The Best Stihl Chainsaws of 2021

Learn more about the chainsaws this top name brand offers.

By Tony Carrick | Updated Nov 18, 2021 10:45 AM

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The Best Stihl Chainsaws Option

Photo: acehardware.com

The market offers numerous chainsaw brand choices, but few can rival the performance and reliability of a Stihl chainsaw. The company is renowned for the durability and reliability of its chainsaws as well as the innovative technologies they put into the tools that make them easier to operate and maintain.

Though it’s hard to go wrong with any of the Stihl chainsaw models, the company offers a broad product line that ranges from small 12-inch electric chainsaws up to 40-inch behemoths for forestry professionals. This can make finding the right match a confusing process. This guide discusses the important factors to consider when shopping for the best Stihl chainsaw and presents some of the company’s top models by category.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Stihl MS 250 Gas Chainsaw
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Stihl MS 170 Gas Chainsaw
  3. BEST FOR HOME USE: Stihl Gas Chainsaw MS 180 C-BE
  4. BEST FARM/RANCH: Stihl Farm Boss MS 271
  5. BEST ELECTRIC: Stihl MSA 140 C-B 12 in. 36 V Battery Chainsaw Kit
The Best Stihl Chainsaws Option

Photo: northerntool.com

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Stihl Chainsaw

Understanding the different types of chainsaws Stihl offers and considering the various bar sizes, weights, and power sources is vital to making the right choice.

Types of Stihl Chainsaws

Stihl’s product line is made up of smaller chainsaws designed for trimming branches and small tree removal, midsize chainsaws for farm and ranch use, and large models for professional arborists and forestry workers. Below, learn more about Stihl’s broad product line.

  • Homeowner Chainsaws: Stihl’s small chainsaw models range from 12-inch to 16-inch models. The former is designed for light tree pruning and post-storm cleanup, while the larger 16-inch models are suitable for trimming large branches, cutting up firewood, and even felling small trees. Stihl’s line of chainsaws caters to consumers with features that make them easier to use, including anti-vibration handles, easy-start technology, and automatic chain lubricators.
  • Farm and Ranch Chainsaws: Stihl’s farm and ranch chainsaws are bigger, with 18-inch to 20-inch cutting bars that make them capable of managing trees. Though they don’t include all the user-friendly features that Stihl’s small chainsaws offer, they are more ruggedly built to endure bigger jobs and regular use.
  • Professional Chainsaws: Stihl’s professional line represents its highest-end chainsaws. These chainsaws have bars that measure up to 25 inches long and ample power for felling massive trees. They are built to endure daily heavy-duty use and run reliably without throwing the chain or stalling out, a big plus for forestry professionals and arborists.
  • In-Tree Chainsaws: This specialized set of chainsaws is designed for use while in trees high above the ground. These are specially designed for arborists who must regularly climb into trees to prune large branches.

Power Sources

Stihl chainsaws come with three power source options: electric, gas, and battery. Stihl gas chainsaws are the company’s most powerful models and can be found in its homeowner, rancher, and professional lines. Its electric and battery models offer the convenience of easy start and low maintenance but don’t possess the same raw power as its gas-engine powered chainsaws. As such, electric chainsaws are only found in the company’s homeowner line.

Bar Size and Handles

The bar length on a chainsaw determines the maximum diameter a chainsaw can cut. An 18-inch chainsaw, for example, can cut through an 18-inch-diameter tree trunk. Chainsaw bar lengths on Stihl chainsaw models range from 12 inches for small electric models all the way up to 29 inches for large gas-powered forestry chainsaws. Generally speaking, bar lengths of 12 to 14 inches are ideal for light-duty applications such as trimming and cutting up branches after a storm. General-purpose chainsaws for cutting small trees and firewood range from 16 to 20 inches, while pro models extend beyond 20 inches.

Chainsaws include two handles—a trigger handle that includes the chain controls and a wraparound handle that stabilizes and directs the blade. The trigger on the handle requires the user to hold in a button or lever to engage the chain. The large wraparound handle allows the user to make cuts at various angles while still maintaining a firm grip on the saw.

Weight 

Stihl uses streamlined designs to keep its chainsaws lightweight. Generally speaking, the longer a chainsaw’s bar, the bigger its engine and the heavier its overall weight. Smaller electric and battery-powered chainsaws weigh around 8 pounds, and Stihl gas-powered models range from 9 pounds for the smallest up to 22 pounds for the company’s largest professional model.

Additional Features

One of the things that sets Stihl’s chainsaws apart from other brands is the innovative technology the company uses in its products to improve ease of use. This includes such features as Easy2Start technology for easier starting of Stihl gas-powered chainsaws and anti-vibration technology, which reduces operator fatigue by limiting the amount of vibration transferred from the motor and bar to the handle.

