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A good pole saw is an indispensable tool. Not only will it save you time, it will allow you to work with your feet on the ground rather than balanced precariously on a ladder.
But first, you must choose the best pole saw for your needs. With a huge range of tools available, that’s no easy task. Unless you enlist the help of the BestReviews team, that is!
We research the market from a completely independent standpoint. Rather than accept manufacturer samples, we buy the tools we test. We put them through their paces in our own lab and out in the field. While we're pretty tough on them, we’re careful not to test to destruction so we can pass them on to charities when we’re done.
The pole saws pictured in our matrix, above, are excellent products that offer a variety of benefits. If you’re ready to make a purchase, we encourage you to peruse our shortlist.
If you’re eager to read and learn more, please see our shopping guide, below, for a detailed examination of what you should look for in a pole saw.
Electric tools are often compared negatively to their gas-powered counterparts in terms of power output. But that discrepancy matters little here, because the demands on a pole saw motor are modest.
Rather than outright torque, what you want is high chain speed for rapid cutting. The best corded pole saws are lightweight and easy to use with few maintenance requirements. A saw with a motor of six to eight amps should be able to cope with limbs several inches thick with little difficulty.
On the downside, you must drag the cord around with you, and that’s not safe when the ground is damp. Most pruning is done in the winter, so if you own a corded pole saw, the weather may thwart your gardening plans from time to time.
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.
Seen by many as the ideal solution, today's best cordless pole saws combine the simplicity and cleanliness of electric power with the go-anywhere advantages of gas.
Cordless pole saws weigh more than plug-in models, but not so much as to be awkward. Power ratings begin around 20 volts, which is OK if you’re working with small branches. You’d need a 40-volt cordless to match the power of a corded tool. Most people find this acceptable, as 40-volt pole saws don’t usually cost much more than their 20-volt shelfmates.
The main drawback is battery life. When the battery drains, you must pause your work to charge it or insert a fresh one — and additional batteries can be expensive. Many manufacturers offer batteries that fit numerous tools, so if you already own several cordless devices, you might be able to save battery money by choosing a pole saw from the same manufacturer.
Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries provide more stable, longer-lasting power than nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries.
Gas-fed pole saws produce the most power. But unless you have a large amount of woodland to deal with — or you're a contractor — this is an instance when power isn't everything. Yes, a gas-powered machine will give you a longer run time and great cutting ability. But that must be balanced against its increased weight, noise, maintenance demands, and the need to deal with petroleum and oil.
While a top manual pole saw will do an excellent job, its use requires considerable effort and a high degree of skill. What's more, the best manual pole saws cost no less than a powered pole saw. Unless your heart is set on a manual saw, we recommend that you consider an electric or gas-powered option.
A machine with a motor of 25cc or larger will cope with any pruning task. But for the majority of homeowners, a gas-powered pole saw is probably overkill.
You can get a pretty good idea of a pole saw’s cutting capabilities by the size of its bar (the plate around which the chain runs). Bar lengths range from approximately six to ten inches. Divide a pole saw’s bar length in half, and you get a rough measure of its cutting capacity. For example, a six-inch bar is probably good for branches up to around three inches in diameter.
Of course, you must also factor in the power source when estimating a pole saw’s cutting capacity. Because gas-powered models are more powerful, they’re likely to handle larger diameters than their electric counterparts.
To perform efficiently, blades require regular tightening and sharpening. A simple chain tensioner is a bonus, as is an automatic chain oiler. You can sharpen your blade manually with a small round file, or there are jigs available that make it easier to maintain the correct angle. The third alternative is to find a local specialist to sharpen the blade for you. This service usually doesn’t cost very much.
We also recommend checking the manual for the best type of blade lubricant. Cleaning and oiling the blade after each use is an easy way to increase overall blade life and reduce the risk of rust and other damage.
A pole saw makes it easier for you to access hard-to-reach materials. A reach of 8 to 12 feet is most common, but you can easily find a saw with a reach of 14 feet or more.
Your ability to balance and control your pole saw affects your ability to finesse the cutting head, which is vital for both the good of the tree and your own safety. A longer pole saw isn’t always the best pole saw.
Extended operation of these machines requires muscle power and endurance. We urge all potential buyers to be mindful of their own limits. Ease yourself into pole saw use, because many of the motions you’ll be making may not be normal or routine. When in doubt, take a break and drink water to avoid over-exertion and other health risks. Operating these machines all day long is nowhere near as easy as advertising makes it look!
Poles usually come in two or three pieces. For your own convenience, check that the parts fit together easily. Most pruning takes place in the winter, and you'll probably be doing much of your assembly with gloved hands.
Even a relatively cheap pole saw can have quite a remarkable reach.
Some manufacturers of gas-powered pole saws offer attachments that expand their use. These attachments include edgers, blowers, and hedge trimmers. You’ll have to buy the attachments you want separately, as they’re not typically included in the original package.
If you have a lot of high-reach areas in your lawn or garden, these attachments can make a huge difference. A blower can help clean gutters, a hedge trimmer can take care of the tops of tall bushes, and an edger can leave your lawn with a perfect manicured look.
Our expert landscaping consultant, Luke, advises that if you plan to add attachments to your purchase, you should carefully consider your pole saw’s power options (battery, electric, gas) with this additional workload in mind.
Where will you store your new tool? A pole saw and its extensions often exceed six feet in length. You’ll need a certain amount of space to accommodate this. If possible, the location you choose should offer enough space for safe and easy access to the tool.
Luke also advises that you store your saw in a dry location to avoid the possibility of rust.
How much does a pole saw cost? You could spend anywhere from $40 to $1,000+. We outline your options below:
You could get a manual pole saw for as little as $40. However, it's not difficult to exceed our $100 ceiling in the manual category. But as we mentioned earlier, why would you get a manual model when you could enjoy the convenience of a powered tool? Corded pole saws of reasonable quality start around $70.
$100 — $200
At this price point, you've got the majority of tools covered. Around $100 will get you a top-rated corded model or a light-use cordless. Pay a bit more, and you'll find more powerful cordless pole saws at your disposal. As you approach the $200 mark, you’ll find some very good medium-duty, gas-powered options.
$200 and Up
One or two cordless pole saws sit in this price range, but frankly, you don't need to pay that much for a good cordless. A budget of $200 and up ushers you into the realm of heavy-duty gas models. If that’s what you decide to buy, you’ll be taking quite a leap. High-quality gas-powered machines begin at $500. The very best gas-powered pole saws cost over $1,000.
First and foremost, you should always read your user’s manual before operating your new machine. Luke offers these additional tips for pole saw safety: