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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I recently had to undergo back surgery that is unfortunately making shoveling my driveway a much more challenging task than it used to be. I have a decent snow blower and it works great when we get a good bit of snow but it doesn't really do much when it's only an inch or 2, and it's still rather taxing to run up and down my steep driveway with. I am considering for next season selling the blower and replacing it with something that I can drive to plow the driveway.

My initial thoughts are either an ATV or a tractor but if anyone has other ideas I am open to it. I am looking for recommendations on what would be the best bang for my buck solution to be able to clear this driveway? One of the problems of course is that it is steep, and the ATV/Tractor would be parked in the garage at the bottom so it will need to be able to get up to the top so I can plow the snow down to the bottom. In my area typical snowfall accumulation is usually 6" or less, but we do occasionally get hit with a 8-12 inch storm, so the solution would need to be able to cope with something in that range. Another challenge is, as you can see my neighbors driveway is directly adjacent to my own, so it isn't possible to just push the snow to the side. I have to start and the top and push it clear to the bottom. Thanks for any recommendations or shared wisdom, this really isn't my area of expertise.

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A 4WD ATV would get the job done quicker and less price than a tractor plus the ATV can be used for recreational purposes.
The yard doesn't look big enough for a tractor.
If you need added traction on the ATV just place 50 pound bags of rock salt on the front and rear carriers for added weight or carry a passenger, the bags of salt or sand work good and can be placed over the axles front and rear.
 

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Sorry about your back issues. I can see where managing a walk-behind would aggravate things.

You have a pretty tight operating area there with a small urban/suburban lot and your neighbor's driveway immediately adjacent. Plus a short steep hill to contend with. (Here I am assuming the house/driveway in the photo is yours.)

This is very typical of where I live, so I have a fair bit of experience dealing with these situations. Your snow fall events/amounts are also very similar to those we experience in the Washington DC area.

Fyi, with any properly sized machine, you would not really want to try pushing any significant amount of snow straight down the entire length of the driveway. Too much snow weight would pile up in front of the snow blade. But the good news is you don’t have to.

You appear to have a “back-load” garage in your walk-out basement. This garage adjoins a decent-sized, flat parking area at the lower end of your driveway.

A small garden tractor with a front-mount snow blade could manage this driveway arrangement very nicely. The advantage of a garden tractor is that you would have the option of also using a front-mount snowblower on it for those unusually large snowfalls. And, a garden tractor has many other useful abilities, so it’s not a one-trick pony - - it can be used year-round not just for snow-duty.

There is enough space for a small snow pile in the area between your driveway and your neighbor’s. And for larger snowfalls, a snowblower attachment would let you direct the snow to other locations as needed.

There is plenty of space for piling snow with a snow plow blade, provided you go at it methodically. If I lived where you do, I would exit the garage along the stairs-side with the blade slightly angled left and push snow straight back to the back edge of the driveway. Repeat several/many times until the lower flat area is cleared of snow.

Then I would turn and face uphill along the left (house) side of the driveway, with blade angled sharp left, and take a run up the incline to the top. With proper ballasting/traction (possibly including snow chains) you should not have much difficulty here. Then turn around at the top and make the rest of your runs on the downhill, blade angled and pushing snow to the left as you go down, backing up the cleared portion of the driveway for each successive run.

In this way, the snow on the flat pad at the bottom would be piled over the lower edge of the driveway, and the snow from the inclined section would mostly be piled along the left side of your driveway (left heading down), with a small amount piled along the right side from that first push up the hill.

It can be done. Importantly, it can be done comfortably and without aggravating your back. Work smarter, not harder.

