Anyone who’s ever attempted to harvest their own wood for the winter will understand the importance of a reliable chainsaw. It goes without saying that the cordless ones work best; besides being a nuisance, cords can turn an otherwise enjoyable chore into a recipe for disaster. We’ve gathered this guide, featuring six of the top cordless chainsaws on the market, to help you make an informed decision about which one to buy.
Have you considered buying a chainsaw but aren’t sure if you really need one? First, ask yourself if any of the following apply to you:
- Are you a homeowner looking to clear unwanted trees or shrubs from your property?
- Do you use a wood stove to heat your home?
- Is there an indoor or outdoor fireplace at your place?
- Do you camp frequently?
- Is your region prone to tree damage from severe weather conditions (hurricanes, tornadoes, ice storms, or blizzards)?
If the answer to even one of these questions is yes, you will benefit from owning a chainsaw. The only question that remains is:
What kind of chainsaw should you buy?
As is the case with just about any product worth investing in, chainsaws are not one-size-fits-all. There are several factors to consider when making a purchase: What size you’ll need, whether it runs on fuel or batteries, if any special features are included that will make your tasks easier, and whether or not it comes with a warranty.
Fortunately, our job is to make your search easier, and even more enjoyable. In our Product Reviews section, we’ll take an in-depth look at six of the top cordless chainsaw models on the market, including details and specifications of each, as well as the tasks for which they’re best suited. In the Buyer’s Guide, you’ll learn more about chainsaws, what sets the cordless models apart, and why it’s important to choose the right size and type to suit your needs.
Our Rating of the Best Cordless Chainsaws
1. Makita XCU03PT1 18V X2 (36V) LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless 14″ Chain Saw Kit with 4 Batteries (5.0Ah) — Editor’s choice — $$$$
The Makita includes excellent safety features, such as a locking lever to prevent the chain from accidentally engaging and an automated power-off function. At 14 inches, this is another saw that can handle heavier trimming duty and some smaller clearing jobs. The brushless motor is battery-operated, and four batteries are included in the purchase. Speed can be controlled using a variable trigger, and the highest setting is impressive for a battery-powered model. Turquoise in color, with a silver blade.
Consumer response to this product has been mixed. While it comes with many attractive features, not all of them work as advertised, and the saw doesn’t hold up to extended use. It could be worth the investment for the occasional or overly wary user.
This product can be recommended for anyone who isn’t sure what they’ll be using their saw for, but wants to stay away from heavy-duty projects and is more comfortable with a lighter saw.
- 4 Batteries included.
- Safety features.
- Suitable for a variety of projects.
- Not suitable for property clearing or other big jobs.
- Some safety features may not work as advertised.
2. Makita XCU02PT 18V X2 (36V) LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless 12″ Chain Saw Kit (5.0Ah) — Best Product For Everyday Versatility — $$$$
The faster chain speed of this lithium-ion-powered model makes up for its modest proportions. The guide bar is as long as the blade at 12 inches, lending it stability. It’s also very low-decibel compared to some others on our list and comes with a tool-free chain adjustment system. The quietness of the motor, coupled with the maneuverable size, make this a good bet for camping trips. The Mikita Lithium Ion-Cordless features a turquoise-and-black body with a short silver blade.
If you’re used to a gas-powered saw and would like to make the switch to battery-operated, this is a good model on which to cut your teeth. It is odor-free and more easily transportable, but it also has a decent amount of power for a saw that’s run on batteries.
Even if you purchase your firewood through a second party, this saw could easily help you transform fallen branches into kindling to get those blazes started. This may also be a good size to keep on hand for general lawn and garden maintenance.
- Batteries included.
- Easy to handle.
- Fast chain speed.
- The blade is too small to handle heavy-duty jobs.
3. Ryobi 14 Inch 40-Volt Brushless Chainsaw Without Battery and Charger — Best Product for Trimming the Hedges — $$
The Ryobi is a 14-inch trimming saw, large enough to handle some thicker branches but small enough to be maneuvered easily. (For more information on the different sizes and their best uses, see the Buyer’s Guide below). The color is chartreuse, with a black blade and a wraparound handle. The battery is sold separately, but all other necessary parts and accessories are included in the warrantied purchase.
Note that this is a refurbished product, meaning it’s been reconstructed from older materials. This can lead to some technical issues, such as bent or damaged parts; however, there is a 90-day warranty included with every purchase to offset some of that risk.
This product can be recommended for anyone who’s looking for a powerful saw that’s still relatively easy to handle. The fact that it’s refurbished means that it comes at a decent price, and it works as advertised.
- 90-day warranty.
- Refurbished unit.
- Battery not included.
