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If you’re in the market for a chainsaw, you’ll probably be choosing from three main categories: gas, corded electric, or cordless.
Gas models are smoothest and most powerful, and there’s no cord to worry about. But they’re also noisy, require more maintenance and even starting the motor can be a pain. Corded electrics are cheaper, lighter, and lower-maintenance, but you’ll get less power—and you’re tethered to a cord. Cordless models have a rechargeable battery that lets you go anywhere, but they’re usually reserved for light duty, and the battery may not last long enough for longer jobs.
Whatever you choose, safety should be your first priority. Most chainsaws are designed to limit dangerous kickbacks and have other safety features such as chain brakes, blade cases, and anti-vibration technology. Proper maintenance can help prevent accidents, and so can common-sense tips like not wearing loose-fitting clothing or sawing with the end of the blade.
To help you find the best chainsaw for your needs, here are the best options on the market.
This corded electric chainsaw is surprisingly powerful for a model that doesn’t have a gas motor. It features a 16-inch bar that is robust enough to cut through large logs and limbs with ease. The chain speed is 2,900 feet-per-minute.
This Makita is packed with features, including 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 are required.
You'll appreciate how easy it is to use this chainsaw, and especially love not dealing with a high-maintenance gas engine, but 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 will require an outdoor-rated extension cord—of course, that's true of all electric chainsaws.
It’s backed by a one-year warranty and a 30-day satisfaction guarantee.
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 owners love for its ample power and reliability. Experts laud this saw too, giving it top marks for cutting speed and very good ones for 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.
By and large, this is an exceptionally easy-to-use chainsaw, especially compared to other gas models. More importantly, it’s powerful enough to easily slice through large logs and limbs.
The saw weighs about 16 pounds with cutting equipment. It’s backed by a two-year warranty.
If a good amount of 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 is a tool that doesn't blink when it's time to slice through imposing pieces of wood quickly and confidently, yet it's still 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, but still packs enough power for even heavy-duty home projects. The fuel tank holds just shy of 14 ounces, and it’s covered by an impressive five-year warranty for non-commercial use.
As long as you’re willing to put up 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 of the important categories, including cutting speed, ease of use, and handling.
Though it’s inexpensive, this WORX still has important 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, either, at 11 pounds.
You may experience some shaking with this model, however; one thing it lacks is vibration isolation. It’s backed by a three-year warranty.
It’s a workhorse for weekend lumberjacks that doesn’t cost a bundle: the HUYOSEN 54.6 cc 18-Inch Gas Chainsaw. Reliable and sturdy, the HUYOSEN has enough power to easily handle most common jobs around the yard; while this isn’t the chainsaw to fell a mighty oak tree, its 18-inch blade makes quick work of pruning tree limbs, saplings, and brush.
Unlike many difficult-to-start chainsaws, this one revs to life at the push of a button; no chain to pull over and over. The blade provides a lot of chew with a sprocket-tipped 18-inch bar and chain, and the automatic oiler keeps the bar and chain in good condition job after job.
Versatile and easy to handle, the HUYOSEN is ideal for trim jobs and pruning large trees that get too close to the side of a home or other tight-space projects, and at under 20 pounds, it won’t put too much strain on your hands, arms, or back.
Maybe you just 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 make up to 35 cuts of relatively thick branches or boards before needing a charge, which takes about 45 minutes. For most people, that's more than long enough to tackle small jobs.
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 also weighs under 8 pounds, making it easier to control for users with limited strength or dexterity. It’s backed by a generous four-year warranty, too.
While most battery-powered tools are best suited for quick, light-duty jobs, the EGO Power+ CS1401 is ready and willing to do more. Its 6,300 rpm motor is powered by a 56-volt lithium-ion battery, and it has a 14-inch bar. Experts give it top marks for ease of use and very good ones for handling and cutting speed.
The CS1401 features a low-kickback design with a chain brake, tension adjustment and high-efficiency brushless motor. The battery can handle roughly 100 cuts on a single charge, and the battery recharges fairly quickly. The tool is powerful enough to cut through limbs up to a foot thick – not too shabby for a battery model.
At 14 pounds, this chainsaw is a bit heavier than some lighter-duty models. It’s backed by a five-year warranty; the battery is warranted for three years.
