Best Chainsaws of 2018

Danny Chadwick ·
Updated
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Our team of expert reviewers spent more than 250 man-hours researching, testing, rating and ranking the best chainsaws on the market. At the end of the analysis, we chose the Stihl MS170 as the best pick overall. This tool’s high power-to-weight ratio makes it ideal for farmers, ranchers and tree-removal professionals, but really anyone can make use of it. Not only can it handle any sawing task with ease, it is also small enough to store in in a garage, shed or shop. And at 11 pounds, it’s one of the lightest chainsaws we reviewed.    

Best Overall

Stihl MS170

Lightweight, powerful, durable and versatile, this chainsaw is ideal for both heavy and occasional use. Its 30.1 cc two-stroke engine and compensating carburetor make it a good choice for small and large tasks.
View on Stihl
Best Value

Black & Decker LCS1020

Top-of-the-line chainsaws can cost hundreds of dollars. If you don’t have that kind of cash, the Black & Decker LCS1020 is worth considering. It’s less than $100, but still has enough power for occasional around-the-house jobs.
View on Amazon
Best Fuel Efficiency

Echo CS-310-14

Of all the chainsaws we reviewed, the Echo CS-310-14 lasts the longest on a single tank of gas. It’s 8 pounds and touts a 30.5 cc engine. But it’s loud, reaching 90 decibels, and takes several attempts to start.
View on Amazon
Best Overall

Stihl MS170

Whether you’re doing big jobs or small chores, the Stihl MS170 delivers everything you need. At 11 pounds, it’s relatively lightweight and its 30.1 cc two-stroke engine provides an excellent power-to-weight ratio. Our reviewers found it well-balanced and maneuverable.
Its IntelliCarb Compensating Carburetor keeps the tool’s air-to-fuel ratio balanced by adjusting the air filter chokes and maintaining a constant rpm to run at optimum efficiency. This saw also produces a minimum amount of vibration; the vibration it does generate is tempered by its rubberized wrap-around handle and shock-absorbing coils. Our reviewers tested this chainsaw by cutting through dozens of types of wood. In our first test with this tool, it clocked a 3.56-second cut time on our test log; the second and third cuts came in at 3.13 and 3.35 seconds, respectively. This averages out to 3.35 seconds per cut, which translates into a cutting speed of about an inch per second. That’s one of the fastest cutting times of the chainsaws we reviewed. One drawback to this model is its plastic housing. Our reviewers noted that the tool feels somewhat fragile, and they took extra care not to drop it.
Pros
  • Powerful 30.1 cc two-stroke engine.
  • Cuts at a rate of about 1 inch per second.
  • Excellent power-to-weight ratio.
Cons
  • Nonregular maintenance and repairs must be done by a qualified dealer.
  • You need to buy accessories like a spare chain and sharpening tools separately.
  • Spare parts and safety gear are brand-specific and pricey.
$199.95Stihl
Best Value

Black & Decker LCS1020

If you’re not going use a chainsaw regularly, consider the Black & Decker LCS1020. It costs less than $100, a fraction of the price of the Stihl MS170. You won’t get nearly as much power, since it’s powered by a battery rather than an internal combustion engine. But you’ll still get enough muscle for jobs like pruning trees and cutting up fallen branches.
Since it’s powered by a battery, you won’t have to worry about running out of fuel and making an unplanned run to the gas station. Just make sure you keep it charged. It also makes storage easier since you don’t need to store engine oil or gas cans in your shed. The chainsaw itself is also easy to store in a tool shed or garage, thanks to it’s small size. Additionally, its push-button ignition starts the first time, every time – a nice alternative to pulling a rip cord over and over. This chainsaw also has some safety features worth nothing. Chief among them is its sliding safety lock, which prevents unintended starts. Its large hand guards and chain break reduce kickback.
Pros
  • Costs less than $100, less than half the price of our top pick.
  • Runs on a battery so you won’t run out of gas.
  • Small design makes it easy to maintain and store.
Cons
  • Lacks the heavy-duty cutting power of our top pick.
  • Carrying case not included.
  • Not great for extended use or bigger jobs.
$97.00Amazon
Best Fuel Efficiency

