Ready to live on the wild side? Are you looking to embrace your inner lumberjack? Well, our best chainsaw guide is ready to assist you with fulfilling those red-blooded fantasies. Yet, we’d like to keep you around, so we’ll not only find the best chainsaw for the money, but one to fit your needs.
While we’re at it, let’s also discuss the key safety features found on most of the saws in our “best chainsaw guide” that are designed to…well…keep all your limbs intact.
Choosing the best chainsaw for you can be an overwhelming decision, and if you’re anything like me, you don’t have the time, nor patience, to sift through each and every chainsaw out there. Well, it’s a good thing The Saw Guy is here.
The top four best chainsaw manufacturers have a wide array of variations and styles making up over 80 models combined. “Am I serious?” Yes, yes I am…
To make this easier, I will assume you aren’t an arborist, or even know what an arborist is for that matter, and break down the best chainsaw for typical household functions.
Table of Contents
Quick Comparison: Top Chainsaws Overall
First things first, let’s review some of the key features of some of our saws in our “best chainsaw guide”. Keep in mind, not all of the following features can be found on the best chainsaw. The features will vary based on price range and function.
KEY FEATURES To Look For:
This feature is really nice because tensioning the chain is something you will be doing quite a bit. It was always annoying for me to have to stop everything, go find my wrench and screwdriver (the tools you need without this feature), and try to tension the chain correctly.
If the chain is not tensioned properly it can damage the saw or the bar.
With the tool-free tensioning system you are simply turning a wheel of some sort built into the clutch cover. It really isn’t much more complicated than that. It will take a few times to figure how much tension to apply to make your saw run best, but you’ll get it.
This is one feature I would require and could easily justify spending a few extra dollars for.
How many times have you tried to start your weed eater or lawn mower and just about threw your shoulder out, or even threw the weed eater across the yard? I’ll admit, I have done both.
Fortunately, many of the best chainsaws have some type of system that makes it easier to pull-start. The general rule is the bigger the engine, the harder the pull. However, one chainsaw manufacturer stands out among the rest with their Easy2Start pull system.
Stihl stands out for a lot of reasons, but this one in particular, is meant to make our lives easier.
Essentially, Stihl changed the spring in the recoil mechanism (the part that rewinds the pull cord) to make it easier to pull. Husqvarna has a similar system called smart start, and for the price, I would certainly recommend the brand.
Other saws have what is known as a decompression valve. This valve opens in the cylinder and reduces compression, which makes it easier to pull-start. This feature is normally only found on larger saws.
This is pretty simple really. If you look from the top of the saw, does it have a wide profile or a narrow profile? It might be hard to tell unless you have the two versions side by side.
However, the general rule is, if the saw is on the low end of the price range it will have a wider body. If it is a high end saw like a Stihl, Jonsered, or Husqvarna it is probably a narrow bodied saw.
You are probably thinking what the difference is between a wide body and a narrow body and why it matters. The fact is, it all depends on you and how you will be using the saw. If you are going to start a tree trimming business or have a farm, you want the narrow body because it is easier to work with and maneuver.
If you just have a few trees and will use the saw to trim a few times a year, the wider body would work just fine. It all depends on functionality and the price range you set for yourself.
This is where the discussion gets hairy. There is a lot of debate about whether to stick with the standard steel chain or upgrade to the carbide-tooth chain. I’ll be honest, I really don’t have a clear answer for this. But, I will present all the facts so you can make an informed decision.
As always, the best chainsaw chain weighs heavily on the function it will operate within.
The standard steel chain is exactly what it says it is, it is standard. Most of the chainsaws you buy will come with a standard steel chain. Standard steel chains dull easily when coming in contact with dirt or metal (like nails in barn wood).
The carbide-toothed chain will cut through almost everything you would use a chainsaw for, and with ease. Dirt nor nails will dull the chain like the steel version. It is the perfect solution if you are working in an urban environment where the likelihood of running into nails is much higher.
My “spidey” sense is tingling…you are thinking “well duh, I will obviously go with the carbide-toothed chain”. Not so fast. The carbide-toothed chain is about $50 more than the standard steel chain. Not only that, but once you finally dull it, you cannot easily sharpen it yourself.
You either have to take the chain somewhere to sharpen it (if you can even find anyone), or buy another chain altogether. Both of the previous options will probably cost you about the same.
Those are the facts. It’s your call.
There are many other features such as Easy-Access Air Filter, Air Purge, Fuel Gauge, Anti-Vibration, etc…
However, I am not willing to base my purchasing decision on these features. One minor feature will not give you the best chainsaw.
In reality, if you find a chainsaw you like, and maybe it has one of the key features listed above, buy it. For example, it shouldn’t be a deal breaker if the saw you want doesn’t have the Easy-Access Air Filter feature.
SAFETY FEATURES AND CONSIDERATIONS
After working in landscaping for years and as an arborist in my younger days, I have seen my fair share of chainsaw related injuries. I can safely say, the number one cause of chainsaw injuries is just plain old not paying attention and getting comfortable. Even some of the best chainsaw operators can lose focus. In the beginning, when you’re scared of the wood cutting monster, you tread softly. Yet, after a while it isn’t as intimidating and you start getting careless.
