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Makita
SP6000J1
Bosch
CS5
Skil
5280-01
Porter Cable
PCC660B
DeWalt
DCS391B
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Good

Fast, powerful, reliable. Magnesium shoe improves long-term accuracy.

Light, powerful, full-size saw. Left-side blade claimed to improve cut line visibility.

Powerful motor with excellent performance. Dust blower and laser line guide enhance accuracy.

Cordless and easy to use. Ideal for homeowners. Same battery as other Porter Cable cordless tools.

Superb cordless that closely matches its corded rivals.

Bad

Heavy. Not everyone likes the rubber levers.

Base plate too easily damaged. Some concerns about motor reliability.

Minor consumer complaints about quality. Falls just short of pro demands.

Battery must be bought separately.

Small blade design meant for DIY'ers and not professionals.

Bottom Line

Tough, feature-packed circular saw for hard-working pros. The best available right now.

Good ones are great, but there have been quality control issues. Not cheap.

Everything a DIYer needs from a circular saw. Unbeatable price.

Good for light work around the home and garden. Not a contractor saw.

The best cordless circular saw on the market, and the top value as well.

How we decide
BestReviews is committed to providing comprehensive and trusted reviews for products that matter to consumers. We do the research to help you save time and money.
0
Products received from manufacturers
16
Models Considered
68
Hours Spent
8
Experts Interviewed
142
Consumers Consulted

SHOPPING GUIDE FOR THE BEST CIRCULAR SAWS

A good circular saw is an indispensable tool for DIYers and professional craftsmen alike. On the surface, this tool seems quite uncomplicated. But our in-depth research of the circular saw market has revealed a multitude of options — and the potential for uninformed consumers to make expensive mistakes.

The challenge you face is choosing the right circular saw for your needs. That's where the BestReviews team can help. We buy every tool on our test list to guarantee there's no bias. We push them hard in our test lab (though not too hard; we like our products to be in working order when we finish so we can donate them to charity).

The result is a selection of the best circular saws on today’s market. The five recommended saws in our matrix, above, meet or exceed our stringent criteria. We're happy to recommend them.

A circular saw can be used to cut almost any material, depending on the size and strength of the saw. Most common use of it is on wood, plastic, and metal.

For a more comprehensive look at the options available to you, we've also compiled the information below:

CHOOSING THE RIGHT TYPE OF CIRCULAR SAW

Circular saws are available in four types. We concentrate on the three most common types in this shopping guide: the sidewinderworm drive, and hypoid. (The fourth type is the trim saw, which is really only of interest to specialist tradespeople.)

Types of circular saws

Sidewinder

This tool is also known as an in-line saw. It’s the type of circular saw most people recognize on sight. The sidewinder’s combination of power and price makes it the most popular circular saw among homeowners.

The motor sits alongside the shaft of the blade and aligns with it. As such, it’s a fairly compact tool. Blade speed is fast, though torque does not quite approach that of other circular saw types.

These lightweight tools are great for general use and favored by carpenters who have to work overhead.

Most homeowners looking to do occasional DIY around the house and garden will find a sidewinder saw to be a satisfactory choice.
Types of circular saws

Worm Drive

A worm drive saw’s motor sits behind the blade shaft; worm drive gears connect the two. Gears of this type are more durable and efficient than toothed gears, delivering more torque and making for a more powerful saw. Because of the motor position, they offer a clearer view of the cut line, too.

The downside to worm drive saws is that they're considerably larger than sidewinders. Heavier, too. Where a typical sidewinder weighs six or seven pounds, a worm drive saw easily clocks in at twelve pounds or more. That’s a bit hefty for all-day work.

Types of circular saws

Hypoid

Hypoid circular saws are similar to their worm drive counterparts, but the gear differs in shape and is encased in an oil bath to extend working life and reduce the need for maintenance.

Top-shelf hypoid saws offer a few advantages over worm gear saws. They are very powerful and, thanks to premium materials like magnesium, quite lightweight. These saws also tend to cost a lot, but the market is a competitive one, and you can usually find a good deal.

Worm drive and hypoid saws are big, powerful tools. They’re a delight to own and use. In most cases, they are the professional's tools of choice, though it's fair to say that many carpenters and site workers use sidewinders, too.

CUTTING CAPACITY & ADJUSTABILITY

A circular saw's capacities are measured in two ways: depth of cut and bevel (or miter) angle.

  • Depth of cut is measured with the blade at 90° to the shoe. It varies depending on blade size, but not by much. A 6 1/2" blade generally renders a depth between 2 1/8" and 2 1/4”. A 7 1/4" blade increases that to about 2 1/2". Though the difference is small, it may be important if you're cutting lots of dimensional lumber.
  • All circular saws can cut bevels to 45° left and right, but some can create even larger angles. Roofers and other tradespeople find the extended range useful when creating complex compound joints. Higher-quality saws offer detents — pre-set stops for fast setting of common angles like 22.5° and 45°. The angle guide should be easy to read.

Circular saws of high quality usually sport large knobs or levers for the speedy setting of depths and angles. This becomes more important if you're working in the cold and wearing gloves.

Circular saws have been around since the early 18th century. Benjamin Cummins of New York is the holder of the first patent for circular saws in the United States, granted to him in 1814.

THE RIGHT SHOE

A flat shoe (also called a base plate) is extremely important to the accuracy of your circular saw. Three possible materials comprise the shoe: steel, aluminum, and magnesium.

Shoe materials

Steel

The cheapest way to make a shoe is with a stamped steel plate. The disadvantage is that they are easily bent or broken if dropped. (And in all likelihood, you will probably drop your saw at some point.) Minor damage can be repaired, but if the shoe gets twisted, it will need to be replaced.

Shoe materials

Aluminium

Some aluminum base plates are pressed in the same manner as steel, but most are cast. These are thicker and, though softer than steel, more resistant to damage and flexing. Aluminum is also much lighter than steel.

Shoe materials

Magnesium

This material is both lighter and stronger than aluminum. It’s also more expensive. Most high-end saws have magnesium alloy shoes.

Good guards are vital for safe circular saw work. Quality saws feature a prominent, curved lip on the front of the guard below the shoe. This allows it to ride up easily as you start to cut.

CORDED VS. CORDLESS

As with most modern tools, you can choose between a corded or cordless circular saw. The best corded circular saws sport 15-amp motors that deliver plenty of torque for effortless cutting.

Cordless tools may quote similar blade RPM figures, but these are "no load" speeds. (In other words, the saw isn’t actually cutting.) Cordless circular saws rarely quote torque figures — and torque is where the real power lies.

Corded circular saws have the advantage of delivering power with no drop-off. The best cordless circular saw would struggle to deliver the same level of torque as a corded model, even with a fresh battery. What’s more, a cordless saw’s torque declines as the battery drains. If you plan to work a cordless circular saw for long periods, a second battery is a must.

But the portability of cordless circular saw offers a huge benefit to some people, and high-end cordless saws deliver ample power for the majority of consumers.

When cross cutting at 90°, a speed square — a marking out tool — is a great help. Swanson Tools, who manufacture speed squares, describe is as a "Try Square, Miter Square, Protractor, Line Scriber, & Saw Guide" in one.

Blade Choices

The blade is a vital component of any circular saw. A worn blade hinders cutting performance and can create ragged, inaccurately measured edges. A cracked blade should never be used, as it poses a major safety threat.

To get the best out of your circular saw, choose the right blade for the material you plan to cut.

Cheap circular saws often feature plain steel blades. These blades can be thin and prone to flexing (making the blade wander). They dull quickly, too. This type of blade is fine for a small softwood job, but few would recommend it on the merit of its quality alone.

High speed steel (HSS) blades are hardened for a longer working life. They cost more than plain steel blades, but the edge is more efficient, and they’re almost always more economical in the long run.

Carbide tipped blades are HSS discs with tungsten or titanium carbide teeth brazed on. These extremely hard materials maintain a sharp edge considerably longer than plain HSS blades.  In our opinion, this type of blade is a must if you’re cutting hardwood.

You can find specialist blades on the market for cutting tile, brick, concrete, and other aggregate blocks. Most specialist blades have aluminum oxide tips and are extremely abrasive. Others — tile cutters in particular — have diamond-tipped teeth.

