Snow brings us such joy when we’re young, but the relationship gets more complicated once it buries your car unexpectedly overnight and you have to dig it out in the morning.
But, with the right equipment, snowfalls don't have to inspire dread. As consumers, we're spoiled for choices when it comes to snow shovels—so much so that it can be tough to know what to buy. One with a straight or ergonomic handle? Plastic versus metal? Plow or scoop? (That’s not even to mention electric snow shovels and snow blowers.)
We have put the top snow shovels currently on the market to the test. After hours of scooping, maneuvering, and pushing, the Suncast SC3250 18-inch Snow Shovel/Pusher Combo(available at Amazon) is the best pick for most people. Not only is this model great for lifting and tossing snow, it does an excellent job of plowing, making it one of the more versatile shovels on our list. Not to mention its ergonomic handle means your back won’t hate you when you’re done.
If you’re looking for something a bit more basic, we found the True Temper 1627200 18-inch Mountain Mover (available at The Home Depot) as the best value shovel we tested. It’s a standard, straightforward shovel at a low cost that will absolutely make it through any shoveling job that you have. This can be an especially good shovel if you don’t have a large area to clear.
Here are the best snow shovels we tested, ranked in order:
For my 5’8” frame and preferred shoveling technique of tossing the snow in front of me, this shovel is the absolute standout of the group. It is the perfect blend of versatility and comfort.
Through two storms, I was able to dig, scrape, plow, and throw with minimal effort. The ergonomic handle allowed me to pick up a full shovelful without having to bend over, saving strain on my lower back and legs.
A slight bend in the knees is all it takes to toss a full scoop onto the snow pile.
This shovel surprised me at how well its ergonomic handle allows it to plow. Rather than having to push down at an angle like with a straight-handled shovel, I was able to push horizontal to the ground. This means that more force goes forward rather than down, more easily avoiding obstructions.
The shovel’s metal edge clears down to the asphalt; during testing it removed ice and left-behind snow with only one or two extra scrapes. At only 18 inches wide, this shovel isn’t going to plow a massive amount of snow, but it plows 18 inches really well.
My only qualm with this Suncast is that its handle shape makes it tough to throw snow behind me. This isn’t a big deal, since it’s better ergonomically to turn and throw anyway, but it did make me adjust my technique.
Once I finished testing all the shovels on our list, this Suncast is the shovel that I used to finish ridding my deck and walkways of snow.
If you’re looking for a straightforward, no-frills shovel to clear snow at a low cost, we recommend the True Temper Mountain Mover. This product is good at one basic technique: bending down, scooping some snow, then throwing the snow. Will you actually be able to move mountains of snow with it? Probably not, at least not quickly, but you’ll be able to clear a small-to-medium size driveway.
While moving mass quantities of snow is not what these straight-handled shovels are best at, what they are great for is getting snow out of tight places. If your primary task is digging out a car, or clearing off a deck and stairs, the Mountain Mover is a fantastic option at much lower price than most of the feature-rich shovels that we tested.
This shovel is also a good option if you’re looking to supplement a larger, plow-style shovel. Most of those cannot actually lift the snow up onto a pile, so you need a shovel like the Mountain Mover to actually get the plowed snow off your driveway.
There’s no question that straight-handled shovels are harder to use for long periods of time. It was a challenge to keep good form when using the Mountain Mover, so my back started to ache after a short time. And while it can plow and scrape, it’s not great at either task.
That said, there’s a reason that these shovels are still ubiquitous. They’re simple to use and they get the job done. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option at a lower cost than the True Temper Mountain Mover.
Hi, I’m Jean Levasseur. I’m a former conveyor mechanic, current property manager, and hobbyist woodworker, in addition to being a writing instructor at a local university. I come from a family of tool-users—my grandfather was a carpenter, my father owned an excavation company, and my mother was a mechanic. Between growing up working for my family’s businesses and then moving onto my own projects, I’ve used most tools you’ve heard of and quite a few that you haven’t.
When it comes to snow shovels, I’ve been shoveling since I was 12, and I have a good sense of what’s important. What’s more, I don’t have the greatest back for shoveling, so I’m very picky when it comes to “comfort” in a shovel.
