A top-quality chainsaw is a powerful and versatile tool used to prune and cut wood for firewood, property maintenance and woodworking projects. We spent hours researching chainsaws from the top tool brands, evaluating ease of use, effectiveness, safety features, and value. Further input came from Dan Akins, co-founder and editor at Theyardable.com, who cautions that when buying a chainsaw, you can't forget protective gear as well, saying “Do not underestimate the necessity of a chainsaw helmet with a face shield and earmuffs. It is a must-have piece of safety equipment!”
Our favorite electric chainsaw, the Makita-UC4051A Electric Chainsaw, has an anti-burnout motor feature and an ergonomic handle. The best gas-powered model, the ECHO 18 in. Gas 2-Stroke Cycle Chainsaw, is easy to start and has impressive cutting power.
Here are the best chainsaws.
Best Overall, Electric: Makita UC4051A 16-Inch Electric Chain Saw
Easy to start
Complaints that initial assembly is difficult
What do buyers say? 93% of 700+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
This corded electric chainsaw is surprisingly powerful for a model that doesn't have a gas motor; it cuts fast and hard, but is easy to use. It features a 16-inch bar that is robust enough to cut through large logs and limbs with ease, so if you have a fallen tree to tackle, a large stretch of brush, or just want to be able to handle whatever your backyard throws your way, this is the chainsaw to choose.
This Makita features an ergonomic, rubberized handle, a soft-start trigger switch, a built-in current limiter that helps guard against motor burnout, an automatic chain oiler, and an electric chain brake. Adjusting or replacing the blade and chain is as easy as turning a lever—no tools needed. The chain speed is 2,900 feet per minute.
You'll appreciate how easy it is to use this chainsaw and will especially love not dealing with a high-maintenance gas engine, and you'll still get plenty of power. However, the chainsaw weighs just over 15.5 pounds, which is heavier than many comparable models, and it requires an outdoor-rated extension cord, as do all electric chainsaws.
It's backed by a one-year warranty and a 30-day satisfaction guarantee.
Best Overall, Gas: Echo 18-Inch Gas 2-Stroke Cycle Chainsaw
Very powerful performance
Fairly easy to start
Gas chainsaws are prohibited in some cities
If power is what you're after, you'll love the Echo CS-400-18, a gas chainsaw with an 18-inch bar and a two-stroke, 40.2-cc engine. This tool doesn't blink when it's time to slice through imposing pieces of wood quickly and confidently, and it's easy to use and handle.
This professional-grade chainsaw features an automatic oiler, heavy-duty air filter, reduced-effort starting system with digital ignition, a side-access chain tensioner, and an air pre-cleaner.
Though gas-powered chainsaws can be hard to start, this one is easy to fire up and keep balanced during use. It's also relatively lightweight at just over 10 pounds without fuel and packs enough power for heavy-duty home projects. The fuel tank holds 14 ounces. It has an impressive five-year warranty that covers it for non-commercial use.
Best Budget, Electric: WORX WG303.1 16-Inch Electric Chainsaw
Comfortable, padded handle
Automatic chain tension and oil
Chain adjuster knob is large, might be accidentally turned during use
If you're OK with a power cord, it's hard to beat the WORX WG303.1, especially at its budget-friendly price. This electric chainsaw has a 16.5-inch bar and a 14.5-amp motor. Experts give it top marks in all essential categories, including cutting speed, ease of use, and handling.
Though inexpensive, this WORX still has handy features, including a chain brake, ergonomic handle, automatic chain oiler, and automatic chain tensioner. It's fast, balanced, and easily handles lightweight duties around the yard. It's not too heavy, weighing 11 pounds.
You may experience some shaking with this model; one thing it lacks is vibration isolation. A three-year warranty backs it.
