Table of Contents
- Everything You Need to Know About Buying Chainsaws
- Types of Chainsaws
- What To Consider When Choosing Between Different Chainsaws
- Notable Chainsaw Brands to Consider
- Find the Chainsaw With Optimal Performance During Heavy-Duty Tasks
The chainsaw forms the basis of nearly any landscaping initiative. Yes, it can be complemented by pole saws, but nothing quite matches the versatility of this workshop essential. Among the most trusted power tools, chainsaws can fell trees, groom foliage, and even sculpt impressive works of art. They’re relied upon for both personal and professional projects. Novices and experts alike use them to great effect.
Despite their obvious importance, these tools are often purchased haphazardly. Consumers who dedicate hours to researching other household essentials have been known to buy chainsaws on a whim. This approach is understandable; chainsaws are easy to purchase at major home improvement retailers and online. Unfortunately, sudden purchases can lead to disappointing or even disastrous results. Here, you can read a chainsaw buying guide to learn the ins and outs of which chainsaw to purchase.
Ryobi P549 18V One+ Brushless 12″ Battery Chainsaw
While many people buy chainsaws without doing their research, other customers find themselves paralyzed by the wealth of options currently available. The chainsaw market is vast, so narrowing down long lists of brands and models can feel overwhelming. To expedite the process, we’ve compiled this buying a chainsaw guide.
On the hunt for a chainsaw that does it all? Keep reading for valuable insight into the main categories and brands currently available, as well as tips for finding a chainsaw that meets your unique needs.
Everything You Need to Know About Buying Chainsaws
A chainsaw may not be the most expensive tool you rely on for landscaping purposes, but it’s arguably one of the most important. Many options are available, these days, so there truly is something for everyone.
The many models of chainsaws prompt some noteworthy challenges, however — especially for chainsaw novices. Choosing the right model can be tough when you don’t know a lot about how these power tools function or what makes one preferable to another.
We’re here to help. Keep reading to learn more about the key components that play into chainsaw selection:
Types of Chainsaws
Chainsaws are more diverse than you might think. In all likelihood, however, your conception of the “standard” chainsaw involves a gas powered model. This can be an excellent option, but corded electric and battery chainsaws may also be worth considering.
We’ve highlighted the main differences between these categories below:
Corded Electric Chainsaws
Many consumers are skeptical of corded chainsaw models. This is to be expected; corded designs are, by nature, less mobile than cordless models, and therefore, less versatile. Still, they provide a variety of compelling benefits, particularly for novice users looking to avoid complex maintenance requirements.
Pricing is also favorable, with electric models often costing far less than their cordless counterparts. Additionally, fans of corded electric chainsaws rave about their favorite tools’ consistent power output.
- Powerful performance: 15A electric chainsaw with integrated self-sharpening system (PowerSharp). The perfect chainsaw for homeowners and DIY, with long-lasting 18-inch guide bar
- Built-in PowerSharp self-sharpening system minimizes downtime by sharpening your chain in 3 to 5 seconds. Ergonomic design features Chain Brake for safety. Lightweight design.
- Tensioning without tools: Allows you to adjust your chain quickly and easily so that you can maintain the perfect tension, for the ideal cut, with next to no maintenance
- Instant startup: Corded electric chainsaws gets to work immediately. Low noise: makes less noise than a gasoline chainsaw. No assembly required, chainsaw comes pre-assembled. UL Certified & comes with 2-year warranty
- Automatic lubrication: Automatic oiling system that provide continuous lubrification to the bar & chain from the oil tank. It keeps the chain lubricated for less friction, to extend the life of your chain even in harsh environments
Gas Powered Chainsaws
As a traditional chainsaw solution that has remained popular through the years, the gas powered setup remains a great approach when you want maximum power and mobility.
If you’re already comfortable with gas powered tools, you’ll probably be inclined to purchase another rather than start fresh with an electric or battery-operated model. Beginners, however, may be disappointed to discover that gas powered chainsaws are more difficult to maintain. Efficiency is also a common source of frustration.
- HIGH OUTPUT CRAFTSMAN ENGINE with 16-INCH BAR & CHAIN: 42cc full crank Craftsman 2 cycle engine provides greater power and less vibration. Premium 16-Inch bar and low-kickback chain cuts through even the toughest wood quickly and easily.
- LIGHTWEIGHT DURABLE POLY CHASSIS: Easy to Handle, lighter in weight, without sacrificing power. This polymer chassis is engineered for reliable performance and prolonged use, with minimal user fatigue.
