The words “versatile” and “tool” are used together so often these days, it’s hard to tell whether it’s the truth or just marketing. Take a quick tour through a construction site, though, and you’ll see that the circular saw—a handheld electric saw that uses a circular, spinning blade to cut—is the real deal when it comes to versatility.
A good home workshop also warrants a reliable, powerful saw that can make short work of a variety of tasks, from breaking down a sheet of plywood to making quick, repetitive cuts on a stack of framing lumber. Circular saws, when set up correctly, can even cut grooves and dados.
Almost every power tool company sells a circular saw, so choosing the right one for your workshop can be challenging. Whether you’re a DIYer seeking a lightweight cordless option or a pro in the market for a feature-loaded model, this guide will help you get a handle on what to look for. Plus, we’ll tip you off as to which of the best circular saw options top our list of recommendations.
- BEST OVERALL: Makita 5007Mg 7-1/4-Inch Circular Saw
- RUNNER-UP: DEWALT 7-1/4-Inch Circular Saw with Electric Brake
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: CRAFTSMAN 7-1/4-Inch Circular Saw
- BEST SMALL: Makita XSS03Z 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless 5-3/8-Inch
- BEST BATTERY-POWERED: DEWALT 6-1/2-Inch 20V Max Circular Saw
- BEST WITH LASER: SKIL 5280-01 Circular Saw with Single Beam Laser
- BEST LIGHTWEIGHT: BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX 5-1/2-Inch Cordless Circular Saw
- BEST HEAVY-DUTY: SKILSAW 10-1/4″ SAWSQUATCH Circular Saw
- BEST FOR BEGINNERS: BOSCH CS10 7-1/4-Inch 15 Amp Circular Saw
- BEST FOR PROS: SKILSAW 7-1/4-Inch Worm Drive Circular Saw
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Circular Saw
Motor alignment, run speed, amperages, and blade types are all essential aspects of a circular saw, so here’s a quick primer to get started.
Corded vs. Battery-Powered
As with any type of saw, corded circular saws tie the user to the power source (i.e., an electric socket), whereas battery-operated models can go anywhere. On most professional job sites, cordless circular saws are shunned in favor of corded models—and there’s a historical basis for this bias. When battery-powered circular saws hit the market, they were far inferior to a good corded option in both power and speed. They also went through battery life very quickly and would jam as soon as the blade felt any resistance.
Today’s battery-operated cordless circular saws, however, have much more power and far longer battery life. Much of this improvement is due to the adoption of brushless motors (the latest, most efficient technology that’s also maintenance-free) and lithium-ion batteries.
Sidewinder vs. Worm Drive
Nope, it’s not a professional wrestling bout! Sidewinder and worm drive refer to motor alignment and position on a circular saw. Sidewinder models’ motors are installed in line with the blade, enabling them to run at high speeds in a compact footprint.
Worm drive circular saws have a motor in the rear of the saw and use a set of worm gears (so-called because of their spiraling worm shape) by the blade. Worm drive saws, which are usually longer, larger, and heavier than sidewinders, tend to reduce speed but increase torque. They also require oil to lubricate the gears, so users should check their oil level daily.
Bottom line: For speed, size, and ease of maintenance, a sidewinder model is the way to go; for power and torque, worm drive saws reign supreme.
Amperage and Speed
Amperage refers to the amount of electrical power a motor can withstand without its inner components failing. In the past, electric motors were weaker and not as capable, so amperage was an important specification to tout. Nearly all modern corded circular saws feature 15-amp motors.
A saw’s speed, however, can be a consideration since the faster the blade spins, the quicker it can cut through a material. But speeds tend to be relative because a 15-amp motor can spin a 7¼-inch blade faster than it can spin a 10¼-inch blade. Generally speaking, when it comes to 7¼-inch saws, speeds between 4,500 and 5,500 RPMs are common and should be adequate for fast, accurate results.
Keep in mind that blade speed has very little to do with the density of material a saw can cut. This is largely dependent on the blade type and quality.
