Chainsaws: A Short Introduction
Chainsaws have fast become mainstream tools, with many homeowners adding them to their collection of equipment. But with so many different products on the market, it can be hard to know where to start. Do you need a gas-powered one? Electric? Cordless or battery? Also, how long should the bar be?
In this review, we’ll help you break it down with our best picks for gas, corded and cordless chainsaws. In our buyer’s guide section below, we’ll also discuss the various options you have and why you should consider one type of saw over another. By the end of this article, we’ll also look at some of the most common buyers’ questions in our FAQ section.
So, without further delay, let’s take a look at the leading chainsaws on the market right now.
Top 10 Best Chainsaws In 2021
Best Cordless Chainsaw
1. BLACK DECKER 40V Max Cordless 12 in. (LCS1240)
⤍ Very lightweight & easy to use
⤍ Tool-free chain adjustment
⤍ Great Value
Type: Cordless Electric
Bar Size: 12 in.
A few years ago, it seemed fanciful that our top pick for a chainsaw would be a cordless electric machine. The truth is, however, that these chainsaws have developed massively in recent years, and now offer the best option to most homeowners.
If you are looking to do a small amount of limbing and bucking, trim branches in your yard, or slice up some firewood, then these are the way to go. The clean and hassle-free operation makes them much easier to use, and the electric motor is much quieter.
BLACK DECKER had a long reliable history in power tool production, and their electric tools are among their most popular. With a moderate-sized 12-inch cutting bar and impressive power, the LCS1240 is an excellent all-round cordless chainsaw. Plenty of power is provided by a 40V Lithium-Ion battery, which can easily be switched out on longer jobs.
In designing the LCS1240, BLACK DECKER clearly wanted to make ease-of-use the main focus, adding several helpful features. First up, you have tool-free chain tensioning, which allows simple adjustments using a twist adjuster. Automatic oiling also helps to keep maintenance to a minimum. Weighing in at just 10lbs, this chainsaw is also exceptionally light compared to other cordless options, which helps to reduce arm and shoulder fatigue.
With a very competitive price tag and thousands of happy buyers, the LCS1240 is a great option for most moderate-use homeowners.
Best Corded Chainsaw
2. Oregon CS1500 18 in. Corded Chainsaw
⤍ Powerful corded electric chainsaw
⤍ Quiet operation & easy to use
⤍ Chain sharpening tool built-in
Type: Corded Electric
Bar Size: 18 in.
While cordless electric chainsaws have become more popular, there’s still a place for corded chainsaws. If you find yourself cutting large numbers of logs for firewood, then many buyers appreciate not having to change the battery on their saw, not to mention the cheaper price point.
Oregon has been an industry leader in chainsaws and chainsaw parts of many years and manufactures a number of parts for other firms. The CS1500 builds on their experience and introduces a clever new automatic sharpening feature.
Featuring an 18 in. cutting bar and a 15-amp motor, there’s plenty of cutting power available in the CS1500’s compact form. Noise is significantly lower than a comparable gas chainsaw, making this saw ideal for use in suburban settings. Unlike many electric chainsaws, this unit also comes equipped with bucking spikes to make it easier to work through larger logs.
The main innovation on the CS1500 comes in the automatic sharpening feature. Oregon has integrated a sharpening stone into the saw, and with a press of the lever, you can sharpen the chain in as little as 3 seconds. While it’s not the same as giving your saw a full service, this feature helps you get a quick tune-up and keep cutting while still on the job.
Oregon are leaders in the chainsaw industry for good reason, and when it comes to our pick for the corded saw, the CS1500 was a clear winner. Affordable, innovative, and easy to use – it’s hard to beat.
Best Gas Chainsaw
3. Husqvarna 18 in. 455 Rancher
⤍ Powerful & reliable X-torq motor
⤍ Great safety features
⤍ Professional performance in a homeowner package
Bar Size: 18 in.
For homeowners looking for more power, then gas is the best way to go. While electric saws work well for most back yards, if you are felling trees or using your saw a lot, you need a gas chainsaw.