I’ve recently retested and added new products to this list, working off the previous tests and notes from Dan Roth, who has also written about everything from the best cordless drills to the best windshield wipers. As a Massachusetts resident, he says snow and slush have taught him a thing or two about what’s important when it comes to shoveling it. Not all shovels are created equal, and some are better to use than others.
Both testers put the shovels to work around their homes, starting with well-worn suburban asphalt driveways with cracks and imperfections. We also tested shoveling off deck stairs to get a sense of how easy it was to use each shovel at varying heights. We also shoveled into a larger drift that was 3 or more feet high, which also helped us understand how easy each shovel is to use at varying heights.
Because of the unpredictability of New England weather, and the timing of our testers’ availability, we had to test about half of our shovels before the first snowfall and half after. That means that we designed two different test scenarios, working hard to make sure that we gathered the same kind of relevant data to uncover the top snow shovel for homeowners.
It took until December to get the first shovelable snow in Massachusetts, and we were out there in the first two storms with shovels to test. The first storm was about 3-4 inches of wet, heavy snow. The second storm dropped about 12-14 inches of light, powdery snow. This variety meant that we got a good sense of how each shovel functioned in different snow conditions.
We made sure to use every shovel in both kinds of snow, noting any differences in performance, if any. The test was relatively simple—I shoveled my driveway, switching shovels periodically to give them each a chance. I also tried a number of shovels on my walkways, deck, and front and back stairs to see how maneuverable each was.
Finally, I took each product back over the driveway, trying to dig down through the ice and slush as much as possible to see which could get to bare asphalt and which left a slippery mess behind.
In Dan’s initial round of testing, we were light on snow and temperatures didn’t cooperate enough to make it ourselves. Instead, we simulated light, powdery snow by using fine pine shavings normally used for livestock bedding. Its weight and consistency are similar to the kind of snow you get when temperatures are in the 20s or below. Wetter, heavier snow was simulated with a yard of wet mulch.
Because stand-ins can only ever be approximate, we also went and found some real snow out behind a local ice rink where the Zambonis are emptied. This snow was wet and heavy because ambient temperatures were in the high 40s and there had been some recent rain, but it did help adjust our impressions and expectations to work with the real deal.
What You Should Know About Snow Shovels
The idea of a snow shovel is simple, but start shopping for one, and the choices pile up. Here’s what to look for to optimize your snow removal.
The age-old question, at least for the last 50 years, has been plastic or metal? Plastic is lighter. Depending on the type of plastic, it’s also just as heavy-duty as metal, and not prone to rusting or denting. Plus, it’s significantly cheaper to make a shovel out of plastic.
Wear Edge Material
The business end of the shovel, the wear edge, is where it comes in contact with the ground, which helps you get through ice. Metal will hold up better than plastic overall, and steel is the best option. Aluminum is more malleable, so it will deform more readily.
Some shovels are like an ice cream scoop—a good tool meant for picking the material up. Others are like miniature versions of the plows that clear your street; these look more like a section of pipe.
The two different designs have overlapping talents. If you have a large area of flat pavement to clear, a plow-type shovel is going to be very efficient. It’s almost like mowing the lawn—start at one end, walk the shovel all the way over to the other. Snow piles up in front of the blade and gets pushed along.
On the other hand, the best type of shovel for stairs, tight areas, and undulating pavement is your typical scoop-type snow shovel. These are more versatile, allowing you to deal with clearing any area of any kind of snow.
The plow shovels become a workout if the snow is wet and heavy. They are also incapable of actually lifting the snow, so if you need to move the snow up onto a pile to get it out of the way, these are not going to be a realistic option. If you like the idea of a plow-style shovel, just know that you will also need a traditional scoop-and-throw shovel to supplement.
Because the bend in the ergonomic grip handles looks less than graceful, they’re not the most widely-loved shovels. On the other hand, the idea actually works. An ergonomic handle is designed to reduce back strain.
Shoveling with a more upright posture keeps the strain off your back muscles and makes your biceps and shoulders do most of the work. These shovels are a little bit more of a hassle to store because of the funky shape, but the ergonomic handle does have its place.
