Wanting to take the graft out of your most demanding garden jobs? The best chainsaws offer you ultimate power and make cutting through the toughest materials a breeze.
Whatever your needs, we’ve got you covered with our round-up of the best chainsaws. We walk you through the key considerations including power, size, safety features, and, importantly, price so you can find the right device for you. You’ll find models from top brands like STIHL, Makita, Husqvarna, and more.
When picking one of the best chainsaws, there are a few things to weigh up. You have a choice between gas and electric models. Gas-powered options offer maximum power but do require more maintenance and are generally bigger so you’ll need to consider storage. Alternatively, an electric model is better for the environment and saves you the hassle of refueling – however, it can’t compete with gas when it comes to raw power.
Another factor to consider is whether a corded or cordless option would be better for you. Cordless models allow you to move freely around a yard (though you’ll need to remember to charge them). A corded model, on the other hand, may do the job if you have a power outlet nearby.
Worried about accidents? You can rest assured we’ve taken into account safety features such as built-in brakes and hold-down safety buttons. Even if you’ve never used a chainsaw before, these safety features can give you peace of mind.
For now, read on for our pick of the best chainsaws that are a cut above the competition.
The best chainsaws
The next level safety features on this mid-size, domestic use chainsaw make the Makita XCU03PT1 very appealing to the casual user, particularly if you’ve got little fingers that want to help. The hold down safety button makes it virtually impossible for injury to occur, plus an instant chain brake and metal bucking spikes for greater control.
This is a respectable, professional grade saw that comes with four batteries and can handle some larger jobs as well, though you might need to purchase additional batteries if you're looking to tackle a large project.
Compared with most other electric chainsaws though, the Makita XCU03PT1 is very expensive. Coming in at around $380, it's much more of an investment than Makita's previous saws. Still, we think it's worth every penny and it'll likely be the only saw you ever need.
- Read our Makita XCU03PT1 review (opens in new tab)
The OREGON CS1500 is an electric powered chainsaw at the larger end of the domestic market that offers a unique self-sharpening chain system. If you strike the ground or accidentally hit a rock, there is no need to remove or replace the chain, you can be up and running again in under three seconds.
Users should be wary of the OREGON's reported tendency to slip the chain when in use, which is an issue caused by improper tensioning of the chain. As long as the chain is properly tensioned, you shouldn't have an issue.
Despite this issue, we found that the OREGON CS1500 was a great medium power chainsaw with enough power to do most domestic tasks. It is a safe, easy to maintain electric saw for the larger urban or suburban garden.
- Read the review: OREGON CS1500 (opens in new tab)
- Read our WORX WG320 cordless JawSaw review (opens in new tab)
WORX claim they have reinvented the chainsaw, and if you’re looking for something just for the very small jobs, then that could be true. The Worx WG320 cordless JawSaw has a patented design that makes injury almost impossible. It is light weight and the batteries can be shared with other WORX products.
However it really is made for only the smallest of pruning jobs and couldn't be used for cutting planks or large tree limbs. The WORX is almost more accurately described as a pair of chain shears as opposed to a full blown chainsaw.
Despite these drawbacks, we found the WORX WG320 to be a fantastic little garden tool that is comfortable and convenient to use for those little jobs that don't really justify the use of a heavy duty chainsaw.
This Echo chainsaw 30.5cc two-stroke engine is marginally bigger than the STIHL MS170, but just a tad weaker than the Poulan Pro PP4218A. It delivers enough muscle to cut through wood quickly and smoothly. It’s also quite light, weighing only 8.8 pounds.
During our testing, it reached about 90 decibels. You’ll want to wear protection like earmuffs or plugs when you use it, although we recommend taking those safety precautions while using any chainsaw. The plastic and aluminum body are quite sturdy and can take some punishment.
This saw clocked in some of the fastest times we saw during our testing phase. You can expect this chainsaw to cut at about an inch per second. Its 14-inch guide bar is adequate, but not the longest we saw. Models such as the Worx WG304.1 and Craftsman 34120 have 18-inch bars. Nevertheless, we never felt that we needed any more length when we were using it to cut lumber or doing other yardwork with it.
While this is one of the best chainsaws in this category, it may be overkill if you’re not a regular user or you’re facing hefty cutting tasks. If you aren’t going to use it regularly, or don’t have a lot of experience with chainsaws, you may want to look into a less expensive, more manageable model.
- Read our Echo CS-310-14 review
A powerful, well-built saw that can handle some very large jobs, as well as the small to medium jobs you’d find in any large, suburban garden. The Husqvarna 460 Rancher is powered by the Husqvarna X-Torq engine, which offers low emissions and low vibration technology for comfortable use.
It also boasts great safety features, including an inertia chain brake which turns the saw off if it is dropped and minimizes the kickback from the saw during use.
The long bar can make handling and maneuvering the Husqvarna 460 Rancher tricky, a problem that can be exacerbated by the saw's hefty weight. This means the Rancher isn't an ideal purchase for smaller individuals.
- Read our Husqvarna 460 Rancher review (opens in new tab)
The WORX WG304.1 chainsaw is a lightweight, easy to use, 18” electric chainsaw with enough grunt to manage larger domestic jobs. This is an excellent entry level chainsaw for the novice user. It's affordable and incredibly easy to maintain while the light weight makes it maneuverable and comfortable to use.
With that said, it's not built for anything more than the most basic of domestic tasks and while some users have reported felling small trees with it, this is not recommended. Pushing it too hard will almost certainly damage the saw and could even be dangerous. It might not be a chainsaw for life, but it’s a very good starting point.
