Put any horror movie thoughts to the back of your mind right now and instead embrace the power of an amazing tool that’s capable of scything through the biggest tree branches like a knife through butter.
If your garden trees require some serious trimming that involves cutting branches in excess of two inches in diameter, a chainsaw is the tool for you. Chainsaws come in three power-source varieties – petrol, corded electric and cordless. While we have a few corded models in this carefully gathered list of best chainsaws, they are not our first choice simply because having a 240-volt cable dangling on the end of a fast-spinning chain blade while clinging to a tree fills us with a little dread. However, corded models are usually the cheapest to buy and they do the job exceptionally well. Just be mindful of that cord!
A petrol-powered model is a great choice for serious topiary work on a grand scale where an electricity source is hard to come by. But petrol chainsaws vibrate a lot and are heavy in the hand. They also make a scary racket so wear some earmuffs to protect your ears and your sanity.
Cordless chainsaws on the other (unsevered) hand, are a much more sedate option. Yes, they will still hurt you if mistreated, but they don’t vibrate as much and they certainly don’t make anything like as much of a racket as a petrol model. They’re not attached to a cord either, which means you’re not tied to the mains while using something that is just itching to cut through the cable. With a cordless model you can wield that baby anywhere you like, within reason of course.
A chainsaw will complete any task about a zillion times quicker than a hand saw and that will give you more time to relax with great food cooked on one of the Best Barbecues or in one of the Best Pizza Ovens, while admiring how lovely your garden looks decked out in some of the Best Outdoor Solar Lights.
If you're unsure what you need in terms of chainsaws be sure to also consult our beginners guide to chainsaws, which can be found at the bottom of this article.
The best chainsaws you can buy today in 2023
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This cute mini chainsaw – which Stihl prefers to describe as 'loppers' – is light and grippy in the hand and comes with two key safety features: a thumb switch that must be activated before pressing the trigger and a hinged plastic guard above the chain to protect the user from the high-speed chain and any flying wood chips.
Ostensibly designed for ‘light’ cutting duties, it’s best to let the GTA 26’s chain blade do the work because adding too much pressure during the cut may cause the motor to stall. Nevertheless, you’ll be surprised at how amazingly effective this little garden bandit is – it cuts cleanly and quickly through branches up to 8cm in width with zero fuss.
Granted, the small 10.8 volt battery only provides about 10 minutes of constant cutting time but then again 10 minutes is pretty much all you need unless you are undertaking some serious forestry work at the bottom of the garden.
If you’re in the market for a remarkably useful little chainsaw that’s very safe to use and exceptionally efficient then put this little fella on the shopping list. It even comes with its own carry case with battery, charger and a bottle of chain oil. Spare chains are also readily available online.
Compare this mini chainsaw to a top rival in T3's Stihl GTA 26 vs Bosch AdvancedCut 18 versus feature.
At a shade under £110 including 2.0Ah battery and charger, this cracking 24v cordless chainsaw is an absolute steal. The Cobra CS1024V is equipped with a 25cm (10”) Oregon bar and chain and has a very decent running time of 20 minutes. It also has an easy-to-use chain tensioner that requires no tools.
At just 3.4kgs, this is one of the lightest in this roundup and that’s a good thing because chainsawing can be very tiring work, especially when used horizontally like when cutting down a tree at the base of the trunk.
Given its 25cm bar length, this model is good for trunks and branches up to about 20cm (8”) in diameter though it may struggle if cutting through thick hard woods like beech and also some moist woods. Best to be patient and let the blade do all the work with a gentle rocking motion.
For the price, this is an excellent cordless option for most light chainsawing duties. It’s comfortable in the hand, not too heavy and it’s very efficient as long as you respect its limitations.
If you’re planning to embark on some large-scale topiary and need a cordless brushless model powerful enough to deal with trunks up to a whopping 8 inches (10 at a push) in diameter, then this 36v beast from renowned USA power tool behemoth Oregon is the way to go.
The Oregon CS300 is supremely powerful and no lightweight when it comes to dealing with pollarding on a massive scale. Put another way, the optional 6Ah battery is good for about 600 cuts – which frankly equates to a small forest. That said, the CS300 is also available with a smaller 2.6Ah battery or even no battery at all – the best option for those who already own an Oregon garden tool.
This writer tested the Oregon CS300 on an unruly apple tree and its 40cm (16-inch) chain bar scythed through a three-inch branch like it was made of blancmange. At 5.4 kilos without the battery, it’s a heavyweight beast, so you may need to rest between cuts, especially if using it horizontally. However, that extra weight comes into its own when cutting up a pre-felled tree trunks. Simply let the weight of the unit do all the work and it will be cut through anything up to and a bit over eight inches in about seven seconds.
Another useful thing about this model is that it comes with its own built-in chain sharpener. Just run the motor, pull on the red lever for about two seconds and the chain is automatically sharpened.
For anyone with a large garden to maintain, this cordless model is about as good as it gets. It’s wonderfully quiet too – for a chainsaw.
Do you need this sort of chainsaw model, though? Discover if you'd be better with a pole saw by reading T3's Oregon CS300 vs Ryobi 18v ONE+ Cordless Pole Pruner comparison feature.
