Gas Chainsaw : The Definitive Buying Guide

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When buying a gas chainsaw, you might be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of variation present across the market.

You will be faced with a myriad of choices, but how do you know which features are most important for your needs?

This guide will help you to understand what you need from a chainsaw so that you can make the right buying decision.

How To Choose The Best Gas Chainsaw: Buying Guide

Here is our breakdown of all the key areas you should think about before buying a gas chainsaw:

Step1:  Which Gas Chainsaw Types are Suitable?

There are 4 broad types of gas chainsaw available on the market.

  1. Pole Saws
  2. Pruning Saws
  3. All-purpose Saws
  4. Felling Saws

Pole saws and pruning saws are the smallest variants.

Pole saws mount on the end of an extendable pole, negating the need for a ladder when you need to reach the highest branches for pruning.

Pruning chainsaws are often able to be mounted on the end of a pole, too. However, they can be a little bit bigger if they are not intended to be used as a pole saw. They excel at trimming low branches due to their maneuverability.

All-purpose chainsaws are the most common. They are two-handed, with either a top-mounted or rear-mounted handle.

They excel at cutting larger diameters up to the size of small trees and can be used for felling. They are usually maneuverable enough to be used for pruning.

The biggest, most powerful chainsaws are sometimes called felling saws. These are well suited for intensive cutting and felling of large trees, though they are pretty much useless for pruning jobs.

So, as first step, you need to decide, which type of saw is best suited for you. Do you need a pole chainsaw or a pruning one and so on.

Step 2: Look for the Correct Bar Length

The bar length is the length of the bar that the chain rotates around.

Bar length is the most important feature of any type of chainsaw, as it dictates what the saw can be used for.

Some pruning and pole saws have bar lengths as short as 4 inches, which makes them very maneuverable for pruning but useless for cutting thick pieces of wood.

Larger gas saws can be upwards of 20 inches. Professional gas chainsaws usually have a bar length greater than 20 inches.

Longer bar lengths increase the diameter of the wood you can cut but also makes the saw harder to maneuver and control.

It also increases the overall size and weight, as a chainsaw with a longer bar length needs a bigger motor.

Pruning and pole saws can have a smaller bar length because they are designed to cut through branches rather than trunks.

This improves maneuverability and allows for a more lightweight motor.

The average two-handed chainsaw, with a bar length between 14-20”, maybe suitable for cutting through thicker branches and small trunks.

Gas chainsaws have the largest range of bar lengths, with some models going above the 20” mark suggested for homeowners.

This is one of the main advantages gas models have over electric models, as the motors on gas chainsaws are more powerful than on electric chainsaws.

To choose the right bar length, consider the tasks you need to perform and go for the shortest that is suitable.

Step 3: Motor Power Needed

Gas chainsaws require gasoline and oil to run their two-cycle engines. You could mix the fuel yourself, or buy it premixed.

Gas chainsaw engines are measured in cc.

The average chainsaw intended for home use has an engine in the range of 24cc to 46cc.  Match the power of the engine to the tasks you need to perform – This is the most important point to be considered here.

If you are doing some pruning, trimming, or limbing then you can get by on a 30cc chainsaw. If you are cutting firewood under 10” or felling some small trees, then 40-45cc should suffice.

Felling or cutting medium-sized trees up to 16” in diameter will require up to 50cc, and dealing with larger trees will require a bigger engine than that.

Bigger engines are louder, heavier, and harder to handle.

Step 4: Ease of Maintenance and Repair

Chainsaw maintenance involves chain lubrication, chain tightening, and chain sharpening. Staying on top of these problems improves safety and the longevity of the saw.

Your chainsaw will require lubrication. On older models, you will have to apply the oil yourself, but many modern chainsaws come with an automatic lubrication system.

The best systems have an oil tank that is easy to fill and a gauge that is easy to read.

All chainsaws require the chain to be tightened occasionally.

Many chainsaws have a clip to hold a tightening tool, but the best saws feature tool-less tightening.

Rather than using your tools, which you will have inevitably forgotten to bring, you simply tighten the chain with a dial.

The chain will dull through regular use and will require sharpening.

Oregon’s PowerSharp system is often used on gas chainsaws, so check that it can be used on any that you intend to buy.