Husqvarna has long been an industry leader in yard equipment, especially in their chainsaws and trimmers. The 455 Rancher is their most popular saw for good reason, as it offers professional-level power in a compact and reliable package.
With an 18 in. cutting bar and a 55.5cc motor, there’s plenty of cutting power available for taking on all but the largest trees and logs. Featuring Husqvarna’s latest X-Torq technology, the motor offers improved fuel efficiency and increased power. All that means 3.49hp of power in a 13.2lb chainsaw, which is incredibly impressive for machines in this category.
As you would expect from any chainsaw manufacturer, Husqvarna has packed a number of safety features on this saw. An inertia activated brake is the most important, helping to stop the saw if it kicks back at you during use. The engine stop button is located within easy reach of the handle, and the handguard offers an additional stop mechanism.
To wrap up, if you’re looking for an outstanding all-round gas chainsaw, you don’t need to look much further than the Husqvarna 455 Rancher. With outstanding power, reliability, and ease of use, this chainsaw is a clear favorite.
4. DEWALT DCCS690M1 20V MAX XR Chainsaw
⤍ High-power cordless chainsaw
⤍ Variable speed trigger
⤍ Powerful brushless motor
Type: Cordless Electric
Bar Size: 16 in.
DEWALT’s DCCS690M1 was a very close runner up in our picks for the best chainsaw. DEWALT needs no introduction really, being one of the largest tool manufacturers in the US and a loyal following amongst industry professionals.
The DCCS690M1 20V MAX XR offers a more powerful package than the BLACK DECKER but comes in slightly more expensive. Powered by a high-torque brushless motor, this cordless chainsaw gives market-leading cutting performance. The larger 16” cutting bar also helps to work through larger branches and trunks that a smaller 12” bar could not handle.
DEWALT also packed a number of great ease-of-use features into this saw, including tool-free tensioning and automatic chain lubrication. The trigger is also variable speed, so you can control the saw much more precisely than simpler on/off models.
Like most electric chainsaws, this machine is exceptionally quiet which makes it a great choice in urban and suburban environments. Buyers who already operate a number of DEWALT tools will also be pleased to see that batteries are interchangeable between this saw and a number of other tools, which helps to make life easy.
For buyers looking for one of the most powerful electric chainsaws out there, then the DEWALT 20V MAX XR is a great choice.
5. Greenworks 16-Inch 40V Cordless Chainsaw
⤍ Affordably-priced 16” chainsaw
⤍ Brushless motor & lithium ion batteries
⤍ Electronic chain brake
Type: Cordless Electric
Bar Size: 16 in.
For buyers shopping for a cordless electric chainsaw on a tighter budget, the Greenworks 16 inch saw is a great option. Greenworks have emerged as one of the leading value electric tool providers in recent years, and this electric chainsaw packs quite a punch for the price.
With a powerful brushless motor and Lithium-Ion batteries, this chainsaw offers plenty of torque to put behind the 16” cutting bar. Brushless motors also produce less vibration, so you’ll feel less fatigue when compared to a traditional brushed electric motor.
Greenworks have also incorporated many of the innovations you would expect to find on more expensive chainsaws. There’s an electronic chain brake for safety, tool-free sharpening, and oiling via an easy to view translucent tank.
Weighing in at 10.5lbs, this chainsaw is also surprisingly lightweight for a 16 in. bar, making it easy to work with and move around the yard. Like all electric chainsaws, there’s a substantial reduction in noise when comparing this saw to a gas chainsaw.
One downside is that although batteries are interchangeable, Greenworks are not as well established as other brands like DEWALT or Makita, so buyers are less likely to be able to use them in other tools. That said, as an affordable cordless chainsaw, the Greenworks 16 in. is a very good choice.
6. Makita XCU03PT1
⤍ Extremely powerful cordless saw
⤍ Heavy compared to the competition
⤍ Uses twin 18V Makita batteries
Type: Cordless Electric
Bar Size: 14 in.
