Best chainsaws: 7 tools to fell the thickest of trees in your yard

Whether you're pruning or felling dead branches or prepping firewood the best chainsaws will help you get the job done with ease

Best chainsaws
(Image credit: Future)

There comes a time when you need to cut down a tree or trim up some wild limbs. In the winter, you might need to cut firewood, and in the summer, prune thick shrubs. While they may be loud and dangerous machines, the best chainsaws can significantly save you money and time on necessary yard maintenance.

When a hand saw or the best hedge trimmer just won’t do the trick, buy yourself a chainsaw. In this guide, we’ve put together a list of our favorite types of chainsaws. They may vary in terms of bar length or the way they’re powered, but whether you have a big or small yard that requires minimal or heavy-duty chainsaw work, you can rest assured there is a chainsaw on this list for you.

And if you’re looking for a chainsaw to cut down a dead tree, you’ll surely need to read our guide on removing a tree stump.

Best chainsaw

Husqvarna chainsaw

(Image credit: Husqvarna)

1. Husqvarna 24 Inch 460 Rancher Gas Chainsaw

Best chainsaw overall

Specifications
Bar length : 24 in
Weight: 22.6 lbs
Power: Gas
Reasons to buy
+Massive power+Easy to start+24-inch bar length can cut through larger trees
Reasons to avoid
-Heavy-Expensive

Attack any major job in the yard with the Husqvarna 460 Rancher Gas Chainsaw. The 24-inch chainsaw can power through any tree or limb, especially backed by the power of a 3cc 2-cycle engine. While this machine runs on gas, the X-Torq engine maximizes fuel efficiency and reduces emissions. It’s also outfitted with anti-vibration technology, making it easier to handle, and an inertia-activated chain brake which prevents accidents from happening due to a kickback.

A ‘quick-release air filter’ isn’t a flashy part of the design but it’s good to know because chainsaws do require plenty of maintenance (and who doesn’t want an air filter that’s easy to replace!). Combine it with an air purge function, which removes larger dust and debris from the machine before it reaches the filter, and you won’t have to change the air filter as often.

Lastly (but perhaps most importantly), the Husqvarna 460 Rancher Gas Chainsaw is easier to start with such features like a combined choke/stop control and Smart Start engine and starter.

Greenworks chainsaw

(Image credit: Greenworks)

2. Greenworks 48V 16 in. Brushless Cordless Chainsaw

Best battery-powered chainsaw

Specifications
Bar length: 14 in
Weight: 16.27 lbs
Power: 48V battery
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+Automatic oiler feature+Simple electric start+Powered by two 24V batteries 
Reasons to avoid
-Battery loses charge quicker on thicker trees

You won’t have to deal with pressing a choke button or pulling a starter cable to start the Greenworks 48V Brushless Cordless Chainsaw. It has an electric start button and is powered by not one but two 24-volt lithium-ion batteries. 

Each 24V battery provides 20 percent more power and 35 percent more charge. With a total of 48 volts, this chainsaw will last longer and provide high speeds and power. Greenworks advertises that this chainsaw can achieve 150 cuts on 4x4 lumber with one full charge.

The 14-inch bar length allows for cuts on trees and limbs that are up to 26 inches in diameter. Features like a chain break, auto oiler, and a lightweight 16.37-lb design, make this a great starter chainsaw for anyone.

Craftsman chainsaw

(Image credit: Craftsman)

3. CRAFTSMAN 42cc-16 (2020 Model) S165 Gas Chainsaw

Best gas chainsaw

Specifications
Bar length: 16 in
Weight: 21.6 lbs
Power: Gas
Reasons to buy
+Bucking spikes+Anti-vibration technology +Adjustable auto chain oiler+Tool-free access to air filter and spark plug
Reasons to avoid
-Reports of difficulties with re-starting this chainsaw

When it comes to a gas chainsaw, you want something that’s powerful, but also easy to handle. You’ll experience just that when you purchase the CRAFTSMAN 42cc-16 S165 Gas Chainsaw. It weighs 21 lbs and has a three-point anti-vibration system that minimizes fatigue and makes it easy to use even with a powerful 42 cc full crank 2-cycle engine.

Start this chainsaw quicker and with easier pull starts thanks to an EasyStart Technology. The 16-inch low-kickback bar and chain stays well oiled with an adjustable auto chain oiler which lets you manually increase or decrease the oil flow. When you need to do routine maintenance on this chainsaw, you won’t need tools to access the air filter or spark plug.

Rest your worries about kickback or controlling this bad boy as you cut. The bucking spikes helps control your sawing while an inertia-activated chain protects you from kickback.

Dewalt small chainsaw

(Image credit: Dewalt)

4. DEWALT 20V MAX XR Chainsaw

Best small chainsaw

Specifications
Bar length: 12 in
Weight: 8.8 lbs
Power: 20V Battery
Reasons to buy
+Super lightweight+Tool-free tension and tightening knobs+Great for small cutting jobs
Reasons to avoid
-20V battery won't last long

The DEWALT 20V MAX XR Chainsaw is the perfect tool to cut firewood, brush, or small-to-medium limbs. With a 12-inch bar and chain, it’s not a particularly heavy-duty chainsaw, but a great machine to have on hand for lighter jobs. 

