Just joined to add my two cents worth... Great forum.
Toro 828OXE DOES have shear-pins, one on each side. You can see on the picture here as well; http://www.toro.com/home/images/t_co_sn_impellerHous_lg.jpg
I've been narrowing my choices down to in between 24" DLE and 828 OXE as well after considering Craftsman, Snapper, JD and few others including Honda. In my particualr case I need to be able to throw snow about 40ft ahead of me to clear the house on my left unless I'd throw the snow on the adjacent neighbor's driveway
. I am hoping that I won't be disappinted with the choice. It appeared to me that Toro 828 will just do that if not barely. Also, I looked for an easy to operate without the need to muscle it around. I found the Toro to be very well balanced fron to back at least without snow being jammed in the auger. It easy to lift the front up as needed. disengaging the either wheel or both to make the turns to make adjustments to the path while on the snow and move it around makes the Toro favorable and more sensible due to the simplicity of the mechanism they used to accomplish it instead of "traction controls" etc complexity. My wife was easily moving it aroun dwhen we tried it as compared Toro and Arens side by side. It's a plus because she has now no excuse not to use it.
I definetly liked the shute controls of the Toro over anything else I've seen so far. I't quick, simple and doesn't seem to have anything to go wrong with it easily. I have to add though I am a first time buyer of a snow blower. I also liked the metal side supports on the Toro making the auger enclosure pretty rigid compared to Ariens. Chute being "plastic" doesn't make it inferior to Ariens in my opinion. Depending on what kind of polymer they used to make the part, it may be an issue in extreme cold environments but at least not where I am (NJ). Running into it with your SUV doesn't count as a failure criteria; just don't run into it reagrdless it is steel or polymer. I am definetly sold on the "diverter" of the impelled snow in case the chute is jam packed. Remains to be seen if it works but I like the concept. Hand warmers? I don't see the point of having one for consumer use purposes but pros may think different of course. Besides, if you must have warmers, you can get a kit for $50 (motorcycle grips) and power it from the light ( I presume it is 12V already). At the end, my choice is Toro 828 OXE. I don't see the need for 1028 or 1128 with slightly more powerfull engines. The price difference in my local is $100 and $300 more compared to 828, respcetively.
Let me also share my shoping experience... Last Spring I bought a Honda walk-behind mower from Northern Tools and Eq. in cedar Groove , NJ. (I am including the name for completeness - I believe in consumer's power with their choice of taking their business wherever they want) I made few visits there to get the mower and paid a little more than otherwise I could somewhere else for the time they spent with me and the convenience of the location to my local. Naturally, they were my first stop for the blower too. First time around, they didn't have any and they told me they'd call when the shipment arrives (they had my number). They didn't call so I stopped by again on the way back from work last week. They had a few on display although not sure if mor ethan what they had earlier. I was given the details, some info not accurate but still volueentered no issues. They had an LXE with a price tag of $1799 - ON SALE! Since I knew that's the one I was going to get, I asked for the OXE with the B&G motor and the price for it mentioning $1799 seemed too steep for the last year's model. He flipped and accused me of wasting his time. He could instead attend other waiting customers, etc. there were none by the way. I reminded him that I WAS a customer too. If they woudl negotiate they would not be in the business fro me to walk in to talk to someone to learn what I learned. I gave him credit for being patient with me and thanked him for his time but I didn't appreciate him accusing me of wasting his time. I apoligized for wasting his time and as I walked away said that he'll never see me ever again. I went out and bought the 828 OXE ($1590) the following Saturday, delivered to my home. Not only that, they spent more time with me and my wife as much as we needed. Also, was able to check out and try other equipment that we'll buy eventually. no pressure...
Now, I am hoping that we'll get yards and yards of snow this year.