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 a 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.
However, note that the battery and charger are sold separately, a minor downside to an otherwise well-respected machine.
For a powerful chainsaw that is packed with features, we love the Makita UC4051A Electric Chainsaw (available at Amazon). 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 (available at Amazon) is a professional-grade chainsaw that’s easy to start and equally loaded with great features.
Everything You Need to Know About Buying a Chainsaw
By Erica Puisis
Make quick work of tree trimming, shrub shaping, and other yard work activities with a chainsaw. This familiar yet formidable power tool has been helping homeowners to buzz through tough tasks in no time at all, thanks to a fast-moving chain specially designed to cut through even dense materials.
Every chainsaw has at least three main components—a body housing the power source, a bar (sometimes also referred to as the nose or blade), and a chain. The power source (either a gas or electric engine, or a battery) generates power to the chain, which moves rapidly around the bar of the chainsaw. Small and sharp teeth on the chain dig into the cutting surface to rapidly make precise cuts.
Chainsaws come in a number of configurations to suit the needs of an average homeowner or tree-trimming professional. There are both gas and electric-powered chainsaws, along with pole saws and electric loppers. The most basic chainsaws start at about $75, but these models will be limited in terms of power and capabilities. High-end chainsaws can cost $1,000 or more, but if you’re not a lumberjack or an arborist, you’re not likely to need such a robust model. Most people find that a chainsaw priced between $200 and $500 suits their needs for a reliable, powerful, and easy-to-use model.
What to Look for in a Chainsaw
- Motor: How much power you need in a chainsaw motor depends on the type of tasks you have in mind. Chainsaws can be powered by electric or gasoline engines. The capacity and weight of the chainsaw will increase as the power of the motor increases.
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 terms of 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.
Battery-operated models skip the motor 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.
- Chain Brake: A critical part of chainsaw safety is the chain brake. Most chain brakes involve a spring-loaded lever that uses a brake band to stop the chain in its tracks when activated.
Some newer chain saws have an inertia chain break which will automatically stop the chain if sufficient kickback occurs, regardless of whether the lever has been manually released by the operator. This type of chain break offers an additional level of safety, since it eliminates the potential for any user delay and immediately stops the chain.
- Automatic Oiling: For maximum performance and maximum safety, a chainsaw should always be well-oiled. Because of the friction placed upon the chain and nose of the machine, this can be a frequent task. If you fail to keep the chain well-oiled, it may become dull more quickly, but the friction heat can also cause the nose of the saw to warp. Many chainsaws today are equipped with an automatic oiler that will save the operator time while making sure 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 might be required when placing a greater strain on the saw, such as when 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 make sure you don’t run out of oil. Many models of chainsaws have a small window on the side that lets you easily keep an eye on your oil supply.
- Bar Length: The bar of the chainsaw is also sometimes referred to as the blade and serves as the guide for the chain. Bar lengths vary greatly among different models of chainsaws and range from 8 inches to more than 20 inches.
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 bigger cuts of wood in a single pass. However, a longer bar length is often paired with a more powerful motor and a heavier machine so increased caution is needed when using these heavy-duty chainsaws.
When shopping for a chainsaw for average homeowner use, a bar length of 14 inches or less should be sufficient. If you have more than average yard tasks to tackle, then you might need to look for a more capable model with a 14 to 18 inches of bar length. Heavy duty chainsaws will have a bar length of 18 to 20 inches, and professional chainsaws will stretch the bar length up to about 24 inches.
- Tool-Free Chain Adjustment: It’s important to make sure that the chain is always sufficiently tightened around the bar of your chainsaw. With use, vibration and friction can cause the guide bar to shift position and the chain can become loose—which poses a risk of the chain flying off the guide bar and potentially injuring the operator. A chain that is too tight can cause damage to the bar or can break, which also is a potential danger for the operator.
To adjust the tension of a chain, you’ll need to adjust the position of the guide bar. The typical method is to remove the machine’s sprocket cover using a wrench and then adjust the tension of the screws holding the guide bar in place using a screwdriver. Usually, the manufacturer will include a special tool that can accomplish both tasks.
