Helpful Advice on Buying a Chainsaw, Part 1

Looking to buy a chainsaw, but not sure which kind is right for you? This guide will help you decide which kind of chainsaw is best for the task at hand.

By Teri Olcott


A chainsaw can save you a lot of money when it comes to cutting your own firewood or bringing down a dead or leaning tree. Chainsaws come in different sizes and styles and choosing the wrong chainsaw for the job can be dangerous. Before you purchase a chainsaw, you need to determine what you will be cutting, how often you will use the chainsaw, and what your level of experience is in operating a chainsaw. Safety is the most important feature of a chainsaw, and the more safety features, the better. An older, used chainsaw might seem like a great deal, but new chainsaws are lighter, easier to start, and less likely to cause you serious injury.




Safety, Safety, Safety

Buying a chainsaw isn’t like buying a toaster. When selecting a chainsaw, think safety first. Chainsaw related injuries can happen to new and seasoned users alike. The price of an older, used chainsaw might be appealing, but older chainsaws often lack many of today’s safety features and tend to be heavier. An anti-kickback chain is a must for new and inexperienced operators. Purchasing a chainsaw that’s too big or too small for the task can also result in injury. Don’t be afraid to ask the store associate questions about the chainsaw. They should be able to advise you on which model is right for you. It’s best to buy a chainsaw in person from a store where you can pick it up, feel how it’s balanced, see how easy parts are to get to such as spark plug and air filter, and how well it’s designed.




After you have purchased the chainsaw, be sure to read the owner’s manual. Although most chainsaws operate similarly, yours may have some unique features. New chainsaws come with warranties, and you’ll want to make sure you don’t void the warranty in any way by not operating it properly.




Types of Chainsaws

There are four types of chainsaws: Electric, battery-powered, gasoline, and pole saw trimmers. Each is designed for a certain type of task.


What Can You Do with an Electric Chainsaw?

Electric chainsaws are good for cutting small (6-inch diameter or less) trees. They are fairly quiet, low maintenance, and easy to operate. Their only real limitation is the length of the extension cord. When using an electric chainsaw, you must use a heavy-gauge, outdoor, weatherproof extension cord, no longer than 100 feet. The longer the extension cord, the less the voltage, which will result in less power to the chainsaw. Because there are no fumes when operating an electric chainsaw, it can be used inside a barn or garage. An electric chainsaw is a good choice for a homeowner who occasionally needs to deal with small trees and downed limbs after a thunderstorm. The cut wood can be used in fireplaces or for small bonfires.




What Can You Do with a Battery-Powered Chainsaw?

A battery-powered chainsaw is very similar to an electric chainsaw but uses a battery for power so there’s no extension cord to deal with. Battery-powered chainsaws don’t have a lot of cutting power, but they are fine for very small trees and pruning limbs. Look for battery-powered chainsaws that have lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries as opposed to nickel-cadmium (NiCad). Li-ion batteries are lighter, charge quicker, and will last longer. A battery-powered chainsaw is a good choice if you need to go farther than 100 feet from an outlet and intend on cutting a few small trees or limbs. Batteries may last from 20 minutes to an hour depending on the workload. Cold weather tends to drain batteries quicker.




What Can You Do with a Gas-Powered Chainsaw?

A gas-powered chainsaw is designed for cutting all kinds of wood of various sizes. The only real limitation of a gas-powered chainsaw is the bar size. Most homeowners buy a gas-powered chainsaw for large trees and to cut medium to large piles of firewood. Gas-powered chainsaws have a lot of power and will cut up large trees and large limbs fairly quickly. You’ll need a gas-powered chainsaw to cut hardwood trees such as apple, ash, cherry, hickory, oak, or hard maple. Gas-powered chainsaws can also be used in the cold. Gas-powered chainsaws require gasoline which has to be mixed with oil in a certain way to keep the saw running. The bar also requires periodic oiling. When you hike out into the woods to cut down a tree, you will need to haul, gas, oil, and several tools with you. If you don’t enjoy “tinkering” with gas-powered engines, a gas-powered chainsaw may not be the right chainsaw for you.




What Can You Do with a Pole Saw Trimmer?

A pole saw is a small chainsaw on the end of a long pole that lets you cut small branches that are too high to reach from the ground. Pole saws are great for pruning and trimming branches that are difficult to reach and eliminate the need for ladders or climbing a tree which can be dangerous. Pole saws are popular with homeowners who have fruit trees that need yearly pruning. They can reach up to 20 feet and can be maneuvered in between branches. Pole saws can be gas, electric, or battery-operated.




For Part 2 of "Advice on Buying a Chainsaw," click here.


Images used with permission, courtesy of Teri Olcott and

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