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How to buy the best chainsaw

By Adele Dyer

How much do I need to spend to get a great chainsaw? What protective clothing do I need? This expert guide will help you pick out the best model for you.

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Whether you're slicing wood for the log burner or pruning the garden, you can't get the job done effectively without a reliable chainsaw. Our expert guide highlights the chainsaw features to look out for.

You might be tempted to pick up the cheapest model you can, but without consulting our expert reviews, you risk buying a chainsaw that's weak and lacking on features. Our guide runs through the various types of chainsaws on offer based on your budget.

To see which tried and tested chainsaws we recommend, explore our expert guide on the best chainsaws.

Video: how to buy the best chainsaw 

Which type of chainsaw should I use? 

Our interactive tool will help you choose the best type of chainsaw for your needs.

Corded electric chainsaws

Corded electric chainsaws are generally lowered powered than petrol, and many cordless, chainsaws. They can cut small logs for your woodburner, although our tests show they struggle with tough wood.

You need an external power point to use them, or you can use an extension cable with a circuit breaker.

We don’t advise using them for any tree or shrub work. It’s important to have a clear area without trip hazards, such as the cable, when undertaking this work.

Cordless chainsaws

Cordless chainsaws have improved greatly in the last few years and are now used by gardeners and professional arborists alike.

The advantages are: they’re quieter than other types; you don’t have to store petrol and mix it with two-stroke oil, and unlike corded electric models there’s no cable.

The disadvantages are batteries must be high-powered to last more than a short time which makes them heavy. They’re also expensive to buy and need to be recharged often to complete a long job.

Petrol chainsaws

Petrol chainsaws have in the past been the obvious choice for anyone wanting to chop large amounts of wood, or for felling and tree work.

On the plus side, they’re powerful, and you don’t have to rely on charging a battery or having a nearby power point.

However, they have several disadvantages. They’re heavy, noisy, emit fumes, can be hard to start, can require a great deal of maintenance and you will need to buy, safely store and mix, petrol and two-stroke oil.

How much do I need to pay for a good chainsaw? 

This all depends on what type of chainsaw you want to buy, how much you can afford and how robust you need it to be. If you're using it only occasionally then a cheap, corded electric machine will be fine. But for more substantial jobs or more frequent use, you'll need to get a petrol chainsaw. Remember that you will need to buy appropriate protective clothing, too.

  • Petrol chainsaws - more expensive than electric, although you'll find some own-brand models for less than £100. You’ll pay more for well-known brands, such as Stihl, Husqvarna and McCulloch.
  • Corded electric chainsaws - cost less than £100 in DIY and chain stores. These usually seem to have all the features you might want at a low price. But they do tend to be less robust and may not be able to cope with tough jobs such as sawing through very thick, hard, wood logs.
  • Cordless chainsaws - can cost as little as £95, rising to more than £400 for a top-of-the-range branded model. Cordless chainsaws have the convenience of electric and the portability of petrol.

What protective clothing do I need? 

Safety helmet

These look like construction hard hats. They're designed to protect your head from the force of impact from the guide bar if kickback occurs, provided the chain brake has been activated and the chainsaw chain isn’t spinning. They won’t stop the path of the guide bar or the chain from cutting if it’s in motion.

Most safety helmets have built-in ear defenders, and often transparent plastic or fine-mesh visors to protect the eyes from flying woodchips and dust. Prices start at about £15 online.

Ear defenders

Chainsaws are incredibly noisy and prolonged use can cause hearing damage. Whether you’re using a petrol, corded electric or a cordless battery model, always wear ear defenders. Most safety helmets will have ear defenders built in, but you can also buy them separately for about £10.

Chainsaw trousers

Chainsaw trousers are made from layers of specialist fabric designed to slow the chain down by snagging it. They won’t block the path of a spinning chain completely but, by slowing its progress, they'll make the resulting injury less severe. Prices of chainsaw trousers vary considerably, with a top-of-the-range branded pair costing in the region of £200 and the cheapest cost around £50

Chainsaw gloves

These gloves are heavily padded with similar fabric to that used in chainsaw trousers. They are designed to protect hands, while still being flexible enough to let you work comfortably, and cost between £10 and £35 to buy.

Safety boots

Buy a pair of safety boots that have a steel toe cap and a good grip to prevent accidental slipping when you’re using a chainsaw. Prices vary, starting at about £50.

To get a good deal, it’s worth shopping around and comparing prices for protective clothing. Alternatively, you can buy the whole clothing kit (boots not included) for about £100.

Batteries and chargers for cordless models 

Manufacturers often have one or two standard batteries and chargers that can be used with a wide range of tools. Before you buy check to see if any of your existing tools has a battery and charger that can be used with the tool you are planning to purchase as this could save you a considerable amount of money.  

As some people may already own a compatible battery and charger, these are sometimes not included in the price quoted for your tool, so check the small print before you buy.

Alternatively, you may see it as a good chance to buy a second battery for your tools. Batteries are sometimes cheaper when bought with a tool, and it’s often useful to have a second one charged and ready to go when you’re carrying out jobs that will take some time to finish.

Find out more about cordless chainsaws

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