Best Circular Saws of 2018 – Buying Guide & Reviews

a circular sawThere are a ton of circular saws on the market today, and if you’ve looked and can’t decide which model is right for you, then you’ve come to the right place. We know it’s not always easy to figure out what features of a circular saw are important, and what ones are exaggerated by the marketer trying you to buy a product that isn’t that great.

The good news is that we’ve done the hard work for you, compiling a list of reviews of some of the best circular saws of 2018. If that’s not enough for you, we’ve also created a buyer’s guide, packed full of good general information that will help you understand circular saws inside and out.

There’s a circular saw out there that’s just right for you. Read on to find out which one it is.

Top 5 Circular Saws of 2018

ModelPriceWeightEditor Rating
Makita XSS02Z
Makita XSS02Z 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless Circular Saw
(Top Pick)

Check Price
8 lbs5.0/5
DEWALT DWE575SB
DEWALT DWE575SB

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9 lbs4.7/5
SKIL 5280-01
SKIL 5280-01
(Best for the Money)

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9 lbs4.6/5
Rockwell RK3441K
Rockwell RK3441K

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5 lbs4.3/5
WEN 36055
WEN 36055

Check Price
11 lbs4.1/5

5 Best Circular Saws – Our Reviews

1. Makita XSS02Z – Top Pick

Makita XSS02Z

Wireless power tools often seem more like gimmicks than legitimate, useful devices, but the Makita XSS02Z might be the cordless circular saw that makes you put your corded model away forever. It runs on Makita’s 18v battery platform, which means the battery is compatible with other tools you own in this line. It provides excellent power, and typically lasts for about an hour when cutting, all without the pain of dealing with an extension cable.

Something that many people will end up loving is this model’s compact size and ergonomic handle. So many circular saws are bulky and uncomfortable to hold, yet this saw proves that doesn’t have to be the case.

The one downside is that this model doesn’t have an electric brake, which was probably not included to extend battery life, but it’s still something you expect to see on a top-of-the-line product. The bottom line is that not all tools are a pleasure to use, and yet Makita has made using a circular saw fun.

Pros
  • Cordless
  • Compact
  • Ergonomic handle
  • Powerful
Cons
  • No electric brake

2. DEWALT DWE575SB – The Runner-Up

DEWALT DWE575SB

The DEWALT DWE575SB is one of the lightest circular saws on the market, something you can’t overlook if you’re planning on doing a lot of sawing. It’s amazing how much less effort it takes to move a lighter saw than a heavy one, and yet it achieves this without sacrificing any power. This model also comes with an electric brake, which brings the blade to complete stop soon after you release the trigger.

You won’t have to worry as much about accidental disconnects or the durability of the cord since this model comes with the ToughCord System. It also comes with a carrying bag which can be used as storage for extra blades and other tools. The thing that keeps this circular saw out of first is that it has a bit of play in its shoe, which can lower your cut quality. However, this will only affect you if you’re going for extreme levels of precision. Overall, this is a great circular saw that packs a lot of features into a model that won’t break the bank.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Electric brake
  • ToughCord System
  • Travel bag
Cons
  • Some play in shoe

3. SKIL 5280-01 – Best for the Money

SKIL 5280-01

The SKIL 5180-01 is in many ways a smaller version of the previous DEWALT model. One of its big selling points is its lightweight frame that is good for extended use. Something that separates it from other table saws is its blower, which moves sawdust out from in front of the saw, ensuring that you can always see where you’re cutting.

Not all circular saws make changing out blades a simple and easy task, but that’s something that the SKIL 5280-01 has in spades. Across the life of the tool, this will save you so much time and frustration.

The safety switch on this model is placed in a strange place. If you have small hands, you may find this to be an issue, as it has to be held down while you use the saw. However, it cuts great, and has a ton of features that make is some of the best value you can find on the market.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Dust blower
  • Easy-change blade
Cons
  • Safety switch location

4. Rockwell RK3441K – Top compact model choice

Rockwell RK3441K

If you’re in a situation where you can’t store a full-sized circular saw and don’t have to do that much cutting, then you may be in the market for a compact circular saw. The Rockwell RK3441K is our top compact model choice. It comes with a lightweight and compact frame that will be a breeze to use and won’t put as much strain on you as other tools.

It also features a left-handed blade design, which means you’ll be able to see the blade as you use it, which isn’t that common among circular saws. With a compact circular saw, you get two downsides, and this model displays both of them. Because it has a smaller blade, it has a shallower maximum cut depth than other blades, and it also lacks the power of a larger unit.