The company also includes features to make the products easier to maintain. These include toolless chain adjusters, easily accessible air filters, and self-lubricating chains.

Our Top Picks

The products below represent some of the best Stihl chainsaws on the market. They consist of chainsaws of various sizes and types. The list includes chainsaws to meet the needs of DIYers who just need occasional use in their landscape, those who own large properties, and even some professionals.

Best Overalll

The Best Stihl Chainsaws Option: Stihl MS 250 Gas Chainsaw
Photo: northerntool.com

With its 18-inch bar and 45.4-cc engine, this Stihl gas chainsaw represents an excellent all-around chainsaw that can take down small- to medium-size trees. It is heavy duty enough for pro use while still lightweight enough for most users to wield. While its engine and longer bar give it power and cutting ability that can be intimidating to the amateur arborist, Stihl’s well-renowned vibration-dampening technology makes it easier for the occasional chainsaw operator to use. And though it’s heavier than other Stihl models, it remains manageable at a hair under 12 pounds.

Despite being large enough for pros to use, this Stihl chainsaw model includes user-friendly features that home landscapers and DIYers will appreciate, including a tool-free chain tightener, automatic chain lubrication, and an easy-to-access chain tensioner.

Product Specs

  • Bar length: 18 inches
  • Power: 45.4-cc engine
  • Weight: 12 pounds

Pros

  • Large cutting diameter
  • Low-vibration handle
  • Easy-start electronic ignition
  • Easily accessed chain tensioner

Cons

  • Expensive

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Stihl Chainsaws Option: Stihl MS 170 Gas Chainsaw
Photo: acehardware.com

Small and easy to use but with enough power to handle a medium-size tree or large limbs, the Stihl MS 170 is the ideal choice for most users. It’s capable of cutting tree trunks or branches up to 16 inches in diameter, enough for trimming a tree or cleaning up after a bad storm. At less than 9 pounds, it’s lightweight enough to handle for those not used to operating chainsaws. Like most Stihl chainsaws, this model also includes an anti-vibration handle for less fatigue, especially after longer periods.

The MS 170 includes other useful features for amateur chainsaw operators, including a quick-start ignition that is easier to get running than other gas chainsaws, a carburetor that automatically regulates the engine to prevent stalls, and an automatic chain lubrication system. Keep in mind that the MS 170’s smaller size also means it has a smaller gas tank, which can be a hassle if cutting a large amount of firewood.

Product Specs

  • Bar length: 16 inches
  • Power: 1.7 bhp (gas)
  • Weight: 8.6 pounds

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Carburetor cleaning system
  • Anti-vibration handle
  • Automatic lubrication system

Cons

  • Small gas tank

Best for Home Use

The Best Stihl Chainsaws Option: Stihl Gas Chainsaw MS 180 C-BE
Photo: northerntool.com

One of the things that sets Stihl’s chainsaws apart from other brands is the technology that the company includes so that the saws are easier for amateurs to use. Sometimes just getting a chainsaw up and running is a major battle. With its Easy2Start system, the MS 180 doesn’t require a lot of effort or many pulls to start the engine. Once started, an anti-vibration handle improves comfort while working with the chainsaw, allowing the operator to work longer.

Maintenance is also easier, thanks to a Quick Chain Adjuster that allows the user to change the tension on the saw’s 18-inch bar without tools. The MS 180’s carburetor will even self-adjust so it continues to operate smoothly even when the air filter becomes clogged with debris. All these features add up to a chainsaw that’s reliable, easy to use, and requires less maintenance than many, an ideal combo for the average home user.

Product Specs 

  • Bar length: 16 inches
  • Power: 31.8-cc engine
  • Weight: 9.3 pounds

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Anti-vibration system
  • Toolless chain adjuster
  • Easy2Start technology

Cons

  • Expensive

Best Farm/Ranch

The Best Stihl Chainsaws Option: Stihl Farm Boss MS 271
Photo: acehardware.com

Farms, ranches, and other large properties require a chainsaw that can handle regular use and larger trees. With its 50.2-cc engine and 18-inch bar length, the Stihl Farm Boss is up to the task. And while this chainsaw is intended for use by those with more experience cutting large branches and felling trees, it includes features for ease of use, such as Stihl’s anti-vibration system and a large front handle that’s rubberized and ergonomically angled for improved comfort and safety while operating the chainsaw.

The Farm Boss is also easy to maintain, thanks to a side-access chain tensioner that’s easier to access with a bar wrench and an air filter cover that the operator can remove without a tool to easily clear debris on the fly. The MS 271 also features a high-efficiency engine that allows for 20 percent longer runtimes between refuelings.

