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If you’re in the market for a chainsaw, you may not know which model is the right one for you. There’s a whole lot of options on the market now, including gas-powered, corded-electric, and battery-powered chainsaws. Not only do you have to choose what kind of power the machine uses, but you also have to look at the blade length, ease-of-use, and the amount of maintenance required.
Even if you are an experienced pro when it comes to chainsaws, a lot of things have changed in recent years, so you may want to brush up on your chainsaw knowledge. And, if you’re brand new, you’re in luck, because we’ve assembled reviews of some of the best chainsaws on the market today, walking you through what’s great and what’s not-so-hot about each model.
We’ve also included a buyer’s guide so that you can gain an in-depth knowledge of chainsaws. If you find the right model for you, then you need to know what kinds of things you should be paying attention to when shopping.
Best for the Money
If you need a monster chainsaw that’s not going to take “no” for an answer, look no further than the Husqvarna 460 24-inch. This 60cc model has the power to cut through even the hardest woods with relative ease. It’s also built out of high-quality materials that should last you a long, long time, even if you use it frequently.
But, there’s more to a chainsaw than just power, and the Husqvarna delivers in these areas as well. This model comes with an inertia-activated chain brake, which stops the machine if you drop it, which ultimately prevents a lot of accidents. It also comes with “Smart Start” technology, which takes the pain out of getting your chainsaw started. It is a bit heavy, but that’s what you should expect out of a monster chainsaw like this one.
If you’re looking for a powerful chainsaw built to last you a lifetime that also starts quickly and easily each time, you don’t need to read any further. You’ve found your model.
The Makita XCU03PT1 with battery kit is an electric chain saw done right. It’s a battery-powered chain saw, which means you get all the benefits of an electric chain saw without having to deal with an extension cable. Electric chainsaws are very-low maintenance relative to gas-powered models, and they run much quieter, which is good for your ears in the long run.
This saw runs on two 18-volt batteries that are standardized across the Makita electric tool line, meaning that you may already own a battery you could charge and add to extend this tool’s operating time. As is, by getting the battery pack, you’re getting four batteries, which should last you through most projects.
This isn’t an industrial grade tool, but it will get you through most residential projects. The one downside is that it has an overzealous safety off switch, which powers the device off after just a few seconds, meaning that if you have to set it down to adjust the wood you’re cutting, you’re going to have to turn it back on.
The WORX WG304.1 provides excellent value for the money. It is a corded electric chainsaw, which means that you’ll never have to recharge batteries or worry about running out of charge in the middle of the job, though it does mean that you’ll need to use an extension cable. It comes preassembled, which will save you a lot of time, though it does need to be regularly oiled.
The design merely requires you to pour oil in a reservoir, and then it automatically applies oil as needed, but still, part of the upside to owning electric tools is that they’re low-maintenance, and this isn’t. This model does come with an automatically-tensioning chain system, taking some of the guesswork out of your day, and has good safety features that will help prevent accidents.
Overall, if you need a chainsaw that gets the job done, don’t mind occasionally oiling, and will have ready access to an electric outlet, you’ll get really good value out of this chainsaw.
The BLACK+DECKER LCS1240B is a battery-powered electric chainsaw cuts well for its weight class but doesn’t do much beyond that. Its weakest feature is its 12” blade that is only going to be useful in limited circumstances, like cutting firewood, pruning trees, or maybe cutting down very small trees.
The good news is that it’s electric, so it is very quiet, and since it uses batteries, you have the mobility of a gas chainsaw. Like the previous model, you still have to oil this one, which is a bit of a pain for an electric model.
The batteries for this unit are very expensive, so if you want to get enough that you can switch them out and keep cutting, expect to spend a lot of money. Overall, this is a good chainsaw if you have a lot of lightweight work to do that won’t take much time. Otherwise, you might get more value out of a different model. If you’re on the look for a lightweight model, you may be interested in reading our “Top 5 Lightweight” chainsaw picks guide found here.
The Poulan Pro 967185102 PP4218A is a disappointing chainsaw from a once-great brand. Pretty much all this model has going for it is its quick start system, but even that fails on occasion, especially if the weather is cold.
