What is the best chainsaw?
There is no better tool than a chainsaw when it comes time for cutting down trees or bucking fallen logs on the ground. Some are even quite versatile and lightweight, designed for trimming and pruning smaller branches, or even for use with carpentry projects.
But, when it’s time to buy one, you have to ask yourself, is this the best chainsaw for me?
The answer to that question mostly comes down to how you’re going to use it. It may also depend on your comfort level with gas-powered tools in general and chainsaws in particular.
Answering ‘what is the best chainsaw’ is up to you, but we’re here to help.
The Best Chainsaws Reviewed
Husqvarna 460 Rancher
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ECHO Timber Wolf
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DEWALT MAX XR
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BLACK and DECKER LCS1020
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Chainsaw reviews shouldn’t be absolute.
There is no single best chainsaw for everyone – that’s why there are so many chainsaws out there!
If you want more options, consider:
- Holzfforma Chainsaws – very cheap but very powerful gas saws
- Stihl Chainsaws – see every Stihl chainsaw since 1950
- The Milwaukee M18 – premium battery-powered saw
You should always start the purchase process by comparing chainsaws and seeing which is best for your specific lifestyle and application. There are trade-offs to account for when considering one over another.
I’ve used dozens of different chainsaws over the past year (besides the 6 or 7 I own myself) and have found they all have their pros and cons.
Each of the chainsaws I’ve shared is the best in its class.
Take one look at the list and you’ll see I’m a big Husqvarna chainsaw fan.
Huskys are one of my favorite chainsaw brands, but they do cost a little more, and not everyone needs a high-powered chainsaw.
This chainsaw comparison will help you figure out which is the best for you.
Remember, the best chainsaw for you will depend on:
- How often you plan on using it
- What you want to do with it
- Your budget
Small and mini chainsaws are another option if these are too big for you.
1. Husqvarna 460 Rancher: Best Gas Chainsaw For Home Use
- Chain Bar Length: 24 inches
- Power Source: Gas
- Weight: 14.5 pounds
The Husqvarna 24 Inch 460R is a serious workhorse with 3.62 horsepower.
If you need a powerful saw for clearing land or cutting up many cords of firewood, this is the best chainsaw.
It features an automatic chain oiler to keep the bar and chain well-oiled during use. That’s a convenient feature that is also a safety enhancement. A poorly lubricated chain or bar could lead to breakage and potential injury to the operator.
It has an integrated, inertia-activated safety brake to stop the chain when not cutting and a side-mounted tensioning system for quick chain adjustments in the field.
The 460 Rancher has a quick-release air filter for easy cleanings or replacement, and while you need a tool to adjust the chain, you can access the side-mounted tensioner easily for quick adjustments.
At its heart is a 60.3cc two-stroke engine. So, you will need to mix two-cycle oil with your gasoline or purchase premixed fuel. It features a long 24” bar for cutting huge logs.
This saw is heavy at 14.5 pounds, a bit expensive, and very noisy. But, it can handle just about any cutting you need to do as a homeowner or rancher. It is the best gas chainsaw.
I have the 450 Rancher and have also found that model to be excellent – it has slightly less power than this one.
- Automatic chain oiler
- Comprehensive safety assurances
- Ergonomic features for added comfort
- A bit pricey and loud
2. Craftsman 42cc S165: Best Gas Chainsaw for The Money
- Chain Bar Length: 16 inches
- Power Source: Gas
- Weight: 21.6 pounds
The Craftsman S165 gas chainsaw is much less expensive than some of the other gas-powered saws in this review.
But, it has plenty of power and comes with features that may surprise you to see on a relatively budget-friendly tool.
The 42cc two-cycle engine is a high-output motor, but finding specs about its total horsepower proved difficult. That’s probably because this saw is a little bit underpowered for one with a 16” bar. It’s likely to get bogged down when making bigger cuts.
But don’t be surprised if this saw ends up handling bigger jobs than you thought it could. It is ready to work with an automatic and adjustable chain and bar oiler.
You can dial in the right amount of oil so that you keep the chain and bar well-lubricated without making a mess.