If you give us an idea of budget we can offer suggestions for specific models. I use a 50-year old JD 140 for my urban snow removal chores. Having the option to choose a snowblade or snowblower is a big advantage, as is operating from an enclosed cab:

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1979 JD 317 52 inch deck 48 inch blower , 1985 JD 318 52 inch deck 48 inch blower
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i get the idea of the blade but 1 good 8 10 12 inch snow storm and youd wished you would have kept the blower,i assume you use the tractor in the summer to mow? If so id keep the blower and get a blade for your tractor do the lite stuff with your blade and heavy stuff with the blower. When i get 1 or 2 inch snow fall i can use the blower to push some snow and when it builds up i hit the pto to blow it out. Good luck and let us know which direction you go.
 

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I use an ATV plow for up to 4-6 inches... after that i go to a blower... but that's for several driveways that are 10x the size.

the ATV and plow would do ok with this even in 10-12" of snow - you just will need to do a whole bunch of passes to get it all.... it will be more tedious than a blower, but for the Once-A-Year event, I wouldn't be getting a different machine....
 

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Also with a plow if you do get multiple events and you have plowed a few times all of sudden the driveway starts getting narrower with the blower even if its not throwing much it should make it 4 or 5 ft into the yard.
 

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The speed of an ATV works well to "throw" the snow off to one side while angle plowing. A garden tractor does not have the speed to do that. If however, you want to push the snow straight ahead to the end, then you need good traction and torque to do that. An AWD tractor could do that but so too can an ATV.

Carrying a blade full of snow the distance is a learned skill. You start with one angled push down the middle to create a path and then go back and get a straight blade full and carry it down that path. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I angle plow most of the driveway but in so doing, I have to do a 50% overlap due to the slow ground speed of the tractor so the snow doesn't spill out the other side. I then turn the blade straight and push the snow pile away using the snow banks to contain the load of snow in front of the blade.

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I agree with @To many tractors. I’ve seen plows work, but trying to move all the snow down the hill to the back will mean some snow gets pushed around a lot. I appreciate @LLigetfa providing the proper method. However, it appears he has a 4WD articulated lawn tractor that should make it easier. It drives me crazy to see a tractor with a plow only using a half or less of it. I understand why they do it, but it’s also why I always use my snowblower even though I have a blade. Riding is most definitely the best alternative with a bad back. After I fell on ice in the parking lot at work and knowing the ice build up I get in front of my garage, I decided a tractor was necessary for me, but we get lots of snow so it had to be a blower, but I also don’t have the tight spaces you have either. I still use a shovel to clear a 1/2” to 1 1/2” of fluff snow pushed to the sides and went to a wider shovel to speed up the process. Makes it more pushing to both sides than there is shoveling. I had a friend with a large ATV that pushed all his snow to his backyard and just kept piling snow on top of snow to make it through the Winter. It doesn’t sound like you have that issue. Pushing down hill looks like your best alternative. I wouldn’t back up the driveway as suggested, It will take much longer than turning around and driving up, but that means you will need to clear space to do that since you don’t want to drive over snow hill turning around. It turns to ice very quickly.

Just for perspective, this was an alternative. Not that the specific equipment, a pusher moves a lot of snow with less passes.
 

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Guys, he has a walk-behind snowblower and is thinking about selling it to get a tractor or atv, so he doesn’t have to muscle it around with his bad back.

I don’t at all understand the comment that a garden tractor can’t go fast enough for effective snow plowing. Loads of us are doing exactly that with outstanding results. Go watch the videos by @Jere39 if you want to see an example. Any extra speed that an atv might be capable of will be completely useless on a driveway of this length. In fact, it will be a liability.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Alright, so far in previous years that I have lived here I have cleared the snow pushing it from top to bottom purely with shovels. It was tedious and required lots of passes but I did it for years so I am confident that an ATV or tractor with a plow can achieve the same results faster. It was only just this past year that I broke down and got a walk behind blower because we had big snow storms coming right when my brother (who was living with us at the time) was scheduled to have knee surgery for a torn ACL/meniscus, and I needed to be able to clear the snow more efficiently without his help. Fast forward a year and I now have back problems that are making using even the walk behind blower aggravating.