Mini single-handed chainsaws (or powered loppers) are arguably the most useful hand tools in the shed since they are capable of tackling most day-to-day tasks safely and with little fear of beheading someone. They are perfect for pruning branches too wide for a pair of loppers and brilliant at trimming cut branches in readiness for the Best Garden Shredder.
Where the winning Stihl GTA 26 comes with a 10cm chain bar, this new cordless model from Worx ups the ante a mite by stretching the bar to 12cm – and that can make quite a difference. In my test, the WORX cut through an 8cm beech branch without a fuss though it did take some time to complete the task. I just had to be patient and let the blade do the work. In the end I managed to eek about 12 minutes out of the supplied 2.0Ah battery and that’s more than enough time in my book.
Granted, the WORX WG324E isn’t as comfortable to use as the Stihl and it’s heavier, too. But, at 20v, it’s also a wee bit more powerful and comes with a tough fist guard as well as the obligatory upper chain safety guard. So perhaps consider this model if you’re a little wary of using a chainsaw.
Not for nothing is Stihl the horticultural power tool of choice for most professional aborists. Its products are clearly highly reliable and exceedingly efficient or you wouldn’t see so many of its distinguishable orange and white products being wielded up and down the country’s pavements. With that in mind, we highly recommend this powerful petrol-powered beast for any large-scale pollarding or trimming.
The Stihl MS 170 is equipped with a short 30cm (12-inch) bar – ample length for branches and logs up to 10 inches in diameter – and Stihl’s own Ematic lubrication system for keeping the chain in optimum condition whatever you throw in its path.
For a domestic model, the Stihl’s 30cc, 1.2kW pull-start engine punches way above its weight and it isn’t too loud either. At 4.1kgs, it’s also pretty light for a petrol chainsaw, though you may need to give your arms a rest from time to time if cutting at horizontal angles.
As is the case with the majority of two-stroke petrol products, you will need to mix 50 parts of high octane fuel with one part of specific two-stroke oil but luckily Stihl produces its own pre-mixed MotoMix blend which we recommend for hassle free filling. Alternatively, try premixed Aspen 2 alkylate petrol which is a cleaner and longer lasting fuel when in storage.
If you need to prune branches beyond arm’s length, a dedicated cordless pole saw is a much more convenient – and safer – kind of chainsaw. The Kärcher PSA 18-20 comes with a 20cm (8-inch) Oregon bar angled at 30˚ for lopping tall branches up to six inches in diameter. It comes in three sections – a handle attached to a 65cm tube, a 95cm middle extension tube and another 65cm length of tube with the chain bar and motor attached. All tubes are made from stiff fibreglass and come with contact points – you simply join them together and screw down the plastic sleeves.
When used with just the two outer tubes, the Kärcher measures around 2m (6.5’) in length and a whopping 2.9 metres (9.5’) with all three tubes connected. That’s over nine feet of reach – and longer when you include your arms – meaning you can lop off tall branches without teetering on a ladder.
This model comes with a nylon strap to help hold its combined weight of around 3.7kgs and I would advise using it because when fully extended this chainsaw is understandably very top heavy. In fact, it’s so heavy that you’ll likely need to take a short rest between cuts.
I experimented with the Kärcher on a dead four-inch branch that was about 2.5m up and it sliced through it with ease. The fact that I was well out of the way when the branch came down was a major bonus. Admittedly, I did need to pick out a lot of trapped saw dust around the chain housing but this is the norm with any chainsaw.
The Kärcher doesn’t come with a battery or charger so you will need to figure in another £90 or so unless you already own any of Kärcher’s excellent cordless power tools or lawnmowers. Speaking of batteries, Kärcher’s 18v model is one of the best on the market because it’s rubber coated and features an LCD display that gives the user an accurate overview of the battery’s status.
If you’re after an albeit unwieldy chainsaw for pruning tall trees, you can’t go wrong with the model. It’s just so much safer and a lot more practical for reaching tall branches without risking life and limb while perched on a wobbly ladder.
This cordless Ryobi pole saw is almost identical to the Kärcher above, which suggests it came from the same designer and factory. In fact the only difference appears to be the battery mounting system.
Like the Kärcher, the Ryobi 18V ONE+ doesn’t come with a battery or charger so you’ll have to buy them separately unless you already own a power tool that uses Ryobi’s 18V ONE+ battery system. Also, it doesn’t come with any chain oil so be sure to buy some and fill up the oil chamber before you start using it.
Like the Kärcher, this one also cut through a four-inch branch with consummate ease. It also felt just as top heavy when fully extended. Take your pick, but for me the Kärcher just swings it by dint of the better battery system and the addition of some chain oil to get you started.
The Greenworks GD40CS15 is equipped with a long 35cm (14-inch) bar and chain, a brushless motor that will last forever, and a full gamut of safety features, including the obligatory brake guard hand protector that must be pulled back to engage the drive. The whole shebang is powered by a large 40-volt Li-Ion battery that runs for around 25 minutes on a full 90-minute charge.