At only 9lbs, it’s very easy to manuever, especially with a handle that wraps around so you can adjust the chainsaw to the best angle. You'll be happy to hear that the design includes a chain brake to prevent a kickback accident.

The battery that powers this tool is a 20-volt battery, which can achieve about 90 cuts on 4x4 pressure-treated wood with just a single charge. If you need to add tension to the chain and tighten the bar, use the tool-free knob on the side of the machine.  

 

Troy-Bilt chainsaw

(Image credit: Troy-Bilt)

5. Troy-Bilt 14 in. 42 cc 2-Cycle Lightweight Gas Chainsaw with Automatic Chain Oiler

Easiest chainsaw to handle

Specifications
Bar length: 14 in
Weight: 12 lbs
Power: Gas
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+Gas-powered +Anti-vibration technology +Automatic chain oiler 
Reasons to avoid
-Bar length is a bit on the small side

Whether you’re just learning to use a chainsaw or you need a tool to improve your skills, you may want to consider the Troy-Bilt Lightweight Gas Chainsaw. Despite being a gas-powered chainsaw (which are usually the heaviest of chainsaws), this 14-inch chainsaw weighs only 12 lbs. The handle wraps around the engine so you can slide your hands to a better position for a more exact angle as you saw. Even better – the handle has a three-point anti-vibration design so you feel comfortable holding this chainsaw throughout the cutting process.

Other highlights include an automatic bar and chain oiler and metal bucking spikes that keep your chainsaw in place as it cuts. Start up the 42cc full-crank two-cycle engine with the chainsaw’s SpringAssist technology and enjoy automatic inertia-activated chain break for utmost safety.

If you need to adjust the chain, there is a side access chain tensioner that lets you do it in a jiff. The spark plug and air filter can be accessed without tools. 

WORX WG303.1 electric chainsaw

(Image credit: Amazon)

6. WORX WG303.1 electric chainsaw

Best chainsaw for under $100: enough power for any small to medium branch jobs

Specifications
Size of chain bar: 16 inches
Weight: 12 lbs
Power source: Electric
Reasons to buy
+Light+Easy to yield
Reasons to avoid
-Loud -Oil leaks-Corded

If what you're after is an affordable piece of machinery for chop jobs around the property, the Worx WG303.1 is a great budget choice for under $100. This chainsaw is among one of the most well-rated in its category. Reviewers liked the Worx WG303.1 for its user-friendliness and overall efficiency, with many marks in favor of its well-balanced handling.

The Worx WG303.1 is a corded, electric saw. It has a bevy of nifty exterior fixings, including rubberized grip handles, an automatic oiler, and a chain brake. It also uses an auto-tensioning system for the chain, so you don't have to deal with tightening it as often as other budget chainsaws. This, the safety features and the fact it is easy to wield at just 12 pounds, make it a great buy for first-time chainsaw users.

The Worx WG303.31 is corded, so you have only 100-feet of workspace once it's plugged in, or as long as your extension cord allows. It's also not for heavy-duty cutting, so you're limited to bush trimming and other small wood cutting jobs. Customer reviews sometimes mention an issue with oil leaks from the chain because of a poorly insulated reservoir. And despite it being electric, it’s a very loud saw, which can make you unpopular with the neighbors. 

Makita UC4051A electric chainsaw

(Image credit: Amazon)

7. Makita UC4051A electric chainsaw

Best electric corded chainsaw: full of user-friendly features for tackling a variety of wood-cutting projects

Specifications
Size of chain bar: 16 inches
Weight: 12 lbs
Power source: Electric
Reasons to buy
+High chain speed+Low maintenance
Reasons to avoid
-No anti-vibration reinforcement-Corded

Makita is a common name throughout tool enthusiast circles, so it's a brand that's known for its reliability. The Makita UC4051A, in particular, is a replacement model for the longtime heralded Makita UC4030A. Besides an updated design, Makita improved various little bits on the UC4051A chainsaw to make it easy to use regardless of skill level.

It packs a punch with its proprietary 14.5-Amp motor and high chain speed of 2,900 FPM—a bit over the 2,500 FPM standard. New chainsaw users will like the easy maneuvering of the UC4051A, particularly its soft-start trigger and rubberized handle. However, it doesn't offer any anti-vibration technology, which can make it hard to stabilize as you're tackling tough jobs. A pair of anti-vibration gloves will come in handy here.  

Chainsaws require frequent, thorough maintenance of parts like air filters and the chain brake. But the Makita UC40551A is electric, so you don't have to tend to air filters. It's equipped with a tool-less blade and chain, which merely requires turning a level to adjust either part. The viewing window for the oil reservoir is also nice to have, though reviews have noted that refilling the oil tank is messy without a funnel. 