So, what I am really looking for here is advice on what combinations of vehicle/snow removal technique would work best for this situation, and what ballpark cost am I looking at to acquire that equipment? I haven't set a specific budget yet because I am hoping to set my budget based on the research and findings from this thread. I am not really familiar with ATV or tractor pricing nor do I really know much about how big of one is sufficiently powerful to handle this job. So that is what I am looking for.

So far I am leaning tractor because while I have very little land at the moment, I do hope to move somewhere in the not too distant future where I would have more land, and a tractor would be good for future use. As for recreation with the ATV, I am not really sure that applies in my case. I live in the suburbs of a big city so I don't really have land around to use it for recreation, and I have never ridden an ATV in my life. Thanks again for the recommendations!
 

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I appreciate @LLigetfa providing the proper method. However, it appears he has a 4WD articulated lawn tractor that should make it easier.
In my defense, I did mention that AWD is needed I did not however mention that articulated (rear wheel) steering helps particularly when angle plowing. An ATV has AWD but with front wheel steering. I have no experience using an ATV to plow with but suspect the speed and AWD should help with steering correction to counter the sideways force of angle plowing.

It drives me crazy to see a tractor with a plow only using a half or less of it.
It irks me too that I have to use only 50% of the blade to keep snow from spilling out the toe on angle plowing. This is where the higher speed of an ATV would help to "throw" the snow off the heel of the plow.

All that said, it worked out a lot cheaper to buy the R322TX and adapt an ATV plow to it than to also buy an ATV just for plowing.
 

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Guys, he has a walk-behind snowblower and is thinking about selling it to get a tractor or atv, so he doesn’t have to muscle it around with his bad back.
What I did not mention in this thread is that I too have a walk-behind that I use to disperse the large snowbank the plow creates. I am considering upgrading to a tractor mounted snowblower but the thought of switching back and forth between it and the plow has thus far deterred me.

I don’t at all understand the comment that a garden tractor can’t go fast enough for effective snow plowing. Loads of us are doing exactly that with outstanding results.
I thought I made it abundantly clear. I do like the end result of plowing but as the windrow gets larger with each pass, plowing has diminishing returns. Once the windrow is too large to continue with straight runs with the angle plow, I switch to short angle runs.

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What I also did not mention is that when the snow is too deep, I first remove the bulk of it with the snowblower and the follow with the plow.

Snow Automotive tire Slope Atmospheric phenomenon Freezing


If I did not have the walk-behind and had to choose between a tractor mounted blower or plow, I would have to go with a blower as it is more versatile and can handle large snow dumps.
 

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Alright, so far in previous years that I have lived here I have cleared the snow pushing it from top to bottom purely with shovels. It was tedious and required lots of passes but I did it for years so I am confident that an ATV or tractor with a plow can achieve the same results faster. It was only just this past year that I broke down and got a walk behind blower because we had big snow storms coming right when my brother (who was living with us at the time) was scheduled to have knee surgery for a torn ACL/meniscus, and I needed to be able to clear the snow more efficiently without his help. Fast forward a year and I now have back problems that are making using even the walk behind blower aggravating.

So, what I am really looking for here is advice on what combinations of vehicle/snow removal technique would work best for this situation, and what ballpark cost am I looking at to acquire that equipment? I haven't set a specific budget yet because I am hoping to set my budget based on the research and findings from this thread. I am not really familiar with ATV or tractor pricing nor do I really know much about how big of one is sufficiently powerful to handle this job. So that is what I am looking for.

So far I am leaning tractor because while I have very little land at the moment, I do hope to move somewhere in the not too distant future where I would have more land, and a tractor would be good for future use. As for recreation with the ATV, I am not really sure that applies in my case. I live in the suburbs of a big city so I don't really have land around to use it for recreation, and I have never ridden an ATV in my life. Thanks again for the recommendations!
You are definitely taking the right approach by leaning toward a tractor.