The side-mounted chain tensioner does require a tool. But, you have tool-less access to the spark plug and the air filter for easy field maintenance.
All in all, this is one of the best Craftsman chainsaws for homeowners on a tight budget and is a good alternative to Stihl or Husqvarna chainsaws.
- Easy to startup
- Low kickback
- Cushioned handle for reduced vibration
- Not as strong as other models
3. Husqvarna 120II Gas Chainsaw: Best Chainsaw for Home Use
- Chain Bar Length: 16 inches
- Power Source: Gas
- Weight: 13.49 pounds
Husqvarna is among the top chainsaw manufacturers globally, so it’s no surprise a few of their models made our list.
The Husqvarna 16-Inch 120II Gas Chainsaw is lighter, easier to maneuver, and features a smaller bar than its bigger brother, the 460R.
But, it still comes with the same high-end features you would expect on a premium saw, like a chain tensioning system, inertia-activated brake, and an automatic chain oiler.
This saw would be ideal for a homeowner who needs to do some cutting around their property but doesn’t need something quite as powerful or as big of a bar. It is still competent, but it is unlikely to handle the rigors of professional work like clear-cutting projects or heavy-duty jobs.
This saw is ideal if you have occasional firewood to cut down to size and some small and medium trees to cut down. Another bonus is that its lighter weight makes it accessible to more users than some heavier saws.
It is about 13.5 pounds, with a 38.2cc two-cycle motor that makes about two horsepower. It’s about half the price of the 460R.
It still has the drawback of the noisy, dirty operation of a two-stroke gasoline motor. You may even have to adjust the carburetor or bring it to a professional if you can’t do so yourself.
But for a homeowner who needs a rugged and reliable gas chainsaw, look no further than the Husqvarna 120II or consider the battery-powered 120i.
- Quality safety features
- Lighter weight
- Easy to maneuver
- Not too powerful
4. DEWALT 20V MAX XR Chainsaw: Best Battery Chainsaw
- Chain Bar Length: 12 inches
- Power Source: Battery
- Weight: 8.8 pounds
The DeWalt 20V MAX XR Chainsaw draws power from a 20 volt, 5 Ah battery.
The battery itself is interchangeable with all the other DeWalt 20V Max tools, so if you have other DeWalt tools in your arsenal, you can easily swap batteries as needed to keep this saw running.
But, you won’t have to worry too much about doing so because the MAC XR is capable of making up to 90 cuts on a single charge of its high-capacity battery.
- A tool-free chain tensioning system,
- An automatic chain and bar oiler
- Weighs less than nine pounds
This saw’s 12” bar perfectly matches its power. It will breeze through smaller logs.
While it may take some time to complete bigger cuts, logs up to 10” in diameter are no match for the MAX XR.
If you’re a gas chainsaw devotee, you may be pleasantly surprised at just how powerful this battery saw is. It also has a 90-day money-back guarantee, so don’t be afraid to give it a shot.
Also, consider the more powerful FLEXVOLT in our DEWALT Chainsaw review.
- Very lightweight
- Pleasantly powerful
- Long-lasting battery
- Shorter chain
- Extra batteries expensive
5. Husqvarna 536Li XP: Premium Battery Powered Chainsaw
- Chain Bar Length: 14 inches
- Power Source: Battery
- Weight: 5 pounds
The Husqvarna 536Li XP is a 36-volt battery-powered chainsaw.
Loaded with features, you would expect to see on a saw from a premium manufacturer like Husqvarna; this saw does not disappoint.
It is about five pounds, so it’s pretty lightweight for a powerful chainsaw, though is best with a 14″ bar. This makes it best for light tree work.
It is quite expensive, especially since it ships without a charger or battery that requires a separate purchase.
The Husqvarna brand is one of the most recognizable in the world of chainsaws. They claim that this saw’s battery allows it to run just as long as a tank of gas would on a gasoline-powered saw.
It also features an inertia-activated chain break for reduced risk of injury from kickbacks and built-in eyelets for attaching a rope to the saw if you need to climb with it.
It’s no Stihl MS200T, but a good battery alternative nonetheless.
