Searching for the Best Electric Chainsaw

When most of us think about chainsaws, chances are we picture a loud, dusty, gas-powered tool (possibly being wielded by a villain in a horror movie). But chainsaws have come a long way, and you may not realize that quieter, cleaner machines powered by electricity are available to tackle your toughest landscaping jobs and other heavy-duty household tasks.

Electric Chainsaws – Corded vs. Cordless

Electric chainsaws come in two main varieties:

  • Corded electric chainsaws plug into a household outlet or generator, so their range is limited by the length of the cord. You also have to be careful to maintain awareness of the cord’s location to avoid tripping on it or accidentally cutting it.
  • Cordless electric chainsaws are powered by rechargeable NiCad or lithium-ion batteries, making them much more portable than corded models. However, most cordless saws are limited to roughly 30 minutes of continuous use before needing to be charged, which can be an inconvenience during large jobs.

Comparing Electric and Gas Chainsaws

Power

In the area of pure power, gas chainsaws still win out over electric models. The average gas chainsaw moves its chain at about 5,000 feet per minute, compared to 3,000 feet per minute for top-of-the-line electric chainsaws. That difference doesn’t mean an electric chainsaw can’t perform the same tasks as a gas model; it may just take a little longer to complete them.

Weight and Noise

In nearly every other metric, electric chainsaws outpace their gas-powered cousins. Electric saws tend to be substantially lighter weight than gas saws, making them easier to control and use for long periods of time without arm fatigue. Electric chainsaws are also surprisingly quiet, so they’re less likely to damage your hearing (and annoy your neighbors).

Convenience

Electric chainsaws also have the considerable advantage of being nearly effortless to start. Instead of multiple pulls on a start cord, all you’ll have to do is plug in the saw and push a few buttons. Electric chainsaws also lack the messy, costly and inconvenient maintenance that gas models require.

Cost

Electric chainsaws are much easier on the wallet than gas models, with the very best electric machines available at a fraction of the cost of their gas-powered equivalent.

(Not) Cutting the Cord

The most common argument against using an electric chainsaw is the potential inconvenience of the cord (which obviously doesn’t apply to cordless varieties). Depending on where you’ll be using it and the parameters of the task, you’ll need a long extension cord, which not only limits your range but also adds to the cost of the package. You’ll also need to remain acutely aware of the location of the cord while you’re using it to avoid tripping on it or even cutting it if you’re not careful.

While it is critical to stay focused while using an electric chainsaw, the fact of the matter is, you’d need to pay attention while using a gas model as well. As for limitations related to cord length, we recommend buying the longest extension cord you can afford to ensure it doesn’t fall short in the middle of a job, and keep in mind the cord can be used for other needs around the house or workshop. Don’t forget to check to be sure the amperage rating on the cord can keep up with the power level of your chainsaw.

Safety Considerations

Like all power tools, chainsaws carry potential risk for severe injury, so it’s important to take every precaution to keep yourself safe while using one. Before you fire it up, make sure you’ve read the owner’s manual and are familiar with how it operates. While chain speed on electric chainsaws is slightly slower than its gas-powered counterparts, both types can still generate dangerous kickbacks due to their high-torque motors. If you’re new to using a chainsaw, consider purchasing a low-kickback chain or bar to start; a chain brake will add an extra layer of protection. Consider wearing sturdy gloves, chaps, helmet and eye and ear protection to reduce your risk of injury, and always remain focused and alert to your surroundings when using this formidable tool.

Top Five Electric Chainsaws

Now that you know which factors to consider when making your purchase, take a look at the following list of our top-ranked electric chainsaws. They span a broad range of prices and features, so you’re sure to find one that meets your needs and your budget among these five standouts.

BLACK+DECKER LCS1020 10-Inch 20V Max Lithium Ion Chainsaw

Keep working up to five times longer with the BLACK+DECKER LCS1020 10-inch chainsaw, powered by the long-lasting 20V Max lithium-ion battery. The saw is equipped with a 10-inch premium Oregon low-kickback bar and chain, delivering smooth, fast cuts every time. A tool-free tension system allows for quick, convenient adjustments, while the comfortable, lightweight design reduces fatigue.

The LCS1020 is ideal for light pruning and brush-clearing tasks, as its size and weight make it easy to maneuver into tight spaces. It’s also a handy, portable tool for cutting wood on camping trips and other small household tasks.