Blade Size and Type
One obvious difference between circular saws is the size of their blades. Each uses a particular size blade, whether it be a small or massive tool. The range is pretty extensive, but the average person can get most framing and construction jobs done with a 7¼-inch model.
Popular blade types include all-purpose, framing, finish, and plywood blades. The tooth count, or the number of teeth around a blade, is the determining factor to what projects a blade works best for. The lower the tooth count, the rougher the cut will be, making these blades suitable for framing or demolition. Higher-count blades should be used for cabinetmaking, plywood, and finish work.
Pro Tip: Circular saws cut on the “upswing,” meaning the cutting half of the blade (the part under the shoe) spins toward the front of the saw. This will inevitably cause tiny slivers of wood to “tear out” of the wood—particularly when cutting plywood—creating noticeably rough edges that detract from the quality of work. To minimize tear-out, lay a piece of painter’s tape over your cutline to hold these fibers in place. You can also cut wood face-side down to eliminate tear-out concerns on the face of the wood.
The base plate that rides on the workpiece is known as a shoe, which will generally be made of one of three materials:
- Steel, though once popular, is less popular today because, despite being inexpensive and sturdy, it’s also very heavy.
- Aluminum is far lighter than steel but more expensive and not as tough.
- Magnesium, which is about 30 percent of the weight-per-volume of aluminum, is the high-tech metal of choice for circular saw shoes. Magnesium is stronger than aluminum (and even steel in some applications) and easier to manufacture but considerably more expensive.
Ease of Adjustment
Certain materials, such as plywood and other sheet goods, require a shallow blade depth, while others (framing applications, 4×4 posts, etc.) demand the full depth a saw can muster. So for true versatility, a circular saw should allow the user to make quick and accurate depth adjustments.
Almost all models feature levers or knobs to adjust the blade angle, known as the “bevel.” Knobs tend to be more accurate at dialing in the perfect angle, although they’re a bit of a hassle to loosen and tighten when wearing work gloves.
The most important consideration when it comes to blade angle adjustment is an easily accessible knob. Some manufacturers put these knobs in the strangest of places—for instance, the rear of the saw between the handle and blade guard—but an angle-adjustment knob in front of the motor where it’s easy to access is the smartest design.
To combat the dangers inherent to circular saws, manufacturers build safety features into their machines. One helpful safety feature is an electric brake, which stops circular saw blades almost immediately after the user releases the trigger. Older models would allow the blade to come to a stop on its own, which could result in a spinning blade coming in contact with something unintended.
Built-in LED lights and spring-loaded blade guards also offer big boosts in safety. The work lights illuminate the workpiece, allowing the user to see the cutline as well as any debris or impending mistakes that they should avoid. The retractable guards cover the blade as soon as the blade is removed from the workpiece, helping to minimize dangers.
Safety is also the responsibility of the user, so be sure to use eye and ear protection whenever you’re using a circular saw.
Some of the best circular saws offer additional features that make the job easier and faster. For instance, some models have dust collection ports and detachable collection bags to help minimize the amount of sawdust on the cutline. Others might come with extra batteries, depending on the kit.
Another helpful feature that manufacturers offer with their saws is a built-in rafter hook. These hooks swivel out of the saw, allowing the user to hang them from a rafter, ladder, sawhorse, or another sturdy ledge. Builders have been attaching them to their saws for years, and manufacturers are now catching on.
When it comes to choosing the best circular saw, there is obviously a lot to know. Luckily, shopping for one doesn’t have to be so confusing. The following list aims to simplify the process as much as possible, as it’s a collection of some of the best circular saws on the market. There’s something for everyone, from penny-pinchers to pros. Be sure to keep the top considerations in mind when comparing these saws to one another.
For all-around capability, performance, and features, the Makita 5007Mg 7¼-inch circular saw is worth a look. This powerful corded model uses a 15-amp motor and runs at speeds up to 5,800 RPMs, allowing it to tackle anything from construction to cabinetmaking.
