Chainsaws are great for two things: going berserk in a horror movie, and cutting down trees. As the first is very much illegal in real life, we’re going to assume you’re here because for the latter purpose.
There are three main types of chainsaw to choose from; gas-powered chainsaws are most frequently used by professionals, as they are the most powerful, and can run longer than their electric counterparts. STIHL chainsaws are perhaps the best known brands in this category, and you can get some very capable Husqvarna chainsaws in this class too, but you might not need a tool of that magnitude.
For many domestic users, who mostly need chainsaws for home purposes, such as cutting branches off trees and chopping down smaller trees, battery-powered electric chainsaws can often do the job nicely. If you’re on a budget, have a small garden, or only need to call on your chainsaw-wielding abilities every now and then, a corded chainsaw might be enough for you.
Do keep in mind, of course, that chainsaws are incredibly dangerous power tools, so make sure you use protective equipment at all times, and thoroughly read the manual for whatever chainsaw you end up choosing, treating it with care at all times.
Also, frequent use will wear down the chain, making its jagged teeth blunt. If you don’t want to keep forking out for new chains, get yourself a chainsaw sharpener and follow our chainsaw maintenance tips at the bottom of this guide.
01. Husqvarna 460 Rancher
A big, powerful saw that's perfect for small to medium-sized jobs, or the occasional bigger job.
Power type: Gas powered | Bar size: 18”, 20”, 24” bar available | Weight: 13lb | Battery: 14oz | Capacity/fuel tank volume: 14oz | Engine power: 3.62hp | Noise: 104 dB
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.
02. Poulan Pro PR5020
A gas-powered chainsaw for under $200 that can handle small to medium jobs with ease.
Power type: Gas chainsaw | Bar size: 20” bar | Weight: 15.5lb | Battery capacity/fuel tank volume: 15oz | Engine power: 50cc engine | Noise: 102db
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.
03. OREGON CS1500
A unique self-sharpening product to keep your jobs moving.
Power type: Corded electric | Bar length: 18” bar | Weight: 12 lb | Battery capacity/fuel tank volume: MAINS | Power: 15 Amps/120v | Noise: Low noise, silent between cuts
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.
With enough power to do most domestic tasks, this is a safe, easy to maintain electric saw for the larger urban or suburban garden.
04. Makita XCU03PT1
A medium sized, battery powered chainsaw that takes safety features to the next level.
Power type: Battery | Bar size: 14” | Weight: 11.5lbs | Battery capacity/fuel tank volume: 2 x 5AH | Engine power: 36v/32cc equivalent | Noise: 100 dB
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.
05. Remington RM4216 Rebel
A mid-sized, no-frills chainsaw for the average family home.
Power type: Gas powered | Bar size: 16” | Weight: 14lbs | Battery capacity/fuel tank volume: 22oz | Engine power: 42cc | Noise: No information provided
The Remington RM4216 Rebel boasts of a powerful 42cc engine and 16¨bar and chain for great cutting performance. The ergonomic design and built-in low vibration technology makes this easy and comfortable to use. At 14lbs though, it is heavy for its size and may be difficult for some people to use.
06. WORX WG304.1 chainsaw
A reliable, entry level, electric chainsaw that’s east to use.
Power type: Corded electric | Bar size: 18 | Weight: 11lbs | Battery capacity/fuel tank volume: Mains | Engine power: 15Amp | Noise: Quiet
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. Affordable, easy to maintain and maneuverable. It might not be a chainsaw for life, but it’s a very good starting point.
07. Greenworks 60-volt Lithium Ion
A heavy duty electric chainsaw that can compete with gas-powered models.
Type: Electric | Bar size: 16 | Weight: 12.5lbs | Battery capacity/fuel tank volume: 4AH | Engine power: 60v | Noise: Quiet
A versatile, high powered, electric saw that can compete with some of the mid-range gas powered models. It is lighter than its gas-powered equivalents, and its battery means you could easily climb into a tree with it – it has excellent maneuverability. It's also long lasting. It can do up to 180 cuts on a fully charged battery. Environmentally friendly with low noise and vibration output, this is a great chainsaw to graduate to if you are looking for something a bit bigger but don’t want the maintenance and mess associated with a gas-powered saw.