Step 5: Where You Plan to Use – Home or Professional

Of the four types of chainsaws, all-purpose saws offer everything the average homeowner will need.

As a homeowner, you will probably only need to do some pruning, trimming, and small-scale felling with your chainsaw. All-purpose chainsaws can do all of this.

Pruning and pole saws are only useful for pruning and trimming.

If you try to cut firewood or fell a tree with a saw that small then it will take forever, whereas you could use an all-purpose saw for pruning with only a little difficulty.

A felling saw over 20” is simply unnecessary for most non-professionals unless you have a lot of medium-large sized trees to fell and chop.

If you do not need to do that, then a felling saw is just going to be needlessly unwieldy.

You will also need to buy a pruning or pole saw if you need to do any pruning or trimming.

Step 6: Ease of Use

The Definitive Gas Chainsaw Buying Guide

Smaller gas chainsaws are generally easier to use.

If this is your first chainsaw, it would be a better idea to start with a smaller model.

Chainsaws can be dangerous, so it is best to get one that you know you can handle and upgrade in the future as you gain experience.

Longer bar lengths require bulkier motors.

A bulkier motor makes the chainsaw harder to use.

Anti-vibration systems are particularly important for big, gas-powered chainsaws. Excess vibration causes kickbacks so this is not just an ease-of-use issue, but also a safety one.

Step 7: Check Portability

There are two major concerns when it comes to portability – the size of the chainsaw, and its fuel capacity.

Smaller chainsaws like the pruning and pole saws are easy to transport if you are working away from home.

Larger chainsaws are significantly heavier and take up more space if you must fit them in the car or truck.

Fuel capacity is also a concern, as the more fuel a chainsaw can hold the longer it can run for.

The average chainsaw can run on a single tank of gas for around 15-40 minutes, depending on the intensity of the task.

Some professional models include a higher capacity fuel tank for extra cutting time.

For instance, a Makita 20” gas chainsaw with a rear handle has 21 oz of fuel capacity. Larger fuel tanks can carry around 28 oz, such as Stihl’s MS 661 C-M.

Smaller fuel tanks like those found on Stihl’s MS 150 T C-E can be as small as 6 oz.

Step 8: Check Safety Features

Ensure that any gas chainsaw that you buy has the key safety features common modern chainsaws.

If you experience sudden kickback, you will be grateful for a chain brake.

The best ones sense kickback through inertia and automatically trigger, which protects you from harm.

Check out this quick video by Greenworks to see how a chain brake works:

The chain can come off the bar if it is improperly maintained or experiences damage. If the chain does come off, you will be glad to have a chain catcher to prevent it causing you harm.

Throttle locks prevent you from accidentally throttling the chainsaw.

There should also be a stop control. Look for a model with a stop control that is easily and quickly accessible.

A right-hand guard will protect your hand if the chain should come off or break.

The number one concern for anyone wielding a chainsaw should be safety. Saving a few dollars now is not worth the cost of causing yourself injury should the worst happen.

Step 9: Budget and Pricing

Gas chainsaws are generally around the same price as cordless electric chainsaws, and more expensive than corded electric models.

There are models to suit many budgets, with price points ranging from around $120 to nearly $1000.

Ryobi’s 14 in. 37cc 2-Cycle Gas Chainsaw comes in at $119.

If you need a bigger bar length and a few extra features, you might like Echo’s 16 in. 34 cc Gas 2-Stroke Cycle Chainsaw which costs $259.

At the high end, and at double the power, Makita’s 79 cc Gas Rear Handle Chain Saw can handle whatever you throw at it.

It has a high price tag, at $919, and you will have to buy a bar and chain separately.

Summary

We hope that this chainsaw buying guide has equipped you with the knowledge to buy the right chainsaw for your needs.

There is a lot to take in, but the time you spend now can save you both money and hassle if it helps you make the right decision.

If you have any comments or questions about buying a gas chainsaw, please feel free to leave them in the section below.

About Ryan Henderson

Ryan has more than ten years of experience writing about power tools. He is an expert in the field, and is able to provide unique insights into the reviews, use, and maintenance of various products. He enjoys cooking when he's not working on his articles, as well as spending time with his dog.

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