4. Nexttechnology Gas Chainsaw 18″ Inch (52CC Black) — Best Product for Moderate Landscaping — $
The Nexttechnology saw is powered by gasoline and features an 18-inch blade, which places it in the medium-duty category when it comes to size. Both the oil pump and the oil output are adjustable, reducing the risk of leakage. It’s touted as being suitable for “tree pruning, clearing land, [and] preparing firewood,” so if you know for a fact that you’ll be doing one or more of these jobs, then the product might be worth special consideration. Available in black or red, with spare screws included in the purchase price.
If you’re in the market for a heavy and durable gas-powered saw to help remove unwanted shrubs and smaller trees, then this could be the saw for you. As it’s the largest one on our list, be sure to refer to the Buyer’s Guide below to learn whether you should be handling a saw of this size.
- Good size for medium-duty jobs.
- Easy Maintenance.
- The gas engine makes it less environmentally sound.
- No warranty.
5. Ryobi RY40511 40V Cordless Brushless Lithium-Ion 14 in. Chainsaw — Best Product for The Occasional Hobbyist — $$
This is another refurbished Ryobi model, this one featuring a state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery. Like its traditional battery-operated counterpart, it comes equipped with a brushless motor to boost the torque. Chain adjustments are made easier with side access and an on-board tool storage unit. While the lithium battery makes it more lightweight than a gas-powered model, its blade speed nearly makes up the difference. Chartreuse in color, with a black blade and chain.
This unit has been known to tire after a few intense rounds, so it’s best suited to those who plan to make only occasional use of their chainsaw. It’s also definitely not cut out for bigger jobs, even if you use more than one pass with the blade.
- Comes equipped with a battery and charger.
- Handy tool storage.
- Refurbished model.
- Not suitable for everyday use or heftier jobs.
6. BLACK+DECKER LCS1240R 40V MAX Lithium-Ion 12 — Best Product for Storm Cleanup — $$
At just 12 inches, this is one of the smallest models on our list. This is another refurbished saw, also with a 90-day warranty. Features include a wraparound handle to make it more manageable in a variety of positions, as well as a tool-free chain adjustment system and a low-kickback bar. Given the size, the blade is impressively sharp, and the battery life is also impressive. Body-color is black and orange, with a silver blade for contrast.
The 12-inch size makes this saw ideal for trimming down larger pieces of brush that may have fallen into the yard during an intense storm. It can also be used for pruning the hedges or widening an existing path through the woods. It should be noted, though, that some of the accessories may be generic or from a different manufacturer, owing to the refurbished nature of the product.
- Battery operated.
- 90-day warranty.
- Easy-to-handle size.
- Refurbished model.
- Too small to handle larger projects.
What is a cordless chainsaw?
As the name implies, a cordless chainsaw is a saw that runs on either gasoline or batteries rather than on electricity. This eliminates the risk of accidents associated with either the sloppy and restrictive cord or the electricity itself–a particular concern in wet conditions. Further, a cordless unit is easier to manage and allows you more freedom of movement, so you have a broader range of available cutting angles.
What are some other benefits offered by a cordless unit?
There are several other reasons why you should consider buying a cordless saw:
- No gasoline odor
- Can be taken camping or on other road trips
- In the case of battery-operated saws, fewer carbon emissions
What are the components of a chainsaw?
When shopping for a cordless chainsaw, you’re likely to hear many terms that you may be unfamiliar with. Here’s a rundown on some of the most prevalent ones:
Chain—While it’s attached to a blade, the chain is actually the operative feature of the chainsaw (hence the name). Be sure to use a guard and not touch the chain with your bare fingers.
Chain Pitch—The distance between the chain’s rivets helps determine this classification, of which there are four.
Blade—Also known as the guide bar, keeps the chain in place and gives you something to sink into the wood.
Hand Guard—This all-important device keeps the user’s hands and fingers safe from accidental harm due to kickback (the jolt when the engine starts).
Throttle—Similar to the gas pedal in an automobile, the throttle regulates the flow of gasoline to the engine.
Chain Brake—This is another safety device meant to stop the chain’s rotation when kickback occurs. All models built since 1995 are required to feature a chain brake.
Chain Catcher—These keep the chain from flying out and causing harm to the operator in the event of breakage.
Tension—This refers to how snugly the chain fits around the blade.
What is the difference between a brushed and a brushless motor?
It all comes down to efficiency. Brushed motors generally operate at a maximum of 80 percent efficiency, whereas a brushless motor can be up to 10 percent more effective. In essence, this means that more of the motor’s power is being used in the manner it intended, rather than being lost to emissions. This difference is strong enough to make brushless motors a real asset when making comparisons.
Is a gas-powered saw better than a battery-operated one?
