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The key to angled woodworking starts with the quality of miter or bevel cuts. Any thick-brained ogre could bash its way to a reasonably competent straight cut but if you’re fitting together a window frame, you need precise, finished angles.
That’s where miter saws come in. If you’re a professional who earns income using one, it’s probably a good idea to put serious dollars into finding one that can deliver consistent, no-hassle perfection. If you’re a DIY-er and just building something simple and won’t require something that can deliver precision for day-after-day use, a budget model is probably good enough for you.
After looking at other budget miter saw reviews, we decided to do our own testing. We tested, measured and compared over 40 different miter saws and then handpicked our top 5 picks. The result of this is what you see below.
After reading what we found, we hope you read our helpful tips to help you decide just which model is a hand-in-glove fit for you.
|Evolution Power Tools RAGE3|
|Makita LS1040||1 Year||4.7/5|
|Hitachi C10FCG||5 Years||4.3/5|
|WEN 70712||2 Years||4.1/5|
Evolution’s RAGE3 was our top model for a very simple reason, it did everything it was asked to do and delivered quality all along the way. It was easy to lock down into place, simple to position cutting materials, and it delivered quality cuts without requiring a lot of adjustment. And it cut metal as effortlessly as it did wood.
We liked the power of the 15-amp motor and we liked the 10-inch blade. It didn’t wow us, mind you, but it was like that one employee who shows up without fail; clocks in on time; and delivers competent, reliable work the entire day while only taking breaks as required by law. You’d give this kind of employee a glowing job reference, and we give this tool the same treatment. The only thing we didn’t like was that it was a bit on the messy side. The dust bag just wasn’t good enough to prevent an annoying cleanup.
The competition for the position as the top pick was a tough one, and frankly, you wouldn’t go wrong in choosing our runner-up choice, the Makita LS1040. We liked this saw for most of the reasons we liked the RAGE3: powerful motor and an appropriately sized blade, cuts that are as clean at the edges of its range as they are at the center, and portability.
What we didn’t like was that when we tightened the turntable down, it still moved. The slight jiggle left us less confident as we pulled down the saw. Fortunately, for us, it didn’t reduce the accuracy of the cut, but the fact that it didn’t fully lock into place is enough cause for concern to knock it out of top position. We were going to knock it even further down in the ratings, except for Makita earned from us its well-deserved reputation for making right by its customers. For those reasons, give the Makita LS1040 the runner-up prize.
The Homecraft H26-260L isn’t going to blow anyone’s mind for exceeding expectations. You get exactly what you pay for, which is a lightweight, highly portable, budget miter saw you can move from room to room with ease, get your work done and pack it away with ease.
The more you need from this saw, however, the more it starts to show its price tag. It has a 14-amp motor, rather than the 15-amp ones in other models we reviewed, which means that if you have heavy material to cut or will need to put this through regular use that it’s probably going to wear out faster than competing saws. We were also not impressed with its ability to cut anything beyond wood. We cut a metal picture frame and for all the burrs it left we were afraid we’d need a tetanus shot after handling it. We were also chagrined at the amount of dust that the collection bag didn’t actually catch. For what we saved with the purchase price, we nearly used up paying a passing teenager to clean up.
Still, if you’re after simple, quick angled cuts, this one is a good per-dollar value.
For us, the Hitachi C10FCG was like taking the world’s worst road trip. It started off fine. We took the thing out of the box and noticed right off that it would require some care in mounting it to a cutting surface. We did that and started cutting with it. It worked alright for the first few tests but then one of the front legs cracked and we stopped since it now posed a safety hazard.
Excellent customer service could take what was a bad start and smooth things over. In this case, we had trouble getting through to Hitachi and were told that because it sounded as if the problem was user error there was nothing they could do for us. Consider our eyebrows raised by this.
Yet, we gave this the fourth-best (out of five) ranking. There’s a good reason for that. When it was operable, it did the job we wanted it to do. It’s when its shoddy construction showed through that we had problems, but at least it wasn’t as bad as …
When someone says that a tool performed well for the price, it’s usually a compliment. In this case, it’s not. Just about the only thing, we can say that this one has going for it, was the price.
The first thing we had to do was fasten down all the components, which for some reason, were loose on delivery. Maybe the quality control supervisor at the factory was having a bad day when our unit came through; maybe not.