- Powerful despite battery
- Good safety features
- Runs a long time on one charge
- Battery and charger not included
6. Black & Decker Cordless Chainsaw: Best Homeowner Electric Chainsaw
- Chain Bar Length: 10 inches
- Power Source: Battery
- Weight: 7 pounds
The Black & Decker Cordless Chainsaw is small and weighs only about seven pounds.
That makes it a top chain saw for quick cuts around your property, and it’s lightweight enough that it can be used by pretty much anyone.
It features a tool-less chain tensioner, so all you have to do is turn a knob to adjust the chain tension. But, you will need to use the built-in manual oiling system to keep the chain and bar well-lubricated.
That’s not a big drawback, though, because all you have to do is keep the reservoir full and press the lubricating bulb a few times when needed to dispense oil onto the bar and chain.
This model builds on the success of a previous version with an 18V battery. The new 20V 2 Ah battery is more powerful and lasts quite a bit longer. But, it doesn’t have the capacity of some heavier duty batteries that can run longer without being recharged.
For bigger jobs, you may need a couple of batteries to rotate.
Are you cutting down a thick rose bush? No problem.
Cutting down a whole stand of small saplings? Easy.
But if you’re going to be cutting up ten cords of firewood or trying to bring down a colossal ash tree infested with the emerald ash borer insect, you’re barking up the wrong tree with this smaller saw.
Keeping its limitations in mind, we strongly recommend this easy-to-use saw for homeowners.
It packs more than enough power for most jobs you will encounter, and it’s lightweight, so it will take less of a toll on you to use it.
- Lightest of all the chainsaws on this list
- Easy-adjust tensioner
- Smooth to handle
- Manual oiling system
7. Oregon CS1500 Electric Chainsaw: Best Corded Chainsaw
- Chain Bar Length: 18 inches
- Power Source: Electric
- Weight: 12.9 pounds
The Oregon CS1500 18 Inch Chainsaw is a serious tool for the homeowner who wants to use electric power instead of gas for their saw.
Like most everything offered from Oregon, it has excellent ergonomics and thoughtful engineering on board. For instance, the molded grips are comfortable in your hand and durable enough to stand up to hard use.
The trigger is large and easy to activate, unlike some machines where you have to hold them just right to use them. You can also make chain tension adjustments without the need for any tools.
The Oregon CS1500 weighs less than 13 pounds, features a 15 amp motor, an 18” bar, and an automatic oil reservoir for keeping things well-lubricated, with a viewing glass so you can quickly check the level of your bar oil.
Plus, it is quiet, and since it’s electric, it makes zero emissions during use. It also doesn’t require any dirty two-cycle oil or as much maintenance as even the best gas-powered saws.
The downside is that the saw needs an electric cord during use, tethering you to it. And, the saw lacks the power to complete massive jobs. But, it has one feature that makes it stand out from the pack: an automatic chain sharpener.
Pull the lever for a few seconds, and your dull chain returns to like-new sharpness. That is a gamechanger for any homeowner.
- Quiet to use
- Zero emissions
- Automatic chain sharpener
- Electric cord
- Low power
Gas chainsaws are the undisputed king of the lumber world.
Their chain cuts the smoothest, they have the most power, and they offer the cordless freedom to roam wherever needed. They are also probably the most versatile.
But, they are also big, heavy, noisy, and require regular maintenance. If you are inexperienced with small motors and outdoor gasoline-powered tools, they might be a bit overwhelming for a novice.
Gas chainsaw engines are measured by their displacement using cubic centimeters (CCs). For instance, the Craftsman S165’s 42cc motor is bigger than that of the 38cc Husqvarna 120 II.
An engine’s displacement has a direct effect on its power. Typically the bigger the motor, the more power it has.
That’s where the term horsepower comes in. The more horsepower a saw has, the faster it can spin its chain, which means you can do more cutting in less time than with a less powerful saw.
Battery Operated Chainsaws
Cordless electric chainsaws also offer freedom of movement.
They don’t usually have that much power, and they’re limited by having to recharge batteries.
That might mean you’ll need to buy additional batteries so you can rotate them from working to charging to keep the chainsaw running. But, they are almost silent compared to their gas counterparts, and they are very lightweight.
