Hello everyone! I have not visited this forum in a while. Given how helpful everyone was when I bought my Ariens back in 2014, I thought I would provide some feedback after 4 years of use.
I own the 2014 Ariens Hydro Pro 32 Track with 12 V start, #926514 (now discontinued). The dealer made some lighting and dashboard modifications. The lighting mods have been extremely helpful when blowing snow at night. The flashers and rear lighting has really made a difference in enabling cars to see me blowing snow on the street. For example, as soon as a car turns onto my street and sees flashers and headlights, I can see them slowing down immediately. Although these mods are costly, I recommend everyone install additional lighting on their blowers (if possible) to improve safety.
This machine is a real beast. Although we have a small driveway, I use the snowblower to clear neighbors' driveways, sidewalks, and part of the street we live on (the snowplow is usually very late). I have had no issues whatsoever. I change the oil once a year and use fuel treatment when storing the machine during the off season.
I use 93 octane fuel based on the recommendation from my dealer. 93 octane has less ethanol than 87 octane. Since we do not use snowblowers as often as we use cars, the additional ethanol can cause interior parts to deteriorate more quickly. (The cars we use daily are less likely to have this issue since the gasoline is constantly being burned and replaced...much less time for ethanol to gum-up internal parts.)
What I like the most about the Ariens is the sheer power...420cc can really go thru the 4-foot high snow piles left in front of my driveway from the snowplows. (Yes, after I clear the entrance to the driveway, the snowplows come and block it again. LOL!) I have broken the pins quite a few times. When we have considerable snowfall, I cannot see where the curb is. Consequently, on multiple occasions I have driven the Ariens over the curb at an angle causing the blades to hit the concrete. As soon as that happens the pins break. After all of my mistakes, my blades have not needed any maintenance. The pins break away at the appropriate time to protect them from bending or breaking. Rocks have also caused the pins to break. I also chewed-up a newspaper by accident, but that did not cause the pins to break. I just made a mess of my neighbor's lawn.
I have also used this blower on grass, uneven terrain, and on ice. In all cases I cleared snow without a problem and did not lose traction. The only test I have not done is a steep incline (I do not have one nearby). I have never owned a track machine until now and I will never go back. The traction is exceptional.
My only complaint is turning. I never got the "trick" to enabling the turn feature this model has. Consequently, turning requires moderate effort. I will keep practicing and maybe I can trigger the tracks to go in opposite directions so turning will become much easier. Please note that I have an added weight bar installed, thus the extra weight may make turning the machine a little more difficult.
I live in northern NJ. The greatest snowfall we had over the past 4 years in one storm is 24+ inches. This machine is so powerful that my 9-year-old nephew can run this machine by himself with that much snow. My only instructions to him were maintaining a slow speed and needing my assistance when turning.
I have not done any research on current Ariens models. However, based on my experience I highly recommend this brand!
*** Update ***
One maintenance cost I had this year was to replace the battery. The original battery failed after 4 years of use. The lifespan of the battery is 4 to 5 years. Given how much of a load I am placing on the battery I would say replacing the battery every 4 years is above average performance.