However, if you want a compact circular saw and know what kind of performance to expect, this model will satisfy your expectations.

We also have a “Top 5 Compact circular saws” page, where we show you our top picks and a buyer’s guide. Feel free to check it out.

Pros
  • Compact
  • Lightweight
  • Visible blade while cutting
Cons
  • Cut depth
  • Power

5. WEN 36055

WEN 36055

The WEN 36055 is a track saw, which means it’s a circular saw that’s been designed to run down tracks in order to get precision cuts. Before you order, ask yourself if that’s something you need, as most people don’t. It also suffers from a weaker 9 amp motor, which is surprisingly bad for a corded unit. Even the rail system is a bit disappointing, as it comes in two 27.5” sections, but only one connector, when it needs two.

One of the best things about this model is that it comes with 1 ½” dust port capable of rotating 360 degrees. This will speed up cleanup time dramatically.

If you buy this model, you’re really buying it for the track and not for the saw. It doesn’t do a whole lot to justify its price, but if you need a track, maybe this is one that you should consider.

Pros
  • 1 ½” dust port
Cons
  • Needs second track connector
  • Power
  • Potentially unnecessary track

Buyer’s Guide

Hopefully, our reviews have helped you see some of the features that you should be looking for when you’re shopping for a circular saw. If you’re still not sure which model is right for you, don’t worry. This buyer’s guide is designed to give you all the information you’ll need. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll likely know more about circular saws than thought was possible, and that’s a good thing. Being well-informed is the first step towards finding a tool that will work well for you.

Cordless vs. Corded

Circular saws tend to make you choose between sets of features. You can either have “this” or “that” but not both. Right at the start of this discussion is one of these distinctions. You can either have a cordless or corded model.

Technically, you could purchase one of each, but you can only have one or the other within a single unit. Circular saws are one of the few power tools where cordless models have a chance to be competitive relative to the corded units in terms of power and usefulness. There are, however, some differences between the two that you should consider before making your purchase.

Cordless models are great for when you’re going to be working in places where you won’t have easy access to an electrical outlet, or where an extension cord would be difficult to work with. Even if you do have access to an electrical outlet, sometimes it’s nice to be able to move your circular saw around free of any cords.

Circular saws tend to use a blade that’s an inch or two smaller in diameter than corded models. This means your total depth of cut will be smaller, but it should still be more than enough for most common household applications. If you’re going to be doing industrial woodcutting, or work in a professional shop, you’re probably going to be using that extra depth more and miss it on a cordless unit.

Cordless saws also tend to be a bit less powerful, but this is true of just about any cordless power tool relative to the corded variant. Although cordless circular saws are less powerful, they tend to be lighter, which means you’ll generally have less fatigue after working with the tool for a long time.

Corded saws, on the other hand, are where you’re going to want to look if you need a saw with the most power and the best durability. It’s not that you can’t find a cordless saw with great power and durability, but generally speaking, sacrifices have to be made in order to make it cordless that corded models don’t have to make.

Corded models generally have less-efficient, but more powerful motors, since they don’t have to use a battery. Since portability is such a strong selling point on cordless models, they sometimes use lesser materials to save on weight. This is part of the reason that the very best shoes are almost exclusively found on corded circular saws.

Cast iron shoes, or the part of the saw that runs along whatever you’re cutting while you’re cutting it, are the most durable kind of shoe. They’re very resilient against fall damage, which may not be a problem for some people, but the rest of us are occasionally inattentive or clumsy.

If you have a circular saw with a lesser shoe, such as one made out of aluminum, odds are that it’s going to get damaged at some point. A lot of times this means that your angle calculations get thrown out of whack. For instance, 90 degrees is now actually 88 degrees. You’ll have to figure out what’s changed and then consistently compensate for it, which can be a pain. In a worst-case scenario, you’ll bend the shoe so badly that it will no longer ride smoothly, which will require replacing at least the shoe.

Ultimately, cordless vs. corded circular saws comes down to personal preference. If you value portability and the convenience of not dealing with an extension cable, then go cordless. If you need the greatest cut depth, the most power, and the highest build quality, then go with corded.

levelling woods

Blade-left vs. Blade-right

Blade-left vs. blade-right is one of those topics that can inspire a lot of passionate debate among serious circular saw users, but at the end of the day, a lot of this debate comes down to personal preference.

What this is referring to is which side of the circular saw is exposed so that you can see the blade. The opposite side will have the blade hidden behind the motor.

