If you want the best chainsaw on the market, there’s only really two brands that you need to choose from; Stihl and Husqvarna. This isn’t just a personal opinion but a generally agreed upon fact. Ask any expert and you’ll hear one of those names in return.
The catch, however, is that if for some reason you want the most expensive chainsaw on the market, you’ll probably be looking at those brands too. And to be honest, for the average household user, I’m not entirely sure if they’re worth it.
There’s no shortage of cheaper brands that offer similar levels of power and reliability. Albeit, without quite the same level build quality and design finesse.
On this page, you’ll find a selection of chainsaw reviews detailing tools that are ideal for both the household user and the professional arborist (guy who cuts trees for a living).
The Best Seller
A regular best seller on Amazon (literally number one), the Worx WG303.1 is a perfect example of why the average home owner doesn’t really need a Stihl chainsaw.
In terms of build/design quality, it’s probably offers 70% of what a Stihl does. On the other hand, it costs 30% of the price. I will compare it to my favorite Stihl chainsaw next week.
For just shy of a hundred dollars you get:
- The usual benefits of an electric chainsaw i.e. less weight, less noise and zero fumes.
- A 16 inch guidebar powered by a 4.5 Amp engine.
- The power to handle logs, trimming, pruning, and cutting most trees/branches that are less than 16 inches in diameter.
- The power to handle larger trees with PATIENCE.
- Tool-less tension change.
- Automatic Oiling
In other words, you get everything you need to take care of the average back yard. And, more than enough power to tackle larger jobs provided you’ve got the patience.
If you’re new to chainsaws, don’t want to spend too much, and don’t want to research too much, this is what you buy.
The Budget Choice
Cheap power tools can sometimes be a case of false economics i.e. it would be cheaper in the long run to buy something that will last longer. In the case of chainsaws, however, you can get some pretty great bargains provided you’re willing to sacrifice on power.
A perfect example of this is the Remington Limb and Trim. Power is a mere 8 Amps (max power is 15) but it still benefits from:
- 6.5 pound weight (lightest chainsaw on the list.)
- Handles hedge trimming perfectly, log cutting effectively (but slower than most), and small branches with ease.
- 4.3 stars on Amazon after 371 reviews. (not an amazing score for a chainsaw but 84% of buyers gave it 4 stars or more).
- A $50 price tag.
For Alligator Fans
Love them or hate them, there’s a reason that alligator chainsaws continue to grow in popularity. They’re lighter. They’re safer. And for log cutting, well, they’re just plain easier to use.
Personally, I recommend the LP1000 by Black and Decker.
Disclaimer: I’ve used a total of three alligator chainsaws in my lifetime i.e. I’m not exactly an expert.
Still, I recommend the LP1000 for the following reasons.
- It features a 4.5 Amp engine and 6 inch guidebar (standard specs for an alligator)
- I’ve personally owned it for it for over 3 years.
- It’s started every single time during that time.
- It does a better job on logs than gas chainsaws that cost 5 times its price.
- It does a better job on pruning provided the branches are less than 4 inches.
- It weights 6.5 pounds.
- It’s backed by 800 reviews on Amazon, scoring 4.7 stars out of 5.
- It’s on the market for $80.
For Hard to Reach Branches
Another alternative to the standard chainsaw design, pole saws are pretty self explanatory. Most trees grow taller than the average man. And the average man should never climb a tree with a fast moving blade.
For cutting hard to reach leaves and branches, they are therefore the only logical solution. Another benefit is that most manufacturers seem to be aiming at the hundred dollar price point.
My personal pole saw of choice is the Remington Ranger. Aside from it’s nice name, it benefits from the following.
- 8 Amp power and 10 inch guidebar.
- Adjustable pole length via flip and lock clamps.
- Saw is detachable for independent operation.
- 1000 reviews on Amazon, 4.4 stars out of 5, 85% 4 stars or more.
- 100 dollar price tag.
It is worth noting however that if you’re happy with an 8 inch bar length and a 6.5 Amp engine, you can purchase the similarily high rated Sun Joe for just $67.
This will be reviewed at a later date.
For the one percent of people that came here looking for a chainsaw for wood working, there are two things that you should know.
First off, starting wood working with a chainsaw is kind of like starting the skill from scratch. With patience however, if you can use an table saw, you can use a chainsaw.
And secondly, you’ll need a something electric, more than likely corded.
Gas is out immediately because why bother? Woodworking has never been about speed. And the screaming motor tends to kill any sense of relaxation that you get from your work.
15 Amps is worth paying extra for. And guidebar length completely depends on what you plan on building.
Personally, my woodworking chainsaw of choice is the Oregon PowerNow. It has 15 Amps, the guidebar length of my preference and it’s a genuine pleasure to use.
Learn more here. Or simply shop around with the above criteria in mind.
Chainsaw Buying Guide
Like most power tools, chainsaws are not an easy thing to shop for. For the first time buyer, the array of moving parts, features, bar lenghts and power levels can be confusing if not downright daunting.
