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How to Choose the Best Chainsaw for Your Needs

With a wide range of chainsaw types, sizes, features, and prices available, picking the right saw for your needs can be challenging. The saw you choose greatly impacts your cutting experience and safety. Evaluating your usage, required power, and features allows you to match a saw to your specific requirements.

Follow this detailed guide on choosing the ideal chainsaw for tasks like storm cleanup, firewood cutting, tree felling, and other projects. We cover everything from electric vs gas chainsaws to bar length, safety features, brands, and much more.

Match the Engine Power to Your Task

One of the most important factors in choosing a chainsaw is selecting adequate engine power for your intended usage. More power allows bigger bar lengths and faster cutting.

Occasional Use

For light storm cleanup, pruning, or basic firewood tasks, a lower powered electric or gas chainsaw in the 30cc to 40cc range should suffice. These are more maneuverable for beginners.

Firewood Cutting

Frequent firewood gatherers need a slightly more robust saw, typically around 40cc to 50cc. This provides enough power for good limbing and bucking capacity while still being relatively lightweight.

Tree Felling

For cutting down large trees, look for professional-grade petrol chainsaws over 60cc. The extra power allows larger guide bars and is more forgiving when dealing with thick trunks or dense wood.

Occasional Heavy Use

If you only need a powerful saw periodically, consider renting a professional model for those large jobs rather than purchasing one.

Gas vs Electric Saws

Both gas and electric powered chainsaws have pros and cons depending on your needs. Evaluate the tradeoffs.

Gas Chain Saws

Petrol engine chainsaws are more powerful and can handle larger jobs and bar lengths over 20 inches. They work well away from a power source. However, gas saws are heavier, require more maintenance, create fumes, need fuel mixes, and are louder.

Electric Chain Saws

Electric chainsaws typically range from 30cc to 40cc equivalent power. They are much quieter, cleaner, and easier to start than gas models. However, cord length limits mobility and bars are smaller. Extension cords can reduce performance.

Electric saws work well for homeowners tackling smaller jobs near the house. Gas remains ideal for frequent cutting or commercial use.

Chainsaw Bar Length

Longer guide bars allow deeper cutting per pass but require more power to operate. Choose the shortest bar that still gives adequate reach for most cuts to maximize control and efficiency.

  • 16 to 18-inch bars suit most homeowners.
  • 20-inch bars work well for frequent firewood cutting.
  • 24 to 28-inch bars are common for professional felling large trees.

It’s better to have a shorter bar supplemented by a longer one just for thick cuts than one constantly oversized bar. Check that the saw’s engine can handle the bar length you need.

Essential Chainsaw Safety Features

With kickback and injuries a constant risk when using chainsaws, models with safety features substantially reduce dangers. Look for the following:

Chain Brake

A chain brake stops the chain instantly if kickback is detected. This is an extremely valuable safety addition.

Reduced Kickback Bar and Chain

These use specialized bar nose geometry and v-shaped cutters to reduce kickback risks. Only use chains designed to fit your guide bar.

Front Hand Guard

A sturdy hand guard protects your left hand from being hit if the saw kicks back or slips. It also prevents debris from hitting your fingers.

Anti-Vibration System

Systems like rubber engine mounts reduce vibration for easier control and less joint strain with extended use.

Helpful Extras

Other helpful features to consider include:

  • Chain tensioner – Allows tightening the chain without tools. Look for an easy-access side access design.
  • Air filter alerts – Indicates when the air filter needs cleaning or replacement for optimal performance.
  • Auto chain oiling – Maintains proper chain lubrication without manual intervention.
  • Transparent fuel tank – Lets you view fuel level at a glance to avoid running empty.
  • Adjustable oiler – Allows varying oil flow based on conditions and chain type.

Top Chainsaw Brands

Stick with reputable brands like Husqvarna, Makita, Milwaukee, Dewalt, Echo, and Stihl for the best reliability, safety, and features. Here is an overview of benefits for four top brands:

  • Stihl – Very popular professional-grade models but higher cost. Excellent power-to-weight ratio.
  • Husqvarna – Known for lightweight saws that reduce fatigue. Lots of homeowner models.
  • Makita – Super quiet electric models. Also competitive pro-level gas chainsaws.
  • Milwaukee – Top cordless electric chainsaw option. Convenient and quiet for home use.

Compare Prices Carefully

Chainsaws range in cost from under $100 for simple electric models to over $1000 for rugged, high-output professional units. Set a firm budget then look for the best power, features, and brand reputation you can afford.

Check prices both online and locally. Online retailers may offer lower pricing, but local dealers are helpful if you need parts or service down the road.

Avoid the cheapest knock-off brands that look temptingly affordable but skimp on safety, power, and durability. Consider paying a bit more upfront for a quality saw that will last.

Using the criteria in this guide to select the ideal chainsaw tailored to your specific cutting needs helps ensure you maximize performance, safety, and value over the life of your saw. Take time to evaluate your situation rather than just buying the first model you see. A little upfront research pays off with a chainsaw you can enjoy for years to come.


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