Our Top Pick for 2016: Suncast SC3250 18-Inch Snow Shovel
Read our full review.
You wake up to the weather report informing you that there’s been over a foot in new snowfall overnight. Not to be dismayed by inclement weather, you’re already mentally preparing for the snow shoveling job ahead of you. Are you anxious about it, or are you excited because you know you have just the right tool for the job? Snow shovels are like fire extinguishers: you may not use them very frequently, but when you do, you want them to work well every single time. So which snow shovels are the best?
Table of contents
- #1 Gold Pick (1st Place Winner)
- #2 Silver Pick (2nd Place Runner-Up)
- #3 Bronze Pick (3rd Place)
- #4 Budget Pick (Best Cheap)
Ergonomic Accessory Handle
Ergonomic Bent Handle
Resin-coated steel handle
Steel Wear Strip
Galvanized Steel Wear Strip
Steel wear strip
Powder Coated Steel Shaft
Ribbed Steel Core handle
Steel Core handle
#1 Gold pick (Winner): Suncast SC3250 18-Inch Snow Shovel
Buy it on Amazon for $31*
*Price at time of publishing. Current price may be different.
There’s stiff competition in the world of snow shovels – consumers demand a well-made product that can be relied upon no matter the size of the job. What sets the Suncast SC3250 shovel apart from the pack is its feature-rich design, dual-mode use format and palatable price: less than $40. There’s a lot to love about this snow shovel, so let’s ‘dig’ a little deeper into the reasons why the #1 Gold Pick comes from Suncast.
The most resounding refrain from customers who purchased this shovel has to do with the huge decreases in back pain associated with shoveling snow using the SC3250. In fact, over half of the 4- and 5-star ratings on Amazon mentioned this benefit, along with a host of others including ease of use, quality of construction and overall durability. Almost 220 reviews yielding a 4.4-out-of-5 rating speaks for itself.
The features of our #1 Gold Pick that are the most notable are the ergonomically bent handle with an integrated steel core and the galvanized steel wear strip. The wear strip comes in particularly handy when the user flips the shovel over to use it in its convenient ‘pusher’ mode. Because the handle is designed for either pushing or shoveling, going from one task to the other is incredibly fast and easy. Many owners remarked that the steel wear strip adds a third, ‘hidden’ feature to this shovel – breaking up ice!
The shovel blade measures 18” x 12” which is plenty wide enough to scoop up a respectable amount of snow for each load. However, some users found that this width was a little bit lacking when it came time to use the shovels ‘pusher’ feature. The engineers of this shovel even considered ice and slush build up when they incorporated six thick, raised ribs into the shovel tray. This reduces the chances of icing and snow caking on the shovel, resulting in more time shoveling and less time clearing build ups.
Weighing in at 4 pounds and having an effective length of 52.5”, this shovel is very lightweight especially considering the gratuitous use of steel in its construction. One of the reasons that Suncast was able to produce such a light snow shovel with steel is that the shovel tray is composed of ‘resin’, another term for plastic. But don’t let that fool you. This shovel is incredibly stiff and were it not for the weight savings netted by using resin versus metal for the tray, it wouldn’t be half as effective in moving large amounts of snow and reducing fatigue for the user.
Interestingly, purchasers of this shovel found that they could enhance its natural ability to avoid ice and snow caking by spraying on a light layer of silicone oil or WD-40 before shoveling. While that may not have been an intended use by the manufacturer, we think it’s a great way to turn an hour-long job into a 45-minute one. Some other users found that the angle of the handle bend was unsuitable for very short users, however this kind of feedback was very rare.
There are hundreds of options available to consumers shopping for snow shovels and in many cases, paying less means sacrificing quality. We found this not to be the case with this shovel. Suncast obviously listened to the advice of medical professionals on the subject of how to alleviate back pain during shoveling . Because of its lightweight, efficient shovel chassis paired with a comfortable grip and premier choice of materials, crowning the Suncast SC3250 combination shovel/pusher as the #1 Gold Pick was an easy decision.
#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): Ergieshovel Ergonomic Back Saving Snow Shovel
Buy it on Amazon for $56.10*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
The runner-up in this top three list is a snow shovel that has its hallmark feature built into the actual name of the shovel itself: Ergieshovel’s Ergonomic Back Saving Snow Shovel. What separates this shovel from the top pick is immediately obvious – this shovel has a second D-grip branching off of the main shaft, to allow for added leverage. But is this just a gimmick, or does it actually work? If having two handles on a snow shovel made all that much of a difference, why didn’t Suncast beat Ergieshovel to the punch?
