Gas chainsaws come in several levels: consumer, prosumer, and professional. That difference alone would make them of interest to anyone shopping for the right model.
Combine that with the fact that those categories often overlap and you’ve got a situation offering disaster or delight, depending on how you choose.
So, how do you choose the right gas chainsaw?
Table of Contents
- 1 Some Basic Features
- 2 Electric vs Gas Chainsaw
- 3 Gas It Is, Then
- 4 Best Gas Powered Chainsaw Reviews
- 5 Other Things to Look for
- 6 Summary
Some Basic Features
First, let’s examine a few basic design features to set the stage. If you’re experienced, you can skip this section.
Every gas-powered chainsaw features a steel-toothed chain wrapped around a flat bar. The chain rides in a groove and is turned by a gear at the rear of the bar turned by a 2-cycle gas-oil engine. Generally these days, that chain is kept cooled and lubricated by an automatic oiler.
There’s almost always nowadays a movable lever near the handlebar called a chain break. It’s a kind of clutch that allows the user to suspend or lock movement of the chain around the bar. Often, it doubles as a hand guard.
From there, the feature set explodes in every possible detail. Electronic ignition, multiple air filter types, varying bar designs, different chain styles, a tip protector, and every other conceivable aspect is part of one model or another.
In the sections that follow, I’ll discuss many of those that would help you make a buying decision. That said, even in chainsaws, there’s a lot of personal taste. No one model fits everyone’s needs.
Electric vs Gas Chainsaw
There are so many chainsaws on the market now that the best way to simplify the task of selecting yours is to skinny the list by type. The first division is “gas-powered versus electric”. It won’t surprise you to read there are tons of pros and cons to each, and the ultimate decision comes down to personal circumstances and preference.
Electric chainsaws are typically lighter. There’s plenty of overlap, though. An electric may weigh anywhere from 5-15 lbs. That doesn’t include the cord on corded models, either. The cord adds not just weight from the cord itself, but a certain amount of drag by scraping along the ground and/or tree.
A gas-powered model may tip the scales from 8-21 lbs or more. The heavier models, of course, typically have larger engines. But a big percentage of the weight difference is also the result of different bar sizes. That’s one feature that causes overlap between the models. Even though electric motors are much lighter than gas engines, the bar can be longer on a given electric model than a gas one.
Electric chainsaws are certainly much easier to start (except in those rare gas-powered models that start with the touch of a button). However, even the average gas model typically only takes a good yank – if it’s well maintained.
It’s often the gummed up engine, the result of sitting around unused, that makes a chainsaw engine hard to start. Also, today’s gas chainsaw frequently features start-assist features like electronic ignition, automatic chokes, and thermal sensors that compensate for cold weather.
Electrics are very often quieter, though here the issue is a little less clearcut. The unit itself is much less loud, sure. But sawing a tree, or even a tree branch, makes a lot of noise.
On the other hand, an electric makes zero noise until started. A gas-model continues to chug. That’s because a gas model will idle the engine (like a lawnmower), even when it is not sawing (i.e. when the chain is not moving). That is fairly loud, though nowhere near as loud as when you pull the trigger and cause the engine to rev up to high speed. An electric motor has no piston inside to move, so it just sits there and makes no noise or movement (i.e. it does not spin) until you pull the trigger to actually move the chain around the bar.
On balance, the issue is pretty much a wash in my view.
There’s a good deal of overlap in power offered, too. On average, a gas-powered model is going to offer more beef than an electric chainsaw. A good electric may have a motor capable of producing 1.5 HP, maybe a little more. That’s on the low end of the scale for a gas model. Even a modest-sized consumer gas chainsaw will generate twice that. A good pro model can rate as much as 7.0 HP or even 8.6 HP.
To make the comparison a different way, from the point-of-view of an electric… One low-end Stihl electric is rated at 1.4 kW (11.7 amps). A beefy one rates at 1.8 kW (15.0 amps). The equivalent for the gas-powered models used in the previous paragraph are: 1.3 kW (low end) and 6.4 kW (highest-power model).
You might well think that an electric chainsaw is more convenient to own, and in many ways that’s true. The maintenance for an electric model is practically zero. You just wipe off the chain and body once in a while. Sometimes, there’s an air filter of sorts to replace, but rarely.
A gas-powered chainsaw must be filled with a special gasoline-oil mixture. Every couple of years, depending on use, it helps to run a cleaner through the engine, similar to the sort you might use in your lawnmower or car. In many models, the spark plug has to be changed every few years, sometimes more often.