Best Budget, Gas: Craftsman S165 16-inch Gas Chainsaw 41AY4216791
Cushion-wrapped handle for reduced vibration
Easy Start Technology
Doesn't burn through fuel
Few complaints of difficulty in restarting the saw after a work break
It’s a workhorse for weekend lumberjacks that doesn’t cost a bundle: the Craftsman S165 16-inch Gas Chainsaw 41AY4216791. Reliable and sturdy, this gas-powered chainsaw's 42cc full-crank Craftsman engine has enough power to handle the most common jobs around the yard easily. While this isn’t the chainsaw to fell a mighty oak tree, its 16-inch blade makes quick work of pruning tree limbs, saplings, and brush.
Unlike many difficult-to-start gas chainsaws, this one revs to life easily, thanks to Craftsman's Easy Start Technology. The blade provides a lot of chew with a low-kickback 16-inch bar and chain, and the automatic oiler keeps the bar and chain in good condition job after job. The low-vibration design, along with reasonable weight, makes this chainsaw easy to handle even for longer work sessions.
Versatile and easy to handle, the Craftsman S165 is ideal for trim jobs and pruning large trees that get too close to the side of a home, and other tight-space projects.
Best for Small Jobs: Greenworks 20362 10-Inch Cordless Chainsaw
Easy to start and use
Handles small jobs around the yard well
Not powerful enough for large tree limbs
Maybe you need a smaller chainsaw for very occasional light-duty use, and you don't want to worry about staying in range of the nearest outlet. If so, you'll be pleased with the Greenworks 20362, which has a convenient rechargeable 24-volt lithium-ion battery and a 10-inch bar.
This Greenworks chainsaw includes tool-free tension adjustment, an automatic chain oiler, and an easy-to-grip ergonomic handle. The battery can last through 35 cuts of relatively thick branches or boards before needing a charge. For most people, that's more than enough power to tackle small jobs. To recharge the battery takes about 45 minutes.
While this isn't the best choice for work on big logs or any other heavy-duty tasks, it's surprisingly effective for light duty. It weighs under 8 pounds, making it easier to control if you have limited strength or dexterity. A generous four-year warranty backs it.
Best Cordless: EGO Power+ 14-Inch CS1401 Cordless Chain Saw
Easy to start and use
Handful of complaints about battery problems
While most battery-powered tools are best suited for quick, light-duty jobs, the EGO Power+ CS1401 is ready and willing to do more. A 56-volt lithium-ion battery powers its 6,300 rpm motor, and it has a 14-inch bar. Experts give it top marks for ease of use, handling, and cutting speed.
The CS1401 features a low-kickback design with a chain brake, tension adjustment, and a high-efficiency brushless motor. The battery can handle roughly 100 cuts on a single charge, and the battery recharges reasonably quickly. The tool is powerful enough to cut through limbs up to a foot thick—not too shabby for a battery model.
At nearly 12 pounds, this chainsaw is a bit heavier than some lighter-duty models. A five-year warranty backs it; the battery is warranted for three years.
Best for Home Use: Greenworks 16-Inch Cordless Chainsaw
Brushless motor for longer run time
Easy to start and use
A cord can get tangled and tiresome when working a big job with a roaring chainsaw. The Greenworks cordless chainsaw provides a lot of bite for its buck and long life between battery charges. It slices through thick stumps with a brushless motor that has significant torque and power. Once the electric start brings it to life, the saw provides 30 percent more torque than other cordless saws of its caliber. With less twisting and turning, the saw gets less wear and tear and will last through more seasons.
An automatic oiler also prolongs the life of the chain and blade. The Greenworks has a longer running time than other cordless saws on the market, so you won't have to stop for a recharge before you're finished. The rattle on this big handheld saw is lower than its counterparts, with up to 70 percent less vibration; that means less fatigue during the job.
A minor downside, the battery and charger are sold separately; otherwise, it's a great choice.
Best Heavy-Duty: Husqvarna 20-Inch 455 Rancher Gas Chainsaw
Fairly easy to start and use
Gas chainsaws are prohibited in some cities
If you’re looking for a powerful chainsaw that can handle a lot of use and abuse, the Husqvarna 455 Rancher is a tried-and-true option that’s hard to beat when it comes to power and reliability. Experts laud this saw. Husqvarna is widely considered one of the best chainsaw manufacturers globally, giving it top marks for cutting speed and ease of use. It has a large 20-inch bar and an impressive two-stroke, 55.5-cc engine that can rev up to 9,000 rpm.
