Three Things to Think About When Picking a Snow Shovel

Blade width, handle design and weight all factor in to choosing the right snow shovel. Here’s what to look for before you buy.

Man shoveling snow
Make sure your shovel matches your driveway.Filip Mroz via Unsplash

Winter is just around the corner. And for those of us in snowy regions, shoveling time (ugh!) will soon be here. Now is the time to purchase a good snow shovel, but before you do, think about the kind of snow shoveling you need to be doing, what size blade makes the most sense (the bigger the blade, the heavier the shoveling) and whether you prefer a straight handle or one that’s swooshed with a more ergonomic design to ease back strain. Here’s how to sort out all the choices to make your best buy.

What Kind of Shoveling Do You Do?

Ames Company snow shovel
Aluminum blades, like those on this shovel, are lighter than steel and the 18-inch blade is great for scooping and pitching snow.Amazon

Try to determine what your needs are before you buy your shovel. Are you simply pushing snow that piles up on a deck or down the driveway, or will you be needing to quickly shovel out the sidewalk in front of the house so kids can walk to school? A narrower, 18-inch blade is better suited for sidewalk work, especially if you need to lift and toss snow out of the way. A heavy shop broom may be the easiest way to clear sidewalks and stairs if there is just a dusting of snow whereas a shovel with a forged edge may be needed to scrape surfaces that have crusted over with ice.

Check the Specs

Snow Joe snow shovel
This model works great for both shoveling and plowing. A spring-assisted handle works like a fulcrum to provide more lift capacity while reducing back strain.Amazon

Depending on the temperature and the amount of moisture in the snow, a shovelful of snow (about 1 to 1 ½ cubic feet) can weigh anywhere from 7 to a whopping 30 pounds per shovelful. That's a lot of torque on your back, so choosing a model that's curved or has the right handle length for your height can make can make a big difference.

Blade Size Matters

J and M snow shovel
For straight plowing jobs, a 36-inch, plow-type blade like this works great on patios. Reinforcing struts on the blade add strength.Amazon

Think about the blade size before you make your purchase. Narrower 18-inch shovels are best for scooping and pitching snow out of the way. Wider, 24-inch and 30-inch shovels are better for pushing snow down the driveway, but they're tougher to lift when fully loaded. Snow shovels with a steel or aluminum blade are handy for scraping crusty ice off the driveway, but a plain plastic blade won't mar wooden steps or decking the same way an edged snow shovel might. A blade with a flatter design might fit under tires or the undercarriage of your car more easily when digging out vehicles that are drifted in. In the end, buying two shovels designed for different purposes might be best.