Best Chainsaws of 2019

A quality, powerful chainsaw that's reasonably priced is exactly what you need for your residential yard work. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best chainsaw for your unique needs.

Hacking Through the Choices: How to Pick the Best Chainsaw

For some types of residential yard work, nothing but a chainsaw will do. After a violent storm, you can use a chainsaw to break down large tree limbs that litter your yard. With the right tools and expertise, you can even use a chainsaw to fell a tree.

Of course, chainsaw owners must exercise extreme caution when using these powerful tools. But if you're game to learn the ins and outs of safe chainsaw operation, it may be time to purchase one.

Inspect your chainsaw regularly for damage to the chain, bar, plastic housing, and moving parts.

Using this Guide to Choose a Chainsaw

The question is, how do you know which type of chainsaw to purchase? Glance at the market's offerings, and you'll see hundreds of corded, cordless, and gas-powered chainsaws for sale.

To help you navigate this tough decision-making process, we created a detailed shopping guide that can help you select the best chainsaw for your needs. We spent dozens of hours studying the chainsaw market and researching consumer feedback. Our findings are contained in the tutorial below.

When you're ready to purchase a chainsaw, we invite you to look at our top three picks in the matrix above. Our selections have no bias, as we do not accept free product samples from manufacturers. Our goal at BestReviews is to be your go-to source for honest, trustworthy product recommendations and reviews.

Which Type of Chainsaw Should You Buy?

Once you've decided to buy a chainsaw, your next decision is which type of chainsaw to buy. The market offers both electric and gas-powered chainsaws, each with its own set of attractive features. Within the electric chainsaw category, you must also decide whether you'd prefer a corded or cordless model.

Cordless Electric Chainsaws

Chainsaw Battery

Cordless chainsaws run on rechargeable batteries. And since rechargeable batteries deliver limited amounts of power, cordless chainsaws are best suited for small jobs.

● Chainsaw battery power is measured in volts. Most chainsaw batteries offer 40 to 80 volts. Notably, a chainsaw with more volts creates more power.

● Cordless chainsaw users enjoy freedom of movement, but dwindling battery power could certainly curtail a project at an inconvenient time.

If you opt for a battery-powered chainsaw, you may find you're able to use the battery with other outdoor power tools from the same manufacturer.

Corded Electric Chainsaws

Chainsaw Cord

Electric chainsaws that don't run on battery power include a cord that must be plugged into an outlet. As such, your work area with a corded electric chainsaw is limited by the length of your extension cord.

● Corded chainsaw power is measured in amps. You'll commonly see corded models with an amperage of 10 to 15. The more amps a chainsaw has, the greater its power.

● A corded chainsaw delivers more power than a battery-operated chainsaw but nowhere near as much as a gas-powered chainsaw.

● If you plan to buy a corded chainsaw, we recommend investing in a heavy-gauge extension cord (at least 14-gauge).

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Be Sure to Select the Correct Extension Cord for Your Chainsaw

If your extension cord grows hot during use, it may not have a high enough gauge to work properly with your chainsaw. Working with the wrong extension cord could cause an electric chainsaw to burn out over time.

Gas-Powered Chainsaws

Gas-powered chainsaws offer plenty of power to handle big jobs. Here are some key facts about the operational aspects of gas-powered chainsaws.

Two-Cycle Engine

Gas-powered engines run on a mixture of gasoline and oil. The type of engine that accommodates this mixture is a two-cycle engine.

● Manufacturers of gas chainsaws state power capacity in cubic centimeters, or cc. The larger the engine, the greater the cc.

● Chainsaws built for residential use range in power from 30 to 60 cc.

Bar Chain Length

A chainsaw's bar chain length corresponds directly to its power output; the larger the bar chain, the greater the power.

● A gas-powered chainsaw with a large bar chain can cut through trees.

● Potential buyers should realize that controlling a chainsaw with a longer bar chain can be unwieldy and fatiguing.

Chainsaws require bar chain oil to keep the chain cool and moving smoothly. Most chainsaws automatically apply bar chain oil as the chain spins.

The bar chain is the part of the chainsaw that extends from the main engine and holds the chain in place. During operation, the chain spins around the bar chain.

Starting a Gas-Powered Chainsaw

Pull-String Start

To start a gas-powered chainsaw, you activate a pull-string as well as a choke and primer.

● Gas chainsaws—especially those that sit idly for months between uses—can be notoriously difficult to start.

● To ensure a smoother start, always begin with a fresh gas/oil mixture.

Starting a gas-powered chainsaw with a pull-string is more challenging than manipulating the on/off button of a simple electric chainsaw.

Gas-powered chainsaws with two-cycle engines require a gas/oil mixture rather than gasoline alone.

Chainsaw Size Options

If your main goal is to trim branches, a small chainsaw would probably suffice. Small chainsaws feature a bar chain up to 16 inches in length.

If you plan to carve fallen trees or cut firewood with your chainsaw, a bigger tool would certainly speed up the job. Large chainsaws sport a bar chain of 18 or more inches.

So which size should you get? Keep these points in mind when selecting a chainsaw size.

● A bigger job requires a bigger chainsaw.

