Trim your trees and make your own firewood with the power and speed of a chainsaw

Chainsaws Buying Guide

Chainsaws can power their way through just about any cutting job. Gas and electric models each come with a unique set of benefits, so you’re sure to find one to meet your needs.

Gas vs. Electric

Gas chainsaws are larger, heavier and more powerful, while electric chainsaws are more compact, lighter and economical.

  • Light tasks such as pruning can be more efficiently accomplished by a smaller electrical model.
  • Cutting down a tree will require the power of a larger, heavy-duty chainsaw.

Power Source Benefits Points to Consider


  • Easy to start
  • Lightweight
  • More economical
  • Quieter
  • Require less maintenance
  • Most require extension cord
  • Some battery-powered units available
  • Ideal for light and general purpose tasks
  • Don't require fuel


  • Cordless
  • More powerful
  • Offer a range of bar lengths
  • Possess better bar oiling systems
  • Ideal for heavy-duty use
  • Require gas and oil mix
  • May be heavy
  • May be noisy
  • Provide unlimited mobility

Cutting Bar and Engine Size

Cutting bar lengths and engine size determine what kinds of cutting jobs your chainsaw can do.

  • The size of the cutting bar can range from 8 inches up to 42 inches. Bars that are in the 14 to 16 inch range are ideal for occasional and light-duty use, while 18- to 20-inch cutting bars work well for large diameter-cutting.
  • The proper tension must be kept on the chain to ensure efficient operation, along with chain sharpness and lubrication.
  • Some models allow for tool-free tension adjustments, which makes it easier to keep the machine in working order.
  • Engine size is measured in cubic inches or centimeters and power is measured in horsepower. The higher the power-to-weight ratio is, the more power a saw will generate.
  • Larger engines provide more power, but weigh more and can cause fatigue over long periods of use.
  • Higher RPMs (rotations per minute) mean faster cutting if the saw has enough power to cut through the material you’re working with.

Safety Considerations

Kickback is the primary danger you’ll face when using a chainsaw. This happens when the nose of the cutting bar connects with something solid, such as a knot or nail, causing the bar to jump back toward you. Take precautions.

  • Only operate a chainsaw when you are fully alert and awake.
  • Wear safety apparel, including protection for your eyes and ears, heavy-duty gloves and steel-toe boots.
  • To minimize danger, look for units that feature a low-kickback chain, as well as other safety devices such as a tip guard.
  • Tip guards help protect your hand by preventing accidental slips onto the chain when it is running.
  • Avoid cutting things positioned higher than your chest.
  • Don’t start the chainsaw in the same spot where you fueled it as sparks could ignite spilled gasoline.
  • Keep a drop zone directly under the location where you are cutting.
  • Keep the extension cord away from electric models at all times.
  • Always start the chainsaw on the ground with your foot on the rear handle.
  • A chain brake allows you to manually stop the chain as soon as kickback occurs.
  • A chain catcher prevents a broken chain from shooting off the saw.
  • Avoid loose clothing when operating a chain saw.

Additional Features

Consider options such as an electronic ignition or heated handle for more efficient, comfortable chainsaw use.  

  • Catalytic converters: These devices control emissions, helping saws comply with environmental regulations.
  • Sprocket-tip cutting bar: A sprocket-tip cutting bar maximizes cutting speed by reducing friction around the bar tip. It also prevents the chain from dragging around the bar nose to minimize bar wear and stretch.
  • Vibration dampening system: A vibration isolator or dampening system reduces fatigue and helps extend the life of the saw.
  • Side-mounted tension adjustment: With this feature, you'll be able to make tension adjustments to the chain quickly and easily.
  • Ignition: Units with electronic ignitions or variable ignition timing start up easier and operate more efficiently.
  • Heated handle: If you frequently find yourself outside in the middle of winter cutting up firewood, a heated handle can make your saw a lot more comfortable.
  • Automatic oiler: An automatic oiler takes care of oiling the chain so you don't have to. Some units stop oiling the bar when the unit is idling to prevent wasting oil.
  • Throttle interlock: This feature provides additional safety by requiring you to depress two triggers to activate the saw, minimizing the chances of accidents.