In tractor parlance, we have some terminology that it would be good for you to understand as you dip your toes in the water here.

The uninitiated may think that anything with a seat to sit on and a mowing deck is a run of the mill “tractor”. But that’s not the case. Not all tractors are equal in design and purpose.

There are really basic riding lawn mowers. They are capable of very little else other than mowing, and usually do best on level land (ie they aren’t the best choice for mowing hilly terrain.)

Then there are Lawn Tractors (LTs), which are a step up and usually offer larger mowing decks and additional abilities such as cart towing, and light-duty snowblower and snowblade attachments. Pretty much all powered attachments (ie mower deck, snowblower) will be belt driven. The transmissions on most LTs are light-to-medium duty rated. Depending which transmission is spec-ed, they may or may not stand-up very well to heavy abuse such as hilly terrain or heavy snow pushing.

The next step up is a Garden Tractor (GT), which is generally a much heavier-built and heavier-duty rated machine. The transmissions will be heavy duty and capable of tough work like mowing big hills, pushing heavy snow, and “ground engaging.” Ground engaging work is usually accomplished by a hitch system at the rear of the tractor, which allows the tractor to pull and power things like garden tillers, plows, box blades, etc. Another hallmark of GTs is that they usually have an additional power take off (pto) option at the rear of the tractor for ground enagaging attachments. And the transmissions as well as PTOs on GTs are often shaft-driven rather than belt-driven (and sometimes a combination of both.) Most GTs have some on-board hydraulic capability as well for lifting and controlling implements, sometimes including oem front-end loaders. Many have gas engines but diesel is sometimes an option too.

There is yet another step up which is often referred to as a “super” GT, which will almost always have a diesel engine option and all shaft-driven PTOs, along with on-board hydraulics. Frequently, 4WD is an option as well.

After the super GT, you enter the territory of Compact Utility Tractors (CUT), with the smallest version being the Sub-CUT (SCUT). These are a bit large than a S-GT and have diesel engines, 4WD, on-board hydraulics all as standard features. A SCUT is definitely too large for your purposes. For that matter, so is an S-GT.

Okay? Chew on that for a little bit. Next we can talking about trade-offs between budget/cost/age/capabilities/etc.

Importantly, don’t be seduced by horsepower ratings on shiny new machines. Many light duty machines that are unsuited for heavy snow pushing have higher HP rated engines than machines that are much more capable. Transmissions are equally or more important than the engine HP.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
You are definitely taking the right approach by leaning toward a tractor.

In tractor parlance, we have some terminology that it would be good for you to understand as you dip your toes in the water here.

The uninitiated may think that anything with a seat to sit on and a mowing deck is a run of the mill “tractor”. But that’s not the case. Not all tractors are equal in design and purpose.

There are really basic riding lawn mowers. They are capable of very little else other than mowing, and usually do best on level land (ie they aren’t the best choice for mowing hilly terrain.)

Then there are Lawn Tractors (LTs), which are a step up and usually offer larger mowing decks and additional abilities such as cart towing, and light-duty snowblower and snowblade attachments. Pretty much all powered attachments (ie mower deck, snowblower) will be belt driven. The transmissions on most LTs are light-to-medium duty rated. Depending which transmission is spec-ed, they may or may not stand-up very well to heavy abuse such as hilly terrain or heavy snow pushing.

The next step up is a Garden Tractor (GT), which is generally a much heavier-built and heavier-duty rated machine. The transmissions will be heavy duty and capable of tough work like mowing big hills, pushing heavy snow, and “ground engaging.” Ground engaging work is usually accomplished by a hitch system at the rear of the tractor, which allows the tractor to pull and power things like garden tillers, plows, box blades, etc. Another hallmark of GTs is that they usually have an additional power take off (pto) option at the rear of the tractor for ground enagaging attachments. And the PTOs on GTs are often shaft-driven rather than belt-driven (and sometimes a combination of both.) Most GTs have some on-board hydraulic capability as well for lifting and controlling implements, sometimes including oem front-end loaders. Many have gas engines but diesel is sometimes an option too.

