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Home & garden.

3 December 2021

How to buy the best chainsaw

Whether you want a petrol, cordless or corded electric chainsaw, our expert buying guide will help you pick the best model. We also reveal how much you should spend and the features to look out for.
VM
Verity Mann
Chainsaw-clothing

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.

You might be tempted to pick up the cheapest model you can, but without consulting our independent 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, as well as vital safety information and key features to look out for.


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Video: how to buy the best chainsaw

Watch our video to see the key things to look out for when you're on the hunt for a new chainsaw.

What type of chainsaw should I use?

Cordless chainsaws

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. They're less tiring to use and easier to manoeuvre than other types. It’s still worth testing one out before you buy to check it has enough battery power and will run for long enough for your jobs.

Pros: Lighter, easier to maintain and quieter than petrol chainsaws, no need to be plugged into a power source

Cons: The battery may not give you a lot of run time and they're very expensive

See our cordless chainsaw reviews

Petrol chainsaws

If you have a lot of logs to cut or heavy pruning to tackle in the garden, a petrol chainsaw is a good choice; it will cut through large logs faster than any other machine and you can use it anywhere without the hassle of a trailing power cable.

It is generally recommended that unleaded fuel used for chainsaws does not have a higher ethanol content than 10 % - this is because ethanol attracts water which can cause corrosion if fuel is left in the chainsaw for long periods.

E10 fuel is fine to use, but super unleaded with an ethanol content of 5 % is better and what we would recommend.

It's good practice to empty the fuel tank as much as possible – and completely if not in use over winter. Petrol is better stored in a bespoke container rather than in the machine.

Pros: Powerful, portable, great for chopping logs

Cons: High maintenance, noisy, overpowering emissions, expensive

See our petrol chainsaw reviews

Corded electric chainsaws

Corded electric chainsaws are the cheapest models you can buy. They are ideal if you’re sawing logs or pruning close to the house and can plug the cable straight into a mains socket. Often the power cable is quite short, so if you're chopping logs at the end of your garden you may need to use an extension cable and residual current device (RCD), which cuts off the power if the cable is cut.

Pros: Much easier to use than petrol chainsaws, great for chopping logs, easier to maintain and quieter than petrol chainsaws

Cons: Bulky motor and cable can make them awkward to handle, tend to lack the power of petrol machines, need to be plugged into a power source

See our corded electric chainsaw reviews

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.

Some of the cheapest chainsaws we've seen come from Lidl or Bosch, at around £85. At the other end of the scale are chainsaws costing closer to £450 from brands such as Stihl. 

Our expert tests show that you’re probably looking at around £200-£300 if you want to get your hands on a Best Buy model and they tend to be petrol or cordless.

  • Cordless chainsaws - with the convenience of electric and the portability of petrol, they can cost as little as £100, rising to more than £500 for a top-of-the-range branded model.
  • 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 where prices can rise up to around £500.
  • Corded electric chainsaws - cost less than £50 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.

See our roundup of the top five chainsaws to find a bargain Best Buy.

Which chainsaw features do I need?

  • Guide bar: The chain runs around this, in a groove. If you're just chopping logs for a woodburner, a 30cm long guide bar should be plenty. If you do need a longer bar, you'll also need a more powerful engine to keep the chain turning fast enough around it.
  • Chain: Make sure you use the correct chain, or your chainsaw won't work properly. For the safest option, use a chain that reduces the risk of kickback.
  • Chain catcher: A handy safety feature that stops the chain if it loosens and comes off the guide bar.
  • Chain tensioning: You need to tighten the chain as you work to stop it slipping off. Look out for chainsaws with tool-less adjustment to make it easier
  • Chain brake: Essential or safety, this bar stops you from accidentally turning on your chainsaw and automatically triggers the brake if the chainsaw jumps back towards you.
  • Oil tank: Holds the oil that keeps the chain lubricated as it moves around the bar. Transparent tanks are handy for quickly checking if you need to top up the oil.
  • Starting mechanism: The motor on petrol chainsaws can be complicated and physically difficult to start, so look for simplified or enhanced starting mechanisms.
  • Trigger: All chainsaws should have a double trigger to stop accidental starts, but some also have a second chain break in the trigger to slow the chain down after you remove your finger.

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.

See all the gardening tools we review. 

What protective clothing do I need?

Before you start sawing, you'll need to buy a full set of protective clothing. We recommend a safety helmet, boots and ear defenders as well as chainsaw gloves and chainsaw trousers.

Find out more by reading our guide to using a chainsaw safely.