08. Stihl 271 Farm Boss
A big saw for semi-professional users
Power type: Gas powered | Bar size: 20” | Weight: 12.3lbs | Battery capacity/fuel tank volume: 16.9oz | Engine power: 2.6 kW | Noise: Quiet
Stihl are still the number one selling chainsaw brand in the USA. The Stihl 271 Farm Boss is a great saw for the small farm owner, or if you have a larger section of land with mature trees, and you need a reliable saw that can handle big jobs on a regular basis. Considering its size, it’s a very manageable weight, but you still need some experience to handle this beast safely. Stihl products are only available through a local dealer, which is important to consider as all repairs and replacements will need to go through them too.
09. Kobalt KCS 120-07 40 Volt Cordless
A very lightweight, basic but powerful chainsaw for pruning and storm clearance.
Power type: Electric cordless | Bar length: 12” bar | Weight: 8.83lbs | Battery capacity/fuel tank volume: 2.5 AH | Engine power: 40v | Noise: Quiet
For the novice user who wants a lightweight chainsaw capable for domestic tasks, like pruning or cleaning up small fallen boughs from a storm, the Kobalt KCS 120-07 40-volt electric chainsaw is perfect. A small 12” inch bar combined with the light weight means most users will find this maneuverable. It’s cordless so you can take it right to the bottom of the garden without worrying about an extension cable. It’s low maintenance too and will store well.
10. WORX WG320 cordless JawSaw
An incredibly safe and easy to use chainsaw for very small jobs.
Power type: Electric | Bar length: 6” bar | Weight: 8.1lbs | Battery capacity/fuel tank volume: 20v/4AH | Engine power: 5Amps | Noise: Quiet
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.
Of all the chainsaws we reviewed, the Echo CS-310-14 was our top overall choice
Power Type: Gas powered | Bar length: 14in | Chain size: 14in | Max cut diameter: 25in | Chain pitch: 3/8in | Weight: 10.3lb | Handle type: Rear handle | Noise: Up to 90 dB
This Echo chainsaw’s 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 use 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 the best overall chainsaw 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 the full review: Echo CS-310-14
If you want a quality chainsaw at a great price, the Worx WG303.1 is exactly what you’re looking for
Power type: Corded electric | Bar length: 16in | Chain size: 16in | Max cut diameter: 11.8in | Chain pitch: 3/8in | Weight: 11lb | Handle type: Rear handle | Noise: Quiet
If you want a quality chainsaw at a great price, the Worx WG303.1 is exactly what you’re looking for. This corded chainsaw has a lengthy 16-inch guide bar, making it a good choice for medium to large-sized jobs.
Of course, it doesn’t deliver quite as much power as gas models like the Echo CS-310-14, but this Worx chainsaw will cut as well as the rest of them, just not as fast. In our tests it took us about 14 seconds to cut through a 6x6-inch piece of lumber. The Echo, by contrast, took less than five seconds.
The corded nature of this saw offers a few benefits. The most important of which is that you don’t have to worry about running out of gas or battery power, as long as you’re connected to an outlet. But the obvious counter to that is that you’re tethered to a wall for the entirety of your job and you’re limited by the length of your extension cord.
Still, if you’re keeping work to your yard, the cord shouldn’t be a problem – and that’s where you’re most likely to use this type of chainsaw anyway. And you can’t beat the price either, as this Worx model comes in at less than $100.
- Read the full review: Worx WG303.1
The simplicity of this Craftsman chainsaw may be its best attribute
Power type: Corded electric | Bar length: 18in | Chain size: 18in | Max cut diameter: n/a | Chain pitch: 3/8in | Weight: 17lb | Handle type: Rear handle | Noise: Quiet
The simplicity of this Craftsman chainsaw may be its best attribute. You simply fill the chain tank with oil, plug it in and pull the trigger.
You can start using it immediately with little prep. It features an 18-inch guide bar, which is good for larger cuts. We had our testing crew cut through a 6 x 6-inch piece of lumber to test each chainsaw. Gas models were the fastest and most powerful, but this corded chainsaw wasn’t far behind. It only took the Craftsman 12 seconds to cut through the wood, which is much faster than other corded and battery-powered models.
Even though we liked the performance of the Craftsman 34120 a bit better than the Worx chainsaw, it is a bit more expensive, so you’ll have to pay extra for a bit more performance.