- EASYSTART TECHNOLOGY: Designed for quicker, smoother and easier pull starts. Get right to work on lawn care, yard work, wood slicing, and other outdoor projects.
- ADJUSTABLE AUTO CHAIN OILER with EASY VIEW: Maintains the proper amount of lubricant on the chain and allows the user to manually increase or decrease oil flow, keeping the proper amount of lubricant on the chain.
- ERGONOMIC BALANCED DESIGN: 3-point anti-vibration system and a comfortable handle makes this chainsaw more balanced, maneuverable and comfortable to operate. Maintain command and comfortability for optimal performance.
Battery Powered Chainsaws
Offering the mobility of a gas powered chainsaw along with the straightforward maintenance of a cordless model, battery solutions are worth examining when you’re not willing to compromise. This category has evolved considerably in recent years. Several elite brands have successfully demonstrated that battery chainsaws can be far more powerful and practical than skeptics realize.
- Cordless chainsaw comes with low kick back 12-inch bar and chain for construction and outdoor cutting applications
- Compact, lightweight design (just 9 lbs. with battery) of the battery chainsaw for maximum user control
- High-efficiency brushless motor of the battery powered chainsaw maximizes runtime and motor life
- Up to 90 cuts per charge on 4x4 pressure treated wood (using a 20V MAX* 5Ah battery)
- Tool-free chain tensioning and bar tightening knob for proper bar clamping force
What To Consider When Choosing Between Different Chainsaws
Now that you know about the different types of chainsaws and understand what, exactly, sets gas, electric, and battery models apart, it’s time to take a closer look at the specifics. First, however, you’ll want to define your goals for using your chainsaw.
Which projects do you intend to complete? How often will your chainsaw prove necessary? Sketch out your ideas and compare them with anyone else who might make use of this important power tool.
Next, highlight a few adjectives that convey your priorities in a chainsaw. Examples might include:
Obviously, no single chainsaw model is going to appeal to every type of homeowner or professional. Still, certain qualities tend to get a lot of attention, including several of those indicated by the adjectives listed above.
Ultimately, you’ll need to make a few tradeoffs, as the very features that make one chainsaw ideal for one user may prove problematic for someone else. For example: you might love the idea of a lightweight chainsaw, but this will arrive at the tradeoff of lesser power and limited cutting capabilities. On the other hand, if you want a professional-grade chainsaw, be prepared to wield a larger, heavier model.
Starting to feel overwhelmed? This process isn’t as complicated as you might think. Often, when you identify just one or two priorities, your selection will considerably narrow down. Here’s what to look for when buying a chainsaw:
Power Source and Fuel Tank Capacity
As we’ve discussed, chainsaws can be powered by gas, electricity, or batteries. Capacity is an important consideration for all three categories.
With a gas model, a decent-sized fuel tank is needed to keep you working as long as you’re willing. Still, excess is possible; the larger the fuel tank, the more difficult it will be to maneuver your chainsaw.
While fuel tank size can vary to some extent, it’s typical for this to accommodate around half a liter or just over one pint of fuel. Some models can handle more, however, while smaller styles may hold a mere quarter liter.
With batteries, the definition of a “desirable” capacity is changing all the time. Constant technological breakthroughs mean that battery-powered chainsaws can provide exceptional power for far longer than the consumers of yesteryear could have ever imagined. DeWalt’s FlexVolt batteries, for example, provide several dozen cuts per charge.
Your chainsaw may be fun to use out of the box, but a lot of work will go into keeping it functional over time. As we’ve mentioned, however, this largely depends on your preferred power source. Gas chainsaws tend to be more difficult to maintain, as they require constant fuel and oil checks, not to mention mixing. Add carburetors, plugs, and filters to the equation, and you have a lot to handle.
Professionals can take care of all this, but the cost of outsourced maintenance can be prohibitive. Without proper maintenance, however, safety issues abound, including a far greater risk of kickback.
That’s not to say that maintenance is non-existent for corded or battery-powered chainsaws — it just looks a bit different. With batteries, for example, there’s far more involved than mere plug-and-play. The batteries must be stored in cool, safe spaces. The entire chainsaw should be inspected before and after it’s used. Corded models also require strategic storage, as well as general lubrication for the guide bar.
Larger chainsaws may seem more impressive, but they aren’t necessarily better. Depending on the scope of the tasks you intend to complete, a smaller model may actually be preferable. This is why determining your goals for your chainsaw is so important — choose the wrong size, and you’ll find it difficult to safely and comfortably complete desired projects.
