Best Reciprocating Saws

Updated September 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

39 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
623 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best reciprocating saws

Last Updated September 2019

A reciprocating saw is one of the best tools to have on hand when you're doing demolition work because of its ability to cut through just about anything. Whether you’re working with wood, metal, plastic, tile, or composite, almost nothing will stop a reciprocating saw with the right blade.

Powerful, reliable, and tough, reciprocating saws are also great for a variety of other DIY jobs, like cutting sheetrock when installing drywall. A good reciprocating saw is an invaluable addition to your toolbox that will come in handy for years.

In this guide, we highlight several of the top performers in the world of reciprocating saws. We invite those who want more in-depth information about the versatile reciprocating saw to continue reading.

If you're considering buying a bare tool, it's important to understand that these items have no battery or charger. Buying a battery and charger separately could double your price.

What is a reciprocating saw?

One dictionary definition of “reciprocate” is to move backward and forward in a straight line. In essence, that is what a reciprocating saw does. A powerful electric motor drives the blade at over 2,000 strokes a minute for nearly effortless cutting. (Blade length varies and is up to 12 inches in some cases.) With a variety of blades available, there's little a reciprocating saw can't handle.

Reciprocating saw power

As with most electrical tools, you have a choice of corded or cordless power with a reciprocating saw. In the past, battery-powered models were criticized for lack of performance, but with all of the improvements that have been made, there is now little difference between battery power and cord power in a reciprocating saw. Indeed, many manufacturers make models that are virtually identical except for the power source.

Here’s are the main factors to keep in mind about of each type of saw.

Corded:

  • A corded reciprocating saw delivers consistent power for as long as you need.
  • The cord can be a bit of a nuisance, but we're all used to them.
  • A corded model invariably costs less than its cordless equivalent.


Cordless:

  • A cordless reciprocating saw can go anywhere. You can work where power outlets or generators aren't available.
  • Cordless models can match corded performance, but only for a limited time. Eventually, the power drops off. You could switch batteries and continue working, but spare batteries are quite expensive. Otherwise, you’d have to wait while the battery recharges.
  • Cordless reciprocating saws are roughly twice the price of their cordless counterparts.
DID YOU KNOW?

Cordless reciprocating saws all produce similar power, but a higher amp-hour (Ah) battery will deliver that power more consistently and for longer.

Reciprocating saw considerations


Motor

A reciprocating saw can have a brush motor or a brushless motor. Brush motors cost less and are often found in corded tools. Brushes eventually wear, so this type of motor has some maintenance requirements. Brushless motors require virtually no maintenance, and they usually last longer. Furthermore, they make more efficient use of power. If you’re going for a cordless saw, a brushless motor is preferred, albeit more expensive.

Amps

Corded tools are rated by amps. A reciprocating saw that’s capable of most DIY tasks will generally have seven or eight amps. Tradespeople and contractors who rely on their reciprocating saws to make a living would more likely be happy with a reciprocating saw with 11 or 12 amps.

Blade action

On most reciprocating saws, the blade action is back and forth. However, some also have orbital (slightly elliptical) action. This is designed to deliver more aggressive cutting. That's great for demolition work, but it can be too severe for some tasks. The ability to turn orbital action on and off is a big advantage.

Shoe

The shoe acts as a blade guide and can be adjustable for both depth and angle. Extending the shoe can help maximize blade life by allowing you to use different sections of teeth.

Speed

The speed of a reciprocating saw is usually controlled by the trigger, although an additional dial may be provided. Maximum speed usually lies in the region of 2,500 to 3,000 spm (strokes per minute). A reciprocating saw with a higher speed can cut faster, but this is not always what is needed. A reciprocating saw with variable speed is highly desirable, as you can tailor it to suit the material you’re cutting. For example, with a variable speed reciprocating saw, you could select a faster spm for cutting steel than for cutting wood.

Stroke

“Stroke” is a figure usually quoted by the manufacturer, and 1 1/8 inches is common. However, the stroke doesn't have a lot of bearing on performance. Blade length, rather than stroke, defines the maximum thickness of material you can cut. The only real benefit of a longer stroke is that it distributes blade wear more evenly.

One-handed or two-handed operation

Most reciprocating saws are designed to be used with two hands, and rubberized areas provide good grip. These saws are often quite long, which can create problems in confined spaces. Some saws have their motor at an angle, allowing them to be more compact. They may also be designed for one-handed operation.

