When you’re confronting that huge tree in your backyard that really needs to come down, you have three choices. You can call a tree-removal company, you can channel your inner Paul Bunyan or Brian Shaw (the three-time winner of the “World’s Strongest Man” contest) – or you can buy a chainsaw.
That’s not all that chainsaws are good for, of course. They are useful for cutting branches, smaller pruning and trimming jobs, cutting firewood, and of course, reinforcing your manhood. (Unless you’re a woman, in which case they’re good for proving you’re just as good as a man.) They are also great time-savers, with experts estimating that it’s as much as ten times faster to cut with a chain saw than a hand saw.
Those who are new to chainsaws may not realize that there’s a huge variety of these tools to choose from. Some have more power and some have less, some are designed primarily for smaller tasks and some would do a professional woodsman proud, and some have extra safety features ideal for people who have difficulty driving a nail without hitting their hand.
Because chainsaws are one of the most dangerous tools you can buy, it’s particularly important to learn the lay of the land before buying one. Choosing the wrong model could not only cost you time and money, it could cost you a finger. Here’s a primer on how to decide between chainsaws and help you find the best chainsaw for you.
Top 10 Best Chainsaws Comparison Table
|WORX WG303.1||Electric||16 inches|
|Husqvarna 450||Gas||18 inches|
|Poulan Pro |
|Black & Decker |
|Remington RM1425||Electric||12 inches|
|Poulan P3314||Gas||14 inches|
|Husqvarna 460 |
24 in. Rancher
|Husqvarna 440E |
|WORX WG304.1||Gas||18 inches|
|Husqvarna 460 |
20 in. Rancher
Many people picture a chainsaw as the power tool that a burly, musclebound man wields in the middle of an imposing forest or beside a huge stack of firewood. In reality, there are many models and sizes designed for very different types of tasks, and some of them can easily be “wielded” by those without any muscles to speak of.
Standard chainsaws have three basic components: handles and a trigger at the back of the saw, a cutting bar with sharp teeth at the front, and a motor or engine surrounded by a safety housing in the middle. A chain-and-sprocket system connected to the motor drives the cutting bar to do the actual work, and a clutch ensures that the blades don’t move when the saw is simply idling.
There are several variations you’ll often see on modern chain saws, including additional safety housings or jaws around the cutting bar, or clamps that act like pliers and hold the branches you are cutting. Some also use the term chainsaw to refer to pole saws, which extend to reach high or distant branches.
Chainsaws are available in electric (both corded and cordless) and gas-powered models. Electric saws are naturally quieter and “green-friendly” and don’t need as much attention or maintenance. They’re less powerful, so they’re ideally suited for pruning and trimming rather than taking down 50-foot oak trees. The only real maintenance required is cleaning and oiling the cutting saw regularly. Obviously, cordless electric versions give you more mobility but corded ones won’t force you to interrupt your work for recharges.
By comparison, gasoline-powered saws are usually designed for big jobs (although light-duty models are also available), make the familiar loud noise we all associate with chainsaws, and can be used anywhere without needing an external power source. However, they have two-cycle engines meaning they need an oil-gasoline mixture to run, so you either have to purchase already-mixed fuel or mix it yourself. You’ll also need to regularly check or add oil to the engine, change the air filter, clean the carburetor and so on.
The primary way that the size is measured is by the length of their cutting bars, since shorter blades can’t do heavy work but longer ones can cut through a thick log with one motion. Personal-use electric saws will have blades anywhere from six to eighteen inches long, while most gas-powered ones will have cutting bars ranging between one and two feet in length. There’s always a tradeoff for size; the longer the blade, the heavier the chain saw will be and the more power it will require.
While a cutting bar can normally cut through wood that’s twice its length in circumference, that’s really pushing things and you’ll probably need at least a couple of passes. The best rule of thumb is to choose a chainsaw with a blade that’s at least two inches longer than the circumference of the wood you’ll be cutting most frequently. That means choosing one between 6-14 inches for light duty and 14-20 inches for serious work. Cutting bars above 20 inches (and commercial ones can go up to 36 inches) are for experienced users with large trees to attack.