Right out of the box, many of these chainsaws have severe carburetor problems. If you’re an engine mechanic, there’s a chance you can fix it before it becomes severe, but if you’re not good luck. This model is also prone to stalling out while idling, which is a pain. Over the life of the chainsaw, this is going to waste a lot of your time, as you’re going to have to constantly restart the machine.
And, while chainsaws aren’t quiet machines, this one seems to be much louder than similar models. Given all the problems that it has, it’s hard to say that this model is one that you should consider buying.
If you read through our reviews and want more information about chainsaws, you’re in luck. We’ve assembled a lot of general information about chainsaws that should help you think through the pros and cons of various models. Remember, it’s not about getting the most expensive or cheapest model. It’s about getting the most value and getting the chainsaw that is right for you.
One of the most important features of a chainsaw is its guide bar length. As the bar gets longer, the chainsaw tends to get more powerful, though that’s not always the case. What’s important about bar length is that it determines what kinds of jobs that a chainsaw excels at and which ones it can’t do.
Bar length starts at about 6” and generally increases in increments of 2 inches all the way up to 24 inches. The smallest models tend to have more safety features, and at first glance, you might not even realize that they’re chainsaws. Their designs will feature the ability to grab onto the piece of wood that you’re cutting, making them look more like a branch lopper, and they feature similar scissoring action.
The minimum bar length you’re likely to see in a more standard chainsaw is 8 inches. Chainsaws that are this small tend to be very light and easy to move around. The primary use of a chainsaw like this is going to be pruning—cleaning up tree branches, trimming bushes, and cutting very narrow wood. Chainsaws up to 14 inches are largely going to be used for the same kinds of activities. I
Chainsaws this small tend to be the safest. While no chainsaw is perfectly safe, smaller chainsaws tend to be easier to control and have less dramatic kickbacks. If you’re not used to using chainsaws, it might not be a bad idea to get a chainsaw from this category. This will give you the opportunity to acclimate to chainsaws and learn how they work, while still feeling confident that you’re in control.
If you need something on the bigger side, but don’t plan on using it very often, then you should consider a 14”, which will have enough length for most domestic applications without bearing the price tag of a larger model.
The next category of chainsaws includes those with blades that are between 16 and 20 inches long. This is generally regarded as the mid-range to heavy duty category of chainsaws. This range is best for those people who have experience with chainsaws and have a lot of work to get done. They tend to be more powerful, and so their kickback is much more powerful. This is not the best place for beginners to start, but if you have experience with chainsaws, then there’s no reason to not get a chainsaw of this length.
As chainsaws get bigger, they become less useful for activities that require finesse, as they become bulkier and harder to maneuver. Theoretically, you can trim and prune with any chainsaw, but if that’s all you’re looking to do, then there’s no reason to not get something smaller. You’ll like having the extra control.
Where the 16 to 20-inch models excel is in cutting down medium-sized trees. In some situations, you’ll be able to cut down larger trees as well. A general rule of thumb is that the bar you use should be 2 inches longer than the diameter of the tree that you’re cutting down. So, a 16-inch bar could easily handle a tree 14 inches in diameter.
In theory, you could cut down a tree up to 32 inches in diameter with a 16-inch bar. However, this can be dangerous, both from the risk of the tree falling and from the amount of kickback that this kind of operation causes. If you’re inexperienced, it may be better to call a professional. But, you should be able to cut most small and medium-sized trees with little problem.
The 16 to 20-inch range is also a good size for cutting firewood. If you’re going to do this a lot, then you’re going to want to have decent power so that you can get the job done quickly, and the bar length gives you some flexibility regarding what sizes of firewood you can cut.
When you reach 20 inches, you’ve arrived at professional-grade chainsaws. These chainsaws can cut all but the very thickest trees in a single pass, and they tend to have the power to make it happen quickly as well. Of course, with the longest bar and the most power comes the greatest kickback. These models are almost certainly wrong for beginners.
