, making it perfect for clearing driveways. (Smart also recommends the Bigfoot 1280 Pusher.)

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Top Shelf

Snowcaster 30SNC ($95)

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(Courtesy of Snowcaster)

This shovel comes with wheels and a three-foot-wide plastic blade. The six-inch wheels help you create more leverage when pushing large blocks of snow. Smart also likes that the blade angle adjusts, just like the blade on an industrial snowplow, which helps you move the snow where you want it.

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Bosse BT-400 ($100)

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(Courtesy of Bosse)

The professionals I talked to said they don’t like ergonomic shovels with bent shafts that are supposed be easier on the back. “I find [ergonomic shovels] more awkward to toss the snow long distances,” Magee says. “When it comes to ergonomics, I try to focus on keeping my back straight and bending my knees instead of my back.”

The Bosse BT-400, however, is an acceptable compromise. The shaft stays straight, but there’s a rotating grip halfway down so you can figure out what’s most comfortable for your lower hand. Like most of the other shovels on this list, the Bosse has a plastic blade.

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