They are often the most appropriate choice for homeowners who won’t be using them often, as they require next to no maintenance. It’s hard not to like the portability and ease with which you can use a battery-operated chainsaw.
Corded Electric Chainsaws
Corded electric chainsaws have a plug that needs electric power.
So you’re probably going to need a pretty long extension cord to reach your work area.
And, running the saw could blow a fuse if you end up drawing too much power or running the saw for a long time and generating too much heat in the cord.
But, their lack of transportability is a trade-off against their lighter weight, lower maintenance, and quieter operation.
Corded Electric Vs Battery
Corded chainsaws are a bit of a hassle.
Dragging around an extension cord is literally a drag, and if the cord detaches accidentally, I get quite frustrated. So, I tend to prefer battery power chainsaws for their added convenience and maneuverability.
When choosing an electric saw, remember that corded saw motors rate in amps. The higher the amps, the stronger the motor.
The voltage rating of the battery in a cordless saw tells you how much power it has. Many chainsaws have 18 or 20-volt batteries, while some heavier-duty models have 40 volts.
The capacity of a battery measures how long it can run. For instance, a 2 amp-hour (Ah) battery will need charging sooner than a 5Ah battery.
However, more than anything, I think gas chainsaws are best for most work.
They simply give:
- More power
- Longer run times
- More freedom
Any chainsaw review or chainsaw comparison will likely focus on a couple of features: Bar length and oiling.
Let’s break them down to understand the terms and find the best chainsaw for you.
The weight of a saw is a big factor to consider.
Gas behemoths can handle any job thrown at them, but they are very heavy. Making sideways cuts at shoulder height and maneuvering with them is difficult.
Lighter-weight saws usually don’t have as much power as the heaviest models, but they are much easier to maneuver and take less of a toll on your muscles. Chainsaws do a lot of the work for you, but you still need to carry it and position it for making cuts.
The bar of a chainsaw easily compares to the blade on a knife or a sword.
That’s where the cutting action goes down. The bar is the guide for spinning the saw’s chain, as it is turned by the motor and sprocket.
Some professional saws have tremendously long bars that make them very unwieldy. But, they can cut through huge pieces of wood in one pass. Shorter bars are much easier to work with as they need less power and tend to be much lighter, but their relatively smaller size limits the size of the cuts they can make.
If you try to cut wood that is too big for the bar on your saw, it will be prone to kickback. Kickback forces the saw upwards when the tip of the bar hits the surface where you are cutting.
Bar length is often a compromise between maneuverability, weight, and the scale of your projects. You can change bar size on many saws, but remember that more oversized bars need more power.
Most modern chainsaws have a system to automatically oil the blade.
This lubrication helps to prolong the life of the chain and minimize warpage from high heat. Keeping your saw well-lubricated is essential for its durability.
You have to keep your oil reservoir loaded with chain and bar oil, so most saws also have a simple window for seeing how much oil is left.
Most experienced chainsaw users, many of whom have used a saw without an automatic oiler in the past, simply top up their bar oil reservoir before each use.
Regardless of the type of chainsaw you purchase, you should also anticipate buying some safety equipment.
At a minimum, chainsaw chaps are essential:
But chainsaws also have built-in safety features.
Chain brakes are pretty standard, and they can help keep you safe from chainsaw kickback, which occurs when the tip of your chainsaw blade hits your cutting surface.
Most chainsaws also have an aluminum chain-catcher mounted on the bottom of the saw. If the chain slips off the blade or breaks, it should stop the chain from swinging back and hitting you.
The best mid-range chainsaw is the Husqvarna 445 Gas Chainsaw. It is the right mix of affordability, power, and features.
Some homeowners might prefer to use electric power tools, but the convenient operation and increased power of this gas saw make it my choice.
It might not be able to handle the biggest projects, but I’m not a professional lumberjack.
Check out all these saws and see which one is best for you.
For more options, check out the full range of Husqvarna chainsaws here.
Or, if you really want a higher-powered chainsaw, check out our round-up of the best chainsaws for professionals.