We spent more than 250 hours researching, testing, rating and ranking the best chainsaws on the market today. At the end of our analysis we chose the Stihl MS170 as the best overall pick. Read on to learn more about this chainsaw as well as our other favorite models.
Best Overall: Stihl
The Stihl MS170 is ideal for farmers, ranchers and tree removal professionals, but it’s still accessible and usable for the average homeowner. It has a great power-to-weight ratio and the $200 price tag is quite reasonable.
Best Value: Black & Decker
If you don’t use a chainsaw regularly, or just want to save a few bucks, consider the Black & Decker LCS1020. This tool costs less than $100, which is less than half the price of our top pick. It’s the smallest and least powerful chainsaw we reviewed, but it’s great for occasional jobs that pop up around the house from time to time. It’s also the quietest chainsaw we reviewed, only making about as much noise as a lawnmower. All in all, it’s a great choice to complete your home tool set.
Best Fuel Efficiency
Best Fuel Efficiency: Echo
The Echo CS-310-14 is the most fuel-efficient chainsaw we reviewed. But that doesn’t mean it lacks power. The 14-inch bar and 30.5cc two-cycle engine pack enough punch to take down trees and power through wood. It features an innovate i30 starting engine; however, it took about four attempts to start. Not surprising for a chainsaw, but the best models start up on the first try.
Best for Big Jobs
Our top pick is excellent for large tasks, but so is the Craftsman 41BY429S799. It is a powerful, versatile tool that’s great for cleaning up trees felled by large storms, cutting firewood and other jobs. It has an 18-inch bar and a 42cc two-cycle engine, making it one of the most powerful chainsaws on the market today. And it’s surprisingly usable, even for the uninitiated. However, it is quite loud, reaching 90 decibels at times, so make sure you protect your ears when you use it.
Best for Residential Areas
Best for Residential Areas: Kobalt
If you live in a suburban neighborhood, or even a city, and don’t want to bother your neighbors, then the Kobalt KCS 120-06 is the chainsaw you need. With a 12-inch bar and powerful engine, it can cut through a 5-inch log in about 16 seconds. This wasn’t the fastest time we recorded, but it’s still impressive. Additionally, it only produces about 80 decibels of noise, so although your neighbors will hear it, it’s unlikely to cause any noise complaints. It’s also very easy to start because it features a push-button ignition instead of a pull cord.
Chainsaws: How We Tested, What We Found
We focused on small models suitable for homeowners rather than tree clearing professionals. Large chainsaws can cost thousands of dollars, and low-cost chainsaws are not necessarily low quality. For people who may not use their saw often, we kept the price range low, under $300.
The key features to look for when buying a chainsaw are performance, power and safety, included accessories, maintenance, and support. Obviously, you can't test a new saw on your own in the store, so we tested this selection for you. For safety, we had tree-cutting professionals join us. While the saws we tested are best for home use, these professionals provided useful feedback about each one.
In our test, we used each saw to make multiple cuts through the same log, and we timed each one to see how quickly it cut. In addition, we measured noise levels while each saw idled, revved and cut. The noise levels for all the saws we tested stayed within close range of each other; at their loudest, the saws reached the mid-90 decibel range, which is comparable to the noise a lawn mower makes. We recommend ear protection for tools that make over 80 decibels of sound.
There's a good reason villains in slasher films use chainsaws – these tools are powerful and dangerous. 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 of drugs or alcohol, 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. 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.
Parts & Maintenance
We tested each chainsaw’s performance as thoroughly as possible, but other factors play a role in the experience you have owning and using one. If you're new to chainsaw maintenance, you may want to consider a model sold through licensed dealers.
Chainsaw brands like Stihl, Husqvarna, Echo and Homelite can be purchased from licensed dealers rather than large hardware stores. If you encounter problems, you can take the chainsaw back to the dealer for repairs. This ensures the people working on your saw are experts and have the parts you need. The manufacturers’ websites have store locators to help you 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 every use. Before you start your chainsaw, check for leaks, cracks or obvious damage as well as test the throttle, choke, trigger lockout and stop switch. The chain brake, bar, and fuel and oil levels will also need your attention before you start a job. After you've finished the job, clean the entire chainsaw, 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.
While high-end chainsaws, generally used by professional lumberjacks, can run in the thousands of dollars, there are affordable gas and electric chainsaws that are great for jobs around the yard. Once you’ve picked the best chainsaw for you, complete your home tool set with other items such as cordless drills, belt sanders, gas lawnmowers and more.
Contributing Reviewer: Danny Chadwick