After so many severe storms in recent years, homeowners who never dreamed of buying a chain saw now consider the power tool a must-have. That's why first-time buyers comprise 60 percent of the market. And that's why Consumer Reports has been testing more and more chain saws. In our latest chain saw tests we found a clear winner, the Stihl MS 180 C-BE, $230, which works for wooded properties as well as for fallen trees and storm-tossed limbs.
The Stihl MS 180 C-BE is fast, which is a real plus when you've got lots of cutting to do. It's relatively light and well-balanced, attributes that keep you from getting tired as you work. And the Stihl is the only gas-powered unit we've tested that needs no tools to tighten the chain, a task that typically has to be performed every 10 to 15 minutes.
For $80 to $100 less, we recommend three models from among the light-duty gas saws and corded-electric models we tested. Light-duty gas saws like the Craftsman 34190, $150, cut a little more slowly than their more powerful counterparts. But for storm cleanup the difference in speed won't be an everyday problem. And the better corded-electric models—the Worx WG303.1, $100, and Worx WG304.1, $130, are on our list of picks—are just as fast and have push-button starting. The biggest limitation is how far you can roam with an extension cord. Check your manual for proper gauge and maximum length.
In coming weeks, we'll report on other chain saws we've tested including the pricey battery-powered Oregon CS250S, $400, which was a performance standout for all the wrong reasons but that includes one great feature—a built-in chain sharpener. We also tested two power loppers, which are adequate for limbs no wider than four inches.