But to save time and make the task easier, many chainsaws on the market feature tool-free chain adjustment. A chainsaw with this feature enables you to make much quicker and simpler adjustments to the bar length to keep the chain properly tightened. Instead of requiring the use of a wrench and screwdriver to manually adjust screws, a tool-free chain adjustment system typically uses some combination of a special knob or thumb wheel to adjust bar length.
- Handle: Most chainsaws on the market feature a rear-handle. This is typically the handle that will feel most secure to the average homeowner. There are also full wrap and ¾ wrap handle configurations, but these are mostly found on professional-grade chainsaws. Top handle chainsaws are designed to be used for above-ground cutting only and are also reserved for professional chainsaw models typically used by arborists.
What Type of Chainsaw is Best for Me?
- Gas: The majority of chainsaws on the market are gas-powered. This type of chainsaw offers plenty of power and a wide range of options to meet the needs of any user. Since the horsepower offered by a gas chainsaw is often more significant than electric models, you’ll find that this type of chainsaw is paired with longer bar lengths for more robust cutting action. Typically, gas-powered chainsaws start at about 8 inches and range up to more than 20 inches.
While the capabilities of a gas-powered chainsaw are hard to match from other types of chainsaws, the noise factor and fumes are significant drawbacks. Many people cringe at the thought of using these loud mighty machines and the exhaust from a chainsaw can be offensive at best and noxious at worse—so make sure you only use a gas-powered chainsaw in a well-ventilated area. You’ll also need to be careful to use the right mix of gasoline and oil, if your chainsaw calls for pre-mixed fuel. Pull-start ignition is standard on many gas chainsaws, but some manufacturer’s have integrated easy-start mechanisms to make it simpler and faster to get the machine running.
Thanks to being fuel-powered, however, these chainsaws reign supreme in terms of power and cutting speeds. This is the reason you’ll see professional chainsaws with gasoline engines. Whether you need this much power and capacity depends on how big of a job you have to do, and whether you’re willing to put up with annoyances of noise and exhaust to get it done faster.
You can expect to spend around $200 for a gas chainsaw for home use, but there are more basic models available for $100. Of course, you can also up the power—and price—with a higher end model that costs anywhere from $300 to $500. Professional-grade gas chainsaws typically cost $800 to $1,000 or more, but this is an investment that the average homeowner usually won’t need to make.
- Corded Electric: This type of chainsaw offers you unlimited run time—as long as you stay close to an outlet or have a long enough extension cord to get the job done. Electric chainsaws come with relatively short power cords that you can plug directly into an outlet or into an approved extension cord if you need more room to move around.
People that prefer corded chainsaws appreciate the fact that there is no need to stop and refuel or to recharge a dead battery. However, you’ll need to wrangle the power cord as you move around your yard or shop tackling your projects. This can be a nuisance, and a safety hazard—since you don’t want to trip on the cord or accidentally cut it.
However, the advantages to electric chainsaws do keep them as a top option for homeowners. Without a gas motor and fuel tank, these chainsaws are lightweight and more maneuverable. They’re also significantly more quiet than gas-powered models and will win you more friends in the neighborhood if you like to do yard work in the morning.
The majority of corded electric chainsaws are between $50 and $100—making them an economical choice for a light-duty chainsaw.
- Cordless Electric: This type of electric chainsaw relies on power from a rechargeable battery. Cordless chainsaws can be surprisingly powerful and allow you to ‘cut’ the cord for freedom of operation whenever and wherever a chainsaw is needed. But the chainsaw’s capabilities are limited in horsepower and hindered by battery life.
Cordless chainsaws come in a range of bar lengths; it’s common to see models with anywhere from 10 inches to a surprising 20 inches. This type of chainsaw will likely cut more slowly than many gas models, but many people prefer spending a little extra time on a cut instead of dealing with the fumes and fuel of a gas chainsaw.
Like electric chainsaws, cordless models are lighter in weight than gas-powered models and are typically less expensive. Advances in battery life capacity have made cordless chainsaws increasingly popular with homeowners who need an occasional, light-duty chainsaw. This type of chainsaw can be purchased for $200 to $300, with some models available for more or less depending on features and capabilities.