Our final cordless chainsaw pick comes in the form of the XCU03PT1 from Makita. Makita has a very loyal following amongst industry pros for their power tools, and it’s great to see them spread into garden equipment.
Unusually, this saw uses twin 18V batteries for 36V of power – rather than a single battery setup. That doesn’t hold back the power however, as the brushless motor in this saw has the power equivalent of a 32cc gas motor.
Equipped with a mid-sized 14” cutting bar and tool-free chain tensioning, this saw is one of the powerhouses of the electric market. It is heavy, however, coming in at 21lbs, making it one of the heaviest chainsaws in this review. As a result, we think it’s best suited to buyers who need maximum performance in the quietest possible package – an application that this chainsaw is perfect for.
Wrapping up, this is really a heavyweight saw for heavyweight applications. While it might not be the best choice for every buyer, for some it will be perfect.
7. Poulan Pro PR4218
⤍ Affordable gas chainsaw
⤍ Large 42cc motor
⤍ Some owners report reliability issues
Bar Size: 18 in.
Poulan Pro is a well-established brand in the US, with a strong track record producing good quality equipment at reasonable prices. While they might not have the swagger of Echo or a Scandinavian brand like Husqvarna, your wallet may thank you for choosing them.
This chainsaw has one of the largest motors in the review, coming in at 42cc. That means plenty of power for the 18” blade, which will suit buyers looking for a chainsaw for tree felling applications as well as branch cutting. Poulan Pro has also managed to keep the weight in check for a chainsaw of this size – with the PR4218 tilting the scales to just over 13lbs.
The PR4218 features Poulan Pro’s Oxypower engine technology, which improves fuel efficiency over previous generations. The chainsaw also features a 2-stage air filter which is normally found on more expensive saws and helps to keep dirt and grime away from the engine.
It is worth noting that some buyers have experienced reliability issues with this chainsaw, which you might expect with more value-oriented brands like this one. For buyers who don’t use their saw a whole lot, this could be a great choice, but if you’re a heavy user then take a look at the Echo or Husqvarna.
8. Echo CS-400
⤍ High performance 40cc motor
⤍ Lightweight for its size & power
⤍ Easy-starting technology
Bar Size: 18 in.
Echo is a firm favorite with landscaping pros in the US, and produces an excellent range of brush cutters, string trimmers, and chainsaws. The CS-400 is their mid-range chainsaw, fitting in below their professional range but above their basic trimming saws.
Packing in a 40cc 2-cycle motor, this chainsaw has plenty of power to pass on to the 18” cutting bar. Tipping the scales at 10lbs with an empty fuel tank, it’s also relatively lightweight. Chain lubrication is taken care of with an automated system, which adjusts the quantity of lubrication depending on the cutting conditions.
One of the reasons for Echo’s popularity is that they make maintenance easy, and that is the case on the CS-400. The air filter is designed for tool-free cleaning, so you can access it easily out in the field. The air filtration system in this chainsaw is also a 2-stage design, which uses a centrifugal air filter to ensure any small dirt particles are removed prior to the air entering the piston.
The CS-400 also features an assisted pull-start technology, to make starting worry-free. These systems do make starting noticeably easier for high-performance 2-cycle motors such as the one on this machine, so it’s great to see it included here.
All in all, the CS-400 is a great alternative to the Husqvarna chainsaw. Both saws are fantastic and very popular, and some buyers might prefer one brand over the other.
9. Greenworks 16-Inch 12-Amp Corded Electric Chainsaw 20232
⤍ 14/16/18” bar options
⤍ Powerful 14.5 amp motor
⤍ Cable safety clip
Type: Corded Electric
Bar Size: 14/16/18 in.
We’ve already taken a look at Greenworks’ cordless chainsaw, but in the Greenworks 20232, we have their corded machine. With no battery compatibility problems, this is immediately a much more exciting proposition for owners looking for a corded chainsaw for use in small yards.
