Buyer’s Guide: The Best Miter Saws
Miter saws are must-have tools for many DIYers and pros. Ahead, read our guide to understanding the different types of miter saws and the key factors to keep in mind when navigating the available options.
Today’s miter saws are a big improvement over the manual miter boxes of the 1960s.
Mitering is the process of fitting two boards together at an angle, so miter saws are commonly thought of as “trim saws.” If you do any type of trim work, the miter saw might be your most-used power tool.
That said, miter saws are invaluable for making other types of cross cuts as well—end cuts on hardwood flooring strips, for instance, or angle cuts on roof rafters.
Keep reading to learn more about this popular tool and to find out why the below are our top-favorite picks among the best miter saw options for DIYers and pros.
- BEST OVERALL: DEWALT 12-Inch Dual Compound Sliding Miter Saw
- BEST VALUE: Metabo 12-Inch Dual Compound Miter Saw with Laser
- BEST FOR BEGINNERS: Hitachi 10-Inch Single Compound Miter Saw with Laser
- BEST FOR PROS: DEWALT FLEXVOLT Double Bevel Compound Sliding Miter Saw
- HONORABLE MENTION: DEWALT 12-Inch Single Compound Miter Saw
Types of Miter Saws
All miter saws feature a circular blade encased in a swing arm that pivots from side to side to make cross cuts on narrow strips of wood (5- to 18-inches wide, depending on the saw). One size doesn’t fit all, however, so your individual woodworking needs will determine which saw is right for you.
- Standard miter saw: This simplest of all miter saws is sometimes called a “chop saw” because you pivot the swing arm to the angle you want to cut and pull the arm down to chop through the material. These simple miter saws only make blunt cuts, so they’re not as popular as some other types of saws.
- Single compound miter saw: In addition to cutting angles, the swing arm on a compound miter saw tilts in one direction (typically to the left) in order to cut a bevel at the end of the board at the same time it cuts the miter angle. This comes in handy for tasks such as installing crown molding or constructing elaborate picture frames where the ends of the material must be beveled in order to fit snugly. Most miter saws on the market today are compound saws.
- Dual compound miter saw: A dual compound miter saw also cuts bevels on the ends of a board, but unlike a single compound miter saw, the swing arm on a dual compound miter saw tilts in both directions. This is strictly a convenience and a time-saver—a single compound miter saw can still make the same cuts—but the user has to turn the board over to cut a bevel in the opposite direction. The compound saves that step.
- Compound sliding miter saw: Adding sliding rails to a compound miter saw allows the user to cut wider boards. Non-sliding miter saws cut boards a few inches narrower than their blade diameter, so a 10-inch miter saw will cut a board up to 5.5-inches wide. If you’re cutting a wider board, you’ll have to turn the board over to finish cutting through it, but that can lead to an uneven cut if you don’t line it up perfectly. A sliding miter is the best solution for cutting wide boards because once you lower the swing arm, you can pull it forward to continue the cut through the entire board. Depending on the model, a sliding miter saw can handle boards from 10- to 18-inches wide and can be either single compound or dual compound.
Key Shopping Considerations
Your woodworking projects will determine the features you’ll need in a miter saw. Someone who only wants a miter saw to make crosscuts on wood flooring strips won’t need the extra features a professional trim carpenter needs to install elaborate crown molding.
A 10-inch miter saw—so-called because it has a 10-inch blade—is sufficient for cutting most types of trim boards and siding strips, which are typically less than 3/4-inches thick and 6-inches wide. If you want to cut thicker boards, such as 1.5-inch thick framing boards, consider getting the larger, 12-inch miter saw because the larger blade will cut through thicker boards more easily.
Until just a few years ago, all miter saws were corded, and most still are, featuring 10-, 12-, and 15-amp motors. The higher the amps, the more power the motor will have, but a 10-amp miter saw is sufficient for cutting most types of trim boards. The higher-amp motors are better at slicing through larger boards and they won’t overheat as quickly with constant use. Cordless miter saws are the new kids on the block, and they typically operate on rechargeable 20-volt, lithium-ion batteries. Battery runtime depends on how often you’re making cuts and how thick the wood is, but expect an average of 150 to 275 cuts on a single battery charge.
Some miter saws have laser guides that mark a red or green line across your wood where the blade will cut. This is a great feature for DIYers and beginners to ensure they have their board correctly positioned before cutting.
You can work up a sweat on a hot summer day, which can result in a slippery grip on a miter saw handle. Some manufacturers now offer padded non-slip grips to reduce hand fatigue and allow for a better grasp. Many miter saws still don’t have them, but it’s a bonus when you can find one that does.
Optional Dust Collection
Miter saws tend to kick up sawdust, particularly when operated inside a workshop. To remedy this, two types of dust collection are available for miter saws. The first is a small bag designed to collect some of the dust that blows into it naturally as it comes off the blade. The second (and better) option is a dust collection port that connects to the hose of a shop-type vacuum.
Our Top Picks
1. BEST OVERALL: DEWALT 12-Inch Single Compound Miter Saw
For around-the-home trimming and crosscutting, consider the powerful and precise DEWALT 12-Inch Single Compound Miter Saw. It cuts boards up to 8-inches wide and cuts bevels in one direction. The DEWALT saw also comes with a vertical clamp to hold the board still as you cut, and it features a dust collection bag to help reduce the dust in the air. For safety, the saw also features a mechanism that automatically locks the spring arm in the down position unless it’s manually unlocked with a button on the back.
2. BEST VALUE: Metabo 12-Inch Dual Compound Miter Saw with Laser
You can save money on a miter saw without giving up functionality. The affordable Metabo 12-Inch Dual Compound Miter Saw cuts bevels in both directions and comes with a powerful 15-amp motor to boot. Thanks to the laser feature, you’ll see the cutline on the board before you cut, which will reduce errors. The saw comes with an elastomer-coated handle designed to reduce vibration, hand fatigue, and hand slippage. This is a nice and unexpected feature on a more affordably priced saw.
3. BEST FOR BEGINNERS: Hitachi 10-Inch Single Compound Miter Saw with Laser
If you’re just starting in woodworking and won’t be making particularly complex cuts, check out the Hitachi 10-Inch Single Compound Miter Saw. It features a single compound tilt for cutting bevels in one direction, and its 15-amp motor will supply plenty of cutting power. The Hitachi will cut boards up to 5.5-inches wide, and it comes with a padded ergonomic handle for reduced vibration. Beginners may also appreciate the accuracy-aiding laser guidance included on this saw.
4. BEST FOR PROS: DEWALT FLEXVOLT Double Bevel Compound Sliding Miter Saw
For professional trim carpenters or picture-frame fabricators, the DEWALT FLEXVOLT Double Bevel Compound Sliding Miter Saw is a worthy option. The saw features precision dual bevel cutting and sliding rails that allow the user to cut boards up to 16-inches wide. Plug the saw into a standard electrical outlet or operate it on a FLEXVOLT 20V/60V MAX battery (sold separately).