This Husqvarna is a low-vibration model with a low fuel-consumption, low-emission X-torq engine. It has a centrifugal air-cleaning system that can help air filters last longer, a side-mounted chain tensioner, an inertia-activated chain brake, an ergonomic handle, and a Smart Start system that means less time spent trying to get the engine going.
This is an exceptionally easy-to-use chainsaw, especially compared to other gas models. More importantly, it’s powerful enough to slice through large logs and limbs easily. The saw weighs about 13 pounds with cutting equipment. A two-year warranty backs it.
Best Pole Saw: Sun Joe SWJ807E 2-in-1 10-Inch Electric Pole Chainsaw
Easy to start
Use as chainsaw or pole saw
Very reasonable price
Few complaints that pole isn't sturdy enough
Pruning trees and tall shrubs can be a tedious and backbreaking task when armed with just a pair of garden loppers and a ladder. Luckily, there's the Sun Joe SWJ807E 2-in-1 10-Inch Electric Pole Chainsaw to make the job much easier. This corded electric chainsaw has an 8-amp motor that powers the 10-inch bar through branches up to 9.5 inches thick with ease. And should those branches be higher than you can easily reach from the ground, never fear; the telescoping pole extends up to 8.8 feet, providing you with a reach of up to 15 feet. That's enough for just about any overhead branch you're likely to encounter.
This handy tool starts up easily without any need of cranking a pull handle; just push the start button and it's up and running. Because it's a corded saw, not battery-powered, you don't need to worry about running out of juice before you've finished your yardwork, and it can work with up to a 100-foot outdoor-rated extension cord.
For a powerful chainsaw that is packed with features, we love the Makita UC4051A Electric Chainsaw. It features a 16-inch bar that users say is robust enough to cut through large logs and limbs. However, if you’re looking for the ultimate power delivered by a gas chainsaw, the Echo CS-400-18 is a professional-grade chainsaw that’s easy to start and equally loaded with great features.
What to Look for in a Chainsaw
There are three basic types of chainsaws: gas, electric, and battery-powered.
Electric motors are rated in amps. Light duty electric chainsaws start at about 8 amps, but more robust models fall between 12 and 15 amps. Unless you have the most basic trimming tasks to complete, you’ll likely want to consider an electric chainsaw with amps at the higher end of this range.
Gasoline engines are most commonly categorized in cc’s, but you’ll occasionally see them rated by horsepower. You’ll find chainsaws with anywhere from 25cc to 80cc or more in professional models. Horsepower varies, but a mid-range chainsaw may have around 4 horsepower, with heavy-duty models packing even more power. Note, however, that gas-powered chainsaws are prohibited in many cities, and that trend will continue to grow.
Battery-operated models skip the motor and engine ratings altogether. Instead, the power of these chainsaws is measured in volts. Many models are available with 18 to 40 volts, but a few stretch the power up to 80 volts or more.
The chainsaw bar is also sometimes referred to as the blade and serves as the guide for the chain. Bar lengths vary significantly among different models of chainsaws and range from 8 inches to 30 inches.
Dan Akins, co-founder and editor at Theyardable.com, offers some guidelines: “If you only expect to cut a few pieces of firewood a year, a simple electric chainsaw with a 14-to-16-inch bar is enough. If you need to do regular maintenance in your backyard, perhaps removing branches here and there or cutting down small trees, then a small gas-powered chainsaw with a 16-to-18-inch bar is an irreplaceable tool. For frequent use trimming trees, making firewood, etc., I would recommend a slightly bigger, more powerful gas chainsaw with an 18-inch bar. That's the ideal size to get most things done around a homestead, farm, or ranch.”
The shorter the bar length, the easier the chainsaw is to handle—but it will also reduce the saw’s cutting capabilities since the bar should be 1 to 2 inches longer than the wood you’re cutting to avoid kickback (which is when the nose of the saw makes contact with the cutting surface and is sharply forced upward). Longer bar lengths allow you to make considerably larger cuts of wood in a single pass. However, a longer bar length requires a more powerful motor and a heavier machine, so increased caution is needed when using these heavy-duty chainsaws.