Product Specs

  • Bar length: 18 inches
  • Power: 50.2-cc engine
  • Weight: 12 pounds

Pros

  • Long cutting bar
  • Powerful engine
  • Ergonomic handle
  • Anti-vibration system

Cons

  • Harder to start
  • Expensive

Best Electric

The Best Stihl Chainsaws Option: Stihl MSA 140 C-B 12 in. 36 V Battery Chainsaw Kit
Photo: acehardware.com

While gas chainsaws have ample power and can run for hours with a full tank of fuel at the ready, they require a significant amount of maintenance and can be difficult to start. Those looking for an easier-to-use chainsaw for pruning branches or cutting down small trees can look to Stihl’s battery-powered MSA 140 as a great option. This saw will run for up to 45 minutes on a single charge, which is suitable for trimming limbs or cleaning up after a storm.

With its light 8.6-pound weight and short 12-inch cutting bar, this Stihl chainsaw is easier to maneuver than heavier and longer chainsaws. Its electric ignition starts at the push of a button, saving one’s back from a pull-start engine; plus, it produces no exhaust fumes. Other user-friendly features include a chain brake that can stop the chain in a fraction of a second and a rubberized covering for easy grip and a more comfortable hold.

Product Specs

  • Bar length: 12 inches
  • Power: 36-volt battery
  • Weight: 8.6 pounds

Pros

  • Push-button start
  • No exhaust fumes
  • Lightweight
  • Safety-chain brake

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Limited cutting power

Our Verdict

With its 18-inch bar, powerful 45.6-cc engine, and features that make it easy to start, operate, and maintain, the Stihl MS 250 is one of the company’s best all-around chainsaws. Those looking for a Stihl chainsaw who are on a budget should consider the Stihl MS 170, which can handle most duties a typical home user demands from a chainsaw at a more affordable price.

How We Tested the Best Stihl Chainsaws

In reviewing Stihl’s line of gas and electric-powered chainsaws, we considered a variety of criteria, including size, power, and ease of use. Since bar size largely determines the types of jobs a chainsaw can handle, we chose chainsaws with 12- to 16-inch lengths for residential use and larger 18- to 20-inch models for farm and professional use.

Keeping in mind that most people don’t use a chainsaw on a regular basis, we selected models with technologies that made them easier to use, such as easy-start pull cords, tool-free chain adjusters, and vibration-dampening technology. We also chose Stihl chainsaws that could provide adequate cutting power while keeping their weight to a manageable load, helping to prevent fatigue that could make the chainsaw cumbersome to operate for long periods.

Why Choose a Stihl Chainsaw?

Stihl is among the top names in chainsaws and for good reason. In addition to building reliable and durable products, the company has a reputation for innovations that make its chainsaws easier to use. Technologies such as Easy2Start lead to its gas chainsaws starting without the user having to make multiple pulls, and vibration-impeding technology allows the operator to run them with less fatigue, for example.

Stihl chainsaws are also easy to maintain, thanks to toolless chain tightening, auto chain lubrication systems, easy-to-access air filters, and even carburetors that self-adjust for optimal operation. Stihl chainsaws also offer a broad product line that ranges from 12-inch electric chainsaws all the way up to 40-inch monsters for professional foresters, making the company a true expert in the field.

  • Reliable operation
  • Innovative technologies make Stihl chainsaws easier to use
  • Easy to maintain
  • Broad product line

FAQs

If you’re wondering what Stihl’s product titles mean or how to maintain your new Stihl chainsaw, then read on for answers.

Q.What does MS mean on a Stihl chainsaw?

The MS actually stands for “Motorsage,” which is German for “chainsaw.” MSA means it’s a battery-powered model, while MSE indicates that it is an electric chainsaw.

Q. Do all Stihl chainsaws come with a warranty? 

All Stihl chainsaws come with a 2-year warranty from the date of purchase.

Q. How long do Stihl batteries last?

A lithium-ion battery lasts between 2 and 3 years or 300 to 500 charge cycles.

Q. What is the minimum compression of a Stihl chainsaw?

According to Stihl, the minimum compression of its chainsaws is around 110 psi.

Q. What file size should I use to sharpen a chainsaw?

Use a round file that’s about 3/16 inch in diameter when sharpening the cutting edges of your Stihl chainsaw.

Q. How often should a Stihl chainsaw be tuned up?

This depends on use. A chainsaw should be serviced every few months for heavy use and about once a year for light use.

Q. Where can I service and repair my Stihl chainsaw?

Service a Stihl chainsaw at one of the company’s licensed dealers, which includes national retailers such as Ace Hardware and Northern Tool, as well as numerous local dealers.