How well put together is the shovel? Does it use small little screws? How many? Remember, snow can be heavy, and you can wind up moving tons of it just cleaning up after a single storm. Tiny hardware and thin-wall tubing limit how long a shovel will stand up to use, and how well they’ll accept repairs.
Consider the spot where the handle connects to the blade—it needs to be strong so you can pick up a heavy shovelful of snow and confidently put it where it needs to go, instead of wobbling or flexing around.
The best advice we can give for shovel-shopping is to consider the type of storms you typically experience. Light, fluffy snow is easy to move. Heavy, wet stuff is more miserable.
Your terrain is also important: A plow shovel is going to be a challenge on a narrow walk paved with pea gravel or bricks. If it all sounds too confusing, you can do what I did and get one of each.
This is a solid all-around shovel. Slightly larger than the Suncast, it moves a lot of snow, and has an ergonomic handle to help you maintain good form. The aluminum scoop is very durable and scrapes well against the ground, clearing away ice and snow. In terms of a pure “cubic inches of snow moved per minute” metric, this TrueTemper would probably beat out the Suncast.
There were two issues that I had with this product that kept it from the top spot. The first was that the shallow ergonomic curve in the handle meant that this model functioned much more like a straight shovel than the Suncast. I had to bend my knees and/or back much deeper to pick up a full load. While it’s more comfortable than a straight shovel, it’s not as comfortable as the Suncast.
My second issue was also related to the handle—it’s not great at plowing. It could plow, certainly, but it plowed much more like a straight handled shovel than the Suncast. I was pushing at more of a downward angle, and that meant that I got stuck more.
This is a very versatile product and a durable one that will last a long time. It wasn’t quite comfortable enough to earn the top spot, but I recommend this over any straight-handled shovel.
This is another solid ergonomic shovel, with a deep curve in the handle so that you don’t have to bend over nearly as much to lift. It plowed well, pushing a lot of snow with the 24-inch scoop, and was still easy enough to control on decks and stairs.
That said, this product is an example of bigger not always being better. The extra 6 inches of scoop size over the Suncast means that a full load is quite a bit heavier. Trying to lift that much extra snow onto a pile was very tiring, even with the ergonomic handle. Not to say that I couldn’t lift it, but I could feel the difference.
The other issue with this product is that it simply didn’t scrape well. It doesn’t have a metal edge, and the plastic did not cut through ice or compacted snow. I tried to chip some thin sheets of ice off of my deck with it, and it couldn’t do the job—I had to bring in a different shovel.
This was one of the more unique shovel designs that we tested, and overall, I was impressed. The first feature that most of the other shovels lacked was the ability to change the handle based on your height. I set the handle to my height range and found it remarkably comfortable for a straight-handled shovel. I was able to plow better and lift easier than with most of the others.
It also features smart track safety blades, small plastic protrusions designed to absorb and deflect the impact of hitting objects buried in the snow. When you hit a crack or a curb, instead of the handle smashing into your stomach, the shovel tilts forward without hurting you.
Of course, I tested this feature by crashing the shovel into all kinds of obstructions. And for the most part, the safety feature worked. I still received a few handle gut-punches, but not as many as with some of the others.
The drawback of these smart track safety blades is that they do make it harder to clear right up to an obstruction. Getting snow off of my deck stairs, for example, was difficult because the shovel simply could not get all the way up against the stair riser. It left behind a one-inch band of snow on the stair. Not a crisis, but it was annoying.
This is one of our favorite straight-handled shovels. It’s functional, durable, and one of the best looking with its beautiful wood handle and shiny blade made of thick aluminum.
The Forest Hill shovel isn’t just for snow. It’s more versatile and useful for garden or farm tasks. Its shorter handle makes it slightly more compact than most of the other shovels, and it’s well-balanced. This is a product that just feels good in your hands and is easy to use.
Objectively, there are a few hits against the Forest Hill shovel. Its price, of course, but also the lack of steel or composite wear edge for the blade, and a non-ergonomic design are both areas where other shovels can claim an advantage. The thick aluminum of the blade didn’t show much wear after use, so even without a steel edge, you should still expect the Forest Hill to last a long time.