However, compensating some what, gas models do tend to have better automatic oiling systems. The chain is then kept well lubricated, making the actual cutting operation smoother and requiring less effort from you.
Gas chainsaws also more often feature a bigger range of bar length choices. Options range from 16-32 inches or more. It would be a rare electric that had a bar length on the upper end of that range.
Also, an electric chainsaw can be more trouble to use. Corded models require you to drag the cord around. That not only limits range of use, but the cord can get tangled in tree branches or on bushes. Cordless models eliminate that problem, but at a price. The batteries have to be replaced every couple of years.
Much of the balance of “pro vs con” in this category comes down to your intended use. If all you have to deal with are a few skinny alders or some small-diameter branches to trim, an electric might be the ideal choice. A lightweight, easy-start, zero-maintenance model can do the job just fine.
If you plan to tackle some 12-inch diameter tamaracks in the middle of a forest, a gas-powered model is almost your only option. Some larger, expensive cordless models will handle that situation. But I wouldn’t recommend one in that scenario.
Gas It Is, Then
So, if you’ve settled on a gas-powered chainsaw over an electric model, now what? What should you look for among the many choices that still remain standing?
Here is where that consumer-prosumer-professional distinction comes in handy. It won’t surprise you to read that price tends to increase as you go from left to right. But there is overlap even there.
Prices run anywhere from $100 for a cheap consumer model to $300 for a prosumer unit up to $1000 for the top-of-the-line professional chainsaw. That said, a good professional unit can be as low as $300 and a stellar consumer unit may sell for just as much. In short, the price overlap is so large you have to look at other things even to narrow the choices initially.
This category is where the distinction between consumer-prosumer-pro model shows up the most. A consumer model gas chainsaw will start out around the 1.5 HP (1.2 kW) range, as discussed above. A good pro unit may reach up to 8.6 HP (6.4 kW). Prosumer units are generally in the middle, of course.
That said, the range on a consumer-grade model can go anywhere up to 2.9 HP (2.2 kW). A prosumer model may range from 3.5 HP (2.6 kW) to 4.4 HP (3.3 kW). A pro will usually start at 2.4 HP (1.8 kW) and top out at the 8.6 HP (6.4 kW) figure above, with 7.0 HP (5.2 kW) being the more usual peak.
Here again, which bar length / model is best for you depends on what you plan to do with your chainsaw.
A consumer unit bar will tend to be smaller, sometimes as short as 12 inches in length. They do go up to 18″, however. That’s plenty long enough to tackle that 12-inch diameter tamarack I mentioned above. Still, I’d generally opt for something longer for a job like that.
A prosumer unit is more along the lines of the model someone with forested property will want. The bar length starts out a little longer – 16″ – and goes up to about 20″. I’d feel more comfortable tackling those thicker trees with something at that higher number.
A professional-style chainsaw might have a bar as short as 12″ but that’s pretty unusual. You don’t usually spend more, and get the pro-level power, to hobble it with a bar that short. More often, one would start with 16″ at the bottom. It’s not unusual to see a pro unit with a bar 26″ or even 36″, however. Some have bars as long as 59″, but that’s for truly professional work only.
Best Gas Powered Chainsaw Reviews
1) Tanaka TCS33EDTP Gas Chainsaw Review
The Tanaka TCS33EDTP/14 is an ideal chainsaw especially for consumer based work. However, before deciding whether it is the perfect fit for you or not, you should have a thorough look at the detailed specifications and features of this machine listed below.
Automatic Oiler: The adjustable oiler automatically takes care of the amount of oil flowing to the bar and chain. It therefore saves any excess oil that would otherwise get wasted or spilled as found in earlier models.
Operator’s Ease: Working with a chainsaw may result in a lot of fatigue caused by the vibrations placing stress on the shoulder, arm and hand muscles. However, the Tanaka TCS33EDTP/14 has been equipped with an advanced anti-vibrations system which has shown to reduce vibrations to a lot of extent to provide the user with optimum comfort.
Easy start up: Chainsaw operators have usually had problems associated with starting up gas operated chainsaws with previous models, but the Tanaka TCS33EDTP/14’s half throttle choke and purge primer bulb have effectively taken care of this problem and thus the chainsaw tends to start and warm up quickly.
PureFire two-stroke engine: The 32.2 cc 1.6 hp PureFire of the Tanaka TCS33EDTP/14 is shown to provide clean cuts across tree branches and trunks. The emission levels are equally met with less fuel consumption therefore making you an environmentally friendly user of this state of the art chainsaw. It also has a pre-built lanyard ring which allows the chainsaw easy climbing without any added fatigue since it is lightweight.