Echo CS-310-14

Of all the chainsaws we reviewed, the Echo CS-310-14 runs the longest on a single tank of gas. Its 30.5 cc two-stroke engine is marginally more powerful than our top pick, the Stihl MS170, delivering enough muscle to cut through wood quickly and smoothly.
It’s also quite light – only 8 pounds – but it is a bit loud; during our testing, it reached about 90 decibels. You’ll want to use protection like earmuffs or plugs when you use it. The plastic and aluminum body is sturdy enough, but it will bend or break if treated too roughly. One of the attributes we liked most about this chainsaw is its i30 starting system. It took only four attempts to start this tool using its pull cord. That‘s less than average for the chainsaws we reviewed. This chainsaw doesn’t come with a lot of accessories. For example, you don’t get a chain or sharpening tools in the box, so you’ll have to buy those separately. Additionally, it doesn’t come with a carrying case or engine oil. For a chainsaw that costs more than $200, we expected it would come with at least some of these accessories.
Pros
  • Most fuel-efficient gas-powered chainsaw we reviewed.
  • i30 starting system reduces the number of pull-cord start attempts.
  • One of the lightest chainsaws available – only 8 pounds.
Cons
  • Can reach 90 decibels while in use.
  • Lacks accessories like a spare chain and sharpening tools.
  • Constructed of flimsy material that may bend or break if used roughly.
$242.60Amazon

Why Trust Us?

Whenever possible we test products by using them just like you would. Our chainsaw recommendations are based on over 250 hours of tests and research. Each chainsaw was subjected to the same battery of tests, and we rated the chainsaws by comparing performance, power, safety features and included accessories. No saw we reviewed has everything we look for, so you’ll want to check the specifications of each product to verify it has what you want.

How We Tested

To determine which chainsaw is the best, we subjected each tool to several tests, the most important of which was the performance test. We timed how long it took each saw to cut through our test log – twice. We averaged the times and calculated a score based on these results. Every product was given a percentage score based on this evaluation. Scores ranged from 70 percent to 95 percent, so they’re all decent but no saw scored perfectly.

We also looked at power distribution, power-to-weight ratios and more. During each test, we measured how much noise each saw made. We weighed these results against other features, such as auto oilers, anti-vibration technology, hand guards, chain brakes, mufflers, primer bulbs, kill switches and more.

We also looked at the extras, such as owner’s manuals, scrench (screwdriver and wrench in the same tool), bar scabbards, engine oil, carrying case and more. The more accessories a chainsaw has, the more bang you get for your buck and the more useful it will be.

Key Features to Look For

Power & Safety Features – The first thing to decide is if you want a battery or gas-powered chainsaw. That will determine how much power you can get. Gas-powered tools generally deliver more power because they use an internal combustion engine. The chainsaws we reviewed have engines that range in size from 30.1 cc to 40 cc. Battery- operated tools range from 20 volts to 40 volts. The amount of power you need depends on how you intend to use your saw and how often.

Important safety features include auto oilers that keep your tool lubed up and safe to use, anti-vibration technology that reduces stress to your arms and torso, hand guards to prevent accidental injury, chain brakes, chain tensioning, a kill switch and much more. Again, no tool has everything we look for; make sure to check the feature list to make sure it has what you need.

Accessories – The best chainsaws come with the accessories to keep them maintained. Every tool we evaluated comes with an owner’s manual. Some also come with a scrench, a combination screwdriver and wrench, designed to make it easier and quicker to perform maintenance. Others include a bar scabbard that slips onto your tool to keep both it and you protected when it’s not in use. Bonus accessories are items like carrying cases, spare chains and sharpening tools. Make sure you know what comes in the box, so you know exactly how much bang you get for your buck.

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