Richard S. wrote:http://www.ariens.com/
Used to work in lawmower shop many years ago and at the time those were built like the proverbial brick sh**house. As an example the wheels on the lawn mowers had full axles with bearings and all came with the good engines with the heavier duty parts. The decks were about double the thickness of a normal lawnmower. Something like that would last you through many engines. They are not cheap though.
My father has had 3 Ariens snow blowers. Wore the first one out after about 9 years (blew up the auger gearbox) and a LOT of snowblowing his home and the neighbors. Bought a new one, but it didn't have the differential like his old one. He sold that one after a year of use and bought the 9.5 hp Professional series machine that has the differential. He's past 65 and horsing around a big snowblower without the differential was really hard on him. I don't know if he's had a chance to use it yet, it was just delivered shortly after Thanksgiving (he lives in N.Central Jersey). But, indeed, they are very well made machines.
Simplicity is also very good, but Briggs and Stratton bought them out and is closing down the plant in Port Washington, WI and moving it all to Mississippi or some other low-wage state so they can turn them into cheap cr@p like an MTD blower.
I have had a 6hp Troy-Bilt now for about 7 years and it's been bullet-proof. It's the old-tech gear drive (3-speed) design that they got when they bought out Bolens (also was in Port Washington, WI). But, Troy-Bilt got bought out by MTD, so they are all cr@p now, too. At least MTD hasn't screwed up the Troy-Bilt tillers yet. My little Tuffy has been going strong for almost a dozen years now.
I'm no fan of MTD, as you can tell. I own an '05 Cub Cadet 2544 lawn tractor and really love it. There are not very many "MTDisms" on it, but every year since they have cheapened the line of tractors into lower and lower quality machines. The 3000 series are still pretty sweet, the 2000 series are OK, but the 1000 series have turned into the big box store commodity line just like the low-end John Deere.
Bottom line is buy the best you can afford, even if it hurts a little. You'll thank yourself later. Remeber this: "The bitterness of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten". I have proved that to myself many times over, but I've also paid a lot of money for junk, too, so buyer beware!