So my number one rule for best chainsaw safety practices is to never get comfortable. Always be aware of what the machine can do. Now, let’s talk about safety features and considerations.
Probably the most common occurrence that causes potential for risk is kickback. Kickback primarily occurs when the user is cutting in the upper quarter of the bar tip, or what is commonly referred to as “the kickback zone”.
Let’s talk physics.
When cutting with a chainsaw it produces a reaction force. If the user is cutting on the lower half of the saw, the reaction force is pulled into the body of the saw, or the spur dogs (where it should be). When the user is cutting on the upper half of the bar, the reaction force tends to act upwards toward the user.
The most effective way to prevent kickback is for the operator to be properly trained. I understand that not everyone is going to take a chainsaw training course. However, there are plenty of videos that show how to use a chainsaw properly.
Generally, if you follow a few simple guidelines you will decrease the potential for most injuries.
If you prevent the bar tip from coming in contact with solid objects, kickback can be avoided. Keep your head and body out of the path or plane of the bar. If you can’t read the logo on the side of the bar, you’re probably too close to the cutting plane. Just pay attention at all times.
WATCH THE FOLLOWING VIDEO FOR CHAINSAW SAFETY TIPS.
Many chainsaws will have a safety throttle. Most of the time the safety is located in a natural position on the handle, to make pressing down both the safety, and the throttle convenient. Like most tools who have this feature, the throttle will not depress until the safety in engaged. The safety throttle will prevent the trigger from being accidentally pushed by an obstruction or branch.
The chain brake is quickly becoming a standard feature for most chainsaw manufacturers. I can go into the mechanics of how it works, but like most things in life, you don’t care how it works, you just want to know that it does.
Essentially, the chain brake stops the chain from continuing to spin when engaged.
There are two basic purposes for the chain brake:
First, the chain brake can secure the chain when changing positions from one cut to another.
Secondly, the chain brake can activate when a kickback occurs. Being struck by a running chain will almost assuredly cause serious injury.
Basically, the chain brake is a handle (although not to be used as a handle) located by the top-hand guard, that can be engaged by pushing forward or disengaged by pulling back. In normal conditions, the chain brake has to be activated by the operator. However, during kickback occurrences, the chain brake will activate automatically.
Lefties might be a commodity in baseball, but not in the chainsaw industry. If a leftie wants to use a chainsaw, they have to learn to do it as a rightie. Their are no left handed manufactured chainsaws.
THE BEST CHAINSAW SUMMARY
Husqvarna 450 18 Inch Chainsaw
The Husqvarna 450 18 inch chainsaw is our top rated overall and is nearly perfect for the average user for a few reasons.
- It's very simple to start - no fuss
- It has all the power you'll need - does small jobs with virtually no effort
- Light weight for the power it possesses.
Obviously you don't have to just take our word for it...
You don't have to look far to find people who simply rave about the capabilities of this chainsaw. The 450 offers exceptional power and a wide, 18” cutting radius, making it a great saw for a variety of projects large and small. Look at the job it does on these ash trees:
The X-Torq patented technology reduces emissions and increases fuel efficiency, while also adding to the stability of the saw. It allows for less vibration, which makes the saw easier to wield and produces a cleaner, more efficient cut.
Husqvarna's 450 line comes with a variety of features and added technologies that bridges the gap between gas and electric chainsaws. It has features designed to reduce vibrations, fuel consumption, and emissions, which are often a big selling points for electric chainsaws. Read our full review here, or click the button below to buy it on Amazon.
The Best Cheap Electric Chainsaw
Black & Decker 20V Lithium Ion Chainsaw
If you are thinking about a battery operated chainsaw, I'd highly recommend this guy for standard home use. (AKA you aren't a full-time lumber jack.) Here are a few things to like:
- Only 7.2 lbs. so it is easy to carry and handle
- Battery actually lasts a long time on a charge
- No fooling with gas, half mixed oil, etc. - just start using it.
Again, if you are cutting down a forest then go with the Husqvarna. However for cutting smaller trees and branches, this thing will have plenty of power and is super easy to deal with.
Cut several tough small trees already with this and it did a good job. Nice and light and easy to handle. Blade was very sharp and went right through some tough wood. Of course the best thing is that it is rechargeable electric, not gas. I have had my fill of trying to start up a cranky chain saw. This won't cut the big trees but for small ones and trimming it's great.
Verified Amazon Buyer
- The ENGINE
- BAR SIZE
- The engines are sized in cubic centimeters (cc) or possibly cubic inches. Generally, the bigger the number the more powerful the engine is. However, for most typical homeowner functions a 32cc to 45cc chainsaw will suffice.
- Don’t buy a chainsaw with a long bar unless you really know what you’re doing. The longer bar gives the operator less control and higher potential for risk. For most homeowner purposes a 16in bar is just fine.
- Wear safety gear even if you feel silly. I’d rather wear a helmet with a safety shield, earplugs, leather gloves, chaps, and high boots, looking silly, than risk serious injury to my body for the sake of pride.
- Although expensive saws will last longer and perform better, the DIY’er will most likely never wear out even a reasonably priced saw. Of course, this statement only maintains its validity if the chainsaw is operated properly.
There are many factors that make the best chainsaw for you. Don't get caught up in the features. Buy a good, solid, chainsaw that will get the job done."