So, the yard needs some work. Maybe you have some trees that need to come down or just some large branches that need pruning. If you’re thinking about a chainsaw but feeling lost with all the options, you’re in the right place.
My team and I have reviewed the best chainsaws for a variety of needs including yours. We’ve got a quick links to our top picks if you’re in a hurry and detailed reviews below including accessories you’ll need. If you’re not sure what type of chainsaw is right for you, we’ve also put together a buyers guide to help you make the best choice for you.
Quicklinks to Contents
Our Top 5 Best Chainsaws for a Variety of Needs
Chainsaw Buyers Guide
It used to be that there were few chainsaw options. I mostly remember different flavors of heavy, gas chainsaws that leaked oil everywhere and made enough noise to wake the dead. Luckily, that’s all changed. There have been big improvement in materials, motors, and batteries that make chainsaws lighter, easier to operate, and longer lasting.
Below is a guide to choosing the right chainsaw for your needs. If you want more detail, check out my full Chainsaw Buyers Guide.
What Will You be Using the Chainsaw For?
Step one with any tool purchase is to be clear about what you’ll be using the chainsaw for. Will you mostly be using it to do some branch pruning around the yard? Will you be cutting down a lot of trees out in the woods? If so, how large are the trees?
The key is to buy a chainsaw that’s right for your needs. There’s no need to buy a heavy, powerful and more expensive gas chainsaw if you’re just doing lighter limbing or demolition work around the yard. On the other hand, a smaller electric chainsaw may not cut it (literally!) if you’ve got a lot of large trees to fell or buck.
Cordless (Battery), Electric, and Gas Chainsaws
Chainsaws come in three basic flavors – cordless (battery), electric, and gas. Cordless (battery) and electric (with a cord) chainsaws are just fine for most people that are doing light or moderate work around the yard. They tend to be less expensive, lighter, quieter, and easier to handle than gas models.
The main drawback is power. They’re not as big and beefy as gas chainsaws and won’t do the job as quickly if you’re felling larger trees. That said, they have more than enough power for most jobs if you’re a typical homeowner.
If you go with corded electric you obviously have to be near an outlet which limits you to within a 100 feet or so of the house. On the other hand, if you go with a battery model, you don’t have to worry about the cord but you do have to deal with battery life and recharging, which we talk more about below.
Cordless chainsaws used to be very wimpy with batteries that would die fast. But batteries are improving quickly and now usually last 1-2 hours or 75-100 cuts (on 4×4 lumber) between charges. Most manufacturers offer batteries that plug into their whole line of outdoor tools and equipment such as leaf blowers, pruners, and mowers.
If you do want a cordless chainsaw, the battery is important and will typically give a rating in volts (V) and ampere hours (aH).
Batteries with higher voltage aH are heavier and more expensive. If you’re cutting up a few branches in the yard at a time, a 20V, 2.0 aH battery will be just fine but if you’re heading to the woods to cut smaller trees for a few hours, opt for a higher rated battery (or more than 1).
Brushless Versus Brushed Motors
Brushless electric motors have been around for a long time in things like conveyor belts but have recently started showing up in power tools. Basically, brushless motors adjust to draw just the current they need for the job. For battery models, this means your battery will last longer.
Also, since there aren’t rubbing parts like a traditional brush motor, they tend to last longer. The downside is they’re more expensive to make and add to the cost of the chainsaw. Overall, we’re seeing more and more brushless motors and they’re worth it if you’re willing to spend a little extra. If you want all the details on the differences, Popular Mechanics has a great write up here.
Chainsaw weights vary greatly from as low as 6 pounds to more than 20. This might not sound like a big difference, but believe me it is when you’ve been using it for an hour or more. If you’re looking for really light, electric models are usually your best bet, though some cordless are pretty close as well.
The bar is the part of the chainsaw the chain wraps around. Bars come in a wide variety of lengths ranging from 10 inches all the way up to a whopping 59 inches for extreme felling use (really for professoinals). For most light or moderate uses, a 12-14 inch bar is plenty. Even if you’re only pruning and a 10” blade would work, you might be glad to have the extra couple of inches of reach. The general rule of thumb is to take the largest tree or limb you’re planning on cutting and add 2 inches to get your bar length. So, if the largest tree you plan to cut is 10 inches across, get a chainsaw with a 12 inch blade.