In physics, the Law of Equilibrium states that any mechanical lever is considered to be in equilibrium when the effort and the load balance each other . It’s also true that if the effort can be applied to the lever in two positions instead of one, the work required to achieve equilibrium will be split between the two positions. This is a lot of science to explain what is really a simple design concept that Ergieshovel has incorporated. They’re giving the user two unique handholds on the same snow shovel to disperse the work required by the body – also known as the fulcrum – to do the work.
So no, it’s not a gimmick. It’s science, and it works. However, you’re paying for this added feature, as the Back Saving Snow Shovel is a tad pricier (~$50) than our first pick. Consumers who put this shovel to the test seem to agree that it’s worth the extra few dollars. The Amazon rating for our #2 Silver Pick stands at 4.9 out of 5 stars. Keep in mind though that this rating comes from a total of only nine reviews, so the pool of reliable user data is fairly thin.
Other features of this shovel that are shared with the #1 pick are steel construction of the shaft, a resin tray and a steel wear strip. This shovel would have given Suncast a better run for its money if there were more consumer reviews available for it and if its price was lower. Also, the shaft on this shovel doesn’t have a reinforced core – instead, it’s powdercoated. Keep in mind that powder coating a metal surface is almost always a cosmetic enhancement . It has very little effect on the overall strength of the metal. This coating might be nice if you actually go to grab the shaft for some reason, but why do that when there are two D-grips already there for you?
The bottom line on the Ergieshovel Ergonomic Back Saving Snow Shovel is that it’s an above-average snow shovel that makes good use of the basic physics involved in leveraging a load like snow. However, the price could be a little lower and the track record among consumers would need to be a bit more established for this snow shovel to usurp the Suncast offering. All in all, this snow shovel performs well even at its slightly higher cost.
#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): Garant Grizzly 26-Inch Heavy Duty
Buy it on Amazon for $34*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Coming in at number three on our list, Garant’s Grizzly snow shovel/pusher has a single D-grip, a 45” handle and a whopping 26” blade length. These dimensions make this snow shovel the widest on our list, and this is the only snow shovel in the top three with a wooden handle. So do these differentiators necessarily make this snow shovel better? That depends on your tolerance for load weight and preference for ergonomic design.
Because the Grizzly’s handle is straight and does not offer a secondary grip like the Ergieshovel listed above, it’s going to require more work to move the same amount of snow. But, because the shovel tray allows for more snow volume, you’ll be moving more snow with each action. This equates to fewer loads but more volume per load, which is great for someone stronger who can manage those bigger lifts.
What might be worrisome for some users is the construction of the handle being wood versus metal. With the prior two shovels we’ve spotlighted, the snow shovel shaft is constructed of either steel or reinforced steel. This may make them slightly heavier overall, but that’s only for the addition of strength that steel provides. The kind of material used in construction of the Grizzly shaft is Ash, a variety of wood known for its strength and toughness . Even though some of the product descriptions available for this snow shovel indicate that its handle is composed of tubular steel, the product reviews seem to indicate that the shaft is in fact made from Ash.
When a piece of steel fails, it almost always bends before it breaks. This gives the user some idea about when their snow shovel is getting near its point of failure. But with wood, all bets are off and if a snow shovel shaft made of wood fails, it’s probably going to break without any warning. But the tradeoff here is that with a wooden shaft, there is a savings in weight. Because Ash is such a strong variety of wood, you’re getting the best of both worlds: strength and weight savings. Lastly, wood shafts have a bit of flex to them, whereas steel is much more rigid and less forgiving. This translates into slightly more work required to move the same amount of snow.
At $42.99, the Grizzly is a little pricey. That may be just fine for users who want to move big heaps of snow with each dig, but for those of smaller statures who may prefer the durability of steel over wood, this snow shovel wouldn’t be the most ideal option. The Garant Grizzly snow shovel has a 4.7-out-of-5 rating on Amazon among 66 reviews as of the writing of this article. Even though it’s not a budget pick (see below for that), the Bronze winner in this list offers an acceptable group of features with a middle-of-the-road price tag. If you’re concerned that you won’t like the flex and lack of strength afforded by wood, consider other snow shovels with a handle made of steel or aluminum.
#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): True Temper 18-Inch Snow Shovel
Buy it on Amazon for $19.48*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
If you want to spend the least amount of money possible but you want to make sure you’re getting a snow shovel that will get the job done, this pick is for you. True Temper is already a trusted name in hardware so you know you’re getting a quality product – there’s a good chance you already own a tool or gardening implement made by True Temper. And as we’ve seen with the snow shovels we’ve already gone over, you really do get what you pay for. At the $29.99 list price, this snow shovel remains fairly affordable while touting the True Temper name.