- Pole Saw: If your cutting tasks are reaching great heights, a regular chainsaw at ground level won’t do you much good. You should never use a chainsaw above shoulder-level or while on a ladder, so in the interests of safety, you’ll need another option to reach higher limbs when tree trimming. A pole saw is essentially a compact chainsaw attached to an extension handle that allows you to trim limbs at higher heights.
Pole saws can be either gas-powered, cordless, or corded electric models—but electric versions do seem to dominate the market. They typically have bar lengths of 8 or 10 inches, but some professional-grade models stretch it to 12 inches. One of the most important factors to consider is the length of the handle—since this will determine the reach of the pole saw. Choose a pole saw that is long enough to tackle the tasks you have in mind, but not too long where it will become cumbersome or unwieldy for you to handle. Maximum handle lengths are usually between 8 and 12 feet.
If you’re buying a pole saw, the price can range from $75 for a light-duty electric model to $500 or more for a professional-grade gas model; many mid-range options are available for $100 to $200.
- Electric Loppers: A light-duty, safety-minded option for cutting small branches and bushes is an electric lopper. While the specific design varies by manufacturer, this type of chainsaw has metal jaws on either side of the bar that reduce some of the risks associated with operating a chainsaw.
Electric loppers may have a scissor-like configuration, where opening and closing the handle allows you to clamp down on the material to be cut before engaging the chainsaw action. The jaws of an electric lopper also make it safer and easier to store, without worrying about leaving the chain exposed.
These machines won’t replace a chainsaw for many medium-duty tasks and beyond, but it can be a good addition to your toolshed if you need a light and safe tool for tackling quick jobs around the yard. An electric lopper is a small investment, with many options available for about $75 or less.
- Husqvarna: With well-made products and an assortment of innovations and features, Husqvarna chainsaws are a popular pick for both residential and commercial chainsaws. The company offers light-duty models that are budget-friendly along with robust versions for a homeowner willing to make a substantial investment in a chainsaw that will handle heavy-duty land clearing.
- Ryobi: Ryobi uses its lithium-ion battery technology to power a series of cordless electric chainsaws, but the tool manufacturer also offers conventional gas chainsaws. Ryobi chainsaws include light-duty models for basic tasks and more powerful mid-range models that can handle an increased workload.
- Echo: With a focus on gasoline chainsaws, Echo offers a mid-range models that are well-equipped for everything from residential yard work to professional tree trimming. While Echo is best known for their gas chainsaws, they do offer a few cordless electric models as well.
- Worx: Worx makes an affordable assortment of chainsaws, including electric and gasoline models, plus pole saws and electric loppers. Despite being a made-in-China line of tools, Worx gets plenty of praise for its budget chainsaws and makes a good choice if you’re looking for an affordable model with plenty of options—like tool-free chain adjustment and automatic oiling.
- Stihl: Combining German-engineering and American manufacturing, Stihl is a major player in power tools, including chainsaws. The majority of Stihl chainsaws are made in the United States and the company’s product line-up includes both cordless and gasoline chainsaws with products spanning many different uses and budgets. However, you’ll only find Stihl chainsaws through their dealer network.
Chainsaw warranties vary widely by manufacturer and even by model. Electric chainsaws often have a longer warranty period than their gasoline counterparts. Chainsaws used solely for residential use will also typically have longer-lasting warranty coverage than chainsaws used for commercial purposes.
A typical warranty period for a chainsaw from a leading manufacturer is often between three and five years. However, some manufacturers will extend the warranty period by a year or two if you purchase a specified amount of the manufacturer’s pre-mixed fuel or oil when you buy a chainsaw. This is something to consider if an extended warranty period is important to you, but take note that all items must appear on the receipt and the specific purchase requirements vary by manufacturer.
Echo offers one of the best warranty periods in the industry—five years on chainsaws used for residential purposes. Stihl, on the other hand, has one of the most limited warranty periods at just one year for gasoline-powered and electric chainsaws. However, you can double this warranty period with the purchase of Stihl pre-mixed fuel or oil as mentioned above.
The most important thing you can do to extend the life of a chainsaw is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and maintenance. However, it offers extra peace of mind to know the terms of your chainsaw’s warranty.