Chainsaws powered by gasoline are not necessarily better, but they do tend to run stronger and at faster speeds. This makes them a better option for tree work, whereas a battery-operated saw should work fine for everyday household projects and smaller trimming jobs.
What size chainsaw should I buy?
In general, the size you buy depends upon what you’ll be using the saw for. Pruning jobs can be undertaken by a smaller trimming saw, with a maximum blade length of 14 inches. For medium-duty work, such as log clearing and trimming thicker tree branches, a length of 16 or even 18 inches will work best. There are longer 20-inch models available, but the average homeowner likely won’t need such a long and powerful blade. They’re designed to cut through exceptionally thick tree trunks, jobs that are best undertaken by professionals. Should you need a number of large trees removed from your property, a battery-operated model is not the proper tool to use.
When it comes to choosing the right size, there are a few other factors to consider. To name just a few:
- Experience: Smaller saws tend to be more forgiving for novices.
- Physical fitness: Larger saws should be wielded only by those in a prime physical condition.
- The stature of the operator: Shorter, slighter people would do better with smaller models.
Are cordless chainsaws safer than electric ones?
In the wrong hands, a chainsaw can be hazardous, no matter what power source is behind it. Be sure to read all instructions carefully before use. If you aren’t sure how to operate a chainsaw, ask a knowledgeable friend for help. There are also a number of Web tutorials available on the subject to give you some idea of where to begin.
This is my first time buying a chainsaw. Where do I start?
First-time buyers should definitely stick to reputable brands, such as the ones listed in this guide. This will help to ensure that the product is of the highest possible quality. If there’s a warranty included, you’ll have peace of mind while putting your new tool through the trials.
Is it necessary to invest in chainsaw safety gear and equipment if I’m not planning on taking on heavy-duty jobs?
Safety gear is always highly recommended, no matter how big or small the job. Why? Because injuries can be caused by the chainsaw itself, not necessarily by falling trees or projectile limbs. A sturdy pair of goggles, gloves, and ear protection are mandatory for any chainsaw owner’s wardrobe. Also, be sure to wear clothes that fit snugly, but not so tightly that they restrict movement.
How often do I need to sharpen my chain?
It depends on how often the saw is used, but it’s fairly easy to tell if the chain needs maintenance, depending on your results. Do you need to exert more force than usual when attempting to make a cut? Are you producing a lot of fine dust when cutting, rather than large chips of wood? If so, then it’s time to file the chain. If you aren’t comfortable doing this yourself, take it back to the manufacturer or to a local hardware store for maintenance
Are there any other routine maintenance steps I should be performing?
There are a few things you can do to ensure that your saw remains in prime working order for as long as possible:
- Perform a thorough cleaning after each use, removing any sawdust from all visible crevices.
- Check the oil levels (and gas, if applicable) regularly.
- Check for missing and/or damaged parts and replace them as needed.
- Look through the interior (flywheel and cooling fins, air intake) for debris and clogging.
How do I replace the chain?
Replacement chains are readily available at home improvement outlets and hardware stores. Make sure you purchase the right size and pitch for your model.
To replace the chain, first put on your protective gloves. See the manual for instructions on how to safely remove the bar. Once the bar is off, slide the old chain off and ease the new one into place. Adjust the tension using the tools and equipment provided, taking care to ensure that it’s neither too tight nor too loose. If you’d rather not touch the chain yourself or just not comfortable with this task, have a professional install the new chain for you.
How long can I expect a high-quality chainsaw to last?
The answer will depend in part on how often the saw is used and to what purpose. A sturdy 18-inch model that’s used for hewing logs on a daily basis will not last as long as a smaller trimming saw that only sees a few days of action every year. However, if you’ve invested in a quality model and perform the aforementioned upkeep, you can expect the chainsaw to last for at least ten years, possibly longer.
Now that you’ve learned the ins and outs of the cordless chainsaw, you’ll better understand what you’re looking for when you begin your search. Above all, the thing to keep in mind is that a chainsaw is a tool, not a toy. While the bells and whistles may look and sound impressive, they’re of no use if they don’t contribute to the overall effectiveness of the tool. A sharp chain, decent safety features, a size that works for you–these are the most important things to watch for, especially for first-timers.
As you become more comfortable with your chainsaw, you might want to consider upgrading. Here are some components to be on the lookout for as we move deeper into the twenty-first century:
- More powerful and efficient battery technology.
- Lower vibration and emissions.
- For gas-powered models, longer and stronger mileage.
- Performance indicators that will let you know when it’s time to schedule routine maintenance.
We hope this guide will help you to narrow down your options and choose the cordless chainsaw that will suit your needs for many years to come. Thanks for reading, and best of luck in your search!