These tend to be very heavy, whether gas or electric, though they tend to be gas-powered models. Keep your levels of fitness and strength in mind as you shop for chainsaws. Large chainsaws frequently wear strong people out, so if you’re looking to do extended periods of cutting, you might want to look for something a bit smaller and lighter so that you can work for longer.
Overall, this size of chainsaw is what you’re going to need if you’re going to be frequently cutting down large trees or turning large logs into usable firewood. There’s certainly a use for these, but it’s not necessarily what most people are going to be looking for when they purchase a chainsaw.
Power (engine displacement, voltage, amperage, horsepower)
There are three major kinds of chainsaws on the market today: gas-powered, corded electric, and battery-powered. Each kind excels in different areas, which means that there’s no clear winner. However, that means that you have a lot of leeway when it comes to choosing the model that will work best for you.
Gas-powered models tend to be the most powerful units. They’re harder to start than their electric cousins, using a pull-start like what you’d find on a lawnmower. They also run on a mixture of gas and oil that you’ll either have to mix yourself or purchase premixed.
The upside to gas-powered chainsaws is that they’re highly portable and last a long time on a tank of gas. You don’t have to worry about having to charge batteries or trailing an extension cable as you work. While it varies based on the size of the motor, the sharpness of the chain, and the way in which it’s being used, you should expect at minimum a half hour of cutting on a single tank of gas, and in some circumstances, you’ll get an hour or two.
Not everyone is going to be using their chainsaw for that long in a single sitting, but it’s nice to know that you have the options. Another upside is that you can bring an extra tank of gas with you to refuel if you need to, which can be harder with battery packs.
Gas-powered chainsaws also have the most power. While electric models have gotten much better in the last few years, gas-powered models still own the top end when it comes to power. Gas-powered models describe their power in terms of either cubic inches (cu. In.) or in cubic centimeters (cc). Bigger numbers here mean more power.
A corded electric chainsaw runs on electricity and features a power cord that must be plugged into work. This means you’ll need to get a long extension cord in order to do jobs that require roaming around. The big downside to corded electric models is that you’re confined to the area which your extension cord reaches. These models aren’t great for going out into the woods to cut down trees.
However, if you’re going to be doing lots of repetitive tasks in a small area, for instance, trimming bushes, pruning trees, or turning smaller logs into firewood, then a corded model might serve you well.
The upside to electric models is that they require much less maintenance than gas models do, which will save you a lot of time and money over the lifetime of the chainsaw. Corded models specifically maintain their power well across a single session relative to battery-powered models, which decrease in power as their batteries drain. Electric models also tend to be much quieter than their gas-powered counterparts.
Corded electric models describe their power in amperage or amps. Bigger numbers again mean more power.
Battery-powered chainsaws used to be more of a gimmick than a legitimate product. However, the introduction of lithium-ion batteries greatly improved both their power and runtime. While battery-powered model still can’t unseat gas-powered models for the title of “most powerful,” they’re no longer so far back that you can just dismiss them out of hand.
Still, they tend to be on the smaller and weaker side, though that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a model that you’ll love. Lithium-ion batteries charge fairly quickly. This means that, in theory, you could purchase an additional battery for your chainsaw, charge both overnight, and pop in the second one when the first runs dry.
If you put the first battery on the charger while you use the second, then there’s a good chance that it will be charged and ready to go by the time you’ll run the second down. This means that you could keep going indefinitely by swapping out batteries. Sure, it’s not necessarily as convenient as a gas-powered model, as you’ll have to have access to an electric outlet for the charger, but if you’re planning to work around the yard, there’s no reason to dismiss this kind out-of-hand.
Like the corded models, battery-powered electric chainsaws don’t require the same amount of maintenance that gas-powered models do. These models are good if you don’t want to deal with mixing fuel, but still, want the mobility of a gas-powered model. Like corded models, battery-powered chainsaws are much quieter than gas-powered chainsaws, and they tend to be lighter as well.
Chainsaws aren’t toys. They’re dangerous power tools. The good news is that there are steps you can take to protect yourself, like wearing the proper safety equipment.
