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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.
Best Overall, Electric: Makita UC4051A 16" Electric Chain Saw
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.
Best Heavy-Duty: Husqvarna 460 20-Inch Rancher Gas Chainsaw
If you’re looking for a powerful chainsaw that can handle a lot of use and abuse, the Husqvarna 460 Rancher is a tried-and-true option that’s hard to beat when it comes to power and reliability. Experts laud this saw too—Husqvarna is widely considered to be one of the best chainsaw manufacturers in the world—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, 60.3-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 13 pounds with cutting equipment. It’s backed by a two-year warranty.
Best Overall, Gas: Echo 18-Inch Gas 2-Stroke Cycle Chainsaw
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.
Best Budget, Electric: WORX WG303.1 16-Inch Electric Chainsaw
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.
Best Budget, Gas: HUYOSEN 18-Inch Gas Chainsaw
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.
Runner-Up, Best Budget: Greenworks 20362 10-Inch Cordless Chainsaw
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.
Best Rechargeable: EGO Power+ 14-Inch CS1401 Cordless Chain Saw
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.
Runner-Up, Best Rechargeable: Greenworks 16-Inch Cordless Chainsaw
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 (view 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 (view at Amazon) 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 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.
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 30 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 requires 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 24 inches, and professional chainsaws will stretch the bar length all the way 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.
Many chainsaws today are equipped with an automatic oiler that saves 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 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?
Chainsaws are hugely useful tools for clearing brush, cutting firewood, felling trees, and removing branches, but they are also dangerous; tens of thousands of people are injured by chainsaws each year. Fortunately, by following basic safety tips, you can greatly reduce your chances of becoming a statistic.
- Dress in clothing that fits snuggly: long pants, long sleeves, and closed boots or shoes. You’ll also need protective gear, including eye safety goggles, work gloves, and ear muffs or noise-reducing earplugs.
- Familiarize yourself with the chainsaw’s instruction book before powering up the tool.
- Be aware of your limits and skill level. If you are a beginner to the chainsaw, don’t attempt to fell a large tree, for example. Nor should you operate a chainsaw if you are fatigued, ill, or otherwise impaired.
- Work slowly and methodically.
- Always keep both hands on your chainsaw while in use.
- Stand with both feet solidly placed on stable ground. Never use a chainsaw while standing on a ladder, perched in a tree, or in any other precarious spot.
- 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.
- Engage the chain brake whenever the chainsaw is on, but not actively cutting.
- Someone else should be nearby when you are using the chainsaw.
- Have a first-aid kit on hand.
How do you sharpen a chainsaw?
A dull chainsaw is an unsafe chainsaw. Once the chain loses its edge, it’s likelier to skip or veer while in use, potentially with disastrous results. You’ll know the chain is getting too dull when the chainsaw cuts slowly, wants to drift to the side rather than cutting in a straight line, or produces fine sawdust rather than chunky grit.
You’ll need a chainsaw sharpening kit for the task, containing a round file, a flat file, and a depth gauge. The round files come in different sizes, so you’ll need to check the owner’s manual for your chainsaw to find the right size for your specific tool.
It’s not difficult to sharpen a chainsaw, although it is a bit tedious. Here are the basics of the procedure.
- Unplug the chainsaw, or remove the battery. Engage the chain brake.
- 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.
- Wipe away grit and dirt with a wire brush.
- 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.
- Stroke the file through the notch several times until the metal is silvery and appears sharp. Don’t saw the file back-and-forth; your strokes should be in one direction only.
- Skip the next tooth, and insert your file into the second notch; you will sharpen every other tooth this go-around.
- Hold your file at the same angle and make the same number of strokes as you did on the first tooth.
- Continue around the chain in this manner until you get back to your starting point.
- 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 the depth gauge tool that came with your sharpening kit over each raker in turn. If the raker sticks up above the depth gauge tool, use the flat file included with your sharpening kit to file the raker level with the depth gauge tool.
- Work your way around the chain, filing any rakers that are too tall.
- Dust away any metal dust or scrapings.
- Unclamp your chainsaw, and reset the chain tension to your usual tightness.
How do you start a chainsaw?
Electric chainsaws typically start at the touch of a button, but it’s a little more involved with gas chainsaws. Here’s what you should know about starting each of them.
- Set the chainsaw on flat, stable ground with the bar pointing away from any obstacles. Make sure no people or pets are close by.
- Check that the chainsaw has enough fuel, the chain is at the appropriate tension, and the tool is in good working condition.
- Use your right foot to press down on the rear handle so the chainsaw is held steady.
- 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.
- Pull the start cord again. You might need to do this a few times before the engine fully starts.
- Adjust the choke to the run position. Let the chainsaw idle for a few minutes until the engine is warm.
- Lift the chainsaw up, release the chain brake, and you are ready to work.
- Connect the power cord or battery to the chainsaw.
- Place the chainsaw on flat, stable ground. Use your right foot to hold the tool’s rear handle firmly in place.
- Engage the chain brake.
- Engage the safety switch.
- Push the start button until the motor starts and catches.
- Pick up the chainsaw and release the chain brake. You are ready to work.