Fast, powerful, reliable. Magnesium shoe improves long-term accuracy.
Heavy. Not everyone likes the rubber levers.
Superb cordless that closely matches its corded rivals.
Small blade design meant for DIY'ers and not professionals.
Light, powerful, full-size saw. Left-side blade claimed to improve cut line visibility.
Base plate too easily damaged. Some concerns about motor reliability.
Powerful motor with excellent performance. Dust blower and laser line guide enhance accuracy.
Minor consumer complaints about quality. Falls just short of pro demands.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
A good circular saw is an indispensable tool for DIYers and professional craftsmen alike. On the surface, this tool seems quite uncomplicated. However, our in-depth research of the circular saw market has revealed a multitude of options — and the potential for uninformed consumers to make expensive mistakes.
The challenge you face is choosing the right circular saw for your needs, whether you're looking for an entry-level tool for a beginner's pallet wood project or you're a seasoned professional looking for a circular saw you can work with all day long. For a comprehensive look at the options available to you, we've compiled this guide.
Circular saws are available in four types. We concentrate on the three most common types in this shopping guide: the sidewinder, worm drive, and hypoid. (The fourth type is the trim saw, which is really only of interest to specialist tradespeople.)
This tool is also known as an in-line saw. It’s the type of circular saw most people recognize on sight. The sidewinder’s combination of power and price makes it the most popular circular saw among homeowners.
The motor sits alongside the shaft of the blade and aligns with it. As such, it’s a fairly compact tool. Blade speed is fast, though torque does not quite approach that of other circular saw types.
These lightweight tools are great for general use and favored by carpenters who have to work overhead.
A worm drive saw’s motor sits behind the blade shaft; worm drive gears connect the two. Gears of this type are more durable and efficient than toothed gears, delivering more torque and making for a more powerful saw. Because of the motor position, they offer a clearer view of the cut line, too.
The downside to worm drive saws is that they're considerably larger than sidewinders. Heavier, too. Where a typical sidewinder weighs six or seven pounds, a worm drive saw easily clocks in at twelve pounds or more. That’s a bit hefty for all-day work.
Hypoid circular saws are similar to their worm drive counterparts, but the gear differs in shape and is encased in an oil bath to extend working life and reduce the need for maintenance.
Top-shelf hypoid saws offer a few advantages over worm gear saws. They are very powerful and, thanks to premium materials like magnesium, quite lightweight. These saws also tend to cost a lot, but the market is a competitive one, and you can usually find a good deal.
A circular saw's capacities are measured in two ways: depth of cut and bevel (or miter) angle.
A flat shoe (also called a base plate) is extremely important to the accuracy of your circular saw. Three possible materials comprise the shoe: steel, aluminum, and magnesium.
The cheapest way to make a shoe is with a stamped steel plate. The disadvantage is that they are easily bent or broken if dropped. (And in all likelihood, you will probably drop your saw at some point.) Minor damage can be repaired, but if the shoe gets twisted, it will need to be replaced.
Some aluminum base plates are pressed in the same manner as steel, but most are cast. These are thicker and, though softer than steel, more resistant to damage and flexing. Aluminum is also much lighter than steel.
This material is both lighter and stronger than aluminum. It’s also more expensive. Most high-end saws have magnesium alloy shoes.
As with most modern tools, you can choose between a corded or cordless circular saw. The best corded circular saws sport 15-amp motors that deliver plenty of torque for effortless cutting.
Cordless tools may quote similar blade RPM figures, but these are "no load" speeds. (In other words, the saw isn’t actually cutting.) Cordless circular saws rarely quote torque figures — and torque is where the real power lies.
Corded circular saws have the advantage of delivering power with no drop-off. The best cordless circular saw would struggle to deliver the same level of torque as a corded model, even with a fresh battery. What’s more, a cordless saw’s torque declines as the battery drains. If you plan to work a cordless circular saw for long periods, a second battery is a must.
But the portability of cordless circular saw offers a huge benefit to some people, and high-end cordless saws deliver ample power for the majority of consumers.
The blade is a vital component of any circular saw. A worn blade hinders cutting performance and can create ragged, inaccurately measured edges. A cracked blade should never be used, as it poses a major safety threat.
To get the best out of your circular saw, choose the right blade for the material you plan to cut.
Cheap circular saws often feature plain steel blades. These blades can be thin and prone to flexing (making the blade wander). They dull quickly, too. This type of blade is fine for a small softwood job, but few would recommend it on the merit of its quality alone.
High speed steel (HSS) blades are hardened for a longer working life. They cost more than plain steel blades, but the edge is more efficient, and they’re almost always more economical in the long run.
Carbide tipped blades are HSS discs with tungsten or titanium carbide teeth brazed on. These extremely hard materials maintain a sharp edge considerably longer than plain HSS blades. In our opinion, this type of blade is a must if you’re cutting hardwood.
You can find specialist blades on the market for cutting tile, brick, concrete, and other aggregate blocks. Most specialist blades have aluminum oxide tips and are extremely abrasive. Others — tile cutters in particular — have diamond-tipped teeth.
The following extras are not found on all circular saws, but their availability may affect your purchasing decision. They are convenient but by no means essential.
Poor build quality often results in a poor finished job. As such, we advise against buying a cheap circular saw. Fortunately, the market boasts some great models from well-respected manufacturers that are not expensive. There’s no need to cut corners.
For $50 to $60, you can get an entry-level sidewinder for occasional DIY use. In this price range, you can get a corded model with a full-size, 7 1/4" blade or a cordless with a 6 1/2" blade.
If you’re willing to spend between $70 and $120, you have an enormous product range from which to choose. Many circular saws at this price point are solid, powerful tools (again mostly sidewinder) that should last a lifetime.
If you want the kind of top circular saw that a professional craftsman would use, plan to spend a minimum of $150 and as much as $500. At these prices, you get exceptional equipment that the pros prefer.
Keeping your circular saw in top condition is mostly a matter of common sense. Manufacturers provide instructions for a reason; following them will make your saw cut better and extend its working life.
Plenty of other useful circular saw tips can be found online at useful sites like The Family Handyman.