There is yet another step up which is often referred to as a “super” GT, which will almost always have a diesel engine option and all shaft-driven PTOs, along with on-board hydraulics. Frequently, 4WD is an option as well.

After the super GT, you enter the territory of Compact Utility Tractors (CUT), with the smallest version being the Sub-CUT (SCUT). These are a bit large than a S-GT and have diesel engines, 4WD, on-board hydraulics all as standard features. A SCUT is definitely too large for your purposes. For that matter, so is an S-GT.

Okay? Chew on that for a little bit. Next we can talking about trade-offs between budget/cost/age/capabilities/etc.

Importantly, don’t be seduced by horsepower ratings on shiny new machines. Many light duty machines that are unduited for heavy snow pushing have higher HP rated engines than machines that are much more capable. Transmissions are equally or more important than the engine HP.
Thanks a lot for the explanation, all very good information! I look forward to your post about trade-offs of different options, thanks again!
 

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Thanks a lot for the explanation, all very good information! I look forward to your post about trade-offs of different options, thanks again!
I was hoping others would chime in with that additional discussion and suggestions. Meanwhile, I guess you’ll have to listen to me blather on…

Tractor prices run the whole gamut, based on abilities, reputation, age, condition, etc. Until very recently, you could buy a riding lawn mower at the big box stores for <$1K. And at the tractor dealerships (eg Deere, Kubota, Massey Ferguson, Yanmar, etc) it is possible to pay well over $20k for a full featured S-GT with a few attachments (eg snowblower, mower deck, etc.) And it is not hard to push that number up toward $30K with the addition of extra attachments and features such as a front-end-loader and full cab enclosure.

That’s just the spectrum on new purchases. On the used market, the range of pricing is vast and trickier to quantify due to the huge spread in age and condition on equipment some of which is 50+ years old (like my vintage JD 140 H3.)

That said, there are some every highly regarded GT models from more recent decades that are perennial favorites on the used market. They have endured and their values have held up well because they were built well to begin with, and have desirable features.

For someone new to “tractoring”, often a quality used example is a good place to get started.

There are many makes and models out there. But I am a “Deere guy” so know them best. The Deere 300-series of GTs from the mid-70s-mid-90s is an especially good place to start.

Stand-out models in that series are the 318, the 322, and the 332. They are physically a good size for suburban properties, yet offer solid capabilities.

Those three models have essentially identical capabilities, with the biggest distinction being their engines: The 318 uses an air-cooled twin-cylinder gas engine. The 322 uses a 3-cylinder liquid-cooled Yanmar gas engine. The 332 uses a 3-cylinder liquid-cooled Yanmar diesel engine. The liquid-cooled engines arguably offer more grunt, and importantly they offer the ability to tap into the cooling system to privide heat for a cab.

The 300-series machines were in production for so long and were so popular that there is generally an abundant supply of attachments (mower decks, snowblades, snowblowers) available on local used markets at affordable prices. A big plus.

Prices on these three models mentioned above can vary quite a bit. Condition and hours is everything, certainly more so than calendar age. Beaters are cheap. Pristine examples (whether original or properly restored) can be pricey. But you can generally find decent examples in the $2K-$4k range with variables such as condition and included attachments being the biggest factors. Location and availability can also influence price. The Yanmar-engine versions are more expensive.