Generally, we recommend corded electric chainsaws for buyers who do a lot of cutting close to their homes. This could be cutting firewood or even chainsaw carving.
The Greenworks 20232 chainsaw is available with either a 14”, 16” or and 18” bar, making it suited to a variety of applications. As you would expect from a chainsaw like this, chain tensioning is taken care of by a tool-free mechanism, which allows easy adjustment while you work. Working our way back from the bar, this chainsaw features a sturdy set of bucking spikes for firewood chopping and a very effective chain brake system when the saw is stopped.
Other safety features include an additional safety switch located on the handle and a clever cable crimping system to keep the power cable safely out of the way. The chain oiler is very easy to locate on the top of the chainsaw and can be easily refilled with minimal disruption.
Coming in at a very affordable price point, the 20232 is a great option if you’re looking for a good value corded chainsaw for small yard use. Available in a variety of sizes – there is something to suit every buyer.
10. Makita UC4051A 16” Corded Chainsaw
⤍ Powerful corded chainsaw
⤍ No battery hassle or fuel mess
⤍ Widely respected brand
Type: Corded Electric
Bar Size: 16 in.
Makita is widely regarded for the quality of their tools, and the Makita UC4051A Corded Chainsaw is no exception. While it is a more expensive corded chainsaw option, it delivers many of the benefits of an electric chainsaw combined with the reliability you can expect from a more premium manufacturer.
With a very fast 2900 FPM chain speed, the Makita UC4051A chainsaw is one of the more powerful corded chainsaws. The 16” bar is large enough for light bucking work and makes this chainsaw a very good option for firewood cutting. Lightweight and easy to handle, the saw features sturdy rubberized grips to help you control it with minimal effort.
For buyers who don’t want the hassle of dealing with battery-powered saws, or the mess of gas chainsaws, this is the ultimate in performance. Plug it in, and you’re ready to go. With a powerful motor and solid performance, there’s little you won’t be able to take on.
Features To Consider When Buying A Chainsaw
There are so many different technical features in the modern chainsaw. In this section, we’ll take a look at some of the key decisions you should consider when purchasing your chainsaw. After all, the best chainsaw will be the one that most closely matches your needs – and they aren’t the same for every buyer.
The biggest thing to consider is your power source. Do you want a gas chainsaw, a corded electric chainsaw, or a cordless battery-powered version? Each has its pros and cons, so let’s take a look at each in turn.
When it comes to all-out power, it’s hard to beat a gas chainsaw. They have superior cutting performance, which is why you often see them in the hands of professionals. They also work well in remote places where electricity is not available. The downsides are that they can be messy with fuel and oil, and sometimes have starting issues unless used regularly. They are also loud, which can be a problem in suburban areas.
Next up, we have corded electric chainsaws. These offer additional simplicity that a gas chainsaw cannot give you. No mess, no starting problems, you just plug it in and go. The major downside is that you need to be near a power source, and the cutting power can’t match the most powerful gas saws. Our take? If you are cutting logs in a small yard, these are a great choice. They are quiet, easy to store, work on demand and you will be able to reach power with the cable.
Finally, battery-powered chainsaws sit somewhere between the two. They offer the clean turn-key appeal of the electric chainsaw, without the restriction of the cord. This makes them very popular for trimming in larger suburban yards. These days, they are also powerful enough to fell small trees.
Bar length is somewhat tied to the power of your chainsaw, but it also affects the weight and the ease of use. Smaller bars (16” and under) work very well for trimming branches and light firewood chopping. You’ll find it easy to move the saw around, and transport it with you.
Mid-sized bars (18”) work great for general purpose work and can be used to fell small trees. The longer bar will help you cut through larger diameter logs in one go, but it does make the saw heavier to handle. You will find it more difficult to use for cutting small branches.
Large chainsaws (20” and up) are really reserved for professional users and cutting large trees. They tend to be larger and require big gas motors. Check out our review of commercial chainsaws for more details.