Increasingly, manufacturers include features that help mitigate the danger posed by chainsaws. While they’ll never be perfectly safe, the included safety features are something you should consider when purchasing a chainsaw, especially if you’re not an experienced chainsaw user.
The chain brake is one of the most important of these safety features. The chain brake is designed to immediately stop the chain from rotating, which can greatly reduce the chance of injury in certain situations.
In most cases, it is activated in two ways. The first is inertia-driven. If the chainsaw detects that it is moving too fast, it will bring the chain to a stop. This is good for situations in which the chainsaw has been dropped or situations in which severe kickback is occurring. The second way the chain brake can be activated is by pushing a handle forward on the top of the chainsaw. This allows you to manually bring the chain to a quick stop if you think you might be entering a dangerous situation.
Electric models tend not to have chain brakes, but some come with an electric brake, which reverses the flow of electricity through the device and helps bring the blade to a stop much, much faster than it would on its own.
While the chain brake and electric brakes can’t prevent all kickback, it can reduce it significantly.
Another important safety feature you should look for is low-kickback bars. They also work to help prevent kickback and are a good thing to get if you’re inexperienced with chainsaws.
Most models use a safety trigger that must be held down while you start the chainsaw and a second trigger that runs the blade, which makes it more difficult to start the machine or the blade by accident. This is called a “throttle interlock,” and while it comes standard on most modern models, you’ll want to double check that it has one.
Not all chainsaws come with every feature, but here are some that add a lot of value if they are included.
Side-mounted tension adjusters are used to change the tension in the blade. It is important that the chain tension is set correctly. If it is too loose, then it will lose a lot of its effectiveness in cutting, and if it’s far too loose, then there’s a chance it will come off entirely, which is both dangerous and risk damaging your equipment.
Having a side-mounted tension adjuster means that you don’t have to use tools to manually set how tight the chain is. This usually consists of a wheel on the side of the chainsaw that you can turn to adjust tension. This is extra useful since chains often get looser when they warm up, so if you’re using the chainsaw for an extended period, you may have to readjust. If you don’t have a tension adjuster, then you may have to use tools and do some disassembly to change the tension, and that will cause a lot of frustration and take up a lot of your time.
Upper-end models feature an auto-adjuster that maintains chain tension on the fly, without any work on your part. Since chains cut the best when they’re optimally tensioned, a chainsaw with this feature will generally cut better than ones you’re tensioning yourself and can be especially useful for beginners.
Automatic oilers are also something that can save you a lot of time and work. Most chainsaws require oiling the blade in order to keep things running smoothly. If you’re an experienced chainsaw user, you know that this is sometimes more an art than a science. If you’re new to chainsaws, on the other hand, you’re not going to know right off the back how much to add, and when.
Automatic oils solve this problem by using a reservoir of oil that you fill. When it detects that the chainsaw needs oil, it draws it from the reservoir itself and oils the chain. This is an extra-nice feature because it means that you can spend more of your time doing work and less time worrying about oil. All you have to do is fill the reservoir at the start, and you’re good to go.
If you’ve read through this guide, you know that there’s a lot to chainsaws. Between blade size and a choice of two kinds of electric or gas-powered chainsaws, there’s a ton of combinations out there.
One of the best things you can do when buying a chainsaw is figuring out which kinds of projects you’re going to be doing with the machine. Once you know that, match the requirements of those projects to the chainsaws you’re interested in. The chainsaw with the most value is one that does what you need it to without wasting money on features you don’t need.
The Husqvarna 460 24-inch was the best chainsaw in our reviews, featuring great power and sturdy materials. The Makita XCU03PT1 was the best of the electric chainsaws on our list, but it wasn’t quite good enough to dethrone the Husqvarna model. The WORX WG304.1 corded electric chainsaw provides the easy, low-maintenance nature of an electric chainsaw, without adding in worry about batteries. The BLACK+DECKER LCS1240B is an undersized chainsaw with expensive batteries. Finally, the Poulan Pro 967185102 PP4218A didn’t have much at all going for it.
Hopefully, these reviews have helped you understand some of the different chainsaw models that are out there. It’s not always easy to shop online, but you should now be able to purchase with confidence.
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