Electric chainsaws can be a handy tool to have around the garden, but a gas chainsaw delivers long-lasting power — and it can go where a cable can't.
Not so long ago, gas chainsaws had something of a "fear factor" attached to them.
However, modern gas chainsaws are much lighter and easier to use than their predecessors. They're no longer a tool reserved just for professionals.
We've selected five excellent performers that can take on a wide variety of wood-cutting challenges.
It's not simply a question of which motor is biggest or which cutting bar is longest. What you need is a motor/cutting bar combo that best fits the jobs you do most often. You also want something that's easy to start.
Many factors affect a gas chainsaw's real-world usability: anti-vibration handles, auto-tensioners, even the chain itself. We've evaluated each product's operational considerations so you know what each chainsaw is like to work with.
Modern gas chainsaws employ a variety of features to keep the user from harm, including chain brakes and trigger lockouts.
Gas chainsaw prices run the gamut. We tell you what you get for your money.
Luke owned and operated his own lawn and landscaping business for over a decade. Founding the business and growing it prior to an acquisition, Luke led all procurement decisions, from the purchase of blowers and lawn mowers to weed whackers and tillers. Luke uses all of these machines regularly.
All of the gas chainsaws on our shortlist are powered by two-cycle (also called two-stroke) engines, so they need two-cycle oil and petrol pre-mixed. Although most engines are fairly forgiving, getting that mixture right is important for ease of starting, smooth operation, and durability. Historically, two-cycle engines were criticized for being noisy and thirsty, but all of our manufacturers have addressed these issues and claim both lower emissions and better fuel economy.
The Hitcahi CS33EB16 Gas Powered Chain Saw has a 34cc motor and an 16-inch bar. These specs should be more than adequate for most jobs in a fairly large garden. The start lever and choke are combined, and the "soft-start" is claimed to reduce the force necessary to pull the cord by 40 percent. To make starting even easier, the manufacturer employs a "manual purge pump" to prime the carburetor before you turn on and pull. Most owners in our survey reported that start-up is relatively effortless, but one or two told us they received units that wouldn't start at all. These non-working products were replaced, and we suspect a fault in a particular batch rather than an ongoing problem. Starting problems aside, the Hitachi appears to be reliable gas chainsaw for the medium to long-term.
With the Poulan Pro PP5020AV Gas Powered Chainsaw you get both a larger engine (50cc) and a longer bar (20 inches). The manufacturer is keen to point out that this model's chrome-plated cylinder yields longer engine life. The manufacturer also points out that this is the most powerful engine available on a consumer chain saw. However, as you'll see from others in our top five, that would appear to depend on how you define the word "consumer." Anyway, plenty of owners in our survey were happy with their Poulan's performance, although we did receive some mixed reports about starting. One owner suggested that carburetor tuning could be at fault, but that shouldn't be the case straight out of the box. Aside from this complaint, reliability does not seem to be an issue with the Poulan Pro.
At first glance, the Tanaka TCS33EDTP/12 Top Handle Chain Saw, with its 32.2cc engine and 12-inch bar, might seem small. However, a shorter bar is actually more useful in some instances, and there's no lack of power from the Tanaka engine. It's a tool that's certainly long enough for general pruning and lopping work, so unless you're going to be cutting down numerous trees, this could be the product that suits you best. Indeed, if you're working in tight spaces, a smaller saw is more maneuverable. The Tanaka's starting system is similar in concept to the Hitachi and Poulan Pro, but the success rate is much higher in starting this saw. Several customers assured us that the Tanaka "starts first pull, every time."
The fact that the Remington RM5118R Rodeo Gas Chainsaw has a 51cc engine and an 18-inch bar seems to put a dent in Poulan Pro's "most powerful" claim. The difference is only 1cc, but when combined with a slightly shorter bar, these specs should make the Remington's performance equal to — if not greater than — the Poulan Pro. The Remington uses the typical "prime and pull" start, but the manufacturer tells us start-up is made easier by their Quickstart technology, which uses electronic ignition. This type of start can be a godsend, especially in damp conditions. The consumers in our survey voiced a couple of complaints regarding start-up, but because difficult start-up seems to be a recurrent theme in many models, we suspect there may be an element of "operator error" contributing to this trend.
If you're looking for out-and-out power, the Husqvarna 460 Rancher Gas Powered Chain Saw's 60.3cc engine and 20-inch bar provide the biggest and most potent combination we've reviewed. Husqvarna calls this their "X-Torq" engine. According to owners, the X-Torq gives increased torque throughout the rev range. "Runs like a train," one owner affirmed for us. While a few owners find the Husqvarna's pre-ignition process to be a bit convoluted, this process is actually very similar to that of other models on our shortlist. When all is said and done, the physical pull-starting of this saw is quite easy.
