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Are petrol chainsaws better than electric?

If you’re considering buying a chainsaw but don’t know whether to opt for petrol or electric, we’ve got a round-up of some of their pros and cons

Are petrol chainsaws better than electric?

Petrol chainsaws are a popular choice but they’re noisy, often expensive and need regular maintenance to keep them running effectively. So, with other options available, is it time to look at alternatives?

If you’re after a chainsaw to cut up logs for your wood-burning stove this winter, you can choose between a petrol, cordless or corded electric model.

The latter two types are proving popular with gardeners, as they’re generally easier to use and much less likely to disturb the neighbours than your average petrol chainsaw.


Go straight to the top performers: the best chainsaws we’ve tested.


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Petrol vs. cordless chainsaws

Close up of chainsaw cutting logs

Currently, our top six high scorers consist of three petrol models and three cordless models so it’s an even battle when judging their performance.

Petrol

Petrol chainsaws can have a reputation for being unwieldy and higher maintenance. But, if you have a lot of logs to cut or heavy pruning to tackle, then a petrol chainsaw could be the best choice as they’re designed for more substantial jobs.

A petrol chainsaw will cut through large logs faster than any other machine and you can use it anywhere without the hassle of a trailing power cable or fear of the battery running out.

There’s also the environmental impact of air pollution created by petrol garden machinery and the health concerns of breathing in toxic fumes.

Prices of models we’ve tested range from just £80 all the way up to £445, but don’t assume the most expensive models will be the top performers.

Pros:

  • Powerful
  • Portable
  • Great for more substantial jobs

Cons:

  • Higher maintenance than cordless
  • Noisy
  • Produce fumes which raise your carbon footprint

Go straight to our petrol chainsaw reviews.

Cordless

Cordless chainsaws are ideal if you want to work among branches, as they don’t have a trailing cable and are generally quite light and compact.

In recent years, the performance of battery-powered garden machinery has improved, and a cordless chainsaw can pack enough power to rival petrol chainsaws.

The average run time for the cordless chainsaws we’ve tested is 12 minutes with the average charge time taking 95 mins, ranging from just 40 minutes up to a lengthy 150 minutes.

Although 12 minutes doesn’t sound like much, it should be more than adequate for light, domestic use. Some manufacturers also sell larger capacity batteries to allow longer operating time.

Depending on the size of your garden, you may want to invest in a second battery so that while one is charging, you can use the other.

Once the battery has run its lifetime, make sure you dispose of it in the most environmentally friendly way. Ending up in landfill sites can result in dangerous chemicals leaking into the soil and then ultimately groundwater. You can find your nearest local battery recycling point across the UK here.

Prices of models we’ve tested range from £169 to £829.99, so they can be expensive.

Pros:

  • Lighter than petrol models
  • Easier to maintain
  • Quieter than petrol chainsaws
  • Doesn’t require a power source
  • Not contributing to air pollution

Cons:

  • The battery may not give you a lot of run time
  • Can take a long time to charge
  • Can be expensive

Go straight to our cordless chainsaw reviews.

The future of petrol garden machinery

Chainsaw cutting a tree

With consumers more conscious than ever of their personal environmental impact– from recycling and making homes more energy efficient to investing in electric cars, is it time to turn some of that momentum towards gardening tools?

By improving the appearance of outside spaces, are we inadvertently contributing to environmental damage?

Unlike cars, petrol-powered garden machinery doesn’t have catalytic converters to reduce the amount of harmful pollutants that enter the atmosphere.

While breathing in small amounts of petrol vapour should not cause harm, large amounts can cause feelings of dizziness, drowsiness and headaches.

Modern petrol garden machinery is regulated by EU law with the purpose of helping to lower emissions but there are loopholes.

When new laws are introduced, manufacturers have a responsibility to ensure their latest models conform. But, by investing in new technology/processes in order to conform may mean the additional cost is added onto the price of the product.

Manufacturers could add a small amount of cheap catalyst to the exhaust on an engine to pass the emissions test. However, the small amount added will quickly burn out and ultimately leave you with the higher polluting engine.

Taking a stand, Californian Governor, Gavin Newsome has recently signed legislation banning the sale of petrol-powered gardening equipment by 2024, to combat air pollution.

With petrol still a popular choice for gardeners in the UK and new launches from manufacturers, it might be we see the cost increasing of petrol-powered garden tools.

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