A lot of this comes down to which hand is your dominant one. If you’re right-handed, it’s nice to have a blade-left circular saw, since when you hold it in your right hand, you’ll be able to see the blade where it meets the object you’re cutting. It’s not necessary, of course, since there’s always a guide on the shoe that is supposed to show you where the blade will go as you move the saw. However, it can be nice to be able to see the action yourself.

This style of circular saw also better distributes the weight of the machine, placing it away from the waste edge, which gives you

The downside to this kind of circular saw for right-handed people is that you’re slightly increasing your risk of injury. Your guide hand is typically going to cross over the blade here, and any debris that is ejected sideways from the circular saw has a greater chance of hitting you. Of course, proper safety gear and proper safety procedures go a long way towards minimizing this risk.

Blade-right, on the other hand, has a worse line of sight, since the blade will be pointed away from you, and it has worse balance since most of the weight of the machine will end up on the waste edge. It can also be tougher to keep control of the waste piece since your left hand will have to cross over to the other side in order to hold it, which can be a pain.

If you’re left-handed, everything you just read is still true, just in reverse.

If you’re right-handed, blade-left might seem like a no-brainer, but not everyone sees it that way. Blade-right was the first configuration of circular saw, and a mix of tradition and people’s comfort with that configuration means that most circular saws on the market have that configuration.

That doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the right model for you. If you’re used to using blade-right circular saws, then there’s no reason to switch to a blade-left if you’re happy with the experience. It would certainly be possible to make a case as to why either configuration would be better for people of either handedness.

But, it’s important to keep in mind that in some cases where the differences don’t make that much of a difference, like here, personal preference should be the tiebreaker. If you know you like one configuration or the other, purchase it.

circular saw in use

Blade size

Blade size is generally something that separates full-sized circular saws from battery-powered models and compact models. Not all projects are going to need the 7-¼” blade that comes on full-sized circular saws. These saws usually give a cutting depth of between 2-3/8” and 3”. That’s a lot of cutting depth, giving you the ability to cut through just about any plywood you come across as well as the ability, in some cases, to cut through stacked 2x4s if you so desired. That means it can deal with lumber that is significantly thinker than most people will be using at home.

That’s not a cutting depth that most people will make full use of. For home use, you should certainly check out cordless models. Cordless models are more likely to have a 6-½” blade, which is going to have a maximum cut depth that is smaller than with the 7-¼” blade. It’s still going to be more than enough for cutting plywood and 2x4s, so you will still be able to cut most of the things that you would cut in a nonindustrial setting.

Something to keep in mind is that 7-¼” blades are more common and can be a few dollars cheaper than the 6-½” models. This means you’ll have greater convenience and a lower cost of operation across the life of the circular saw if it uses the larger blade.

The biggest difference between the two blade types is the depth they get when cutting bevels. Any kind of blade loses maximum depth when it’s set at an angle that’s not 90 degrees, and you lose more depth the farther you go from 90 degrees. Larger blades are going to have deeper cuts at the same angle relative to smaller blades and are going to be able to complete more projects in a single pass. You may have to go back and do two cuts when cutting bevels with a smaller blade.

Generally speaking, you’re not going to want to cut bevels with a compact saw unless the material you’re cutting is extremely thin.

Which circular saw is right for you?

Like with all power tools, the right model of circular saw for you is the one that quickly and safely completes the cuts you need to do with a minimum of frustration, and a low cost of operation. You can’t know which tool that’s going to be if you don’t know what you’re going to be working on. And don’t just think about the single project that you have in mind for the immediate future. Think instead about the kinds of projects that you’d like to and that you’re likely to do.

This will help give you a good idea of what features you need to get out of a circular saw, and what size of saw you’re going to need. Not every model is going to be right for everyone, but with these ideas in mind, you should be able to figure out which model will be just right for you.

Conclusion

The Makita XSS02Z is one of the best circular saws on the market, and it’s also wireless. What’s not to love? The DEWALT DWE575SB is extremely light and comes with some nice features for the price. The SKIL 5180-01 provides the best value for the price and includes a dust blower not found on other units. The Rockwell RK3441K is a good compact circular saw, even if it wouldn’t win in a fight with a regular circular saw. The WEN 36055 has its uses as a track saw but doesn’t stand up to the non-tracked competition.

Hopefully, these reviews and this guide have been helpful to you in your quest to find the model of circular saw that is right for you. Shopping online isn’t always easy, but we’ve done what we can to take the stress out of making a great purchase.

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