Should I Buy a Snow Blower or Hire a Snow Removal Service?

Deciding between buying a snow blower or hiring a snow removal service? Consider the pros and cons so you can make the best choice for your situation.

Are you facing the prospect of serious snow removal for the first time? Maybe you’ve moved to a cold climate or bought a house after renting, so now the snow removal on your property is your responsibility. If so, you’re probably wondering if it’s better to splurge on a new snow blower or sign a contract with a snow removal service.

Key Considerations

Cost of a Snow Removal Service vs a Snowblower?

When talking pure dollars and cents, the snow blower has the greater upfront cost, but is less expensive over time. In fact, most snow blowers will pay for themselves in two or three years.

If you expect accumulations of more than 10 inches of snow or frequent wet, heavy snow, plan on purchasing a two- or three-stage blower. These start at around $600 and $1,000 respectively, and go up from there. A snow removal service, on the other hand, will cost around $400 a year. But these are only the base costs!

Snow services can include clearing a driveway, shoveling a walkway or front steps or even shoveling snow off the roof, all at different price tiers.

Some providers also offer full “removal” services, where they literally truck the snow away. Like any industry, the cost of a snow removal service will go up over time to reflect increased gas costs and inflation. Just don’t expect that price to drop if the cost of gas goes down!

Snow blowers also come with ongoing costs, although these are usually minimal. Expect to pay $15 or more per year in fuel and $65-125 for annual snow blower maintenance. The price, of course, depends on whether you DIY your maintenance or pay a pro to do it.

Also note, corded and battery-powered snow blowers require far less maintenance, but generally aren’t useful for more than six inches of snow.

Which Is More Convenient?

A snow blower takes time to use and maintain, but removal services have their own drawbacks. If your life is on a tight schedule, it can be aggravating to wait around for someone else to clear your driveway or sidewalk. Still, the overall convenience of a service makes it a winner in this column.

What Are the Health Considerations?

DIY snow removal can be good exercise, but depending on your physical condition and capabilities, it can also carry some health risks. A driveway full of snow can be motivation for moving around outdoors during the winter months. It’s easy to blow off a trip to the gym in the heart of winter, it’s hard to go anywhere until you clear your driveway.

That said, it’s not without risk. Snowblowers significantly cut back on the physical strain of snow removal, but they don’t completely eliminate its hazards. According to The Cleveland Clinic, there are more than 5,000 serious injuries related to snowblowers every year.

The auger and impeller (i.e., the blades that break up and throw the snow) are extremely powerful, and being careless or inattentive around them can lead to anything from a broken digit to a badly mangled hand. The most common snowblower injuries are caused by attempting to clear a blocked chute by hand, often while the blades are still engaged.

If you have concerns about your ability to safely clear snow on your own, exercise caution, talk to a doctor, and take a serious look at hiring a service.

What About Enjoyment?

For some people, the satisfaction of doing a job themselves outweighs the time and convenience cost of hiring someone to do it for them. Some people even consider pushing snow around to be an enjoyable winter activity.

If you are a bit of a perfectionist, however, there’s a good chance your standards for a clean and clear sidewalk or driveway are higher than the quality provided by a snow removal service. If you anticipate needing a shovel after the removal service has done it job, save your money and go the DIY route.

Dan Stout
Ohio-based freelance writer and author Dan Stout is a former residential remodeler, commercial site supervisor and maintenance manager. He’s worked on nearly all aspects of building and DIY including project planning and permitting, plumbing, basic electric, drywall, carpentry, tiling, painting and more. He also publishes noir fantasy thrillers, including The Carter Series, from Penguin imprint DAW Books.