The design of the blade is best-suited for scooping, and it can pick up a lot of snow (or dirt, or other materials) at once. There’s a limited amount of plowing action, though. After seeing complaints online, we were concerned that snow would stick to the aluminum blade, but we never saw that ourselves. It’s possible that our snow was too wet and the ambient temperature too high to cause sticking.
In any event, a shot of cooking spray or silicone lubricant will make snow slide off smoothly no matter what the temperature. At 5.5 pounds, you’ll get a good upper body workout with the Forest Hill, but it is still a great shovel to use.
The SnoBoss has an innovative design that helps with its versatility. However, the SnoBoss is first and foremost a plow shovel. Its large mouth, high sidewalls, and double handle mean that you can use it to push a lot of snow along the ground.
Unlike the other plow shovels we tested, this shovel has a second handle closer to the scoop so that when you’ve pushed the snow to the edge of the driveway, you have a way to lift it into the snowbank.
That said, there are a few drawbacks in the design that really limit the versatility. While yes, you can pick up the shovel and toss the snow, the large scoop means that you’re probably trying to lift a LOT of snow, and it is very easy to overdo it. In 12 inches of snow, it was a challenge to use—I had to take half-shovel fulls, at which point it would have been easier just to have a smaller shovel.
Another drawback is that it’s too large to manage in small areas like stairs and decks. Most people won’t be able to have this as their only shovel, undermining the point of the versatile design.
If you’re specifically looking for a plow-style shovel, the versatility offered by this one makes it a real contender. But if you don’t have a specific reason for wanting a plow-style, this is probably isn’t a great option for most homeowners.
Close your eyes and picture a snow shovel. More than likely, you’re picturing this Garant. A dozen companies make them, and they’re all pretty much the same. If you’re looking for basic and reliable, then this is a solid choice.
The wooden handle is comfortable and solid, and will likely last quite some time. As a straight-hand shovel, it’s easy to maneuver in and out of tight spaces, and you can throw the snow in any direction. However, it’s also going to be harder on your knees and back than some of the more ergonomic designs, and not quite as good at plowing.
There are a lot of reasons I don’t recommend a pure plow shovel for most homeowners. I find that they take more effort, and you can’t actually lift the snow to get it up on a pile, which is a core element of shoveling. But if you’re committed to getting a pure plowing shovel, this is the one you should get, if it’s in your budget.
Is it the most over-engineered snow shovel that I’ve ever seen? Absolutely. But that overengineering has led to smooth and easy use. The wheels take away a great deal of friction, so you can actually push as much snow as the 26-inch blade can hold.
What’s more, it is adjustable in almost every direction. The handle can be shortened or lengthened, the angle of the handle can change, and the angle of the blade itself can swivel left and right, just like a real snowplow. This means that you can find the right combination for both your body type and specific usage.
It’s still a plow-style shovel, so there’s no way to actually move the snow up onto a pile. Wherever you stop pushing is where the snow will stay. And you’re certainly not going to be using this to clear stairs or decks. But when it comes to moving the snow from one part of your driveway to another, there are few that can move more with less effort.
The Snow Joe Shovelution easily breaks down for storage, making it great for an apartment closet or the trunk of a car. It’s light, with a plastic blade that’s got an aluminum wear edge. It also has a second handle on its own mounting bracket. The design appears well thought out for durability, with sturdy blade and handle mounting, and even a loop of cloth to keep the whole assembly tamed during storage.
The second handle makes it easy for you to lift heavy shovelfuls and keep your back happy. But it wobbles around, which doesn’t interfere with the shoveling so much as it takes some extra energy and attention.
It’s also confusing at first to get in a rhythm of emptying the shovel if you’re lifting with the extra handle because you’re not quite sure how to flip the snow off the blade. The metal wear edge is an extruded piece of aluminum that’s crimped over the edge of the plastic blade, a high-quality detail. This is a good all-purpose snow shovel for heavy, slushy stuff or light, fluffy powder. It tucks away easily and should last a good, long time.
When it comes to pure snowplow shovels, this one is fine. It has a wide blade, but it’s not so big that you can’t push a full load with it. It’s a bit hard to control with only one handle, so it twists and turns as you’re pushing.
There are also no sides to it whatsoever, so a great deal of the snow simply falls away, requiring quite a few passes to get the same path clear.
