There is a joy in carrying a chainsaw around your yard or a jobsite, holding a tool that is compact but powerful and among the most convenient machines you’ll own. Pound for pound, no other saw is as powerful and versatile as the chainsaw, and there’s a good chance you’ll need one at some point.
Over the past few years, electric tools have gotten a lot better in terms of power output, and many consumers are likely faced with a choice–should you buy an electric chainsaw or a gas powered chainsaw? The differences between them might not initially be very clear.
Both types have their pros and cons, of course. Electric saws are still not as powerful as gas saws, so for serious, large jobs, a gas powered engine is still the way to go. But electric saws are completely valid for use around the house and can often be quieter and more compact.
General Overview: Gas vs. Electric
On the surface, there aren’t any obvious differences between a gas and an electric chainsaw. Both types generally operate the same way, using a motor of some sort to spin around a sharp chain that can cut through trees, debris, and more.
Runtime and Refueling
There are quite a few operational differences, though. The most obvious is the runtime of an electric motor. Corded electric chainsaws can work through long projects, but you obviously have to be close to a power outlet. Cords are usually only 100 feet or less, which can hamstring you in some situations. Electric saws with batteries have to be recharged and will only last around an hour at best, which could cut short your projects.
Compare that to a gas powered saw, which will last far longer and can simply be refueled if it runs out of juice. Customers who often work on long projects or deep in the woods would likely be limited by an electric chainsaw.
What types of tasks are you doing?
Another major difference between electric chainsaws and gas chainsaws is the type of projects they are able to handle. Although they’ve made strides in recent years, electric chainsaws are still less powerful than their gas powered counterparts, so don’t expect to be able to cut through any project.
Electric saws are perfect for typical yard work, from cutting down limbs and small trees to trimming hedges and bushes. They are compact and light, which make them easier to lift and reach high branches. That also makes them less of a hassle to store.
For large projects, gas powered saws are far superior in several respects. The more powerful engine is able to quickly cut through tough wood. Gas saws also come in wider ranges and bar lengths for bigger cuts. Although they’re less compact, gas saws are more powerful and far more effective for professional level jobs.
Noise and Emissions
Another huge difference between these two types of chainsaws is the volume at which they operate. Gas powered saws are far louder, which can have effects that range from the annoyance of your family and neighbors to hearing loss for yourself.
A gas chainsaw can be as loud as 120 dB, which is around the same level as a thunderclap and even louder than a rock concert. Without proper hearing protection, operating a chainsaw with noise at that level can quickly cause hearing loss.
There are other key differences between gas and electric saws that you should consider before buying. Some additional pros that come along with electric chainsaws include their easy start buttons, not having to worry about gas and oil mixing, and the sheer convenience of having such a quick-starting chainsaw.
On the other hand, for large jobs in any capacity, an electric saw will probably be insufficient. Battery power, cord lengths, and motor power are limiting factors and electric chainsaws will often struggle to cut large trees and other debris.
Gas chainsaws are far superior for big, serious jobs. They also come with a range of bar lengths that will allow you to customize your tool a little bit. They are stronger and last longer than any electric chainsaw on the market.
They have some cons, however. Gas chainsaws are heavy and can cause fatigue if used for a long time. They are also extremely loud, and will require you to mix oil and gas to operate–so get ready to smell like a mechanic’s garage after you use it. Gas powered saws are also often more expensive, which may mean a casual customer may want to pick an electric saw instead.
How do you decide?
So, how do you pick which one to get? You need to self-evaluate and decide which tool’s skillset is more likely to help you out the most. If you are a new homeowner that has a few small trees or bushes that could benefit from some clipping, an affordable electric chainsaw may be for you.
If, on the other hand, you have a huge backyard with a lot of big trees, and often get some limbs down during storms, then you may want to look at a gas powered saw. If you live in an area that receives earthquakes, tornados, or hurricanes, you should definitely go with a gas saw.
Our Top Picks for both Electric and Gas Chainsaws
Below, we’ve selected three of the top products for both gas chainsaws and electric chainsaws. Hopefully, you’ve decided that you want one type or the other–or both. Now, we’ll show you our favorite products in each category.
Makita UC4051A Electric Chain Saw, 16″
Makita is a reliable brand of power tools, and this 16” electric chainsaw is a good bet. It is corded, so it will obviously be limited to small projects around the house. But for those types of projects, you’ll be hard pressed to find a product that will work as well as the UC4051A. It’s got an ergonomic handle that increases hand comfort, a motor-burnout prevention feature that will automatically shut off power, and a large trigger switch that works for smooth startups. This saw is simply a reliable, trusty tool that will serve you well around the house.
DEWALT DCCS690H1 40V 6AH Lithium Ion XR Brushless Chain Saw, 16″
This DeWalt electric chainsaw has a surprisingly powerful motor for an electric chainsaw, but still retains its portability and light frame. It can be purchased with a 4Ah battery or 6Ah battery, depending on how much you want to spend. Reviewers rave about the reliability of this DeWalt saw, and if you’re looking for the convenience of a battery-powered electric saw but would like a little more power than most provide, this might be the chainsaw for you.
Sun Joe ION16CS 16-Inch 4-Amp 40-Volt Cordless Chain Saw
This electric chainsaw from Sun Joe comes with a 600 watt brushless motor that really lengthens its battery life. It’s big feature is its “tool-less chain adjustment system,” which takes all the trouble out of adjusting or replacing the chain. Like all electric chain saws, this saw is compact, portable, and is perfect for small jobs around the house. It’s a little pricey, but it seems to be well worth it with all of the included features.
Husqvarna 460 Rancher 20-Inch 60.3cc 2-Stoke X-Torq Gas Powered Chain Saw
The first of our gas chainsaws has all the features that electric saws don’t. This Husqvarna machine has a 20 inch bar that is perfect for large jobs like cutting down trees, cleaning up debris after a storm, or just about anything else you can think to throw at it. Its 3-piece crankshaft is engineered to be durable, and that’s this chainsaw’s defining feature–quality. It’s got high torque, adjustable rpm ability, and many more features that keep this machine running well for years. It’s the most expensive product on our list, but it’s got all of the features to back up that price, and we think it’s worth it.
Poulan Pro 967061501 50cc 2 Stroke Gas Powered Chain Saw
This Poulan Pro machine represents a more budget-friendly gas powered chain saw, but it doesn’t sacrifice quality to bring the price down. It’s got something called an “OxyPower” engine technology, which results in a 70% reduction in engine emissions. It’s also got a choke stop control which will prevent the engine from flooding. The 20 inch bar is capable of all the big jobs, and the 2-year limited warranty (which can be extended to 3 years) will ensure that your machine runs well for a while.
Remington RM4216 Rebel 42cc 16-inch Gas Chainsaw
A 16 inch bar, as compared to the 20 inch bars of our other two gas chain saws, is more suited to the small jobs that a residential home owner typically encounters. With this Remington RM 4216, you get all of the benefits of a gas powered chainsaw, like power output, reliability, and durability. But you get it without sacrificing the portability of smaller chainsaws. This thing is marketed as the “go-to chainsaw for the suburban homeowner,” and that appears to be a true statement.