The good news is that once you know the basics, a few reviews is all you really need to make an informed decision. Reviews can be found throughout this site, but first I’ll describe the key chainsaw features that you need to understand.
Arguably the first thing to consider when buying a chainsaw is the guidebar length. The guidebar is the actual saw and it basically dictates what you can and cannot cut. Household models typically range from 6 to 20 inches. Heavy duty models on the other hand top out at around 60. Unless you’re literally a lumberjack, 60 inches is crazy. And if you’re looking at general yard work anything more than 20 inches is completely unnecessary.
After guidebar length, the next logical step is to consider the power source. Chainsaws can broadly be divided into gas powered and electric powered. Electric powered chainsaws, however, can further be divided into corded and cordless (battery powered). And, of course, all three have their own unique set of pros and cons.
|Most powerful of the three.||Generally heavier.|
|Fastest of the three.||Always noisier.|
|Longest bar lengths.||Harder to maintain.|
|Always cordless.||Regular fuel costs.|
|Bad for the environment.|
|Easier to use.||Less power than gas.|
|Lighter.||Max guidebar of 18 inches.|
|Quieter.||Must be plugged in!|
|Almost maintenance free.|
|Easier to use.||Least power of the three.|
|Most portable of the three.||Most expensive of the three.|
|Quieter.||Batteries run out.|
|Almost maintenance free.|
For trimming, pruning and cutting anything less than 6 inches, virtually any chainsaw will do. In other words, choose electric and shop by features, weight, not power. Otherwise take a look at the following table:
Before you head out and buy the most powerful chainsaw that you can afford, keep one thing in mind; increased power invariably means increased weight. I therefore generally advise people to make a list of everything that they want to cut before they buy. And once they’ve done that to simply choose the lightest model that will get the job done. The importance of weight obviously depends on your personal fitness levels too.
I didn’t mention this first because when most people say chainsaw, they mean the original version i.e. two handle, a motor and a big long blade.
If you have a particular job in mind, however, there are two alternatives:
- Pole Saws: Pretty much self explanatory, pole saws consist of a very long pole with a very short chainsaw on the end. Rule number one of chainsaw safety is to keep your feet firmly on the ground at all times. And poles saws can obviously greatly increase your reach. Typically priced between fifty and a hundred dollars, they are aimed directly at homeowners with hard to reach trees and hedges.
- Alligator Chainsaws: Named after the alligator style jaws on the end, alligator chainsaws feel completely different to the standard kind. Instead of simply cutting through a branch, alligators grab the branch and cut in a single motion. Like pole saws, length and power limits are greatly reduced. But they can prove ideal for both log cutting and certain.
Different chainsaws obviously come with different features. Some are genuinely useful. Some are pointless gimmicks. And some are design experiments gone horribly wrong. Here are a few examples, starting with the most important.
- Anti Vibration Features: Pretty self explanatory, these features help to shield your hands and arms from the vibration of cutting wood. This is a particularly important feature on powerful chainsaws and/or those that you plan on using for long periods of time.
- Spring Assist Starting: If you want to buy a gas powered chainsaw, this is pretty much a must have. This will typically cut the force required to start the chainsaw by up to 75%.
- Tool-less Chain Adjustment: This allows you to adjust the tension of the chain with a knob rather than a tool. It’s not mandatory feature by any means but if you plan on tackling different tree types in quick succession, it’s well worth shopping around for.
- Automatic Oiler: Again, not mandatory, but genuinely useful. Adequate oiling is essential for safety, efficiency and the life of your chainsaw. Basically, this feature gives you one less thing to think about.
The number one safety feature of any chainsaw is the person using it. Start doing stupid things and even the safest chainsaw in the world isn’t going to protect you. At the same time however, modern chainsaws come with a wealth of safety features that can offer further protection to the already responsible user.
I’ve listed these in no particular order.
- Chain Break: This is a chainsaws primary defense against kickback. And kickback is among the biggest fears associated with chainsaws. It not only results in you losing control of the chainsaw. More often than not, it sends the chainsaw moving directly in your direction.The chainbreak is designed to automatically cut power to the chain should this occur.
- Front/Left Hand Guard: This provides further protection against kickback by protecting the hand most likely to come in contact with the chain.
- Additional Kickback Protection: Further protection from kickback can be found in the form of certain chain/guidebar designs. Examples include protective links placed directly between the chains teeth and a slimmer tip radius at the end of the guidebar. The downside of this feature is that it does limit the cutting ability of a chainsaw. And as a result, it’s not particularly common either.
- Chain Catcher: The chain catcher does exactly what it promises to do; it catches the chain if it breaks or derails. In other words, it prevents a fast moving chain of blades from heading directly towards your person. Personally, I’d put this in the must have category.
- Right Hand Guard: The Right Hand Guard is primarily designed to protect your right hand if the chain catcher doesn’t do its job. It might seem like overkill until you look at the above diagram again. Personally, I think it’s worth it for peace of mind alone.