14″ Oregon sprocket nose bar and chain: The makers of the Tanaka TCS33EDTP/14 have added a state of the art Oregon sprocket nose bar which allows for added control when maneuvering the chainsaw hence leading to clean cuts. The user also has an added advantage of adjusting the chain with the help of a side access chain tensioner.
- Comes with a two-year warranty
- Emissions control means keeping the atmosphere clean.
- Top handle makes maneuvering the chainsaw easy and conveniently.
- May not work as effectively on thicker logs.
- Added fuel and maintenance costs.
2) Husqvarna 460 Gas Chainsaw Review
This Husqvarna 460 strong chainsaw is perfect for challenging cutting jobs where high power is essential. However, before deciding to buy this product it is best you look over its necessary features and specifications listed below.
X-Torq 2-Cycle Engine: The Husqvarna 460 comes fully equipped with a 2- cycle X-Torq engine which burns less fuel thus reducing exhaust discharge levels. This fits well and complies with the CARB compliant claims regarding air pollution.
Centrifugal Air Cleaning System: The centrifugal air cleaning system not only means an enhanced and improved engine life but also means the chainsaw requires less air filter cleanings since it effectively and efficiently removes large debris and dust particles because of the air injection super technology. However, whenever you do require a filter cleanup or change, the quick release system works quite efficiently.
Front Handle Ergonomics: The front 7-degree offset handle provides the user with a better grip.
Smart Start Recoil Starter: Different features of the Husqvarna 460 allow the machine to start quickly and without much hassle. The air purge is responsible for removing the air from the carburetor, coupled with the fuel pump allows for the machine to start easily.
Reduced fuel consumption: Even though the Husqvarna 460 comes with a fuel tank that can hold up to 14.88 oz of fuel, the automatic oil pump controls the oil flow to the chain and bar thus reducing oil consumption and encouraging this environmentally friendly machine’s image.
Light weight: At only 12.8 pounds this high tech machine is lightweight and easy to handle without hindering its ability to cut efficiently.
- Gas operated thus has much more power than an electrically operated chainsaw
- Has many smart systems making it easy to handle and work with
- For demanding cutting jobs, the forged three piece crank shift is ideal
- Some may find it noisy and maybe required to wear hearing aids
- The case is not part of the product at the time of purchase
- Does not work well in professional setting
3) Makita DCS5121REG Gas Chainsaw Review
The Makita DCS5121REG is one such gas operated chainsaw that will never let you down in your work. But before you decide for sure whether to get it or not, we recommend that you have a thorough look at its detailed features listed below.
Chain and Bar: The Makita DCS5121REG has an 18 inch dual spike bar which increases the overall productivity of the chainsaw. With lateral chain tensioning, the operator can easily adjust the chain gauge and pitch. Also the chain compartment is very easy to clean since it clears away unwanted chips proficiently thus lessening any additional maintenance that may otherwise be required.
Adjustable Oiler: The automatic adjustable oiler is convenient as it assess the wood being cut before releasing oil that gets delivered to the chain. This also saves a lot of time on the operators end.
Operator comfort: The operators comfort and safety are well accounted for in the Makita DCS5121REG. The 2 point mechanical chain brake with only a trigger’s release and the larger metal grip bar allows for easy handling and maneuverability. It is also equipped with an advanced vibration dampening system known as the M2M that effectively reduces stress and allows for longer periods of usage. This highly advanced chainsaw is also easy to clean and wipe because of its smooth and round surfaces.
Lightweight but large tank: At only 12.3 pounds, the Makita DCS5121REG is pretty light weight as compared to its contemporary models. However, the lightweight doesn’t mean the fuel and oil tanks are not of optimum size and capacity. Also they both come with large openings with S-form caps which make overall operation easy.
Easy start up: The spring assisted starter allows for easy and quick startup of the chainsaw. The efficient electronic system requires less force and helps the machine to keep running at a smooth pace when idle or even when running.
High power engine: The Makita DCS5121REG is fitted with a robust 3.3 horsepower engine that reliably and smoothly cuts through tress. The slide out baffle can be easily configured for cold weather also.
- Hardwearing carry case protects the chainsaw from weathering elements.
- 1 year commercial warranty included at the time of purchase.
- Also has anal rounder tool kit for handy adjustments.