The 5007Mg has plenty of desirable built-in features. It features two built-in LED lights as well as a built-in dust blower, allowing users to keep their eyes on the cutline at all times. It also has a large cutting capacity, giving the 7¼-inch blade a 2½-inch cutting depth. This circular saw’s beveling base has positive stops at 22½ and 45 degrees. The kit comes with a heavy-duty carrying case as well, protecting the investment during transport and storage. Available through Amazon and Home Depot.
DeWalt is a leader in the power tool market, and this corded 7¼-inch circular saw is a prime example of why. This lightweight circular saw weighs just 8.8 pounds but still offers heavy-duty, high-speed cutting thanks to its 15-amp motor and a top speed of 5,200 RPMs. And, to bring that 5,200-RPM-spinning blade to a quick and safe stop, this saw features an electronic brake.
This circular saw from DeWalt has a bevel capacity of up to 57 degrees, with positive stops at 45 and 22½ degrees. It also offers a deeper cutting depth than most of its competitors, at 2 9/16 inches. The base is aluminum and features built-in wrench storage for quick and easy blade changes. Available through Amazon and Home Depot.
Not everyone needs all of the features of a top-of-the-line cordless saw or the heavy-duty capability of a timber-framing model. For DIY projects that include an occasional small framing job or breaking down plywood sheets, and when saving money is a priority, the affordable Craftsman 7¼-Inch Circular Saw is a fine choice.
This 15-amp model runs at 5,500 RPMs and features a magnesium shoe for reduced weight. The shoe bevels up to 55 degrees, allowing users to customize the angle of their cuts. Also, this model features a built-in rafter hook that users can utilize to hang it from a beam, ladder, or another ledge. Available through Amazon and Lowe’s.
For part-time DIYers or smaller-framed users, Makita’s XSS03Z 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless 5⅜-inch circular saw’s small size and minimal weight make it an attractive option. This saw weighs just 6 pounds, allowing DIYers of any size and skill level to wield it.
Despite its minimal size and smaller blade, this cordless circular saw has a depth of cut of up to 2 inches, offering more than enough capacity for framing lumber. And, with its 3,600-RPM top speed, it’s capable of handling most projects. The base bevels up to 50 degrees to allow users to make bevel cuts, and the built-in dust blower keeps the cutline clear so they can see the cutline. Available through Amazon and Home Depot.
DeWalt was at the forefront of brushless technology and lithium-ion battery technology—and the company’s 20V 6½-inch circular saw is a prime example of what the brand’s tools can do. This cordless circular saw uses the same 20V battery that most of the DeWalt lineup now runs on, so those invested in the 20V lineup will have a host of compatible batteries. It also runs at a top speed of 5,200 RPMs, allowing it to keep up with high-end corded models.
Despite its power and capability, this saw weighs just over 7 pounds. It features a beveling base that adjusts between 0 and 50 degrees, while the rubber overmolded grip remains comfortable and reduces vibration. Available through Amazon and Home Depot.
Getting the hang of a circular saw can be a bit of a challenge, but a circular saw with laser guidance can make the job that much easier. The SKIL 5280-01 Circular Saw features a single-beam laser that allows the user to maintain consistent passes on cutlines, taking some of the learning curve out of straight cuts.
Besides the laser beam, this corded circular saw also boasts a 5,300-RPM top speed from its 15-amp motor, offering plenty of power and capability. This saw’s base bevels up to 51 degrees, allowing the 7¼-inch blade to cut a variety of angles. And, to make this saw a bit safer, there is a safety lock in the handle that the user must depress before squeezing the trigger. Available through Amazon and Lowe’s.
Heavy saws can be intimidating and difficult for some DIYers to maneuver. This cordless circular saw from Black & Decker does away with those fears, weighing just 7½ pounds, and that includes the rechargeable battery.