So there’s some ideas to study and search on craigslist. Another good resource is tractordata.com for understanding specs of specific models.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I was hoping others would chime in with that additional discussion and suggestions. Meanwhile, I guess you’ll have to listen to me blather on…

Tractor prices run the whole gamut, based on abilities, reputation, age, condition, etc. Until very recently, you could buy a riding lawn mower at the big box stores for <$1K. And at the tractor dealerships (eg Deere, Kubota, Massey Ferguson, Yanmar, etc) it is possible to pay well over $20k for a full featured S-GT with a few attachments (eg snowblower, mower deck, etc.) And it is not hard to push that number up toward $30K with the addition of extra attachments and features such as a front-end-loader and full cab enclosure.

That’s just the spectrum on new purchases. On the used market, the range of pricing is vast and trickier to quantify due to the huge spread in age and condition on equipment some of which is 50+ years old (like my vintage JD 140 H3.)

That said, there are some every highly regarded GT models from more recent decades that are perennial favorites on the used market. They have endured and their values have held up well because they were built well to begin with, and have desirable features.

For someone new to “tractoring”, often a quality used example is a good place to get started.

There are many makes and models out there. But I am a “Deere guy” so know them best. The Deere 300-series of GTs from the mid-70s-mid-90s is an especially good place to start.

Stand-out models in that series are the 318, the 322, and the 332. They are physically a good size for suburban properties, yet offer solid capabilities.

Those three models have essentially identical capabilities, with the biggest distinction being their engines: The 318 uses an air-cooled twin-cylinder gas engine. The 322 uses a 3-cylinder liquid-cooled Yanmar gas engine. The 332 uses a 3-cylinder liquid-cooled Yanmar diesel engine. The liquid-cooled engines arguably offer more grunt, and importantly they offer the ability to tap into the cooling system to privide heat for a cab.

The 300-series machines were in production for so long and were so popular that there is generally an abundant supply of attachments (mower decks, snowblades, snowblowers) available on local used markets at affordable prices. A big plus.

Prices on these three models mentioned above can vary quite a bit. Condition and hours is everything, certainly more so than calendar age. Beaters are cheap. Pristine examples (whether original or properly restored) can be pricey. But you can generally find decent examples in the $2K-$4k range with variables such as condition and included attachments being the biggest factors. Location and availability can also influence price. The Yanmar-engine versions are more expensive.

So there’s some ideas to study and search on craigslist. Another good resource is tractordata.com for understanding specs of specific models.
Ya, that is a good question actually. I know you mentioned craigslist, but are there other places you would recommend I look at to buy a used tractor?
 

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Ya, that is a good question actually. I know you mentioned craigslist, but are there other places you would recommend I look at to buy a used tractor?
Craigslist is my go-to - - for machines and attachments.

Depending which model you are searching for (generally newer and higher $$), machinefinder.com and tractorhouse.com can be useful tools. I’m not a face book user, but apparently they have something called a “marketplace.” Ebay can be tricky for machines but for parts can be great.
 

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Depending where you are located, Roeder Outdoor Power is in Iowa, but ships via Mayflower. Shipping an X738 with mower deck, front quick hitch, snowblower w/driveshaft to Northern lower peninsula of Michigan for $800. They have newer tractors, but usually lower hours at good prices (not a steal), but they service everything so you can count on the condition. FWIW If you have a local dealer, check them out. It’s probably where you will take it for some major repair and it helps if they’ve sold you the tractor.
 

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i can tell you right now, with the kind of slope you are dealing with, it MUST be a 4x4 machine. Tractor or ATV. This is a serious slope.
Otherwise, you will be "turning around" at the bottom on each pass, to make it up the hill - because there is no way you will be backing up that hill on a snowy icy 2wd machine.

in addition, no non-diff lock, x300 or lighter duty machine will handle the demand of this slope for long...

If you dont have a need for an ATV, then a 4wd GT is what you need... or else get ready for major project work to get the right weight and traction on a non 4x machine....

having said that.. if your snow falls are 4-5 per year - and warm weather only (ie does not ice up) - then you can play a bit with different setups.... but when you start heading down that hill, and lose traction, you will be heading for those trees at the bottom... and that wont be fun
 
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