Pay attention to the power-to-weight ratio, which determines whether the chainsaw provides enough oomph to justify its size. In most cases, an incredibly powerful chainsaw is going to be a lot heftier, and therefore, more difficult to maneuver. Meanwhile, a smaller chainsaw might be more beginner-friendly or easier for small users to handle. Sadly, these benefits may necessitate significant sacrifices in terms of power.
Guide Bar Lengths
When determining the right fit for your chainsaw, you’ll likely focus on guide bar length. First, however, it’s important to know how guide bars work — and how they’re measured.
The length of the chainsaw bar determines the number attached to the power tool itself. These are always highlighted in even-numbered lengths. For example: a chainsaw listed as spanning 18 inches receives this name due to its 18-inch bar.
Key considerations when choosing a guide bar length include the size of the workspace and the scope of the job. Engine size will also determine preferable guide bar length, as a longer bar will require a more powerful engine.
For beginners, a guide bar of between 12 and 14 inches will typically suffice. This should be accompanied by a 30-40 cc engine. Some novices may feel even more comfortable with a mere 10-inch guide bar. For major tasks, however, medium or heavy-duty chainsaws with guide bars of up to 20 inches may prove necessary.
Chainsaw vibration is, at best, an annoyance, and, at worst, detrimental to your comfort or precision. Thankfully, many models offer solutions for minimizing or practically eliminating incessant vibrations.
Often, this is as simple as physically separating the handle from the engine. Rubber elements may be strategically placed to limit the perception of vibration. Stihl and Husqvarna are among the best-known brands for addressing common vibration concerns.
With chainsaws, the term “tension” refers to how tight the chain is or should be. A chainsaw that lacks proper blade tension will not effectively or desirably operate and may also present major safety hazards.
Unfortunately, there is no true consensus as to what, exactly, constitutes ideal chain tension. Ask ten different experts how tight the chain should be, and you may receive ten different answers.
In general, loose chains should be avoided, as the potential for derailing will be far greater. What’s more, a loose chain will struggle to feed its way into the wood sufficiently, making it necessary to bear down on the guide bar. Excessive tension must also be avoided, as this causes unnecessary wear and tear.
The type of chainsaw you choose may determine how easily you can maintain a proper level of tension. Stihl, for example, has a Quick Chain Adjuster that streamlines an otherwise complicated process.
Measured in cubic centimeters (cc), chainsaw engine size plays heavily into how powerful the model in question can be. More power isn’t necessarily better, although this depends, to an extent, on what you hope to accomplish with your chainsaw.
A general rule of thumb for a residential user with a chainsaw bar length of between 16 and 24 inches: this will best be supported by an engine power of between 30 and 60 cc. This might seem like a wide range, but remember: beginners tackling small tasks are better suited to the lower ranges of these power suggestions, while experienced users with major tasks (such as felling trees) will find more success as they approach 50 or 60 cc.
Chainsaw metrics are important — but in all likelihood, you’ll still need to navigate a wide range of models and brands even after you’ve narrowed down your selection based on sizing and power source. This is where ratings can prove useful. If a particular model regularly receives negative reviews highlighting issues you deem unacceptable, you’ll quickly know to avoid it no matter the price.
Take a close look at customer feedback to determine where weaknesses exist. From there, you can determine the extent to which you’re willing to put up with these issues. Customer service is especially worth looking into, as this may determine whether you’re able to make the most of your warranty or get replacement parts.
Ratings should also highlight the biggest perks to owning various chainsaws. Check to see what consumers think of each model’s ergonomics, noise levels, and general ease of use. Often, models that seem less than impressive based on marketing materials alone fare well with customer ratings — and vice versa.
Factor in Chainsaw Safety
Chainsaw safety should not be neglected when examining top brands and models. Some manufacturers clearly prioritize consumer safety, as evidenced by features such as throttle locks, chain catchers, and kickback guards. Chain adjusting systems can also play into safety — as mentioned previously, an overly loose chain can spell trouble.
Don’t forget to examine chain safety ratings, as many manufacturers will specifically designate which types of chains are better equipped to reduce the risk of kickback. With Stihl, for example, the color green designates a lesser potential for kickback. Meanwhile, products marked with the color yellow may be more hazardous, and thus, best reserved for experienced users.
Once you’ve looked into each safety feature, check each for recent recalls or other alerts. You may be surprised to discover that a model that seems incredibly safe has actually faced considerable issues in recent years.
