We have been selling Ariens and Toro snowblowers for years now. We feel they are both suited for commercial use, as well as consumer.
-High quality steel auger housing.
-High-profile discharge chute with remote height control and directional control.
-Quick 180 degree chute rotation
-Shoot snow up to 50'
-Headlight, electric start
In the Pro realm:
-Ariens has AutoTraction control
-Toro has FreeWheel steering.
Qualities to Look For
-Tough gear box in the front. If you buy the Ariens, the compact models how have a smaller cast iron gearbox, the full size machines generally all use the Large Cast Iron gearboxes. If you buy the Toro, the compact units have a smaller gearbox, and the full size unit generally have one gearbox assembly, and it already is extra strength!
-Shear bolts hold the auger onto the gearbox shaft. They are designed to save your gear box by breaking before the gearbox does. Ariens has 2 of them. Some of the cheap machines have multiple shear bolts on each side. Lots of fun when you hit a curb and kill 8 shearpins in one shot... and the snow coming down is finding your butt crack. Lol.
Toro does not use shear bolts... they use Grade 5 bolts (pretty tough stuff). As a result, Toro bolts rarely break. But what is really interesting is that Toro auger gearboxes rarely break. If you get something caught inside the auger or impeller area, you hear the belt start to squeek. Simply let off on the handlebar impeller control, and turn off the engine. Now dislodge that troublemaker, and you are back and going. At some point, you should check your auger belt to be sure you are ready for the next snow. We have found that according to our records, we replace very few Toro impeller belts, gearboxes, and auger bolts.
I guess it's all in the design.
-Large impeller shaft with the impeller fastened on using bolts or pins, but not welded on. If you happen to deform your impeller, this way it would be replaceable, instead of replace most of the front end.
-Strong frame and auger section, not something flimsy. I have found a certain gray colored brand name that is very thin metal, and the auger housing can be bent using your hands.
-Steering aid (something to make it steer easy).
Ariens uses their AutoTurn system. It acts similar to their differential equipped units of the past ... just "different". By default the machine wants to go straight, but when you turn it, it gives a bit of resistance, and then just cooperates. Most of the time works great, but if you are going parallel to an uneven surface (where driveway meets road), the steering may struggle to determine whether to go left or right.
Toro uses their FreeWheel steering. This means that you have a left lever and a right lever to go in their respective directions. By default the machine goes straight, and we have found that this works very well. There have been imitations on the market, they are built much cheaper (plastic gears), and in our opinion, are extremely spotty in operation.
This year the Ariens Pro kicks it with (approx.) 15 horsepower. A veritable rocket, great for our slushy snow. If you have a large driveway, this is the way to go!
We have had some people look at the Toro and discount the quality because of the plastic chute assembly and joystick controller. Well, put your mind at ease and realize this plastic is properly engineered, and tested to -105 degrees f. If you have a rock type driveway, we recommend the Toro above all... that should tell you something! The chute operation has been excellent and trouble free, whereas many others either need adjustment somewhere down the road, or stop working altogether.
This Toro is still a favorite of many who clear walkways... even commercially!
It is much easier to put these into the back of the truck, than trying to hoof those larger units. Very popular with the commercial guys, and very productive!