Gas chainsaws have a reputation for being difficult to start, noisy and—let’s be honest—somewhat scary. However, a look at some of the best gas chainsaws available today proves otherwise. While many are high-powered machines capable of taking down huge trees, options are available that make easy-to-use, good value additions to your tool kit.
This guide explores some of the newer options and explains their technical features to help you select the best gas chainsaw for your yard work.
- BEST OVERALL: Craftsman S165 42cc Full Crank 2-Cycle Gas Chainsaw
- RUNNER-UP: Poulan Pro 20 in. 50cc 2-Cycle Gas Chainsaw
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: HUYOSEN 54.6CC 2-Stroke Gas Powered Chainsaw, 20-Inch
- UPGRADE PICK: XtremepowerUS 22 inch 2.4HP 45cc Gas 2-Stroke
- BEST LIGHTWEIGHT: ECHO CS-271T 12 In. Chainsaw
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Gas Chainsaw
Before shopping, consider a number of important factors common to all the best chainsaws, regardless of power source. This section also explores features relevant to selecting the best gas chainsaw for particular tasks, including intended use, motor, and chainsaw bars.
Broadly speaking, gas chainsaws can be divided into three groups, each of which is based on the type of work it’s best suited for: light, general purpose, and professional.
- Light-duty gas chainsaws: These relatively small tools are comparable in many ways to their corded and cordless counterparts. They’re easy to handle and ideal for tasks like pruning trees or thinning out undergrowth.
- General purpose gas chainsaws: A bit larger than their light-duty counterparts, these chainsaws can tackle most of the work required in medium to large yards. In addition to tasks like clearing storm-damaged branches or cutting logs into firewood, they also can handle modest tree-felling duties.
- Professional chainsaws: With the power and durability to operate all day long, these heavy-duty tools can handle the same tasks as light-duty and general purpose chainsaws as well as felling trees of all but exceptional size.
The two types of chainsaw motors are two-stroke motors (also called two-cycle) and four-stroke motors (four-cycle).
- Two-stroke models are lighter and less complicated, which makes them less expensive. They usually run at higher revolutions per minute (RPMs), so they generate decent power for their size. However, this also makes them noisier, increases fuel consumption, and causes higher emissions.
- Four-stroke chainsaws are heavier, more complex, and produce less power for the same cylinder size. However, they are more fuel-efficient and run cleaner. They’re often more durable as well.
Historically, light-duty and general purpose chainsaws have been two-stroke machines, and they remain the most popular. Heavy-duty professional models are more likely to contain four-stroke motors. Two-stroke models often struggle to meet CARB and EPA emission regulations, making them illegal in more than a dozen states. As a result, some manufacturers have developed lower emission two-stroke engines that rival their four-stroke counterparts.
While cubic capacity (cc) is often listed and can be anywhere from around 20cc to over 50cc, few manufacturers provide actual power output figures. In general, this is not a problem, as makers of quality chainsaws do an excellent job of matching engine size to the power demanded for efficient cutting.
A description of any gas chainsaw likely includes the bar size, sometimes referred to as the “guide bar.” (Bars are the steel guide plate the chain runs around.) This measurement is almost always in inches. As a rule of thumb, light-duty chainsaws have a bar from 12 to 14 inches, general purpose chainsaws have bars that run from 16 to 20 inches, and professional models have bars that are 22 inches or more. The largest chainsaws can exceed 48 inches.
However, exceptions exist. Some high-powered professional chainsaws have shorter bars for added maneuverability. These are often designed for working among branches at height, usually by contractors in climbing harnesses.
Strictly speaking, a chainsaw with a 12-inch bar should be able to cut through a 12-inch tree. In practical terms, however, maximum cutting capacities are usually a couple of inches shorter than bar length.
Before getting to work, learn how to use a chainsaw safely. If at all possible, learn from someone with practical experience.
Always wear appropriate safety equipment while operating a chainsaw. A face shield can help protect you from flying debris, which can be surprisingly sharp. Hearing protectors are also a good idea, as is a hard hat if there’s a danger of falling branches. Be sure to wear solid footwear, preferably with steel toe caps, and tough work gloves.
When using a chainsaw, always keep children and pets out of the area. Never work with a chainsaw when not feeling 100 percent fit and alert. Operating a chainsaw improperly can lead to serious injury.
A variety of minor features can make a significant difference when choosing the best gas chainsaw.
A certain amount of vibration is inevitable, but better chainsaws use special engine mounts to reduce it. Spring-mounted handles further insulate the user from vibration as well. Be sure to check if the chainsaw handle allows sufficient space for a comfortable grip with gloved hands.
The front handle should incorporate a chain brake; never buy a chainsaw without one. Inertia-activated models operate automatically at a sudden movement. Others are manual, immediately stopping the chain from rotating when pushed forward. Also look for a slip-on chain guard.
A few of the best gas chainsaws feature tool-free chain adjustment via a large knob on the side of the machine. However, most still need a wrench, and changing the chain may require a wrench and/or screwdriver. An automatic chain oiler is a valuable bonus.
Our Top Picks
Now that you’ve learned about the major features, it’s time to put that knowledge into practice and check out some of the best gas chainsaws available.