It's worth pointing out that lower-priced chainsaws are likely to come with cheaper chains. If you end up purchasing a cheaper product and cutting performance is not what you expect, changing the relatively low-cost chain for a high-performance alternative can be a cost-effective way to a better saw.
At around 11.5 pounds, the Hitachi is relatively light. Although quite a lot of plastic is used in its structure, our research indicates that it is a fairly robust product. The soft-grip handle helps reduce the vibration that's inherent in any chainsaw. At a little over 100 decibels, the Hitachi's noise level it's not particularly offensive (although ear defenders are always recommended, whichever saw you use). The product sports a useful fuel-level window and a combination wrench/screwdriver beneath its handle, although you won't need it to adjust the chain. A bar/chain cover is also provided.
Given that it has a bigger motor and bar, it's no surprise that the Poulan Pro, at just over 15 pounds, is a little heavier than the Hitachi. Like the Hitachi, the Poulan features an anti-vibration handle and a built in wrench/screwdriver, plus a very useful automatic chain oiler and a complete carrying case (rather than just a chain and bar cover). A large number of owners have reported being thrilled with the performance they got for the price.
At 11.9 pounds, the Tanaka TCS33EDTP/12 gas chainsaw is actually a fraction heavier than the Hitachi in spite of its smaller size. Handy features include chain adjustment that is easily accessible (though not tool-free) and automatic chain oiling. Our research indicates that customers get neither cover nor case with the purchase of a Tanaka. As a top-handled model, the Tanaka has a different feel than some other chainsaws and is designed for smaller-diameter cutting.
The Remington RM5118R Rodeo Gas Chainsaw weighs 25 pounds. It's not a "lightweight" chainsaw, but it's no monster, either. When you're tackling big jobs, a bit of weight can actually be an advantage. Both front and back handles employ vibration damping to make the machine more comfortable to use. Also, like several other models on our shortlist, the Remington offers an adjustable, automatic chain oiler. With purchase, you also get a heavy-duty case for carrying the tool around. The manufacturer tells us the Remington is ideal for cutting firewood, trimming trees, and clearing storm debris; these claims are supported by a large number of satisfied owners who say the Remington is "powerful" and a "great value for the money." While a handful of owners in our survey reported issues with reliability or durability, these comments were by far the minority.
The Husqvarna weighs less than 13 pounds. Considering the fact that it has the largest-capacity engine on our shortlist, not to mention a bar that's equal to anything here, we find this to be rather remarkable. In addition to the usual anti-vibration considerations, the manufacturer also gives great attention to the Husqvarna's balance and ergonomics. As a result, this saw -- with its larger engine -- handles as easily as smaller saws. The Husqvarna falls into the "prosumer" category: it's a chainsaw that the average buyer can handle, but it renders a near-professional performance. Chain adjustment is simple, oiling is automatic and adjustable, and there's even an air injection system that blows most of the fine debris away from the filter, prolonging serviceable life. The only fault mentioned with any regularity by owners concerns the necessity of disengaging the chain brake when changing the chain. However, other conscientious consumers have said that the instructions are perfectly clear if you read the manual!
Most chainsaw accidents can be prevented. Follow the manufacturer's instructions, keep your chainsaw properly maintained, and only use it when you're fit and well. Each tool on our shortlist comes with a range of built-in safety features to help keep you safe.
The Hitachi CS33EB16 Gas Chain Saw includes a dual trigger, or "trigger lockout," in which both trigger components need to be held in for the chainsaw to start. It also features an easy-to-reach stop button (combined with the choke) and a chain brake which is activated either manually or by inertia.
Like the Hitachi, the Poulan Pro PP5020AV Gas Chainsaw has a trigger lockout. However, this feature's wide spacing could be a little awkward for users with smaller hands. The Poulan Pro offers a safety stop button which can easily be pushed or jabbed with a palm. The chain brake is activated in the same way, with the lever in front of the top handle. We were unable to ascertain whether this product offers inertial braking.
Although the handle configuration of the Tanaka TCS33EDTP/12 Gas Chain Saw is slightly different, safety features are much the same, with a dual trigger, easy-reach stop button, and lever-activated chain brake. The only feature that might cause some concern is that the activation lever/shield also has a built-in lanyard ring. However, if you were climbing a tree to lop branches and dropped the saw and the trigger release failed, the chainsaw would still stop because the attached lanyard would activate the chain break, not inhibit it.
Most of the safety features we touch on in this review are common to all models today, and the Remington RM5118R Rodeo Gas Chainsaw is no exception. The stop button, mounted on top of the handle, is just in front of the dual trigger, making it a bit easier to reach than the stop button on some other saws. This model incorporates inertial braking as well.