A bar length of 14 inches or less should be sufficient when shopping for a chainsaw for average homeowner use. If you have more than average yard tasks to tackle, you might need to look for a more capable model with 14 to 18 inches of bar length. Heavy-duty chainsaws will have a bar length of 18 to 24 inches, and professional chainsaws will stretch the bar length to 30 inches.
For maximum performance and maximum safety, you need to oil your chainsaw blade regularly. If you fail to do this, the blade may become dull more quickly, but the friction heat can also cause the nose of the saw to warp.
Today, many chainsaws have an automatic oiler that saves the operator time while ensuring the saw remains in optimal working condition. Automatic oilers are available with either fixed flow or adjustable flow. A fixed-flow oiler will distribute a consistent, steady flow of oil onto the chain. An adjustable flow oiling system means that the operator can adjust the setting of the oiler to release more or less oil. This adjustable system might be good when placing more significant strain on the saw, such as cutting harder woods.
Whichever type of automatic oiler you opt for, become familiar with the size of the oil reservoir and pay close attention to the oil level. Many models of chainsaws have a small window on the side that lets you easily keep an eye on your oil supply.
How do you use a chainsaw safely?
Says Dan Akins, Co-founder and editor at Theyardable.com, “The only way to really learn how to handle a chainsaw is to have someone show you the ropes in person. Watch and learn, and then try it out yourself under supervision. Do not get overly confident when handling a chainsaw; that's when the accidents tend to happen. And remember that using a large chainsaw is exhausting even if you are in great shape. Take regular breaks and hydrate if you are planning on a long work session.”
However, there are some basic guidelines to follow:
To use a chainsaw safely, dress in clothing that fits snugly and covers your entire body. Use long pants, long sleeves, and closed boots and shoes. Other protective gear includes eye safety goggles, work gloves, and ear muffs or noise-reducing earplugs.
Next, you'll need to familiarize yourself with the chainsaw’s instructions before powering up the tool. Do not tackle a project that is outside of your skill level and never operate a chainsaw if you are fatigued, ill, or otherwise impaired.
Before you begin working, find someone to stand nearby and always have a first-aid kit on hand.
Once you've begun working, make sure you work slowly and methodically and that you always have two hands on your chainsaw with both feet solidly placed on stable ground. You should never use a chainsaw on a ladder, perched in a tree, or another precarious spot. You should also stand directly in front of the object you are cutting with the chainsaw at a slight angle to the side. Don’t lean or bend your body to the side, and do not use your chainsaw to cut brush or tree limbs above your head.
When it comes to felling trees, Dan Adkins adds further cautions: “Felling trees is a tricky skill to master, and there are countless things that can go wrong, even for an expert. As a beginner, avoid felling trees taller than 10-20 feet. That's because you have more control over smaller trees, and if something does go wrong, the consequences will not be as bad as they could be with a large tree.”
How do you sharpen a chainsaw?
It’s not difficult to sharpen a chainsaw, although it is a bit tedious.
- First, unplug the chainsaw or remove the battery and then engage the chain brake and clamp the bar of the chainsaw in a workbench vise. If necessary, tighten the chain by turning the tension adjusting screw. This will prevent the chain from turning while you work.
- Then wipe away grit and dirt with a wire brush and mark one of the chain’s teeth with a marker or crayon. This will help you keep track of your full rotation around the chain.
- Set the file in the notch directly behind the marked “tooth” of the chain. The file should be at a slight angle pointing away from the chainsaw’s motor. Afterward, stroke the file through the notch several times in one direction until the metal is silvery and appears sharp. Using the same angle for the file and number of strokes as this first tooth, repeat this on every other tooth until you get back to your starting point.
- Now, you will flip the chainsaw over and reclamp it to your workbench vise. Using the same technique, sharpen the remaining teeth, moving to every other tooth until you are back to your starting point.