Chainsaw chains stretch during use and therefore require regular re-tensioning. Professional and semi-professional saws achieve this with a tool called a sqrench – which is a half screwdriver, half wrench. You can loosen the bar easily using the tool, re-tension the chain, and then secure the bar.
The extra tool is thought to be annoying by some buyers and isn’t necessary on the smaller chainsaws. With many electric and battery-powered chainsaws, you can now take advantage of tool-free tensioning systems. Our view: if you are doing a lot of cutting with a gas saw, accept you’ll need to use a tool. For occasional electric chainsaw use, tool-free is a nice addition.
Chainsaw chains need to be lubricated as they are used. The cheapest chainsaws (which you only see rarely these days) need to be manually oiled. Almost all now have some form of oil dispenser to drop oil onto the chain automatically as you use it. Look out for an easily accessible oil tank, and one that has an easy-to-read tank level.
More advanced saws, such as the Echo or the Husqvarna have an oiler that adjusts the amount of oil used to match the conditions and the wood you are cutting. This helps them to achieve better cutting performance than their cheaper counterparts.
As you are probably aware by now, chainsaws are dangerous pieces of equipment. Many manufacturers now incorporate several safety features into the saw to reduce the likelihood of injury.
The most important feature is the chain brake feature, which aims to stop the saw fast in an accident. The best saws have an inertial chain brake – that will stop the saw if it moves violently. Some chain brakes are better than others, and generally, the better-quality saws will have better brakes.
Other features to look out for are safety triggers on the grips, which help to stop the saw if it isn’t held correctly. These work well and we highly recommend them. Finally, for battery saws, always make sure you keep the battery away from the saw to prevent children from tampering with it.
For anyone who is using their chainsaw a lot, maintenance will be a concern. Demanding buyers should look for easily accessible air filters, and make sure the chain can easily be removed from the chainsaw for sharpening.
For occasional users, reduced maintenance is one of the main reasons to consider an electric chainsaw. Generally, these machines are much easier to use, and aside from sharpening, oiling, and tensioning the chain, you should be relatively good to go.
Chainsaw Buyer FAQs
What is the best brand of chainsaw?
The best brand of chainsaw is really a matter of personal opinion, but for many people, it will come down to a choice between Husqvarna and Stihl. Both are very widely respected by industry pros and offer a wide range of chainsaws for every type of application.
Observant readers will notice that we did not feature a Stihl chainsaw in this review, because you cannot easily purchase them online right now. In our opinion, that is a major drawback, as you’ll need to find and visit your local dealer to get hold of one. While that might not be a huge problem for many buyers, for most homeowner’s convenience is critical, so we tend to side with Husqvarna.
What is the best chainsaw on the market?
The best chainsaw on the market really depends on what you want to use it for. For tree-felling and demanding home buyers, we rate the Husqvarna 455 Rancher as the best saw available. With power, reliability, and easy usage, it’s a great choice.
For occasional use, buyers should consider the BLACK+DECKER 40V Max Cordless. This battery-powered chainsaw is surprisingly powerful, and without the hassle of gas, you can skip the mess and starting issues. For the more price-conscious buyer, consider the Oregon CS1500. This corded chainsaw offers convenience and turn-key cutting, and a powerful motor to get through larger logs. Not to mention, it’s much quieter than gas!
What is the best size chainsaw for home use?
For all-around home use, we recommend a 16” chainsaw. This is a good size to fell small trees and cut branches. More experienced buyers who are comfortable felling trees may wish to stop up to an 18” saw, which enables more cutting power. For trimming small branches, consider a 14” chainsaw.
Are electric chainsaws as good as gas chainsaws?
It depends on what you mean by good. Electric chainsaws are much cleaner and easier to use and are therefore becoming very popular with some homeowners. There’s no starting issue, no messing with gas, and they do have respectable levels of power.
Gas chainsaws are more powerful, however, and if you need to fell trees or cut lots of wood, then gas is the way to go. Other things to consider are that gas saws are very noisy, and electric saws require you to be near a power outlet or to store spare batteries.