Buying Guide: Best Chainsaw for Homeowners for Firewood, Milling, Carving and More!

Selecting the right chainsaw for home use can seem overwhelming. With so many options and features, it can be hard to know what you need and what will work best for you.

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This guide aims to help you find the best chainsaw, walking you through the types of chainsaws available, what guide bar length you’ll need, and what features you should look for, plus a few other tips to help in your search.

Our Chainsaw Ratings At-A-Glance

chainsaw chart ratings

Rated: Best Electric, Battery and Gas Chainsaws for the Money (2017)

our rating is based on value and quality for chainsaw use around the home
MODELPOWEROUR RATING
Husqvarna 966048324 460 24-Inch 60cc Rancher Chain Saw
Husqvarna 966048324 460 24-Inch 60cc Rancher Chain Saw
Gas9.1 Stars (9.1 / 10)
BLACK+DECKER LCS1020 20V MAX Lithium Ion Chainsaw, 10
BLACK+DECKER LCS1020 20V MAX Lithium Ion Chainsaw, 10"
Battery8.7 Stars (8.7 / 10)
WORX 18-Inch 15.0 Amp Electric Chainsaw with Auto-Tension, Chain Brake, and Automatic Oiling – WG304.1
WORX 18-Inch 15.0 Amp Electric Chainsaw with Auto-Tension, Chain Brake, and Automatic Oiling – WG304.1
Electric8.9 Stars (8.9 / 10)
Earthwise CS30116 16-Inch 12-Amp Corded Electric Chain Saw
Earthwise CS30116 16-Inch 12-Amp Corded Electric Chain Saw
Electric9.1 Stars (9.1 / 10)
GreenWorks 20312 G-MAX 40V 16-Inch Cordless Chainsaw, 4AH Battery and a Charger Included
GreenWorks 20312 G-MAX 40V 16-Inch Cordless Chainsaw, 4AH Battery and a Charger Included
Battery8.9 Stars (8.9 / 10)
Poulan Pro 967084601 Handheld Gas Chainsaw, 16
Poulan Pro 967084601 Handheld Gas Chainsaw, 16"
Gas9.1 Stars (9.1 / 10)
Black & Decker LP1000 Alligator Lopper 4.5-Amp Electric Chain Saw
Black & Decker LP1000 Alligator Lopper 4.5-Amp Electric Chain Saw
Electric9.5 Stars (9.5 / 10)
BLACK+DECKER LCS1240 40V MAX Lithium Ion Chainsaw, 12
BLACK+DECKER LCS1240 40V MAX Lithium Ion Chainsaw, 12"
Battery9.1 Stars (9.1 / 10)
Makita UC4051A Electric Chain Saw, 16
Makita UC4051A Electric Chain Saw, 16"
Electric9.1 Stars (9.1 / 10)
Husqvarna 455 Rancher 20-Inch 55-1/2cc 2-Stroke Gas-Powered Chain Saw
Husqvarna 455 Rancher 20-Inch 55-1/2cc 2-Stroke Gas-Powered Chain Saw
Gas9.1 Stars (9.1 / 10)

Types of Chainsaws

Before we dive too deep into the details, let’s review the types of chainsaws that are available. In terms of power source, there are three types of chainsaws: gas, electric, and battery-powered. Gas-powered chainsaws are ideal for heavy jobs, because they provide the greatest amount of power. With no cord attached, it’s easy to move from project to project with ease. They also have a faster cutting speed, meaning you’ll get through bigger branches faster. The downfall with these is that they’re loud, emit pollution (gas fumes), and are heavy. There is also level of maintenance and fuel costs to consider, both of which are higher than electric or battery-powered chainsaws.

Electric chainsaws are fast and easy to operate and are quieter, lighter, and considered safer than gas-powered chainsaws. They are ideal for lighter jobs like felling small trees, cutting limbs, making firewood, and pruning. With no gas to purchase and being easier to maintain, electric chainsaws are much more cost-effective to operate. Plus, they don’t emit any exhaust or fumes you could inhale. On the flip side, electric chainsaws are less powerful than gas-powered saws, so you’ll be limited in terms of the types of jobs your chainsaw can perform. They are less mobile if corded and you’ll be limited in your selection of guide bar length (more on that later).

Battery-operated chainsaws offer all the benefit of electric chainsaws without any cords to deal with. This means you get a light, easy to maneuver machine that is perfect for the same light jobs an electric chainsaw can perform. These chainsaws, like electric chainsaws, are perfect if you live in a residential area or are near schools, hospitals or other places where those around you could be impacted by the loud noise a gas-powered chainsaw emits. You are limited, however, in how long you can work because the batteries only last 20-60 minutes, depending on the size of the job you’re doing as well as the model of chainsaw you choose. If you want a battery-operated chainsaw with less restriction around use time, consider purchasing a back-up battery. These are often available through the same manufacturer as the chainsaw.

What Guide Bar Length Do I Need?