- Next, check the depth gauge rakers. These are the small, slightly rounded points located before each tooth on the chain. Place a depth gauge tool over each raker in turn. If the raker sticks up above the depth gauge tool, use a flat file to file the raker level with the depth gauge tool. Repeat this until you've worked your way around the chain.
- Finally, dust away any metal dust or scrapings, unclamp your chainsaw, and then reset the chain tension to your usual tightness.
For even more comprehensive instructions, read our guide to sharpening a chainsaw.
How do you start a chainsaw?
Electric chainsaws typically start at the touch of a button, but it’s a little more involved if you are using a gas chainsaw.
To start a gas chainsaw, first, set the chainsaw on flat, stable ground with the bar pointing away from any obstacles. Make sure no people or pets are close by. Next, check that the chainsaw has enough fuel, the chain is at the appropriate tension, and the tool is in good working condition. Then use your right foot to press down on the rear handle, so the chainsaw is held steady.
Now you can engage the chain brake, turn the chainsaw on, and open the choke fully. If your model of chainsaw has a fuel primer, press it several times. With your right foot still holding the chainsaw down, use your dominant hand to pull the start cord with a smooth, firm motion. Your other hand should be holding the chainsaw handle.
Once the chainsaw engine begins to catch, close the choke halfway and then pull the start cord again. You might need to do this a few times before the engine fully starts. Then, adjust the choke to the run position and let the chainsaw idle for a few minutes until the engine is warm. Finally, lift the chainsaw, release the chain brake, and you are ready to work.
To start an electric chainsaw, first, connect the power cord or battery to the chainsaw. Then place the chainsaw on flat, stable ground and use your right foot to hold the tool's rear handle firmly in place. Then engage the chain brake and safety switch. Push the start button until the motor starts and catches. Finally, pick up the chainsaw and release the chain brake, and you're ready to work.
How to clean a chainsaw?
To clean a chainsaw, first, place the base down on a stable work surface and make sure the chain is not touching anything. If it's an electric chainsaw, make sure it's unplugged from power. Then adjust the knob that controls the chain's tension until the chain is loose enough for you to remove it from the bar. Then you can use a bar groove cleaner and a pick, screwdriver, or compressed air to clear any debris on the bar.
Then in a well-ventilated area, carefully mix 1 gallon of water and 1 cup of ammonia in a bucket and soak the chain for up to 20 minutes. Once it's done soaking, put on a pair of thick rubber gloves and use a small brush to loosen and free any debris on the chain. Once it's clean, remove it from the solution and thoroughly rinse it under water to remove the ammonia. Dry it off as much as you can with a towel and then hang it in a safe spot to air-dry completely before you lubricate it.
To lubricate the chain, let it sit in bar and chain oil for 3 hours on one side, and then flip it over and let it sit for another 3 hours. Once it's done, you can gently dab it to get rid of any excess oil. Then you can reattach it to the bar and tighten it to the proper tension.
While your chain is lubricating, you can clean the rest of your chainsaw. To clean the powerhead, simply wipe it down with a dry cloth and use a paintbrush and screwdriver to brush away or unclog any thick debris around the crankcase, clutch, drum, and bar studs.
On gas models, you'll need to clean the air filter, spark plug, and cooling fins. To clean the air filter, simply remove it and brush off any debris with a paintbrush. You can also run it under water if it's particularly dirty, just make sure it's completely dry before placing it back in your chainsaw.
For the sparkplug, you just need to check if it's dark brown or black. If it's the latter, it will need to be replaced. Finally, for the cooling fins, you can use a screwdriver to carefully pick out any stuck debris and a paintbrush to brush off the rope rotor.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article is edited and updated by Michelle Ullman, the tool expert for The Spruce. She has extensive experience writing about all things related to the home and in carrying out various DIY projects, including landscaping, painting, flooring, wallpapering, furniture makeovers, and simple repairs. She considered dozens of chainsaws for this roundup, evaluating each for basic features, extras, and customer evaluation. She also received advice and suggestions from Dan Akins, Co-founder and editor at Theyardable.com.