- Read our WORX WG304.1 review (opens in new tab)
According to the manufacturer, the Poulan Pro PR5020 is suitable for any yard, and any task. It’s large enough to manage some of the big jobs, and agile enough for the small to medium work. Bear in mind that it's heavy, but it is powerful for the price.
The OxyPower engine offers greater efficiency and lower emissions, while the easy start system is designed to need 30% less effort that previous models. It offers an automatic chain oiler, comes with tools to help with maintenance and a protective case for storage, which is a nice touch.
The Poulan Pro's main downside is that it needs idling time during colder weather to prevent it from stalling. This can be frustrating and adds to your fuel consumption costs, which is something to consider if you live in colder climates.
- Read our Poulan Pro PR5020 review (opens in new tab)
What makes a good chainsaw: An expert explains
We reached out to industry professionals who use chainsaws regularly. We spoke with Caesar Bustos, Corporate Safety Supervisor and Trainer at Asplundh – a nationwide tree care company. He emphasized safety above everything else. “You have to respect the saw, if you don’t you can definitely get killed.”
He likened buying a chainsaw to riding a motorcycle, “If you have bought a motorcycle, you get a safety course – you should have one for chainsaws too.” He recommended asking the dealer you buy your chainsaw from if they offer classes or recommend ones you can take. He cautioned against the mindset that chainsaws are just another power tool. “When you take that tool on, you don’t think it’s dangerous – any model at any level can hurt or kill you,” said Bustos.
When we asked him about the different types of chainsaws, he said it’s all about the situation you use them in. Of gas vs electric he said that, “Gas ones can go quite a while,” noting there’s about a two-hour limit on electric models. However, he said that electric-powered models are good for areas that are fire prone since the motors don’t get quite as hot as gas saws.
Of the length of a guide bar, he said it’s all based on what you’re doing with it. “You can accomplish a lot with small bars, it depends on the size of the tree’, explains Bustos. But the most important things he recommends looking for is durability, you want “something that you can depend on whenever you start it.”
How much does a chainsaw cost?
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As with any outdoor appliance, the cost of chainsaws can vary widely depending on the type, brand and size of chainsaws you’re looking at. The same goes for the size of the motor and how much power it packs to take care of your trees. To give a rough figure, corded and battery-powered models start at around $40 and can range all the way up to $400 at the highest end. Gas models are a little different from the models in this guide (bar the Husqvarna 460 Rancher and Stihl 271 Farm Boss) costing from $130 and $200. If you need a seriously heavy-duty model for professional jobs, models sourced from dealers will probably end up costing you more. If you just need a smaller model for cleanup and renovation projects, however, then this is the price range you should be looking at.
Safety tips for handling chainsaws
According to the CDC, an estimated 36,000 people per year are treated in emergency rooms for chainsaw related injuries. This number increases after storms and natural disasters.
To keep yourself out of harm's way, we strongly encourage you to use ear protection, chaps, goggles and gloves. It's best to wear fitted clothes that cover your whole body and a helmet, especially when working in trees.
Never, ever operate a chainsaw under the influence and be sure to keep children and pets away from the work site. There are many online chainsaw safety courses available that can teach you how to operate, store and maintain your chainsaw properly. Proper maintenance keeps the saw's chain sharp and well lubricated, preventing kickback.
The grip and weight of a saw have a huge effect on its performance of the user. A saw without anti-vibration features can fatigue your hands quickly, making it hard to hold the saw and work safely. Since power source comes down to preference, if you don't need a powerful beast of a saw, go with an electric model. If you want power and use the saw often, gas is a good direction to take.
How to maintain your chainsaw
While performance is a priority when choosing a chainsaw, don’t overlook other factors which will affect your experience of using your chainsaw over the long term. If this is your first time maintaining a chainsaw, purchasing it through a licensed dealer is a sound choice. If you encounter any issues, you can return it to your dealer for repairs. This can give you peace of mind that your chainsaw is in expert hands and they’ll have access to spare parts as needed.
Whether you choose gas-powered or electric, regular maintenance is crucial to keep your chainsaw working at its best. Make it a habit to go through routine checks before and after use to make sure you maximize the life span of your chainsaw. Before you start the saw, you’ll want to check for leaks, cracks, or obvious damage. Test the throttle, choke, trigger lockout, and stop switch. Next, check the chain brake, chain, bar, fuel, and oil levels before starting your jobs. Once you’ve finished your tasks, you’ll thank yourself later if you clean the entire chainsaw. Don’t forget to pay attention to the air filter and cylinder fins. Proper cleaning keeps your chainsaw in good condition so you make the most of your investment.
Another consideration is storage. Most likely you’ll store it over the winter which tends to be a quieter period in the garden. If you’re not planning to use your chainsaw for an extended period, make sure to drain the fuel and oil. From a safety perspective, this is crucial as it reduces the risk of fire hazards from storing flammable materials. If you have a gas-powered chainsaw, you’ll need to run the engine until the carburetor is dry which will avoid the diaphragms sticking together. Regardless of whether you have a gas or electric model, take off the chain and guide bar before wiping down the machine and storing it.
Do I need a chainsaw sharpener?
The more you work with and get to know your chainsaw, the easier it is to recognize when it needs sharpening. Here are some signs your blade might be dull:
- You have to use pressure to get into the wood. A sharp saw should pull itself into the wood with guidance, not pressure
- It smokes even though everything is fully lubricated and the tension on the chain is right
- The sawdust is fine instead of strands or large chunks, especially when you cut against the grain
- The chainsaw bounces, rattles or pulls in one direction
You can either sharpen or replace a worn out blade. If you don't know how to properly sharpen the blade, we recommend heading to a dealer with expertise in your brand of chainsaw.