Best Chainsaws of 2021
Top-performing gas and electric models from Consumer Reports' extensive tests
A good chainsaw lets you clear brush, cut down limbs and small trees, and prep firewood—without breaking a sweat.
Mechanically, these are simple tools essentially comprising an engine or a motor, a handle, and an oblong metal piece called the bar that guides the cutting chain. But in the past decade, a lot has changed.
“One huge shift we’ve seen is the sheer number of battery-powered electric saws on the marketplace—and the improvements in their performance,” says Misha Kollontai, Consumer Reports’ test engineer in charge of chainsaws. “The best electric models now cut every bit as well—and sometimes better—than many of the lighter-duty gas-powered saws we’ve seen.”
To see a breakdown of the different types of chainsaws, see our chainsaw buying guide. CR members can also browse our chainsaw ratings for the best models of each type. Here, we highlight our crucial test findings and our choices for the very best chainsaws we’ve tested.
How CR Tests Chainsaws
To evaluate chainsaws, we consider how well they cut, how easy they are to handle, and how safe they are to operate.
Using 10-inch-thick oak beams, we time how long it takes for each saw to work its way through the wood. We use oak because it’s one of the hardest woods most users will encounter on their property, and it makes for a particularly demanding test that reveals differences among models. Those that cut fastest earn a higher rating for cutting speed.
We assess how each saw handles, considering its weight and how easy it is to make horizontal and vertical cuts, and checking for any vibration.
For ease of use, we look at a number of factors, including how simple it is to start, adjust, and maintain a saw. We also size up safety features, check for any kickback during the course of cutting, and assess whether a model’s exhaust parts, like the muffler, get hot, which can pose a burn hazard.
We also incorporate ratings for predicted reliability and owner satisfaction, which reflect what more than 11,000 CR members told us about their experiences with more than 13,000 chainsaws purchased new between 2010 and 2020. Specifically, they reported whether their chainsaws ever broke or stopped working properly over the first five years of ownership, as well as whether they were extremely likely to recommend their chainsaw to a friend or family member.
Here, we highlight five of the best chainsaws in each of the categories—gas, battery, corded electric, and power lopper—we test.