What’s interesting to note about this snow shovel is that the shaft is made from resin-coated steel, a surprisingly nice feature for a shovel at this price level. What’s more, it has the same steel wear strip that our prior models have. What brings this product down to the ‘cheap pick’ category is its receipt among consumers. Reviews for this snow shovel are all over the board, with some users saying that the shovel flexes too much or that it wears quicker than it should. Another common remark about this shovel is that the tray is too flexible and can’t manage larger loads.
Even with that feedback, there are glowing reviews of this shovel that extoll its main selling features. 4.1-out-of-5 on 43 customer reviews isn’t exactly stellar but it’s not terrible either. This is why the 18-inch snow shovel from True Temper is our suggested option if you want a cheap shovel that will basically perform its intended purpose.
Because the dimensions of this shovel are smaller (55” x 15” x 7”), its total weight is lower (only 3 pounds). This makes it a great option for people who want less heft even if it means they may have to shovel for a little bit longer to get the job done. The shovel features a ‘quick-connect’ system however it’s not entirely clear from the listing what that means. We recommend doing your own research to determine if this ‘budget pick’ is right for you.
This may seem like an obvious piece of advice, but far too few people actually follow it when they’re shopping for snow shovels: find the right ergonomic fit for you. If you’re of smaller stature or limited in your range of motion, a smaller overall snow shovel with a more accommodating grip is going to be a better fit than a larger shovel with a straight handle. Shopping online for a snow shovel removes the luxury of trying one before you buy it, so be sure to read the consumer reviews to find out if people had any particular issues with the shape of the handle and/or shovel tray.
Because most snow shovels are designed to minimize fatigue for the user, it’s worth taking the time to determine which ergonomic fit suits you.
We went over the different pros and cons associated with snow shovels that are made with metal shafts versus those made with wooden shafts. Don’t forget that while it is possible for wood to rot, most treated woods used in snow shovel handles won’t succumb to rotting unless they are severely neglected. Also, steel can rust – no material will last forever. Know your environment and expectations for the snow shovel you decide to buy.
Remember that resin is essentially plastic, but it’s not necessarily an indication of cheapness. Resin actually makes for a very light, very strong snow shovel if it is well-built.
Blade Width and Stripping
Keep in mind that a wider snow shovel blade doesn’t always mean a better snow shovel. Wider blades make for larger swaths when you’re pushing snow instead of shoveling it, but the increased width may also make for tougher shoveling when in tight spaces. Also, you may not want a snow shovel that has a huge carrying capacity if you’re a smaller person or someone with limited mobility.
Blade stripping is there as a hedge against premature wear of the shovel tray. Look for snow shovels that have a steel blade strip that can double as a tool you can use to break up ice.
Pricing and Reviews
With the vast sea of snow shovel options available to you, sometimes pricing can be a good first indicator as to where to start your search. If you know you want a quality product but you only need something for occasional use, then a snow shovel in the $30 range should suit you fairly well. If, however, you live in a particularly northern geography with heavy snowfall and you want the best money can buy, then set your sights on the more expensive tier.
Don’t forget to do your review research. You might not know it, but people can be passionate about their snow shovels, and they’re typically happy to give an honest review whether the shovel meets their expectations or falls short of them disastrously. Use this feedback to your advantage before making a buying decision.
Conclusion (Wrapping it up)
If you know you need a new snow shovel and you know generally how much you have budgeted to spend, then a read through this list should have helped you arrive at a conclusion as to which snow shovel to purchase. Also, If you live in an area like DC, Maryland or Virginia, there are laws in place that will force penalties on you if you don’t remove snow on your property . This makes purchasing a quality snow shovel a necessity – so take your time, do your research and don’t forget to submit a review of your own once you’ve had the chance to try out your new snow shovel.
Discussion and comments
We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?
Do you know of an even better product?
- Peter J. Schubbe, DC, Snow Shoveling Techniques to Prevent Low Back Injuries, Spine-Health
- Wikipedia.org, Powder Coating, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powder_coating
- Wikipedia.org, Fraxinus (Ash), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fraxinus
- NBC4, Snow Shoveling Laws for DC, Maryland and Virginia, http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Snow-Shoveling-Laws-DC-Maryland-Virginia-365841341.html
- WebMD, Shoveling Snow Injures Thousands Each Year