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10 things you should know before you buy a chainsaw

After a new chainsaw? Read up on must-have features and must-know safety information before you buy.

Autumn is prime time for chainsaws. With colder weather starting to bite, the pressure’s on to finish all your garden work and have a stockpile of wood to heat your home all winter long.

You shouldn’t rush into buying a chainsaw, though. They can be a pricey purchase, plus there’s potential for a serious accident to happen if you haven’t done your homework.

See below for the main things you should know before you pick your perfect chainsaw.


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1) The difference between cordless, corded and petrol chainsaws

First things first – you need to know which type of chainsaw you should be looking for. Each has benefits and drawbacks, so it’s worth picking the right type for the typical tasks you want it to do.

  • Petrol – Usually the fastest and most powerful type, so a good choice for those with lots of logs to chop, plus you don’t need a power cord. However, they’re noisy, need a lot of maintenance and aren’t the most eco-friendly.
  • Corded electric – Tend to be quieter, easier to maintain and cheaper than other types. They can lack the power of petrol models though, you’ll need to stay close to a power socket and there’s the risk you could accidentally cut through the power cable.
  • Cordless – The portability of petrol with the convenience of electric, but there are some downsides. The battery life might not be sufficient for your needs, plus they can be pricey and you’ll need to wait for the battery to recharge if it runs out of power.

See our roundup of the top five best chainsaws to see which type comes out on top in our tests.

2) You could save money on a cordless chainsaw if you already have a battery

Cordless chainsaws have powerful batteries that can almost cost as much as the appliance itself. The good news is that you may be able to use one battery for all your cordless tools (provided you’ve stuck to the same brand).

Check the small print when you buy to make sure you know what’s included in the price. If the chainsaw-and-battery combo is cheaper than buying each separately, it might be worth going for it. You can always use the extra battery as a back-up for when your main one is on charge.

3) You’ll have to buy safety equipment

Most chainsaws have safety features, such as chain catchers and secondary power switches, but that’s not all you’ll need to use your chainsaw safely.

Some manufacturers will have everything you need in one place, but you might get a better deal if you shop around. Just make sure you have all the gear before you start sawing.

4) Attend a chainsaw safety course

It won’t be high on your list of things to do before Christmas, but going to a chainsaw safety course is the best way to learn how to minimise the risk of accidents and keep your chainsaw in excellent working order.

You can book a one- or two-day course with Lantra, a national training organisation for land-based industries. Head to lantra.co.uk to find a course near you, or read our chainsaw safety guide for more information.

5) Look for chainsaws with an auto-oil function

This handy feature will save you a bit of time and a lot of bother when you’re using your chainsaw. The chain needs to stay lubricated to stop it catching or overheating, but this is easily achieved when you buy a chainsaw with an integrated oil chamber that supplies the oil automatically.

Luckily, all the chainsaws we tested this year come with this feature. See all the chainsaws we’ve reviewed to find your favourite.

6) Petrol chainsaws can have vibration minimisers

Petrol chainsaws have powerful, vibrating engines that can cause tension in your arms and shoulders if you’re working through a huge pile of logs.

If you need the strength and speed of a petrol chainsaw, look for vibration dampeners or anti-vibration mounts. Otherwise, you can choose a corded electric chainsaw for a lighter and easier-to-use option.

7) Always keep your chain sharp

Cutting with a blunt chain isn’t just ineffective, it’s also more likely to cause a serious accident.

With the right tools you can sharpen your chainsaw yourself, but if you’re uncomfortable with the idea you can take it to a dealership.

8) Check the chain tension every time

Chainsaw chains can slacken over time and even come off during use, so make sure you’ve checked it before you start sawing.

Some models make it easy to change the tension, with a wheel on the body for making adjustments. Otherwise you’ll need to use a screwdriver or multi-tool to change it manually.

9) Some chainsaws are more likely to last

We survey members to find out which brands are your best bet for a reliable chainsaw, and find out which are most likely to break down.

The best brand’s corded chainsaws have a huge 93% reliability score, but not all electric chainsaws fare this well over time.

The difference is even starker if you pick a petrol chainsaw. The worst brand we surveyed had problems with four out of 10 of its chainsaws after 10 years, so you could be left with mounting piles of logs and a chainsaw you can’t use.

Find out which brands are likely to go the distance by reading our guide to the most reliable chainsaws.

10) Paying more doesn’t always pay off

Spending more on a chainsaw can get you more power, a longer chain and a well-known brand name, but it doesn’t always guarantee a quality model.

In the past, we’ve found Best Buy chainsaws for less than £200, as well as pricier models costing more than £300 that underwhelmed our experts.

Our testing proves that it pays to read reviews before you buy, so see the best chainsaws we’ve tested to find your perfect model, whatever your budget.

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