Other notable features

  • With some reciprocating saws, it is possible to set the blade at 90° to the saw, providing additional versatility.
  • A reciprocating saw with tool-free blade changing is very convenient.
  • The weight of a reciprocating saw is an important consideration, especially if you’re going to be using the tool all day or cutting above your head.
  • The cord length of a reciprocating saw is frequently only five or six feet long. If you require more length, you might need an extension cord.
  • Warranties on reciprocating saws vary from one to three years. It's important to check the details because often, not everything is covered.
CAUTION

Some reciprocating saws are supplied without a blade. Check before ordering so you know what you’re getting. Fortunately, an additional blade isn’t expensive.

Reciprocating saw prices

The lowest price you’ll find for a reciprocating saw is $40 or $50, and this will be for a corded tool. An entry-level tool like this could be suitable if you're looking for something to occasional use only. However, we generally recommend spending a little more.

Between $70 and $120, you'll find a selection of very good reciprocating saws from trustworthy brands. You'll find high-quality cordless tools in this price bracket, too, but they will almost all be bare tools. A battery and charger cost extra, and these add-ons would likely double the price.

If you're looking for an all-in-one cordless kit that provides reciprocating saw, battery, charger, and a bag or carry case, expect to pay between $300 and $400.

Tips

  • Always wear eye protection when using a reciprocating saw. A dust mask or respirator is a good idea, too — especially if you’re working with drywall. Gloves will often make working with your saw more comfortable, providing a better grip.
  • Be sure to use the correct length of blade for the task at hand. If you use long blades in thin material, the blade could oscillate at the end, creating an uncomfortable vibration that is difficult to control.
  • When cutting metal, the blade of a reciprocating saw can get very hot. Take care not to burn your fingers. Also, bear in mind that heat dulls metal-cutting blades. A saw blade lubricant can help extend the life of the blade.
  • Blades aren't expensive. Always change them as soon as performance starts to drop. A worn blade affects accuracy and can be dangerous; it's more likely to slip than a sharp one.
  • It's common to use a reciprocating saw from a ladder. Don't overreach. If you're using a corded saw, make sure the cord doesn’t tangle or cause a tripping hazard. Also, be sure to think about where cut items might fall before you begin work.
  • While all reciprocating saw batteries provide similar voltage, amp hours (Ah) vary, and this has a dramatic impact on how long the tool can maintain performance. If you're going cordless, go for the highest Ah rating you can. A minimum of three Ah is recommended, but get more if possible.

Always invest in quality blades. Cheap blades are false economy. They bend or break easily and blunt quickly.

Other products we considered

If you're on a limited budget, the corded Skil 9206-02 Variable Speed Reciprocating Saw offers reasonable power and a rugged build for very little money. It may be just what you need for occasional small projects around the house and garden.

The Worx WX550L 2-in1 Reciprocating Saw and Jigsaw is a very interesting tool. It's not designed for heavy-duty cutting, but it's certainly worth considering if you have a lot of different tasks and want the versatility this saw provides.

Getting a reciprocating saw into tight spaces can sometimes be a challenge, but with the DeWALT DCS387B, that's much less of a problem. The motor is mounted at an angle, so it's quite compact, yet performance is excellent. For a high-quality brand, it's surprisingly affordable, too.

A reciprocating saw can be a very versatile tool. With the right blade, you can cut through metal and ceramic, and you can rip through old wooden beams without worrying about concealed nails.

FAQ

Q. Is there much difference between 18V and 20V cordless reciprocating saws?
A.
No. Technically, the batteries are both the same, but the way the manufacturer describes them is different. 20V is the maximum output — the voltage delivered when the motor starts or when there's no load. 18V is the nominal output — the voltage used when the motor is running normally.

Q. Is a reciprocating saw the same as a Sawzall?
A.
This is a trademark issue. The name “Sawzall” belongs to the Milwaukee Electric Tool Company, but it has become synonymous with all reciprocating saws. It's similar to the way lots of people call a vacuum cleaner a “Hoover.” So all Sawzalls are reciprocating saws, but not all reciprocating saws are Sawzalls!

Q. Is a reciprocating saw better than a jigsaw?
A.
Actually, a jigsaw is a type of reciprocating saw. They have a similar cutting action. They can even share some tasks. However, a jigsaw has a finer blade, is capable of more delicate work, and mostly cuts horizontally. A reciprocating saw has a thicker blade that is designed for rapid, aggressive cutting, and it is often used vertically. It would be very difficult to use a jigsaw for that kind of job. On the other hand, you wouldn't want to cut a laminate kitchen countertop with a reciprocating saw; they are too powerful for that type of job, and you would almost certainly damage the surface.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bob
    Bob
    Writer
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Erica
    Erica
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor

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