The Greenworks is available with or without a battery and charger. If you already have one of the company’s excellent lawnmowers, you’re in luck since the batteries are easily swappable. Otherwise you’ll need to fork out another £120 or so for the battery and charger. You will also need to buy some chain oil for its 200ml oil tank but luckily it’s readily available at most hardware stores (B&Q produces its own brand at £9 a litre).
For a 14-inch cordless chainsaw, this model is surprisingly light; something you’ll come to appreciate if out in the rough for a period of time. Performance wise, the Greenworks is extremely efficient at cutting though tree trunks, branches and logs up to an impressive 30cm (12 inches) in diameter; as long as you adopt the seesaw technique you should have no trouble using it. A great cordless choice for serious lumberjacks.
If you’re likely to only use a chainsaw a few times a year and don’t fancy forking out too much, consider this keenly-priced top selling corded electric model from reputable American brand Oregon.
The CS1400 is equipped with a long 16-inch guide bar which is good enough for tree trunks and fire logs up to a whopping 14 inches in diameter. The six metre cable is of decent length though you may need to include a good quality 15amp extension cable if working at the bottom of the garden. Comfort wise, the Oregon feels well balanced though, at 6kgs, it is pretty heavy so bear that in mind if you have arms like pipe cleaners.
Like most decent chainsaws, it comes with all the required safety features, a tool-less chain tensioning system and an automatic chain lubrication system – simply pour some chain oil into the awkwardly positioned reservoir port and the chain will remain in tip-top condition.
At just £99, the CS1400 is exceptional value – it cuts though even the hardest woods with ease – but you will need to assemble it yourself, including fitting the chain in the correct orientation or it will literally not cut anything at all. Even butter.
Looking for an ultra low-priced and extremely efficient electric model that comes highly rated by a horde of chainsaw-wielding gardenistas? Step right over here.
The German-made electric Einhell features a 40.6cm chain bar with ‘kick back’ cut-off protection in case it does what all chainsaws occasionally do – rear up suddenly towards your face. It also comes with the usual gamut of electric chainsaw safety features, including a hand protector and a cable relief clip that prevents the 5m cable from disconnecting. The chain rail will cut through most woods with ease; many users report that tackles branches and logs up to 20cm (8 inches) in diameter.
As with most chainsaws, this product requires fitting the chain onto the chain bar yourself, but thankfully it’s a relatively straightforward procedure. However, be sure to orientate the chain in the correct direction because the internet is full of comments by people who put chains on the wrong way round and then wondered why their chainsaws never cut through anything. You will also need to pop out for some chainsaw oil to keep everything nicely lubricated (£9 from B&Q).
In the pantheon of electric chainsaws, this model is one of Amazon’s biggest sellers. It comes with a decent run of cable, a good set of safety features and it performs very well indeed.
Perhaps more of a hobby and DIY tool than something for gardening, this is a pocket-sized chainsaw, although maybe don't actually put it in your pocket. It's actually a little hard to say quite what this tool is for, but it's a very well-engineered device that operates very effectively. Maybe it's just right for some obscure cutting need you have.
The AdvancedCut18 cuts through wood up to 65mm and is designed for sawing through things and for doing plunge cuts. It's low vibration and also low maintenance given that no oiling is needed ever, and the blades are easily swapped out via Bosch's SDS system. The chain is self-tensioning, too. Hilariously, Bosch doesn't quote a battery life in hours but instead states that it will 'Cut 250 roof laths (24x43 mm) with just one charge'. Thanks for that, Bosch.
Compare this mini chainsaw to a top rival in T3's Stihl GTA 26 vs Bosch AdvancedCut 18 versus feature.
This is the best chainsaw option for those who don’t like chainsaws. Unlike other models that have the spinning chain rail completely exposed and therefore ripe for quick amputation, this lopper-style number comes with heavy steel jaws that clamp around a short 10cm chain bar. Short of actively sticking your arm between the clamps, there’s very little chance of injury with this system. To use, simply pull the power trigger, open the jaws and clamp them round the offending branch. Voila, job done, and with none of the usual will-I lose-an-arm-today apprehension associated with chainsaws in general.
Despite its short stature, this chainsaw slices through branches up to four inches in diameter, is relatively light (3kgs) and, above all, confidence inspiring. The jaws also trap a lot of flying sawdust so safety goggles aren’t mandatory though still advised. A top choice for nervous types.
Chainsaws: a beginner's guide
There are three kinds of chainsaw: petrol ones, electric ones and cordless electric ones. Petrol and cordless have the benefit of going far from the reach of any extension cable, provided you have fuel or remember to charge them, but petrol chainsaws are noisy while battery-powered saws eventually run out of puff.
No matter what kind of chainsaw you buy, it’s essential to remember that they are indeed incredibly dangerous. In fact, they’re arguably the most dangerous power tools you can buy. Tens of thousands of people injure themselves every year with chainsaws, so make sure you know how to use one safely and wear the correct protective equipment. If in doubt, have a look at this safety video from the US Agricultural Safety and Health Center.
It’s also a good idea to ask yourself, do you really need a chainsaw at all? If you just need to tame some smaller trees or hedges, one of the best hedge trimmers or a good pair of loppers may be a more sensible (and altogether safer) option.