Features and Specifications

  • Weight: 7.2 pounds
  • Power source: 1 Lithium Ion battery
  • Maximum power: 20 volts
  • Bar length: 10 inches
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • Low kickback bar and chain
  • Lock-off button to prevent accidental start-ups
  • Front and rear handle guards to protect hands from debris

Pros:

  • Handles well in tight spaces
  • Lightweight
  • Chain tension is easy to adjust
  • Simple start-up

Cons:

  • Not suitable for heavy-duty cutting
  • Chain tension tends to loosen and should be checked regularly

Greenworks 18-Inch Corded Chainsaw 20332

Designed for light- and medium-weight outdoor and household tasks, the Greenworks 20332 18-Inch Chainsaw makes quick work of pruning and felling trees, cutting firewood and clearing debris. A tool-free chain tensioning system allows for fast, easy adjustments, and an automatic oiling system takes the hassle out of lubricating the saw. The wraparound handle design offers multiple cutting positions for outstanding control at different angles.

Features and Specifications:

  • Weight: 12.1 pounds
  • Power source: Corded electric
  • Maximum power: 14.5 amps
  • Bar length: 18 inches
  • Warranty: 4 years
  • Automatic oiler
  • Reduced kickback bar, low kickback chain and automatic chain brake
  • Safety lock to prevent accidental start-up
  • Bumper/bucking spikes provide stability when cutting

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Good performance
  • Easy to start and operate
  • Generous warranty

Cons:

  • Moderately heavy
  • Not suitable for heavy-duty jobs

Earthwise CS33016 16-Inch Electric Chain Saw

The Earthwise CS33016 Electric Chainsaw provides the perfect balance between rugged performance and smooth, lightweight handling. The 16-inch bar is an ideal size for clearing brush, trimming limbs and cutting firewood, all without the fumes, noise and hassle of a gas-powered saw. Its ergonomic rubber handles, quiet operation and light weight deliver an outstanding user experience for experts and novices alike. Safety features include a safety start button and plastic bar cover for transport and storage.

Features and Specifications:

  • Weight: 9.9 pounds
  • Power source: Corded electric
  • Maximum power: 12 amps
  • Bar length: 16 inches
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • Automatic chain oiling system
  • Ergonomic rubber grip
  • Safety start button

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to control
  • Quiet operation
  • Comes fully assembled

Cons:

  • Not suitable for heavy-duty jobs

Makita XCU02PT 18V X2 Cordless 12-Inch Chainsaw

Engineered for light-duty tasks around the home and yard, the Makita XCU02PT delivers innovative features and advanced technology along with the top quality and ease of use for which the brand is famous. At just under 10 pounds and outfitted with a rubber grip handle, the saw is both easy to control and comfortable to hold. The Makita XCU02PT also boasts a long list of safety features, including a chain brake, run down brake, front hand guard, lock-off switch and overload protection, which automatically shuts down the saw if it experiences excessive pressure, which can draw excessive current and ultimately overheat the battery.

Features and Specifications:

  • Weight: 10.1 pounds
  • Power source: Two 18V LXT lithium ion batteries
  • Maximum power: 36 volts
  • Bar length: 12 inches
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Automatic oiler
  • Tool-free chain adjustment
  • Makita Rapid Optimum Charger communicates with the battery’s built-in chip throughout the charging process to optimize battery life by actively controlling current, voltage and temperature
  • Extreme Protection Technology provides increased dust and water resistance in harsh conditions

Pros:

  • Quiet operation
  • Lightweight
  • Solid construction and Makita quality
  • Excellent light-duty performance
  • Powerful batteries charge quickly

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Not suitable for medium- or heavy-duty jobs

WORX WG303.1 16-Inch Electric Chainsaw

This brawny yet and lightweight tool is the perfect “starter saw” for new users and a worthy choice for basic backyard cutting jobs. The WORX WG303.1 chainsaw performs comparably to a small gas-powered chainsaw, but with far less noise and zero emissions. Together its rubber rear handle and ergonomically-designed front handle combine for a cushioned, controlled handling experience, while a patented auto-tension system secures the bar and maintains optimal tension from start to finish.

Features and Specifications:

  • Weight: 11 pounds
  • Power source: Corded electric
  • Maximum power: 14 amps
  • Bar length: 16 inches
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Automatic oiler
  • Safety features include low-kickback bar, reduced-kickback chain and built-in chain brake
  • Patented auto-tension system

Pros:

  • Very affordable
  • Quiet operation
  • Requires minimal maintenance
  • Low maintenance

Cons:

  • Highly sensitive safety brake may unintentionally engage due to proximity to the handle, causing unwanted interruptions in operation
  • Moderately heavy

Final Thoughts

For light- and medium-duty jobs around the home and yard, electric chainsaws are a fantastic alternative to gas-powered saws. Electric models are lighter, quieter and more environmentally friendly than gas chainsaws, and they’re easier to operate and maintain as well. Best of all, most of the models on our list are inexpensive enough that you can afford to own both if necessary: an electric model for small tasks or tight spaces, and a gas model for heavy-duty jobs. Even if you’re an electric saw skeptic, consider picking up one of these five saws and taking it for a test drive. You just might be surprised at how well it performs—and how much fun it is to use.

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