- Fuel and oil cost
- Harmful emissions because of fuel
4) Hitachi CS51EAP Gas Chainsaw Review
It’s not just about getting the most powerful engine or a guide bar that adjusts to 4 different heights, but instead it’s about getting the whole package. And the detailed descriptions given below will indeed help you decide.
PureFire Engine: The Hitachi CS51EAP is a good pick for commercial based jobs because it comes fully equipped with a 50.1 cc PureFire Engine that is famous in the market for its clean, powerful and robust performance without any excess fuel consumption.
Bumper Spikes and Sprocket nose bar: This state of the art chainsaw has bumper spikes and a sprocket nose bar which provide increased control to the user, along with faster, cleaner and easy cutting.
Safety precautions: When it comes to chainsaws or any power tools, safety is a top priority need. However you don’t need to worry about cutting your hand or losing a finger because the Hitachi CS51EAP has a double pole brake handle that provides the user ease of mind when cutting or trimming trees.
Adjustable Oiler: Since the oiler is automatic and adjustable, the user can adjust and alter the amount of oil flowing to the bar and chain. This helps save oil and also makes the job less messy. The side access chain tensioner is easy to use and helps to make adjustments to the chain effortlessly and quickly.
Decompression valve, primer bulb and auto return choke: Most people, when going to buy a gas operated chainsaw, are always skeptical the time and energy required for starting up the chainsaw, however theHitachi CS51EAP’s decompression valve, primer bulb and auto return half throttle choke allow for easy start up and warming up.
Anti Vibration system and Air Filter: Using a chainsaw can be tiring and energy consuming because of which the Hitachi CS51EAP has an anti vibration system that adds to the user’s comfort and lowers fatigue. Moreover, this state of the art machine is also environmentally friendly and easy to manage and maintain because of its tool less access to air filtration which cleans the chainsaw’s filter efficiently and quickly.
- Light weight at 17.6 pounds.
- Comes with a 7 year home owner warranty
- Durable and highly efficient for cutting larger trees
- Doesn’t come with a case
- The noise produced may require the user to use hearing protection aid.
- Costly due to added fuel and maintenance costs.
Other Things to Look for
No matter which gas chainsaw you ultimately choose there are several other things to look for.
Vibration dampening is always helpful. Two-cycle gas engines do a whole lot a shakin’. Having the engine sit on dampeners will reduce that. That’s usually accomplished by a set of rubber bushings that help isolate the case from the engine mounts. Overall balance helps, too. An engine that sits just behind the bar reduces hand fatigue and lends an overall better feel.
Air injection is a relatively new technology in chainsaws. A centrifugal air cleaning system will help remove larger particles of debris – sawdust chiefly. The overall result is superior performance.
An inertia-activated chain break is almost a must. When you hit something that throws the chainsaw out of the tree it comes toward you. That’s kickback. Kickback is an ever-present risk. The ability of a chainsaw to stop spinning the chain when you are not in complete control increases safety substantially.
An automatic bar oiler is a common feature, but “common” does not mean “universal”. Be sure to check that your bar will get continually lubricated without you having to do anything.
Bar Length Ratio. The engine size: bar length ratio should be considered. If you plan to do more heavy-duty felling and bucking, you’ll want a longer bar. But you’ll also need a hefty engine to drive it. A 12″ bar may need only a 30-35cc engine, which is pretty small. A 16″-18″ bar will work better with a 45-50cc engine behind it. A 20″ bar works best with a 55cc or larger engine.
[“CC” stands for cubic centimeter; it’s usually listed along with, even sometimes instead of, the horsepower rating. Look for both numbers.]
On the flipside, don’t buy a much longer bar (or larger engine) that you will need. You will find it harder to handle and get fatigued quicker. A bigger chainsaw isn’t just heavier, though that matters; it’s more difficult to control whether felling, bucking, or trimming trees.
A gas-powered chainsaw is the type of choice when you need portability and power. Within that one category, whether you need a consumer or prosumer or professional-level model depends on just how much power, bar length, and other features suit your situation best.
Finally, buy as much quality as you can afford. A good gas-powered chainsaw can last for 20 years or more, if well maintained. Spend a little more upfront to get something that will work well for at least ten years. The technology changes over time, but not that much. It’s worth a little extra money to get something that works well during that time.
That said, leave a little money in the budget for accessories. If you tackle any kind of serious tree, say taller than 20 feet, you will need a few things more than just leather gloves. Chaps will become a must. Good goggles will save your eyesight when a chip flies into your face.