If not for the other drawbacks, it’s something we could have overlooked. But, it was just the start. The 15-amp motor that serves the 10-inch saws so well is overextended with this model. Unless the user never cuts those two extra inches, we doubt that this saw will last as long as its competitors.
We also weren’t impressed with the sawdust collector bag, and just as the parts needed to be better fastened upon arrival, we found that swinging the blade back and forth to make 45-degree cuts required attention and near-constant adjustment. We thought about calling customer service, but there was so much wrong with this saw that the prospect just left us feeling sad.
For some people, getting the best budget miter saw is no more complicated than looking at reviews and plopping down cash for the one that ranks highest and waiting for the mail carrier to deliver it two days later. Constraints on time warrant only a small investment in a tool that maybe you’ll only use a few times as a hobbyist or for specific projects using limited materials. If you’re just looking for a saw to get angles right for picture frames, for example, you might be okay with whatever is getting the job done best for other people at as low a price as possible. If you think that it might get heavier use, or you might need something to cut through metal or PVC pipes, more helpful than specific reviews are tips in what to look for in a new saw. We’ve got some tips to help you get the right saw for you.
Some of the saws we reviewed did a really good job cutting one kind of material, other saws did a good job of cutting a wide range of materials. If you need a saw to cut wood and nothing else, one that does an especially job at producing clean, precise cuts in wood is a better choice for you than one that can do a lot of things okay. Something that can cut metal like a laser might sound like a cool investment of a few extra dollars, but be honest with yourself in whether you’ll ever actually need to do that.
This means assessing not just what you’re going to cut, but how often you’ll use it. Professional contractors will need a saw that can withstand heavy, regular use without appreciable loss of power or precision or stability. Someone who might use it a couple of times a year can afford to look for something that costs less. This is why we not only suggested the best one on the market but the one that provides the best bang for the buck.
When making a purchase, there are some factors we’d suggest beyond the usual advice you’d get when making a major tool investment. Those would be power, versatility and waste management.
Power not only figures in when it comes to cutting through denser materials like hardwood and metals, but a more powerful motor is probably a precursor to a longer unit life. The more stress put on a motor cutting through more difficult materials, the faster it will wear out. We liked best the power of the 15-amp motor, married to a 10-inch blade.
Just as important is the ability of the saw to deliver quality cuts at a variety of angles. You aren’t buying a miter saw to make straight cuts. You’re buying it to make precise cuts at an angle. The saws we liked made bevel and miter cuts as clean at 45 degrees as straight on. We also liked saws that did this without requiring a lot of attention. The last thing you want is a saw that you can’t trust to cut at specific angles.
Waste management is an overlooked part of using any saw. Extended use can create a giant pile of sawdust, which not only requires time to clean up but in a confined space can create health hazards. While we wouldn’t suggest that you value features related to sawdust management first or even second when all other things are even it’s a good thing to use as a deal maker.
When you need precise cuts, you don’t just need a good tool, but the ability to mount it to a stable base. If the saw shifts around easily because of a light base or because it’s difficult to mount, it doesn’t matter all that much if it delivers lights-out precision cuts. A 46 degree cut at 11.45 inches when you want a 45-degree cut at 11.5 inches is all the same when it comes to cause. So, you want something that treats every part of the process as equally important.
Figure into this also whether the saw is easy to use for novices. A miter saw can cut cleanly through anything like a hot knife through butter and it might have a mounting system that would prevent it from moving in a nuclear bomb blast, but none of that matters if they are so user-unfriendly that they can’t be easily used right out of the box. That includes whether the saw you purchase will allow you to exchange blades to cut different materials with ease. If you need to swap in a blade to cut steel and can’t, what you’ve purchased is a very expensive paperweight.
Based on all of that, Evolution’s RAGE3 was our best model. It cuts everything, is easy to use, offers stability in making cuts and didn’t require constant fussing to make sure it stayed accurate. The Makita LS1040 ran neck-in-neck in most regards, but we gave the RAGE3 the nod because the Makita’s turntable just wouldn’t lock down. Beyond those two, the quality kind of fell off a cliff. We had a terrible experience with Hitachi’s customer service and the WEN left us feeling it had a better future cutting limes and lemons in a tool-themed bar.
It might sound like we just didn’t enjoy writing this budget miter review, but we did. Among other reviews of budget miter saws, we hope you find it illuminating, and that it helps you find just the right tool for your workshop.