Prices and Warranties
The price spectrum for modern chainsaws is vast. Many models are available for well under $100, while others require a far higher investment. With elite brands, it’s not unheard of to spend around $300.
When you need professional-quality tools, a little extra spending will get you far better results. As a novice, however, you can probably make do with an entry-level or mid-tier chainsaw in the $100 range.
Of course, what initially seems like an affordable chainsaw can ultimately prove less cost-effective once you take durability, maintenance needs, and warranty coverage into account.
There will ultimately be a tradeoff: if you’re willing to pay a little more upfront, you can typically score a far better warranty. You might not ever need to use that warranty, however, as higher-priced chainsaws are nearly always constructed from better materials and feature superior workmanship.
Still, the potential for three or more years of warranty coverage can be enticing. Some brands even offer extended warranty or care plans that keep your chainsaw covered for a full five years.
Notable Chainsaw Brands to Consider
Brand familiarity can provide peace of mind as you seek a chainsaw that meets your specific needs. Over the years, a few top brands have made their mark by appealing to specific types of consumers. From DeWalt to Craftsman and even Ryobi, these names should be familiar even if you’ve never used a chainsaw before.
Finding a brand that’s well-suited to your preferences should be the first step toward pinpointing the perfect chainsaw for your situation. If you already own other power tools from major manufacturers, this might influence your decision — particularly if you’ve been happy with these investments thus far. If not, do your research to determine which of these names is most appealing:
While not as well-known among American consumers as some of the other chainsaws mentioned in this guide, Husqvarna definitely deserves recognition. This is one of the best chainsaws for the price — especially among consumers who prioritize safety.
Ergonomics are also an obvious priority for this brand, so Husqvarna chainsaws can be used comfortably for long periods of time. Unfortunately, the warranty process can be tough to navigate and many consumers are unhappy with Husqvarna’s customer service.
Don’t be put off by Stihl’s confusing acronyms and numbers, which initially make purchasing a chainsaw seem needlessly difficult. Once you know what to look for, you’ll be impressed by the wide range of models available — and how targeted they are to specific types of users.
Offering MS (gas powered), MSE (electric), and MSA (battery) chainsaws, this trusted German manufacturer provides some of the best weight-to-power ratios in the power tool market.
Other perks include excellent efficiency and, in most cases, straightforward maintenance. That being said, customers sometimes struggle when dealing with the warranty process.
Providing a great middle-ground between affordability and quality, Ryobi is an excellent entry-level option for handling light landscaping tasks. These chainsaws tend to fall short for larger jobs, but beginners are generally pleased by the low prices and ease of use. What’s more, customers are often surprised to discover that Ryobi warranties compare favorably against coverage from competitors at similar price points.
Craftsman has long been a go-to brand for everyday homeowners who prioritize reliability. The brand has evolved considerably through the years, however, and these changes may determine whether Craftsman is a wise choice for your household.
Following multiple changes in ownership, consumers are largely confused as to where and under what circumstances Craftsman’s components are produced.
Currently, the answer is favorable: the company is closely associated with Husqvarna. Take a close look at similar models from Craftsman and Husqvarna, and the design and technology similarities are immediately evident. The price point is far lower for Craftsman products, however, so these chainsaws are a great option for price-conscious customers hoping to stretch their budget.
As one of the most trusted brands in the power tool space, DeWalt deserves a lot of credit for its reliable chainsaws. This is the brand you turn to when you want a chainsaw that will provide professional-level power — and one that will stand the test of time. It’s the epitome of a prestige brand, so it should come as no surprise that the DeWalt name is emblazoned across many landscaping professionals’ most prized tools.
As we’ve discussed previously, FlexVolt technology is one of the biggest perks of sticking with DeWalt — and price is one of the greatest downsides. While DeWalt warranties are some of the best in the industry, the prices may still be too high to justify for many users.
Credited with producing the first fully portable power tool, Black and Decker has enjoyed a strong reputation through multiple generations. These days, it’s mainly regarded as a beginner-friendly brand.
Black and Decker chainsaws are easy to purchase both online and in-person — and they are frequently available at steep discounts. The warranties are decent given the low prices, but durability can be a concern. Thankfully, replacement parts are notoriously easy to find.
Find the Chainsaw With Optimal Performance During Heavy-Duty Tasks
As you can see, no single brand or chainsaw model is ideal for every consumer. This decision requires a lot of thought and research, although your intuition should also be respected. Identify your priorities early on so you know exactly what does and does not work for your situation.
Do your homework, and you’ll have no trouble finding a chainsaw that gets the job done while keeping you and your loved ones safe.