When loppers, shears and pruners won’t do, it may be time to break out the chainsaw. But what kind is right for the job? When comparing electric vs gas chainsaw models, both offer outstanding utility for yard work, with each version offering specific advantages over the other. Gas chainsaws tend to boast more power and versatility, but electric models are smaller, lighter and require far less maintenance. There’s a use case for either, so it's wise to weigh the pros and cons of each before making a decision. Once you're clear on the differences, you can shop for the best chainsaws available, depending on the type.
Electric chainsaws have surged in popularity in recent years due to their ease of use and clean operation. These saws come in two varieties — plug-in and battery-powered — with both offering enough cutting power for small- to medium-sized jobs. Battery-powered models have a clear edge in terms of portability, but with a finite power source, you’ll need backup batteries for bigger projects. By contrast, plug-in models have less mobility due to their power cords but have unlimited juice to keep working until the job is done.
Price-wise, electric chainsaws are noticeably cheaper than their fuel-sipping counterparts. Expect to pay $50 to $100 for entry-level corded models, with larger, more capable models running upward of $200 to $300. Battery options are more expensive, starting closer to $100 but quickly reaching the $300 to $400 range for pro-duty options.
Gas chainsaws may be king in the professional community, but electric chainsaws remain extremely capable tools for most consumers. The standout benefit of electric chainsaws is their simplicity. Not only are they relatively small in size, but their lack of fuel tanks also makes them light and less fatiguing to wield. This simplicity translates to the start-up process as well. Instead of mixing fuel and oil, dealing with the choke, and wrestling with the pull cord, electric chainsaws start with the push of a button. Just make sure you’ve filled the bar oil reservoir to lubricate the chain and you’re good to go.
The perks don’t end there, though. Because electric saws don’t use combustion engines, they’re noticeably quieter and cleaner than gas models. No fumes, no gas smell and significantly less regular maintenance. The lower average price is just the cherry on top, so it’s easy to see why so many customers lean toward electric for their chainsaw needs.
Electric chainsaws are not without drawbacks, however. They’re far more limited in terms of range and runtime, whether it be the physical restriction of the cord or the finite power of a rechargeable battery. Backup batteries mitigate this issue somewhat, but the freedom of refilling a fuel tank will always be more practical for remote projects.
And while raw power is less of a problem for cutting firewood or trimming branches, electric chainsaws simply lack the oof of full-size, professional-grade gas versions. Because of this, they may struggle to cut larger branches and thick trees.
For smaller jobs, this lightweight Oregon chainsaw is a solid plug-in choice at great value. It comes with a two-year warranty.
Ideal for larger projects, this Greenworks chainsaw has solid power for its size, with two rechargeable batteries offering portability you don’t get from corded versions.
Gas chainsaws have long been the industry standard for arborists, landscapers, and other professionals due to their raw power and versatility. These tools use a mixture of gasoline and oil to fuel their robust motors and are generally preferred for heavy-duty situations. They do come in a variety of sizes, however, with an array of gas engines, bar lengths, and features available.
Because of their size, power, and capability, gas chainsaws typically cost a bit more than electric equivalents. Expect to pay around $150 for beginner-friendly units with bars (the blade the cutting chain wraps around) in the 14-inch range. The majority will fall between $200 and $300, though, with professional-grade “ranch” chainsaws exceeding $500 and approaching $1,000 in some cases. These tools typically have bars exceeding 20 inches and require significant strength and experience to use.
The major upsides to gas-powered chainsaws are power, portability, and runtime. Not only do they have the capability to cut larger trees and branches, but their potent engines also make the cutting go much faster, increasing efficiency around the work site. And without the limitations of power cords or rechargeable batteries, gas saws can essentially run anywhere for as long as they need to, so long as you have the fuel.
Versatility is also a huge selling point of gasoline-powered chainsaws. When compared to electric models, the gas segment boasts a wider range of bar lengths to meet the requirements of different jobs. The longer the bar, the easier it will be to cut through thicker trees and branches. Electric chainsaw bars typically max out around 18 inches, while gas iterations commonly offer bars lengths of 24 inches and beyond.
Gas chainsaws may pack a punch, but with that added power comes a myriad of drawbacks that may turn some buyers off. They’re larger, heavier, and louder, for example, which makes gas chainsaws significantly more fatiguing to operate than diminutive electric versions. They also emit gasoline fumes that can stick to clothes and make it difficult to breathe.
That’s not all, though. Before starting up, you’ll need to either buy premixed fuel or create the proper mixture yourself by mixing gas and oil. Once that’s done, you’re required to choke the engine to enrich the mixture so the cold engine can start. Then, you’ll need to yank the pull cord a few times to get the engine to start and warm up. These steps aren’t required on an electric chainsaw, so it’s important to know what you’re getting into before buying.
Finally, gasoline chainsaws are usually more expensive than their electric cousins, which may be a turnoff for beginners.
This Sportsman chainsaw is a popular pick due to its low weight and affordability. Its ergonomic design makes it comfortable to use.
At the other end of the spectrum, this massive Husqvarna chainsaw boasts enough grunt to tackle all but the toughest projects. It's easy to start and features an anti-vibration system.
Before shelling out for an expensive chainsaw, ask yourself what sort of work you imagine yourself doing with it. For those doing occasional maintenance and chopping firewood, an electric chainsaw is more than capable enough to suit your cutting needs. Add in the benefits of cleaner, quieter operation, lower prices, and intuitive startups, and this could be a very easy decision to make.
That being said, if you envision yourself cutting down large trees or doing significant remote work, the pure muscle of a gas-powered chainsaw will be difficult to replicate with an electric version. Happy cutting!
Prices listed reflect time and date of publication and are subject to change.