The best electric chainsaws offer definite advantages over their gas-powered counterparts. They're light, quiet, better for the environment, and easy to start. Arguably, they offer a greater choice of size and power than gas-powered chainsaws, too. But this wide range of options can present problems. It's tough to know how to choose the best electric chainsaw for your own needs.
Sure, stores and manufacturers offer plenty of advice, but what about an independent view? That's where the BestReviews team steps in.
We never accept manufacturer samples; we go out and buy the products we want to test. Then we take them to our BestReviews lab and put them through their paces. And though we're tough on our test products, we try not to break them so we can donate them to charity when we’re done.
The chainsaws in our product matrix, above, are all quality products that we highly recommend. What follows below is an in-depth look at the electric chainsaw market. If you need help picking the right tool for your needs, please read on.
Perhaps the most important decision when choosing an electric chainsaw is whether to go for a corded or cordless model.
Although some electric corded models are made of plastic, others are made of steel. High-end steel models may be more robust, but there’s a weight penalty. At eleven pounds and upward, there can be little to choose between corded, cordless, and gas.
Speaking of cords, we must also point out that fact that they can get tangled, which is both frustrating and dangerous when you’re using a chainsaw. And because there’s a 15-amp maximum in home electrical sockets, you’re somewhat limited. Furthermore, it’s a pain to deal with an extension cord, and you cannot carry your electric corded model more than 100 feet away from the source because of current drop. (Resistance in the cable soaks up power.)
Like most things, corded electric chainsaws run the gamut in terms of quality. A cheap corded electric chainsaw is certainly tempting, but it may present you with durability issues down the road.
Cordless electric chainsaws tend to weigh more than their corded counterparts due to the addition of the battery. The average tool weighs 10 to 15 pounds, in fact. If you get one, you’ll be paying this weight penalty, and you’ll also probably be paying a bit more for the chainsaw itself. Cordless electrics are not as cheap as many corded models.
Furthermore, a cordless model is generally less powerful than its corded equivalent. Even if you opt for one of the most powerful (and priciest) cordless models, its run time is typically limited to 60 minutes or less. Recharge times can be long, although the best cordless electric chainsaws can recharge in as little as 30 minutes. An extra set of batteries could be helpful in this situation, but batteries are expensive.
Many manufacturers now make batteries that fit a range of different tools. If you're thinking of buying a cordless electric chainsaw, you might want to check what other devices you can plug the battery into.
Chainsaw are generally rated by their bar size (the metal plate the chain runs around). The question is, which size should you buy? We spoke to Luke, BestReviews’ expert landscaping and gardening consultant, for his thoughts on the matter.
The size of chainsaw you need depends on the types of tasks you wish to complete. Luke advised us that any electric chainsaw with a bar under 12 inches would only be suitable for trimming bushes and very small tree limbs. If you’re looking to cut limbs that are several inches in diameter or firewood that won’t need splitting after you cut it, a 14-inch electric chainsaw would be a good bet.
If you want a chainsaw for “general purposes,” a 16-inch model could be suitable. This length is a practical minimum for actual tree felling. Anything larger than 18 inches, Luke said, is almost certainly gas-powered. And truth be told, most homeowners would never need an electric chainsaw with a bar larger than 18 inches.
With instant starting and no gas or oil to mix, an electric chainsaw is already quite a straightforward tool. But manufacturers of top-quality models offer additional features that can make your life even easier.
While the maintenance demands of an electric chainsaw are few, it still requires regular oiling. On some models, this is achieved manually by pressing a button. However, an automatic oiling system is far superior and makes for a longer chain life.
You’ll be wearing gloves when you use your chainsaw. For this reason, a model with plenty of room around the handles and triggers is ideal.
The chain will also need to be tightened from time to time. Tool-less adjustment is faster and more convenient than completing the task by hand.
Some electric chainsaws come with current limiters that prevent you from burning out your motor if there’s a risk of overload.
This type of motor is very quiet and durable.
With the enormous variety of electric chainsaws available, it's difficult to put machines into accurate price ranges. The following is a rough guide based on the latest research, but it will likely change. This is particularly true for cordless chainsaw prices, as battery technology continues to improve and costs continue to drop.
Cheap electric chainsaws often come with inferior blades. Performance can be drastically improved with a better one.
An electric chainsaw with automatic tensioning prevents you from over-tightening. This is a great feature, as it can extend the life of the chain.
For many homeowners, an electric chainsaw is the best solution. They're less intimidating than gas models because they're quieter, lighter, and easier to use. They may lack the power of high-end gas models, but unless you're cutting trees or logs regularly, they offer the most sensible and economical solution in most cases. What's more, with such a vast array of electric chainsaws available, there should be one out there that's perfect for you.
If you choose to purchase the GreenWorks or Black & Decker on our matrix, you have the option of buying the unit with or without batteries. We recommend that you opt for the battery. In fact, you may appreciate having a spare battery on hand in case you’re in the middle of a project and run out of juice.
The finalists in our product matrix, above, underline the main factors in the corded/cordless chainsaws debate.
We spent considerable time selecting our five finalists, so it's no surprise that picking an overall winner is tough. They all have a lot to offer. However, after much debate, the BestReviews test team chose the Makita UC4051A as the best electric chainsaw available right now.
The fact that it's corded limits its operational range, but it certainly doesn’t limit the length of time it will run. It's built well, enjoys a great reputation for durability, and sports good grips that are comfortable and accommodating for gloved hands.
A 16-inch blade is arguably the optimum size for a tool like this. It's what our landscaping pro Luke thinks is the perfect "general purpose" length. Thanks to Makita’s design, you don’t need tools to adjust the chain. What’s more, oiling is automatic, so you can keep on working without having to worry about it.
No tool is perfect, but our research turned up virtually no negative comments from owners. When the only thing people complain about is the oil filler being a bit awkward, you know you don't have much to worry about!
At a cost of $253, you do pay a premium for the Makita UC4051A. But it's a wise investment. You get a superbly made tool that's easy-to-use, trouble-free, and powerful. We have no hesitation in naming it the Best of the Best electric chainsaw.
The Makita boasts a built-in “current limiter” which prevents the motor from burning out in the event of a power overload. For some owners, this winning feature helps them make their product decision.
The value you get for your money always plays a big part in our product decisions. Sometimes, it’s difficult to determine which product offers the best value. Not this time, though. The Worx WG303.1 is outstanding. You won't find a better electric chainsaw for the money.
This chainsaw’s specification list rivals that of tools that cost two to three times as much. Its 16-inch blade is long enough to handle all but the biggest of jobs. The 14.5-amp motor delivers the same kind of power as the Makita. It's got both automatic oiling and automatic tensioning.
Customer feedback is equally impressive. One or two complain of mechanical failures, but the overwhelming majority say things like "plenty of power," "excellent for general homeowner use," and "best corded saw money can buy."
So why didn't it win our best electric chainsaw award? It came close. The Makita shades it for build quality, all-round performance, and its stellar reputation. But if you’re carefully watching your dollars and cents, you can't beat the $91 Worx.