Gasoline/electric and cutting bar size are the two most critical factors in choosing the right chainsaw. Right behind them is power, since a huge blade won’t do much good if there’s no “oomph” behind it. Small gas-powered saws should have an engine with displacement between 30-40cc, and larger ones should be on the order of 40-60cc. Professional saws can run much higher than that, over 100cc at times. Electric ones are measured by amperage, and as it increases, so does the output of the chainsaw.
There are several more important considerations when buying a chain saw. For one thing, these can be dangerous so safety features is something you should look for. More powerful saws should definitely have an anti-kickback chain to prevent the blade from pushing too far toward you when it hits something unexpected and stops abruptly; for the same reason, there must be a chain brake (sometimes called a safety shutoff), ideally an inertial brake which automatically stops the saw faster than you could do manually. Anti-vibration systems are highly desirable on more powerful models, as are automatic oilers to keep the chain lubricated while you work. And look for spring-assist starting systems on gas chainsaws, which make it much easier to pull the starting rope.
Have you hit information overload yet? That’s what we thought. It’s time to take a more detailed look at the chainsaws available for non-professional users.
10 Best Chainsaw Reviews
1. WORX WG303.1 15-Inch Chainsaw Review
The manufacturer claims this electric model is as powerful as a gasoline one. We’re not so sure about that, but it’s pretty close. The 14.5 amp engine has no trouble powering the 15-inch bar for bringing down branches and small trees, in addition to more mundane pruning and trimming. There’s a built-in safety brake, an automatic oiler, and something you don’t always see on tools of this size, an auto-tension system that maintains proper tension for the chain while you’re cutting and eliminates the hassle of constant adjustments. The WG303.1 weighs 11 pounds and is affordable, making it both easy to handle and easy to pay for.
2. Husqvarna 450 18-Inch Review
Now this thing has power. There’s a 50.2cc , 3.2 HP X-Torq low-emission engine effortlessly driving the 18-inch blade, complete with a three-piece crankshaft and a centrifugal air cleaning system. The 450 has the safety and comfort features you’d expect from this premium manufacturer: an inertia-activated chain brake, anti-vibration dampeners, a SmartStart system for easy pulls and starts, automatic chain oiler, and very comfortable, ergonomic handles and trigger. It’s also surprisingly light, at about 11 pounds. We wouldn’t take this out into the forest to cut redwoods (we wouldn’t do that anyway, because we value our freedom), but it will do just about anything you need to do around your house and property.
3. Poulan Pro PP5020AV Review
This isn’t as complete a machine as the chain saw we just discussed, but it’s not that far away (a good indicator is that Husqvarna also owns Poulan and operates it as the company’s “budget” line) – and the price tag is certainly attractive. The Poulan Pro has a 50cc DuraLife engine, and its 20-inch blade is what might also make this chainsaw more interesting to you than the Husky’s 18 inches (but stay tuned). There’s an automatic chain oiler, a reduced-vibration system also used on Husqvarnas, and an easy-start pull system.
4. Black & Decker LCS1020 Lithion-Ion Review
A cheap, cordless chainsaw for small jobs? That’s exactly what this Black & Decker is. Its 20-volt lithion-ion battery will run for about an hour, letting you use the 10-inch low-kickback blade to trim and clear branches and brush (it’s rated by the manufacturer for 1½ inch branches) to your heart’s content. There’s a vibration-minimization system, a self-oiler for the chain and an easy-adjust tension system; we also like the wrap-around handle and light weight (seven pounds). The performance is reliable, and that’s the most important thing when paying for a mid-range priced, light-duty chainsaw.
5. Remington RM1425 Limb N Trim Review
The price is definitely right for the Limb N Trim. You get a bigger-than-you’d-expect electric model for the occasional trimming and cutting work every homeowner faces. The motor is just eight amps, which is rather low for a 14-inch cutting bar – so don’t go out and try to be a lumberjack with this saw. The Remington includes a low-kickback bar, a push-button oiler, manual tension adjust and only weighs about six pounds. That makes it a nice budget choice for working around the yard, but not much more than that.