- Read the full review: Craftsman 34120
This pro-level STIHL chainsaw is the right combination of size and power.
Power type: Gas | Bar length: 12in | Chain size: 12in | Max cut diameter: n/a | Chain pitch: 3/8in | Weight: 9lb | Handle type: Rear handle
This pro-level STIHL chainsaw is the right combination of size and power for all bigger cutting jobs. Unusually for a gas-powered chainsaw, it started up right away and made quick and smooth cuts.
It’s a small chainsaw with a 16-inch guide bar. We recommend using it for small to medium tree felling and cleaning up branches. The lightweight plastic and aluminum housing put the chainsaw below 11 pounds – making it a lightweight option.
Our test crew was impressed with this model. They liked the way it made easy work of our 6 x 6-inch test board. One tester did comment that the STIHL chainsaw produced more smoke than he would have liked to see, but that was one of the only negative comments.
We recommend this chainsaw, but you do have to pay a bit extra to obtain this great combination of power and size.
- Read the full review: Stihl MS170
How we tested chainsaws
We purchased all the models we compared in this category for hands-on testing. Whenever possible, we test products by using them just like you would. Each chainsaw was subjected to the same battery of tests, and we rated the chainsaws by comparing performance, power, safety features and price.
Our four-member lab team subjected each of the saws we reviewed to a battery of tests. Additionally, each member of our testing team gave feedback and comments and expressed a preference on which one they would buy. This subjective feedback, weighed against the raw data of our tests is how we arrived at the overall performance letter grade.
We used each saw we reviewed to cut through a 6x6-inch piece of Douglas Fir lumber. We chose this type of wood because it’s what contractors use for home construction. We timed how long it took for each saw to cut all the way through. The gas-powered models performed the best – all making the cut in just a few seconds. The corded and battery powered models generally took between ten and 20 seconds to accomplish the same task.
We also tested how easy it is to start the different gas models. We started each gas chainsaw out of the box. We tracked how many starting attempts it took for each saw to start on the first pull of the recoil cord. The Husqvarna 240 topped this test with just three attempts, while it took the Poulan Pro chainsaw seven attempts.
In addition to the tests the lab crew performed, we took these chainsaws to an overgrown residential backyard and spent several days clearing out half-dead bushes, unwanted wild trees, trimming back hedges and reducing the size of hardened, dead tree stumps. All the saws were put through these tests for more than a week in total. This gave us a great idea of how well each saw would perform for common yard work.
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?
The cost of chainsaws varies widely depending on the type of chainsaw, brand and size of the motor. Corded and battery-powered models cost anywhere from $62 to $179. The gas models that we compared cost $175 to $200. If you aren’t a professional and just need a chainsaw for smaller cleanup projects around the yard, this is the price range you should be looking at.
Chainsaws are dangerous: safety always comes first
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
We tested each chainsaw’s performance as thoroughly as possible, but other factors play a role in the experience you have owning and using your chainsaw. If you're new to chainsaw maintenance, you may want to consider a saw available through licensed dealers.
Chainsaw brands like STIHL, Husqvarna, and Echo can be purchased from licensed dealers. In case you encounter problems with the chainsaw, you can take it back to these dealers for repairs. This ensures the people working on your chainsaw are experts and have the parts you need. The websites for these models have store locators to find a dealer nearby to help with maintenance and repair.
Whether it's a gas or electric model, storage, cleaning and routine replacements are essential to keeping your chainsaw operational. For both power types, you should complete several routine procedures before and after use. Before you start your chainsaw, check for leaks, cracks or obvious damage, test the throttle, choke, trigger lockout and stop switch. The chain brake, chain, bar, fuel and oil levels will also need your attention before you start a job. After you've finished the job, clean the entire chainsaw while paying special attention to the air filter and cylinder fins.
More on Tools
Chances are you store your chainsaw away during the winter, and both gas and electric models store similarly. Before you put your saw away for an extended period, drain the fuel and oil from the chainsaw. This prevents residue build up and potential fire hazards that come with storing such flammable materials. For gas models, run the engine until the carburetor is dry. This keeps the diaphragms from sticking together. For both types of chainsaw, remove the chain and guide bar before storing and wipe the machine down.
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.
Are Stihl chainsaws the best?