Once you select the type of power source you want in your chainsaw, the next thing you need to look at is the guide bar length. The guide bar is an oval-shaped piece of thin steel that is attached to the motor. The cutting chain goes around the guide bar, powered by the motor. The length of the guide bar is measured from the base of the chainsaw to the tip of the chain. The bar length shows you the size of the active cutting area and the length of wood it can cut in a single pass. You can cut larger wood with a smaller chainsaw, you just may have to do it in two passes. So, when considering bar length, think of the size of wood you’ll be cutting. To be safe, go with a bar length that is at least two inches longer than the largest piece of wood you want to cut. If you’re a homeowner doing light cutting as a part of overall yard maintenance, look for a bar length of 14 inches or less. If you know you’ll be cutting bigger pieces on your property, look for guide bar length of 16 to 20 inches long. Anything longer is considered professional-grade and you’ll need to look at an entirely different type of saw.

Aside from the size of the work you’ll be doing, you also need to consider your own strength when deciding on guide bar length. The longer the bar length, the more difficult the chainsaw is to maneuver. There is a greater risk of fatigue as well, since the longer bar length equals a heavier saw, and a tired operator can lead to a higher risk of injuries. Longer bar lengths also have greater kickback, which makes them more challenging to handle.

Features To Look For

Chainsaws have a lot of other features, besides guide bar length, for you to consider when selecting the right chainsaw. Some chainsaws offer anti-vibration features, which reduces the amount of vibration made by the chainsaw so you’re more comfortable while using it, especially helpful longer jobs. If you’ve decided on a gas-powered saw but are still worried about noise levels, consider adding a muffler, which will dampen the sound emitted by the saw. Mufflers often come with a spark arrestor screen, which prevents sparks from escaping; a great feature if you’ll be doing work in the woods because it reduces the possibility of starting a forest fire.

Some chainsaws also offer features intended to increase the safety of the machine. An automatic chain oiler not only provides the convenience of not having to oil the chain yourself, it also provides constant lubrication to ensure safe cutting. Bumper spikes can help stabilize a chainsaw and a right hand guard will prevent injury from a broken or derailed chain. A stop control allows for easy and immediate shut-off of the chainsaw, especially helpful if you run into trouble and need to turn off the saw quickly. If you’re worried about the potential dangers of kickback, look for a saw that has an inertial chain brake. This feature senses the rotation of a typical kickback and automatically engages the brake when that happens. The brake is then engaged much faster than a manual chain brake, which increases the safety of the machine and its user. A throttle lock is another safety-enhancing feature to consider. This lock prevents accidental throttle operation by requiring you to push the throttle lock button prior to operating the throttle.

If you think you’ll be doing a lot of work with your saw in freezing temperatures, there are a few features you’ll want to consider to ensure your saw is operating optimally. The first is a heated carburetor. This should be considered an essential feature for sub-zero temperature operation, since it prevents your chainsaw from freezing up. The second feature is heated handles. If you’ll be using your chainsaw for extended periods of time in freezing temperatures, you may want to consider this feature. Keep in mind, however, that this feature is usually available only on high-end professional models.

Finally, there are several features that can increase the convenience and efficiency of your chainsaw. An adjustable oil pump allows you to manually adjust the oiling system of your guide bar and cutting chain, which provides maximum lubrication and also reduces oil waste. Having a built-in circuit breaker will prevent the motor from burning out if you push the saw a bit too hard. Tool-less chain adjustment means you can easily change the chain’s tension or put on a new chain or guide bar without using tools. Spring-assisted starting makes the chainsaw easier to start. If you’re going with a gas-powered saw, look for a tool-less air filter and spark plug cover plate, which provide fast, easy access to the saw’s air filter and spark plug. Also consider quick release gas and oil filler caps, saving you time and trouble, since you can easily refuel or add oil without having to get out your tools. An exhaust air-cleaning system cleans the air before it reaches the filter, which extends the life of your air filter. For either type of chainsaw, consider purchasing a carrying case. This will help protect and extend the life of your chainsaw.

Other Considerations

There are a lot of features to think about when selecting a chainsaw. Consider these four things when thinking about what features you need.

Maintenance

How easy is the chainsaw to maintain? Do you consider yourself a person who could easily pick-up chainsaw maintenance, or do you want that to be less of a complication? Remember that gas-powered chainsaws require more maintenance than electric or battery-powered.

Weight

We’ve talked about bar length as a factor in selecting the right size chainsaw, but weight is another factor. Consider not just the initial weight of the saw when you pick it up, but also whether you could maintain holding that weight for twenty, even thirty minutes or longer. User fatigue can lead to accidents, so choose a weight that you are sure you can manage for the length of the job you need to perform.

Safety Features

We reviewed a few of those above, but look at these features when you’re trying out chainsaws. How easy is it to engage the chain break? Does the hand guard provide adequate coverage for your hand? Can you easily reach the stop button while operating? Since things can go wrong quickly when using a chainsaw, having these safety features easy to access and use is essential.

Ergonomics

Finally, be sure to consider the basic ergonomics of the chainsaw. How does the saw feel when you hold it? Does it fit well in your hands? Is it comfortable to hold? Does it feel balanced? Turn it on. Can you handle the level of vibration? Or do you need something with less vibration? The design of the chainsaw is just as important as the features. If it is well designed for you and its intended use, it will work better for you and you’ll feel good using it.

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