Chainsaws might be the iconic weapon of choice for horror movie villains, but they’re also fantastic tools for cutting down trees or just trimming back wayward branches around the garden. We’re not going to advise you on the horror side of things, but we’ve got a comprehensive guide for the best chainsaws when it comes to all things DIY and gardening.
There are three main types of chainsaw to consider: gas-powered, electric battery and corded. Gas-powered chainsaws are the traditional choice and can run longer than their electric counterparts. STIHL chainsaws are probably the most famous gas-powered chainsaws on the market, but you can also find some very capable models from other brands like Husqvarna too.
For most domestic users, who just need a chainsaw for some small-to-medium sized gardening tasks, a gas-powered chainsaw might be overkill. Thankfully, there are some great electric chainsaws on the market, both in corded and battery varieties. These won’t be able to tackle heavy duty jobs so don't go trying to fell a redwood with one (in fact, don't fell a redwood with anything), but they will comfortably deal with most garden tasks.
Do keep in mind that chainsaws are incredibly dangerous power tools. 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. We also have some safety tips that you can check out at the bottom of this article.
It’s also worth noting that 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.
1. 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. But if you can find a dealer who stocks these, then the STIHL 271 Farm Boss is fantastic heavy duty domestic chainsaw.
- Read the review: Stihl 271 Farm Boss
2. 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, 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 the review: Makita XCU03PT1
3. 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.
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
4. 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.
- Read the review: Greenworks 60-volt Lithium Ion
5. 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 chainsaw to be very 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. The downside to the short bar is that it results in a less versatile chainsaw that can't handle big jobs.
But if all you need is a small chainsaw for pruning tree branches and such, then the Kobalt KCS 120-07 40 Volt Cordless is the perfect little chainsaw.
- Read the review: Kobalt KCS 120-07 40 Volt Cordless
6. Echo CS-310-14
A great all-rounder
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 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 the review: Echo CS-310-14
7. 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 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 the review: Husqvarna 460 Rancher
8. 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.
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.
- Read the review: WORX WG320 cordless JawSaw
9. Remington RM4216 Rebel
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. It also isn't built for massive jobs due to it's shorter bar length.
These minor drawbacks are a small price to pay though, because you'll struggle to find a better gas powered chainsaw for anywhere near the bargain price of the Remington RM4216 Rebel.
- Read the review: Remington RM4216 Rebel
10. WORX WG304.1
A reliable, entry level, electric chainsaw that’s easy 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. 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 the review: WORX WG304.1
11. 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.
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 the review: Poulan Pro PR5020
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How we tested chainsaws
For each chainsaw we have considered in this buying guide, we sifted through hours of data to come to our conclusions. We analysed the technical specifications of each chainsaw and compared them with their leading competitors on the market. We also considered their intended use and target audience. Many chainsaws are aimed at professionals, while others are designed for occasional home use.
Alongside our own research, we have collated the experiences and thoughts of industry expert reviewers from other websites and publications. We also collected together data on user reviews from Amazon and Walmart to find out what people thought of these products after purchase and extended use to help identify any hidden issues.
By pulling all of this information in from various sources across the internet, we have been able to put together a comprehensive buying guide that gives you all the information you need to choose the right chainsaw for your situation.
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 $37 all the way up to $400. With the exception of the Husqvarna 460 Rancher and Stihl 271 Farm Boss, the gas models that we compared cost between $136 and $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.
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 271 Farm Boss performed well in our tests, but missed out on being our best overall pick due to its steep price and the fact that it's probably overkill for most users. 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.