It is double insulated too, so it is durable enough for everything from trimming to chopping up fallen trees. It does it quietly, too. Just watch the chain which some reviewers found prone to slipping and hard to realign. 

How to buy the best chainsaw

Choose the right size
Chainsaws are one of the more daunting tools, which is why you should buy one with a size you find comfortable wielding. Smaller chainsaws offer between 10- and 14-inch chain bars and are suitable for pruning branches and other small jobs (though reach for the best secateurs for really little tasks). If you need something a little more capable, a medium-sized 16-inch chainsaw is perfectly able to handle bulky projects, as chainsaws can tackle jobs section-by-section.

Larger designs
Larger chainsaws run the gamut of 18-inches and above and can be hard to maintain for first-timers. Those chainsaws also tend to be geared toward industrial jobs, which is why there is only one offering on this list. Novice users should keep in mind that even the most sophisticated chainsaws feature beginner-friendly safety features like built-in chain brakes, throttle locks, and bumpers for minimizing wood chip kickback. That said, you should always wear protective gear when operating a chainsaw, including gloves, safety goggles, earplugs, and cut-resistant safety boots.

Gas or electric motors?
Chainsaws typically run on two-stroke gas engines or electric motors, akin to what lawnmowers use to get around the garden. The simplest way to choose between gas and electric is to consider how often and how vigorously you plan to use a chainsaw in the yard. If you're only planning a few minor hack jobs a year, an electric chainsaw will likely suffice. Most electric chainsaws are corded, so you'll have to take stock of outdoor-reaching power sockets. Battery-powered chainsaws are available, too, and can deliver surprising amounts of power. But take heed that the battery pack and charger increase the price—anywhere from $100 to $300, depending on the brand.

On the other end of the spectrum are gas chainsaws. They're best for dealing with medium-sized trees and woody landscaping. If an electrical chainsaw is out of your price range, there are also affordable entry-level gas chainsaws available for smaller jobs. But keep in mind that gas chainsaws require more maintenance, including frequent lubrication of the chain.

Chainsaw safety tips

Using a chainsaw requires your entire focus and attention to prevent minor and severe injuries. Here are a few chainsaw safety tips to help you out:

Safety glasses and gloves
Protective equipment is important when using a chainsaw. Safety glasses or goggles will protect your eyes from wood shards and slivers. A face shield can further prevent damage to your face. Keep your hands scratch- and cut-free with gloves, and protect your feet from falling limbs with steel toe boots. Long sleeves and pants are a great idea when using a chainsaw, as are heavy-duty earmuffs which will ensure your hearing lasts longer.

Use two hands
Never ever use a chainsaw with one hand. A two-hand grip offers more control and prevents you from accidentally slicing a hand as you cut.

Two-feet firmly planted to the ground
Keep those two feet firmly planted on the ground when using a chainsaw. Cutting limbs and trees on a scaffold, ladder, or step stool could result in a serious accident. Leave that to the pros.

Prevent kickback
Make sure to never cut with the tip of the chainsaw as it will cause an immediate and fast kickback. 

Power down when moving around
When you move between trees or limbs, turn off the chainsaw. A trip or a stumble could be disastrous if the chainsaw is still running.

Don’t cut overhead
If a limb is above your shoulder level, call a professional to come out. You can surely imagine the type of mishap that could occur if you cut limbs above your head and accidentally drop the chainsaw. So keep it below shoulder level, y’all.

What is a chainsaw for?

Chainsaws make light work of heavier pruning work. This means they are suited to chopping dead limbs off trees, or larger branches that you want to remove to reshape a tree. If you are pruning shrubs however, they are a bit heavy handed for the job, unless removing very large branches. Shears, a hedge trimmer or some delicate pruning with secateurs are more suited to bushier plants.

You can also use a chainsaw for felling a tree. This needs a little research first and generally we recommend getting in a tree surgeon for anything much taller than you. Their training teaches them to learn where it will land and how to remove branches beforehand to reduce fallout. If you do chop down a tree yourself, make sure there is nothing (or nobody) who could be hurt when it falls.

And wondering what to do with the remnants of your chopping? Check out these tree stump ideas.

Alex Temblador
Alex Temblador

Alex Temblador is a Dallas-based award-winning author and freelance writer that has covered home, design, architecture, and art in publications like Real Homes, Gardeningetc, Home & Gardens, Dwell, Architectural Digest, Artsy, Neighborhoods.com, Culture Trip, among many others. She recently bought her first home, a green Sears & Roebuck house that's over 100 years old, sits on half an acre of land, and features a stunning wraparound porch, original hardwood floors, pocket doors, and a butler pantry. Alex loves to test products for Gardeningetc, Real Homes, and Homes & Gardens buying guides and reviews which has helped to expand the richness of her first-time homeowner life. The Mixed Latinx writer can usually be found working or relaxing in her outdoor spaces.