6. Poulan P3314 14-Inch Gas-Powered Chain Saw
If the Poulan PP5020AV’s price was attractive, the cost of the P3314 is downright beautiful for a 33cc engine and a 14-inch steel bar. You also get an automatic oiler, an inertia chain brake and an easy-start pull system. What’s the downside? It’s only powerful enough for type of the light yard work we’ve talked about, and the “easy-start” system can be very temperamental. In a nutshell: not bad, not great, but definitely utilitarian.
7. Husqvarna 460 Rancher 24-Inch Rancher Chain Saw
Timber! If the Husky we’ve already discussed isn’t enough chainsaw for you, try this puppy out. The price is in the mid-range scale, but that gets you a bulldog of a 60cc engine, more than enough to juice the large 24-inch blade. It has all of the terrific features of the 450, including an inertia chain brake, a LowVib anti-vibration system, SmartStart, and an easy-to-use side-mounted tension control – and it weighs less than 13 pounds. The company’s “Rancher” label is reserved for its models which are a notch above consumer level, considered semi-professional; unless you’re a real pro, you’ll find there’s nothing you’ll encounter that this model can’t handle.
8. Husqvarna 440E 16-Inch
Yes, there are a lot of their models on this list – but that should tell you all you need to know about the quality of this manufacturer’s products. For its mid-range price, the 440E is a more approachable Husqvarna gas saw for those on a budget than the units we’ve listed so far. shorter, 16-inch cutting bar. Other than that, it has all of the outstanding construction and features of the other Husky saws we’ve discussed, and it’s just as good a buy as those others.
9. WORX WG304.1 Chainsaw
If you were intrigued by the WORX electric model we reviewed at the start of these listings, you’ll be even more interested in this one. That model had a 14.5 amp engine and a 15-inch blade; this one has a 15 amp engine and an 18-inch cutting bar, doesn’t weigh any more, and is still on the low-price range. You’ll see all of the same nice features on the WG304.1, plus all-metal dogs at the base of the blade for added stability. And of course, the extra three inches on the saw means you’ll be able to handle bigger trees with this model, the biggest plus for the WORX WG304.1.
10. Husqvarna 460 Rancher 20-Inch
You guessed it – another Husqvarna. As a Rancher semi-professional model, this is a machine for those who are serious about cutting firewood, taking down trees or other difficult tasks. But this unit is 20 inches instead of 24 (like the Rancher we’ve already reviewed), even though they both have the same powerful 60.3cc engine and all of the same top-of-the-line features. We list it to be complete, because it’s definitely one of the best you can buy, but also because you can save a few bucks over the 24-inch model if you don’t need the massive blade. If you only come away from this discussion with one impression, we think it should be that Husky makes outstanding chainsaws.
We Hope You “Saw” Enough
That is, enough to understand the basics of chainsaws, and enough to make a smart decision on purchasing one. As you now know, the process is much simpler than it might seem at first. Once you’ve figured out what type of work you’ll be doing with your new tool (clipping, trimming, cutting small branches or firewood, or serious tree takedowns) and the size of the average trees or branches you’ll be dealing with, you can make an informed choice between electric and gas, and on the size and power of the saw that will be best for the job.
Then it’s simply a matter of comparing features and comparing prices – using a list that contains only a few possibilities which match your criteria, instead of hundreds chosen at random. It’s always a good idea to actually hold the saw in your hands before buying, to check out the feel and the weight; that’s not always the way things work anymore these days, though, as more and more people buy online than in person. For the online purchase of equipment, we lean heavily toward manufacturers and brand names with a solid history of performance, but our goal here was to evaluate all models and present unbiased chainsaw reviews. We hope it’s been helpful, and that once you get your hands on the best chainsaw for your needs and you’ll be very careful with it.