STIHL certainly makes a good case for being one of the best brand of chainsaws. If you’re willing to put out the cash for a fine chainsaw, it’s worth a trip to the hardware store to look at a STIHL.
By most accounts, you can expect these saws to be powerful, durable, reliable and long lasting. The STIHL MS170 performed well in our tests, but missed out on being our best overall pick due to its price and entry-level nature. We found it to be smooth, fast and agile, making clean, straight cuts every time we used it.
One other thing to note about STIHL chainsaws is that it’s almost impossible to purchase them online. You’ll have to go to a local STIHL dealer, which you’ll be able to find through the company’s dealer locator on their website.
The Alligator Lopper
If you’re mainly interested in pruning trees and cutting back bushes, a full-sized chainsaw might be more than you need. A better choice may be a unique device from Black & Decker called the Alligator Lopper. It’s an amusing name, but its design, which is something of a marriage between a set of pruning shears and a chainsaw, actually resembles an alligator.
The Alligator Lopper is specifically designed for small tree branches and thick shrubbery. The 6-inch chainsaw is powered by a 4.5 amp motor, which can handle branches up to four inches thick. The tool’s clamping jaw holds the branch in place while the saw cuts, making it more accurate, smooth and safe than a full-sized chainsaw.
The chainsaw weighs 6.5 pounds, so anyone can use it for an extended period without becoming exhausted. The Alligator Lopper comes in both corded and battery-powered models. If you'll be keeping it in your yard, go with the corded model, so you don’t have to worry about charging the battery. If you plan to take it on the road or do some high in-tree work, the battery-powered model is probably your best bet.
You can buy this chainsaw for less than $100, so it’s a great option, especially if you do yard work often.
Best Stihl Chainsaws
Best Lawn Mowers Overall
Best Gas-Powered Lawn Mower
Best Electric Lawn Mowers
Best Riding Lawn Mowers
Best Robotic Lawn Mowers
Best Lawn Edgers
Best Electric Weed Eaters
Best Weed Whackers
Best Leaf Blowers
Best Pest Control Services
Best Landscaping Software
|Product||Price||Overall Rating||Power & Peformance||Design||Safety||Warranty||Overall Performance||Power Source||Power Distribution||Two-stroke Engine||Guide Bar Length (inches)||Weight (pounds)||Anti-Vibration||Auto-Oiler||Tool-Free Chain Tensioning||Throttle Lock||Chain Catcher||Bucking Spike||Warranty Period|
|Echo CS-310-14||View Deal||4/5||2.3||5||5||5||A||Gas||30.5cc||✓||14||8.8||✓||✓||✖||✓||✓||✓||5 Years|
|WORX WG303.1||View Deal||4/5||4||4.1||3.4||3.8||B||✖||120V||✖||16||11||✖||✓||✓||✖||✓||✓||3 Years|
|Stihl MS170||4/5||4.1||5||5||1.3||A||Gas||30.1cc||✓||16||8.6||✓||✓||✖||✓||✓||✓||1 Year|
|Husqvarna 240||View Deal||4/5||3.9||4.9||5||2.5||A-||Gas||38.2cc||✓||16||10.3||✓||✓||✖||✓||✓||✓||2 Years|
|Homelite UT43122B||View Deal||3.5/5||4||3.4||1.7||2.5||✖||✖||✖||✖||✖||✖||✖||✖||✖||✖||✖||✖||✖|
|Craftsman 34120||View Deal||3.5/5||5||4.2||3.4||2.5||B||Corded||120V||✖||16||11.1||✓||✓||✓||✖||✓||✓||2 Years|
|Remington RM1645||View Deal||3.5/5||3||3.2||3.4||2.5||C-||✖||120V||✖||16||9.2||✖||✓||✖||✖||✓||✓||2 Years|
|Poulan Pro||View Deal||3.5/5||2.8||4.8||3.4||2.5||B||Gas||42cc||✓||18||11.8||✖||✓||✖||✓||✓||✖||2 Years|
|Kobalt KCS 120-07||3.5/5||3.9||3.4||3.4||5||B+||Battery||40V||✖||12||8.84||✖||✓||✓||✖||✓||✓||5 Years|
|Black & Decker LCS1020||View Deal||3/5||4.9||2.6||0||2.5||C+||Battery||20V||✖||10||7.2||✓||✓||✓||✖||✖||✖||2 Years|