- Easily Accessible Stop Control: This should seem like a no brainer. But if a chainsaw designer can forget it (and they occasionally do), then the chainsaw buyer definitely can. Never buy or use a chainsaw that cannot be shut off immediately if you find yourself in a potentially dangerous situation. It should be easily accessible, clearly marked i.e. brightly colored, and easy to pull or push.
As you can see from the info-graphic to your right, chainsaw injuries are both wide ranging and potentially fatal. Any saw has the potential to cause injury. But the hand held nature of chainsaws and the fact that they are generally used outside make them particularly dangerous.
I’ve covered chainsaw safety in depth here. But I decided to include a brief section on the homepage because if you’re a first time buyer, you might want to consider adding a few items of safety gear to your shopping list.
In no particular order of importance, here are a few things worth considering:
- Chaps or cut-resistant pants.
- Cut resistant gloves with excellent grip.
- Strong safety glasses with side shields.
- Slip resistant shoes/boots with a steel toe.
- Ear plugs if you plan on doing anything loud i.e. most chainsaw jobs.
- A hard hat if you plan on cutting anything overhead.
How Much Should I Spend?
For less than a $150, you can find at least ten chainsaws that are reliable, long lasting and capable of cutting just about anybody’s backyard. Unless you need the extra power, don’t pay for it. And unless you cut wood for a living, don’t buy a Stihl or a Huqsvarna. Their superiority is unquestioned. But the average consumer uses their chainsaw once a week.
There are two solid reasons to invest in a Stihl or Huqsvarna. Number one is that your a professional arborist. They WILL make your job easier. Number two is that you want to make a long term investment. It’s not uncommon for these chainsaws to last up to ten years.
Are Chainsaws Safe?
Chainsaws are as safe as the person using them. In other words, provided you buy the safety gear and follow the safety steps, the odds of an accident are slim to none.
Still, most first time buyers don’t exactly like the idea of holding something in their hands that’s capable of cutting off their leg.
In other words, if you’re a little nervous, that’s completely normal. And if that’s one of your primary concerns, here are a few tips:
- Consider an alligator. The intimidation factor is completely removed.
- Stick to electric. Less noise means less stress and they are silent when not actively cutting.
- Buy an extra safe saw. Accident prevention and peace of mind all in one.
What is Kickback?
For first time buyers, this is probably the scariest word that they will read. Kickback typically sends the chainsaw moving swiftly and directly towards the person operating it. In other words, it’s worst case scenario land.
Kickback can occur when:
- The tip or nose of the chainsaw makes contact an object.
- The chainsaw makes sudden contact with a hard object.
- The top of the chain on the guidebar is suddenly pinched.
The primary lines of defense against kickback are careful operation, anti-kickback features and adequate safety gear should the unlikely happen.
What About Maintenance?
Maintenance levels on chainsaws vary massively. Some require regular tune ups. Others require that you store them somewhere safe in between each use.
Here are a few factors that affect maintenance requirements:
- Power source: If you don’t want maintenance, go electric.
- Special Features: These include automatic oil injection and even self sharpening blades.
- General Reliability: Should be self explanatory.
- Ease of chain replacement: Never buy a chainsaw without first checking how easy it is to replace the chain. Chain breaks happen eventually. Some can be replaced in two minutes online. Others require you to jump through hoops with the manufacturer.
I’m not Exactly Fit?
Combine 15kg, regular vibration, and 30 minutes of use. Suddenly, your automatic chainsaw start to feel a lot like manual labor. If you’re worried about fitness levels, or you just want to enjoy yourself while cutting your yard, here’s how to keep fatigue to a minimum.
- Low weight: This is obvious but most people are surprised to learn that some chainsaws weigh as little as x.
- Anti vibration features. All chainsaws have them. They don’t all work.
- Ergonomic design, comfortable handle. Read customer reviews.
I’m not Exactly Experienced?
Chainsaws last a long time. Chainsaws are often bought to tackle a single job. It follows that most chainsaw buyers have little to no chainsaw experience. Here are a few tips:
- Choose the least power that you need, less power equals easier to control.
- Choose the least length that you need, same reason.
- Choose a chainsaw that’s easy to set up i.e. read customer reviews.
Do I Need a Warranty?
As a general rule of thumb, the more moving parts, the more important the warranty. And chainsaws, well, they have a lot of moving parts. Chainsaw warranties tend to range from one to two years. Customer service tends to range from helpful to the very opposite of helpful. This is why it sometimes pays to stick to big name manufacturers.
Who are the Big Name Manufacturers?
The most reputable chainsaw manufacturers by far are Stihl and Huqsvarna. As stated previously however, they are just two out of a pretty big field. Other manufacturers that you can generally trust are Black and Decker (obviously), Remington, Makita, and Worx. For the time being at least, I’ve yet to try a chainsaw from any of these brands and been unhappy with my purchase.