All new chainsaws come with chains so it’s not generally something you need to think about unless you’re going to be doing a lot of cutting. They come different lengths to match the bar length, different pitches (3/8 inch is most common) and different gauges. The important thing to know here is to match all of these to your old chain when you need to buy a new one. For the amount of cutting most of us non-professionals use, it will be a long time before you need to do that.
Chain brakes are basically safety levers located just in front of your front handle, where your front hand holds the chainsaw. If the chainsaw kicks back suddenly, the movement or the pressure from your hand will push the lever forward and make the chain stop immediately. It’s an essential safety device. But don’t worry too much about it as they’re included on every chainsaw made these days.
Maintaining the right tension on your chain is also important to keep it cutting at its best and also to keep the chain from coming off. Some models still require a wrench to do this but many newer cordless and electric models let you do this by simply turning a knob. Much more convenient, believe me.
The Best Chainsaws for a Variety of Needs
This is our top pick for an affordable, cordless chainsaw. Even chainsaw newbies will love the ease of use, comfortable design, and especially the light weight. It’s one of the lightest chainsaws on the market weighing in at just 6 pounds without battery. Believe me, your arms and shoulders will appreciate this after an hour of cutting!
It has several nice features that are a real plus like a safety lever so you can’t accidentally pull the start trigger. It also has a tool-less chain tensioner. No more messing around with a wrench. Just turn the knob and the chain is tight again. The clear oil reservoir makes it easy to see when your chain oil is running low.
Sometimes low weight and affordable also mean wimpy and cheap but that’s not the case here. The battery lasts for a solid 1-2 hours of cutting. Most of us wear out before the battery does! And, it has plenty of power for cutting down even smaller trees. If you’re looking at slightly larger projects, Greenworks offers a 14” and 16” version with a longer battery life but this is probably more than most people need.
Greenworks is a newer brand in the space focused on cordless tools and outdoor equipment. They’ve made waves with some of the most popular offerings in the tool industry powered by strong battery technology as you’d expect.
If you’re on a budget but still want a dependable model that can handle light and moderate cutting, take a look at this excellent electric (corded) chainsaw. It’s easy to set up and use like most electric models but comes with a 16” blade which is longer than most less expensive models. This gives you extra reach which is a plus when you’re pruning. It’s also got a 14.5 Amp motor which is at the upper end of electric chainsaws and comes with a 3-year warranty.
The saw comes with a tool-less tensioner (what us regular folks call a “knob”). This is much easier than models that require a wrench. Chains tend to loosen frequently when you first use them, so make sure to tighten the tensioner regularly, especially at the beginning. It has auto oil lubrication and a window indicator so you can tell how full it is. Some users note it seems to run through a lot of bar oil so you’ll want to make sure you don’t let it run dry.
You’ll also want to make sure you get a 12 gauge extension cord that can handle the amps. I recommend the Southwire 12 gauge which has excellent quality and is beefy enough to handle outdoor use and chainsaw power demands. When you’re weighing in cost of an electric chainsaw compared to a battery powered model, make sure to factor in the extension cord too.
Let’s look at the other end of the range. If you’re looking for serious power, quality, and reliability to handle larger jobs and more frequent use, the 455 Rancher is our top pick. It’s got a robust 55.5cc motor capable of generating 3.49 HP which is enough for anyone who’s not a professional logger or arborist. The motor combined with a standard 20-inch bar is more than enough to handle even the harder hardwoods like maple, oak, and ash. And if it can handle those, you know it’ll cut through softwood like butter.
We should add the Husqvarna is one of the most reputable brands in chainsaws and power equipment. And this saw is Husqvarna’s most popular model. Husqvarna is one of the top choices for professionals so it will definitely work for even heavy home or ranch use. Husqvarna released their first chainsaw in 1959 and has been an innovator in designing features like anti-vibration technology and chain-brakes.
But all this power, reliability, and brand name comes at a price. Like most gas models, it’s going to be slightly heavier at 13 pounds. You don’t need to be burly to handle it, but you do need to be reasonably fit with healthy joints. Of course, if you’re looking at doing the kind of work this saw can handle, you need to be fit and healthy no matter what you pick.
It’s also fairly loud like all gas chainsaws, generating 104 decibels at the operator’s ear. So, if you go this route, invest in the recommended hearing protection as well.