When possible, use a tall fence rather than a thin strip. It's more stable, and it inhibits the saw’s tendency to “climb” over the guide.

You may notice that many circular saw blades have slots in them. These are expansion slots so the blade doesn't warp from the heat generated by continuous cutting.

Extras

The following extras are not found on all circular saws, but their availability may affect your purchasing decision. They are convenient but by no means essential.

  • Electric Blade Brake
    This brake stops the blade immediately after you release the trigger rather than allowing it to spin down normally.
  • Laser Guide
    This guide projects a handy laser line along your cut line. It’s popular with DIY consumers but largely ignored by pros.
  • Dust Blower
    This convenient feature clears sawdust from your cut line.
  • LED Worklight
    This light illuminates the area in front of the blade.

HOW MUCH DOES A GOOD CIRCULAR SAW COST?

Poor build quality often results in a poor finished job. As such, we advise against buying a cheap circular saw. Fortunately, the market boasts some great models from well-respected manufacturers that are not expensive. There’s no need to cut corners.

  • For $50 to $60, you can get an entry-level sidewinder for occasional DIY use. In this price range, you can get a corded model with a full-size, 7 1/4" blade or a cordless with a 6 1/2" blade.
  • If you’re willing to spend between $70 and $120, you have an enormous product range from which to choose. Many circular saws at this price point are solid, powerful tools (again mostly sidewinder) that should last a lifetime.
  • If you want the kind of top circular saw that a professional craftsman would use, plan to spend a minimum of $150 and as much as $500. At these prices, you get exceptional equipment that the pros prefer.
Before you purchase a circular saw, be sure to hold it, check how the weight feels to you, whether you can see the point where the saw blade touches the material if you were using it to cut something, and how you like the touch and feel of the product itself.

MAINTENANCE TIPS

Keeping your circular saw in top condition is mostly a matter of common sense. Manufacturers provide instructions for a reason; following them will make your saw cut better and extend its working life.

  • Unplug your saw after use and give it a good brush down. Pay particular attention to areas where dust and chips gather. This prevents dirt from infiltrating and damaging the levers and guides, which could lead to inaccuracy. If you've got a compressed air supply, give it a good cleansing with that.
  • Lubricate your saw regularly. This includes hypoid circular saws. Although hypoids have sealed gears, they still need lubrication elsewhere.
  • Check the shoe for dings and flatness. Sandpaper or a light file can often repair minor damage. Replace the shoe if it becomes twisted or dented beyond repair.
  • Periodically check the bolts and screws for tightness. It only takes a couple of minutes.

Tips for Better Cutting Performance

  • Set the blade depth 1/8" to 1/4" deeper than the material you are cutting. Start the saw and allow the blade to reach full speed before you begin to cut.
  • A circular saw blade cuts upwards, so broken wood fibers (called tearout) appear in the top of the material where it's most obvious. There are two ways to reduce this effect. (A) If you have sheet material with a “good” side, cut it upside down so the tearout is on the reverse. (2) If you must cut on the good side, carefully score the cut line with a craft knife first to reduce splintering.
  • When ripping, always go with the grain.
  • Prevent the shoe from marking finished surfaces by attaching masking or duct tape to the underside. But don't overlap the tape or leave uneven edges, as this would affect accuracy.
  • Your saw may be accurate and the laser guide might be true, but it's always worth checking on a piece of scrap first, just to be sure.
  • If you're tackling multiple pieces of ply of the same dimensions, consider the “gang cutting” method: clamp several pieces together before you start and cut them all at once. It's quicker, and they'll all be the same size.
  • Always allow the waste side to fall away from the blade. If it doesn't, it could bind, throw the waste, or cause the blade to kick back.
Never try to back out of a cut with the saw running, as it could kick back and throw the saw. Always move the blade forward.

Plenty of other useful circular saw tips can be found online at useful sites like The Family Handyman.

Safety Tips

  • Always wear eye protection.  
  • Never use a rusty or cracked blade.
  • Always make sure blade guards are operating freely.
  • Never lock or jam blade guards out of the way.
  • Always be aware of where the power cord is so you don't accidentally cut through it.
  • Never change a blade with the saw plugged in or the battery attached.
The team that worked on this review
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