According to our research, Husqvarna actually invented the inertial chain braking system, so it's no surprise that this safety feature is included on the Husqvarna 460 Rancher Gas Chain Saw. Most of the other safety components — trigger lockout, stop button, and chain brake lever — are no different from the other machines we've rated, but the top handle and shield/lever are canted at seven degrees, which is purported to offer a better grip and reduce user fatigue. We appreciate this feature, as operating a chainsaw while tired is never a good idea!
At a price of $199, the Hitachi CS33EB16 Gas Powered Chain Saw is a remarkable value. It's a capable all-rounder with all the necessary features and one or two well-conceived extras, such as tool-free tensioning. That might not seem like much, but chains stretch quite a lot initially and having to repeatedly tighten them can be a nuisance.
The Poulan Pro PP5020AV Gas Chainsaw costs $187. It's an excellent value-for-the-money package, delivering more power and capacity than the economical Hitachi. That being said, we did uncover a number of reliability and quality issues in our research. The Poulan Pro is manufactured in the Husqvarna plant. However, as one owner pointed out, that doesn't mean they used the same components, nor does it make this product as good as a Husqvarna.
The Tanaka TCS33EDTP/12 Top Handle Chain Saw is currently available for $207. That's a fair chunk of change but, comparatively, the Tanaka isn't considered to be an expensive choice. Rather than being a "jack-of-all-trades" saw, the Tanaka is a master at what it has been designed for. You don't always need the biggest, most powerful chainsaw; sometimes you need something smaller and easier to handle. We're not trying to suggest that this is an under-powered tool; it's actually a very powerful tool. As we've already seen, many owners are surprised by the quality performance the Tanaka delivers.
The Husqvarna 460 Rancher Gas Powered Chain Saw costs $465. That's a lot of money — almost twice as much as the next most expensive saw on our shortlist — but you must consider what you get for your investment. The Husqvarna features a power unit of 60cc. That's considerably larger than any other motor on our shortlist. Consider this: 60cc is a bigger motor than some road-going scooters! When you purchase this product, you're also buying into one of the best names in the business.
For $178, you can get the Remington RM5118R Rodeo Gas Chainsaw, and what you'll be getting is a machine that does pretty much whatever you ask it to do. It's got plenty of capacity and plenty of power. While it may not be the "best looking" chainsaw in the world, it focuses on its work — not entering beauty pageants! The Remington is a heavy-duty tool that's built for durability, and plenty of owners would call themselves "fans" of this tool. The small number of complaints we encountered about difficult start-up could very well have to do with the fact that some users try to use this tool without reading the manual first. The majority of owners we talked to were very positive, espousing compliments like "The power is unreal!" and "Awesome saw for the money!"
We've researched five excellent machines, but the very best gas chainsaw on the market is the Husqvarna 460 Rancher.
Although price is always important, our "Best of the Best" category focuses on the tool that excels in every area. The Husqvarna has the most powerful motor and, in combination with its 20-inch bar, it also has the highest cutting capacity. This is not a machine for those who only want to do a bit of occasional pruning. This is a power tool for people who cut firewood, chop down decent-sized trees, or manage a bit of woodland on a regular basis.
Despite it's size, the Husqvarna is a well-balanced machine. It's easy to start, simple to maintain, and includes all the safety features you would expect. In fact, Husqvarna invented a very important safety feature called the "inertia chainsaw brake." This manufacturer's reputation is second to none, and the fact that other suppliers on our shortlist have their tools put together at the Husqvarna factory underlines this.
The Husqvarna isn't cheap, but it's a professional-grade chainsaw for amateurs. No tool is perfect, and there have been isolated complaints about starting, but with the Husqvarna 460 Rancher, comments like "The best chainsaw I have ever used!" are the rule, not the exception.
The winner of our "Best Bang for Your Buck" award is the Hitachi, but the contest was a close one. All of the other saws on our shortlist have their positive points, too. None are overly expensive, and all are highly regarded by the majority of people who use them. The Tanaka, in particular, is ideal for people who will only ever need a small saw.
However, what most of us are looking for is a great all-rounder at an economical price — and the Hitachi is the gas chainsaw that best fills that need. Its 34cc motor is overshadowed by several of the other motors on our list, but in most circumstances, it produces more than enough power. The Hitachi's bar, at 16 inches, also delivers plenty of reach for most jobs. Its safety features are equal to (or better than) any of the other machines in our ratings, and its relatively light weight makes it neither too difficult to use nor particularly tiring.
In this category, price is important. At $199, the Hitachi is an absolute bargain. There have been criticisms of its quality and reliability in the past, but it's now assembled in the same plant as the Husqvarna, which means it's assembled by people with excellent attention to detail. User comments like "Great saw, great price!" simply reinforce our belief that the economically priced Hitachi offers the very best bang for your buck.