Chain saws

Chain Saw Buying Guide
Chain Saw Buying Guide
The Buzz About Chain Saws

You don’t have to watch horror movies to have a healthy fear of chain saws. These formidable tools are involved in more than 28,000 accidents annually, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. But in the right hands and with proper safety know-how, a chain saw can be an indispensable labor-saver.

Chain saws come in a range of sizes, from small, corded and cordless electrics to hefty gas-powered models intended for heavier work. Prices are often tied to engine size for gas saws and voltage for electric saws, along with cutting-bar length. But higher specs aren't necessarily better. Electric loppers, which employ a sharp slicing jaw instead of a cutting chain, are also a good alternative for modest cuts.

To find the right model for you, consider how—and how often—you’ll use it. Use this guide to find out everything you need to know before you shop.

1

Shopping Chain Saws By Type

Decide which type of chain saw you'll buy—gas or electric, corded or cordless—based on the kind of sawing you'll do, how often you'll do it, and how far from a power outlet you plan to work. Electric loppers are also an option for small cuts and are safer to use when cutting above shoulder level.
 

Gas-Powered Chain Saws

These tend to cut more quickly and smoothly than electrics, and their faster chain speed requires less pressure. But most are heavier and noisier, require fueling and regular service of the engine's air filter and spark plug, and emit exhaust fumes. Starting one requires several hard yanks on a starter cord. Chain-bar lengths are typically 16 to 18 inches for homeowner saws, longer for pro models. Lighter-duty gas-powered models cost less, but for routine tree cutting, a beefier model might better suffice.
Cost: $180-420

Gas-Powered Models Chain Saw Ratings

Corded-Electric Chain Saws

Most electric saws have a plug-in power cord and cost less than gas-powered models. Most also weigh less. And all start effortlessly: Just plug them in and squeeze the trigger. But their slower sawing speed limits them to lighter-duty chores, while their power cord keeps you tethered to the nearest electrical outlet. You'll also need a 14-gauge or even heavier 12-gauge extension cord to get the amperage needed for optimal performance.
Cost: $70-300

Corded-Electric Chain Saw Ratings

Cordless Electric Chain Saws

These saws run on battery power and free you from a power cord. But they can cost more than many gas saws, and their short run-time per charge and slower speeds make these units strictly for light-duty sawing. Bar lengths are typically 12 inches for battery-powered models.
Cost: $200-400

Cordless Electric Chain Saw Ratings

Electric Loppers

If chain saws strike fear in your heart, consider a light-duty power lopper. The cutting apparatus is mounted two feet away from the handgrips and shielded within a pair of safety jaws. We tested two models weighing between 5 and 7 pounds. The lighter model would make it easier to reach a cut, especially if you use the optional extension pole. Both models feature a 6-inch retractable blade, making them safe for storage.
Cost: $75-120

Electric Lopper Ratings
2

The Best Protection Is Awareness

Chain saws can be dangerous. Some of the most serious injuries occur when the saw’s chain snags and kicks back toward the operator's chest and head. Chain saws now have safeguards, including an automatic chain brake, that are designed to reduce the hazard of kickback. But even models fully loaded with safety features must be used carefully.

Dress Smart
Start with snug-fitting clothing and sturdy work boots, preferably steel-toed. Shield your legs with cut-resistant chaps and the backs of your hands with protective gloves, and wear a helmet with a face shield. You'll also need hearing protection, since practically all saws, including electric models, exceed the 85-decibel level at which hearing damage can occur.

Get a Grip and Stay Grounded
Grip gas-powered saws firmly when pull-starting and keep the saw on the ground; most handles include a spot for securing the saw with one foot while pulling the starter cord. Never saw while on a ladder or use the saw above shoulder height. And never saw using the tip of the chain and bar, where kickback can occur.

Maintenance is Key
Upkeep is also an important factor in chain-saw safety. A chain that's properly sharpened, tensioned, and oiled speeds cutting and helps prevent kickback while reducing wear on the chain and the bar on which it rides. A chain that's too loose can also slip off the bar and toward the operator as it spins.

3

Find a Landscaping Contractor

Not sure you're ready to wield a chainsaw? You can find a qualified pro to help at Porch.com. What's Porch? The site connects you with local contractors to help with maintenance or remodeling projects, making home improvement that much easier. 

4

Chain Saw Features

Safety tops the list when it comes to chain saw features, followed by convenience and ease of use—especially because wielding a heavy saw can contribute to fatigue and carelessness. Today's saw labels show compliance with voluntary safety standards, including a test for kickback.

5

Brands That Matter

Craftsman is one of the leading brands of gas and electric chain saws. Craftsman chain saws come in a variety of bar lengths, from 10 inches to 20 inches, and are geared to the consumer market. The Craftsman electric chain saws have smaller bar lengths than their gas counterparts. Craftsman is made for and sold by Sears and models can be purchased online and in Sears and Kmart stores.
Echo is one of the leading brands of gas-engine chain saws. Echo chain saws come in a variety of bar lengths, from 12 inches to upwards of 20 inches, and are marketed to consumers and professionals. Echo chain saws can be purchased from dealers and Home Depot.
Homelite has a handful of gas and electric chain saws. Homelite chain-saw lengths range from 14 inches to 18 inches, and all models are marketed to consumers. Electric models have smaller bar lengths than their gas counterparts. Homelite chain saws can be purchased from dealers and Home Depot.
Husqvarna is one of the leading brands of gas-engine chain saws. Husqvarna chain saws come in a variety of bar lengths, from 14 inches to upwards of 20 inches, and are marketed to consumers and professionals. Husqvarna also makes chain saws under the Poulan brand name. Husqvarna chain saws can be purchased from dealers and Lowe's.
Stihl makes consumer and professional-grade gas and electric chain saws. Stihl chain saws come in a variety of bar lengths, from 12 inches to upwards of 20 inches; the electric chain saws have smaller bar lengths than their gas counterparts. Stihl is an outdoor power equipment dealer-exclusive brand.
Poulan, Dolmar, John Deere, Efco, and Solo