The Craftsman is a good overall chainsaw, offering high levels of quality, performance, and reliability. While it doesn’t excel in any one area, it delivers what most people need.
The 16-inch bar, perhaps the optimum size for the average user, offers a good balance between maneuverability and cutting capacity. A tough polypropylene chassis is durable but light, and a three-point anti-vibration mounting helps reduce operator fatigue. Although it’s a two-cycle model, the easy-starting 42cc motor is CARB and EPA compliant and delivers clean, consistent power.
The Craftsman is fitted with an inertia-activated chain brake, an adjustable automatic chain oiler, and comes with its own case. It weighs a relatively modest 21.9 pounds.
The Poulan Pro gas chainsaw is, like all Poulan Pro tools, noted for a combination of reliability and value. This model, intended for those who need to manage extensive wooded areas, has a 20-inch bar combined with a 50cc motor, providing significant power and capacity.
While clearly a sizable tool, it weighs a manageable 17 pounds. A simple purge bulb primes the carburetor and makes for easy pull-starting. It runs evenly, particularly at idle, and has good anti-vibration control.
While the OxyPower technology provides reduced emissions and improved fuel consumption, research suggests that, like many midrange chainsaws, this model is not CARB or EPA compliant.
Those looking for a low-cost, reliable chainsaw may want to consider this high-powered model from HUYOSEN. A low-maintenance tool, the HUYOSEN provides sufficient performance for general lopping and felling duties. With a high-powered 54.6cc motor and large-capacity 20-inch bar, this 15.4-pound chainsaw can take on a variety of landscaping tasks. While a bit more basic than much of the competition, it has a vibration-dampening cushioned handle and an automatic chain oiler.
Designed with all-day productivity in mind, this XtremepowerUS chainsaw offers an impressive 22-inch bar and a high output 45cc engine. While a large tool, it weighs 19 pounds. Electronic ignition plus automatic choke make for easy starting, and it’s easy to maintain.
Vibration levels are sufficient to reduce user fatigue. For safety, this model features an anti-kickback chain combined with a manual chain brake and quick-stop button. The EcoBoost motor is EPA compliant for low emissions, though it doesn’t meet the more stringent CARB standard.
This 12-inch chainsaw from ECHO weighs in at under 11 pounds, but thanks to a 26.9cc motor, it delivers excellent performance.
The unusual top-mounted, wrap-around handle provides grip at almost any angle, particularly useful in dense undergrowth or when working among branches at height. A lanyard attachment attaches the chainsaw to a belt or harness. It provides tool-free chain adjustment while the user is elevated.
While it’s a good choice for the small yard, the ECHO also may be useful to professionals who already own a heavy-duty chainsaw but need a smaller device for light-duty tasks.
The Advantages of Owning a Gas Chainsaw
Electric chainsaws remain a viable choice for small urban gardens, particularly in areas with noise restrictions. Additionally, while small chainsaws do a good job of minor tree pruning, they aren’t the tool of choice for everyday wood cutting.
To deal with sizable tree limbs, woodland or forestry management, or even a large log pile, the advantages of a gas chainsaw are apparent. Gas chainsaws are favored by professionals, offering:
- Unrestricted movement: With a tank of gas and a can of oil, the user can go anywhere. There’s no power cord to worry about and no need to charge batteries.
- Unrivaled performance: If it’s a question of power, gas chainsaws can invariably outperform their electric rivals.
- Durability: Although difficult to generalize, a high-quality gas chainsaw that’s properly maintained usually outlasts an electric model.
FAQs About Gas Chainsaws
Having studied the features and benefits of these tools, you may still have some more questions. The following are among those that buyers of gas chainsaws ask most often.
Q. What is the best chainsaw for a homeowner to buy?
While much depends on the size and number of trees you’re dealing with, the Craftsman 16-inch is one of the best gas chainsaws for home use.
Q. What fuel do I need for my gas chainsaw?
Regular unleaded gas is fine. Chainsaws aren’t particularly fussy, but premium gas is probably a bit rich. If you have a two-stroke gas chainsaw, oil must be added to the fuel before use. Check the owner’s manual for correct proportions. Four-stroke gas chainsaws contain oil in a separate reservoir.
Q. How do I start a gas chainsaw?
The procedure is usually to prime the carburetor, giving a couple of gentle pulls on the cord with the motor off. Then turn it on and pull it again to fire it up. Modern gas chainsaws normally make this quick and easy. However, it’s important to read the owner’s manual. Common complaints about starting difficulties are often because the owner hasn’t checked the instructions.
Q. Is the weight of a chainsaw important?
Small chainsaws are usually very manageable, but weight can increase significantly with larger models. Whether this becomes a factor will depend on your physical strength, whether you need to work off the ground, or whether you must use a chainsaw all day.
Q. Can I modify the chainsaw exhaust to make the machine quieter?
To run properly, the motor relies on back pressure from the exhaust. Removing or modifying it will impact the chainsaw’s performance.
Q. How do I clean a chainsaw gas cap vent?
Simply blowing through the cap often clears small obstructions. You can do it yourself or use compressed air from a can. Otherwise, carefully disassemble it and clean the various components. Some have a small filter that might need replacement.