For plow shovels, it’s light and maneuverable, so you can move in and around objects that some other plows can’t.
This plastic-bladed True Temper shovel is pretty standard—it’s built more solidly than the Suncast or the Emsco, but it’s not as solid as our top scorers. The top handle is attached with a single small screw that is likely to put up with only so much abuse. The rest of the shovel is made from materials that appear durable for an indefinite amount of winters. The ergonomic shaft is a sturdy steel tube, and the plastic parts are thick.
The scoop mounting ensures that it’s not going anywhere, but it does allow some wobbling to occur while you’re shoveling. The wear edge is made of metal and is attached by rivets. The design of the scoop is better at picking up shovelfuls than it is at any kind of plowing action.
It can hold a good amount of snow each time, and it’s not that heavy on its own. This is the kind of product we see at a lot of retailers, and it will definitely work to move the snow, but it won’t make you feel any better about it.
This compact shovel is handy and light. It’s got a blade of thick, durable plastic (it comes with a sticker showing a photo of a truck driving over it) and a fiberglass handle. It does just as well as the metal-edge shovels when the snow isn’t wet, icy, or heavy. The “boxed” design of the blade helps make tidy rows if you’re using it as a plow, and its lightweight lets you move a lot of winter with less fatigue.
A pair of bolts secure the shaft to the blade, and the oversized D-shaped handle is pinned through with a big rivet. You likely to have to work a little harder in certain conditions with an all-composite blade, but it’s made of thick, rugged plastic that should last a very long time. Its slightly shorter overall length makes it easy to maneuver, too.
This snowplow-style shovel is built like an excavator bucket. As such, it can move and hold a lot of snow. Too much snow, in fact. When shoveling through a 3-inch storm, I could move the snow side to side on my driveway.
When I tried in a 12-inch storm, I barely made it halfway across before the shovel was too full to realistically move. And then, because there’s absolutely no way to lift this plow-style shovel, there was nothing I could do with the snow except dump it and try again.
Even when I was able to move the snow to the edge of the driveway, there was no way to actually lift it up onto the pile. I could sort of kick the shovel over and try to dump it “up,” but I had to come back with another shovel to clean up most of the debris. If it had been later in the season when the piles are head high, this shovel would have been almost useless.
And good luck clearing a deck with it. Unless you have a very specific use case, there are better shovels out there.
I’ll be honest. I didn’t test this shovel nearly as long as the others. I wanted to give it a fair shake, but it simply got stuck on everything. Tiny pieces of ice. Very small rocks. Cracks and divots in the driveway. The snow. After a few frustrating passes of my driveway, I threw in the towel.
The only saving grace is that when it wasn’t stuck on something, it moved a decent amount of snow. Steer clear.
This arrived with the flimsy aluminum bent. I’m sure it happened in shipping, but it did not inspire confidence in this shovel’s durability. Nor did the way I was able to bend it back into shape with just my hands.
Durability wasn’t the only issue with this shovel. It was just hard to use, even for a straight-handled shovel.
The problem is that the blade is almost completely flat. If your scoop is off-balance, it tips a little bit. And even a little bit was enough for the snow to fall right off the slippery metal. When I did manage to pick up a full scoop, half of it usually fell off when I went to throw it.
I spent almost as much time picking up snow that I’d dropped as I did actually clearing the driveway.
This shovel feels cheap and the brittle feel of the additional handle causes real concern about how long it would last below freezing. The shaft has an ergonomic bend in it, but it’s a smaller diameter than some of the other shovels we tested.
The Suncast can certainly move the snow, but it’s made inexpensively. The scoop is held to the shaft with just a single light-duty Phillips-head screw. The metal wear edge is a piece of sheet steel riveted to the plastic scoop, and it should be durable for several seasons. This is neither the most expensive, or likely the most durable, but it’ll get the job done.
Jean Levasseur became a professional writer over a decade-long career in marketing, public relations, and technical writing. After leaving that career to stay home to care for his twin boys, Jean has continued to write in a variety of freelance roles, as well as teaching academic writing at a local university. When he's not reviewing tools or chasing toddlers around the house, he's also an avid fiction writer and a growing woodworker.
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