● Bigger chainsaws weigh significantly more than smaller chainsaws.

● The weight of your chainsaw plays a key role in how long you can use it during the day.

● A fatigued chainsaw user could inadvertently cause a chainsaw accident.

A bar chain length of 16 to 18 inches should provide the right mix of power and weight to handle most residential cutting jobs.

How Much Should You Pay for a Chainsaw?

Chainsaw prices vary widely from model to model. Larger chainsaws tend to demand a higher price, as do units with more power.

Electric Chainsaw Prices

The price for a small electric trimmer chainsaw could dip as low as $50. Electric chainsaws with the highest power cost as much as $400. In general, battery-powered chainsaws cost more than corded chainsaws.

Gas-Powered Chainsaw Prices

Gas-powered chainsaws cost more than electric chainsaws. Even a small gas-powered chainsaw fetches around $150. High-end gas chainsaws for residential use may cost up to $600. And if you're looking for a commercial-grade chainsaw with exceptional power, you can expect to pay $1,000 or more.

Electric chainsaws require less maintenance than gas-powered chainsaws.

Ongoing Chainsaw Costs

As an owner of a chainsaw, you're bound to incur some ongoing costs, such as gas/oil mix, electrical power for operation, and bar chain oil for lubrication.

You should expect to pay occasional maintenance and replacement part costs too. The chain must be periodically sharpened and/or replaced. Replacement chains run from $20 to $40, depending on the model. You might also need to buy a replacement bar, which can cost $30 to $50.

Expect to perform maintenance on your chainsaw after every six to eight hours of operation.

Chainsaw Safety Features

Chainsaws offer a variety of safety features, but not all of them are available on every model.

We recommend choosing a chainsaw that offers a broad range of safety features. Some of these additions may slow your work a bit, but safety takes precedence with these powerful machines.

Antivibration: Many newer chainsaws offer an anti-vibration feature. Rubber bushings or metal springs surround the handles, reducing vibration and increasing user comfort. This feature also enhances safety by reducing user fatigue.

Chain brake: The chain brake is a large lever you can easily press with the back of your hand or forearm. When pressed, the brake immediately stops the chain from spinning. The chain brake conveniently rests along the top of the chainsaw near the upper handle.

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Always Use Chainsaw Safety Features

Always activate the chain brake before you start the chainsaw.

Additional Chainsaw Safety Features

Chain catcher: The chain catcher is a small metal tab that juts horizontally from the bottom of the chainsaw housing. As the chain snaps backward, the chain catcher snags it, protecting the operator from injury.

Chain tension: During use, a chainsaw's chain heats and expands slightly. As such, the chain will loosen over time. You'll want to tighten the chain every 10 minutes or so of operation. Chainsaws have a tension dial, wheel, or key that you can use to adjust tightness.

Dual handles: To simplify operation, most chainsaws have two handles. One handle sits toward the back, near the trigger. The second handle, situated on top, allows the user to easily guide the chainsaw.

Dual trigger: When operating a chainsaw with a dual-trigger design, you must press a lever before activating the trigger. When the chain begins to spin, you can then release the lever. This prevents accidental starts that could result in injury.

With two handles, you can support the weight of the chainsaw with both arms during use.

Chainsaw FAQ

Q. What type of safety gear should I wear when using a chainsaw?
A. We recommend the following:

  • Wear thick clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible.
  • Wear thick work boots with a gripping tread. This is especially important if you're cutting in the winter.
  • Wear a helmet, goggles, and ear protection. This gear plays a vital role in your safety and well-being when you use a chainsaw.
  • If you choose, you could also purchase cut-resistant chaps and gloves designed specifically for chainsaw use.

Q. What are some tips for cutting large logs safely?
A. Grip the chainsaw firmly with two hands before engaging the chain. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, taking care to evenly distribute your weight between your feet. Maintaining balance is important, as you run the risk of stumbling and falling if you lose your balance while working the chainsaw.

Don't cut branches that hang higher than your shoulders, and don't make cuts while standing on a ladder. Avoid using just the tip of the bar, as the chainsaw could kick back violently as you cut. Use the chain brake to fully stop the chain before moving your body or setting the chainsaw down.

Q. What are some of the best chainsaw brands?
A. You may wish to purchase a chainsaw from a well-known manufacturer, as you'd probably have an easier time finding a service center and replacement parts for it down the road.

The best chainsaw brands include BLACK+DECKER, Craftsman, Echo, Earthwise, Hitachi, Husqvarna, Makita, Poulan Pro, Stihl, and WORX. Some of these companies make only electric chainsaws; others make only gas-powered models. Still, others make both.

Q. What length of bar chain should I use?
A. The larger the job, the longer the bar chain should be. So if you're cutting small- to medium-size trees for firewood, a bar chain of 16 or 18 inches would probably suffice. Electric chainsaws usually offer bar chains in lengths of 12, 14, and 16 inches. These lengths are adequate for simple trimming jobs and felling small trees. If you don't mind lugging an extra-heavy chainsaw, you might consider a bar chain of 20 inches in length or more. (Commercial-grade chainsaws can have bar lengths of 30 inches or longer.)

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