This Black & Decker cordless circular saw is a basic yet capable model. The motor has a top speed of 3,700 RPMs, making it powerful enough for most projects. The base bevels up to 50 degrees as well as adjusts the height of the blade for cuts up to 2 inches deep. This saw also features a built-in safety in the handle to prevent accidental activations. Available through Amazon and Home Depot.
SKIL is such a well-known saw maker, many people call all circular saws “Skilsaws”—and believe it or not, the company’s SAWSQUATCH is its midsize model at 10¼ inches. This worm drive saw can cut both framing materials and sheet goods and also handle thick timbers.
Deck builders and timber framers can appreciate the quick and accurate cuts the SAWSQUATCH can make in one pass. It uses a 15-amp motor and runs at a top speed of 4,600 RPMs with plenty of torque. This corded, heavy-duty saw might be a bit much for some DIYers, but its capability can’t be denied. Available through Amazon.
First-time DIY tool shoppers need reliable, stand-alone tools to build the foundation of their kit. This corded circular saw from Bosch is just one of those models, not requiring the user to previously own any batteries while also being powerful enough for the user to grow into.
This saw doesn’t have a bunch of bells and whistles to confuse a first-time user. It features a powerful 15-amp motor that spins the 7¼-inch blade at a top speed of 4,400 RPMs. It also has a beveling base that adjusts up to 56 degrees. The wrench to change the blade stores on board this saw as well, allowing newer tool users to keep track of it for easy blade changes. And, the built-in rafter hook makes hanging this saw from a ledge a convenient option. Available through Amazon and Lowe’s.
This SKILSAW option is the go-to model on most construction sites nationwide. This worm drive circular saw is useful for framing, carpentry, and even cutting sheet goods. It has a set of worm gears to increase the torque, making it a truly powerful saw.
This SKILSAW features a depth-of-cut guide on the side of the saw, allowing users to choose from among different sizes of plywood or framing lumber in seconds. The base adjusts to allow for bevel cuts up to 53 degrees. And, despite being such a heavy-duty model, this worm drive circular saw features plenty of magnesium parts to reduce its overall weight to less than 12 pounds. Available through Amazon and Lowe’s.
FAQs About Circular Saws
Even with all that background on the best circular saws, some additional questions might be spinning through your head about these power tools. The following section aims to answer those queries, as it’s a collection of some of the most frequently asked questions about circular saws. Be sure to check for an answer to your questions below.
Q. What is a circular saw used for?
The overwhelmingly most common use for a circular saw is cutting framing lumber to length. However, it can be used to trim deck boards, cut plywood sheets into cabinet panels, and more.
Q. What kind of cuts can a circular saw make?
Circular saws can make straight cuts, cuts with beveled angles, and even a series of thin, shallow cuts known as dados or rabbets.
Q. What should I look for when buying a circular saw?
There is a combination of things to look for when buying a circular saw. If you already own a series of batteries, find one that matches your stash. Also, look for one with enough speed to get the job done that also fits your budget.
Q. What is the best circular saw for home use?
There are two saws worth recommending for home use. Both the Makita 5007Mg 7-1/4-Inch Circular Saw and the DEWALT 7-1/4-Inch Circular Saw with Electric Brake are some of the best circular saws for a variety of projects, including those DIYers are most likely to tackle.
Q. How do you keep a circular saw straight?
The best way to keep a circular saw straight is to clamp a straight edge to the workpiece and run the base against it. Another idea is to place a small clamp on the front of the base to act as a guide.
Q. Why am I getting kickback on my circular saw?
Kickback can occur for a few reasons:
- Don’t start the saw with the blade against the workpiece. Allow the blade to get up to speed before pushing it through the workpiece.
- Semi-cut workpieces tend to droop, and this droop can cause sideways friction on the blade, pinching it in place. Support the workpiece until the cut is complete.
Shopping for the best circular saw might seem like an arduous process, with so many great models to choose from. With this guide and the background information it provides, you’ll be able to choose a model for the projects you’re likely to tackle since there are options for everyone from beginners to pros.