If you’re sold on the benefits of cordless but are looking for a quality brand with more lasting power, this may be the one for you. It’s got a brushless motor which we discuss more below. This means more efficiency and longer battery life. The downside is you pay a bit more.
It uses the standard 18V batteries that are standard on a wide range of Makita tools and is built to take two for a solid 36V of power. This is a similar power output to a smaller 32cc gas chainsaw. One of the most attractive features of the Makita is that you can buy it bundled with 4 5.0Ah batteries for not much more than you’d pay for the batteries alone. This would give you literally hours of cutting time. We explain batteries more below.
Perhaps the biggest complaint on this model is the auto-off feature on the on/off switch which turns the chainsaw off automatically if it’s not used for a few minutes. If you’re used to gas chainsaws which you can leave idling as long as you like, this can be annoying like having to restart your car after every red light. But, if you don’t have that habit, it’s a good safety feature and one you get used to pretty fast.
Makita is one of the most reputable names in power tools and you’ll find their tools on professional job sites everywhere. They actually started as an electric motor sales and repair company in the early 1900’s and launched their first cordless tools in the 1970’s. If a long track record and professional use matters to you, Makita is a good brand to pick.
If you’re just pruning branches and aren’t planning on cutting down anything larger than a sapling, the Limb N Trim might be all that you need. It’s got a small 8 amp motor but that’s more than enough for limbing and the smaller motor makes it extremely light at just over 6 pounds, one of the lightest on the market. It’s also got a nice 14” bar to give it a decent amount of reach and it’s also very affordable.
One negative that comes up is the stock chain that tends to dull really quickly. This may be partly due to the chain oiling system that requires you to push a bulb manually. It’s not automatic like many other saws. If you don’t do this often enough, the chain will go dull quickly.
Remington isn’t as big a name as Husqvarna but they’ve actually been around since the 1920’s and in the chainsaw business since the 1950’s so you’re getting a long-lasting company behind the product.
If basic pruning is your goal, you might also want to consider the Worx JawSaw which offers great control, lets you cut directly on the ground, and can handle limbs up to 4 inches. If you have to reach further for your pruning, consider the Greenworks 8.5 Foot Cordless Pole Saw.
Chainsaw Accessories You’ll Need
Bar and Chain Oil
Whatever kind of chainsaw you get – cordless, corded, or gas – you’ll need bar and chain oil to keep it running smoothly and not wear out your chain. Don’t confuse this with the engine oil you mix with gas to run a gas chainsaw, not the same thing. Some old hands might tell you that motor oil is fine for chains but it’s not as tacky meaning it won’t stick as well and you’ll kill your chain faster. In short, protect your investment with real chainsaw oil. Two of of the best chainsaw bar and chain oils are from Husqvarna, one of the biggest names in chainsaws, and Oregon, one of the biggest names in chains.
Gas Can for Gas Chainsaws
Gas chainsaws run on a mix of unleaded gas and two-stroke oil. If you want to mix this yourself, you’ll need a gas container of course. Any compliant gas container will work but we like the Garage Boss. It’s just the right size and has an easy to use press and pour spout.
Engine Oil for Gas Chainsaws
For two-stroke oil we recommend oil from brand names in chainsaws like Husqvarna High Performance Synthetic Blend, though you can use other two-stroke oil for air-cooled engines. Just make sure it’s not two-stroke oil for outboard engines which will typically be labeled as “marine” or “outboard”. And remember, chain oil is not the same as engine oil.
Pre-Mixed Gas/Oil Fuel for Gas Chainsaws
If you don’t want to hassle with gas cans and mixing, you can also buy pre-mixed gas/oil fuel from Husqvarna Pre-Mixed Two-Cycle Fuel. This is premium, high octane fuel, with no ethanol so it won’t foul up your caburetor over time. It also has fuel stabilizers so it can sit for a long time without breaking down.
Outdoor Extension Cords for Electric Chainsaws
This might be obvious, but don’t forget the extension cord if you choose electric. It’s important to get a rugged outdoor-rated extension cord that’s at least 12 gauge, capable of handling the current that most chainsaws draw. We recommend the Southwire Outdoor Extension Cord which comes in lengths from 25 to 100 feet and is a real contractor-grade product with a beefy vinyl outer layer and lighted end to let you know it’s plugged in. It’s also made in the U.S.A.