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Best Chainsaws of 2019

Paul Hope

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.

A good chainsaw lets you clear brush, down limbs and small trees, and prep firewood—without breaking a sweat.

Mechanically, these are simple tools: They're essentially comprised of an engine or a motor, a handle, and an oblong metal piece called the bar that guides the cutting chain. But in the seven years since Consumer Reports last tested chainsaws, a lot has changed in the market.

“One huge shift we’ve seen is the sheer number of battery-powered electric saws on the marketplace, and the improvements in their performance,” says Misha Kollontai, CR’s test engineer in charge of chainsaws. “The best electric models now cut every bit as well—and sometimes better—than many of the lighter-duty gas-powered saws we’ve seen.”

In fact, in our newly updated chainsaw ratings, our top-rated battery-powered model has an Overall Score just 1 point lower than the two best gas saws. And though gas chainsaws still account for most of the market, nearly all the innovation—and most of the newly introduced models—have been battery powered.

You’ll also encounter a handful of plug-in electric saws on the market. These tools offer limited flexibility in terms of where they can cut, because you're limited to a certain radius around a power outlet. But the best can actually cut just as quickly and effectively as smaller gas models. And gas saws do offer one big advantage: You simply top off the gas tank to keep it running.

Last, for smaller jobs, you can opt for a close cousin to chainsaws: an electric power lopper. These plug-in tools are safer in that their sharp jaws are covered under a C-shaped clamp. Loppers can cut through thinner tree limbs, up to about 3 inches thick.

How CR Tests Chainsaws

To evaluate chainsaws, we consider how well they cut, how easy they are to handle, and how safe they are to operate.

Using 10-inch-thick oak beams, we time how long it takes for each saw to work its way through the wood. We use oak because it’s one of the hardest woods most users will encounter on their property, and it makes for a particularly demanding test that reveals differences between models. Those that cut fastest earn a higher rating for cutting speed. 

We assess how each saw handles, considering its weight and how easy it is to make horizontal and vertical cuts, and checking for any vibration.

For ease of use, we look at a number of factors, including how simple it is to start, adjust, and maintain a saw. We also size up safety features, check for any kickback during the course of cutting, and assess whether a model's exhaust parts, like the muffler, gets hot—a possible burn hazard. 

Our chainsaw ratings include all types, from leading brands like Craftsman, DeWalt, Echo, EGO, Husqvarna, Kobalt, Ryobi, Remington, Poulan Pro, and Stihl. For more on gas vs. battery, and other choices you'll have to weigh, see our chainsaw buying guide.

Here, we highlight five of the best chainsaws in each of the categories—gas, battery, corded electric, and power lopper—we test.

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