Best chainsaws 2021: remove unwanted trees and branches

Get the best chainsaw for your gardening needs

Included in this guide:

A chainsaw being used by a man in a forest to cut a tree trunk
(Image credit: Husqvarna)

The best chainsaws aren’t just for waving around your head in horror movies. You might not need a petrol-driven monster capable of cutting down giant redwoods, but chainsaws are handy for pruning small trees, cutting branches into logs, making firewood, fighting zombie apocalypses, and so much more.

We generally recommend electric cordless chainsaws for anyone who isn't an actual lumberjack in the Canadian rockies, but if you want to really and truly chop some trees the hell down, there are a couple of petrol offerings below that are just right for you.

And, then when you've finished using your new chainsaw, you can relax with food cooked on one of the best barbecues or in one of the best pizza ovens, while admiring how your garden is decked out in some of the best garden lights while reclining in one of the best hot tubs on the market.

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 Black Friday deals may well include the ideal chainsaw for you: while the ads tend to focus on big TVs and computer kit, many retailers' Black Friday discounts apply to all kinds of things – and garden tool retailers often take part in Black Friday too. That means it's a good time to be shopping for your brand new chainsaw: if you keep an eye on the deals pages you might manage to bag a Black Friday bargain.

The best chainsaws - battery, petrol and electricity powered beasts for all your domestic lumberjacking

Stihl GTA 26 chainsaw shown with battery and charging dockT3 Best Buy Award badge

(Image credit: Stihl)

1. Stihl GTA 26

Best mini chainsaw for light lopping duties

Specifications
Power: 11v
Type: Cordless
Bar length: 10cm
Weight: 1.2kgs
Reasons to buy
+A great model for casual pruning+Cuts quickly and effectively+Light and comfortable+Excellent safety features
Reasons to avoid
-Chain locks if forced-Battery only lasts about 10 minutes

The new Stihl GTA 26 is just the ticket for cutting off branches too wide for a pair of loppers or scything through logs up to 8cm in diameter.

This cute mini chainsaw – which Stihl prefers to describe as 'loppers' – is wonderfully 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 effective this little garden bandit is – it cuts cleanly and quickly through most branches with zero fuss.

Granted, the small 10.8 volt battery only provides about 10 minutes of cutting time but then again 10 minutes is pretty much all you need unless you’re undertaking some serious forestry work at the bottom of the garden. 

If you’re in the market for a handy little chainsaw that’s safe to use and remarkably 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.

Compare this mini chainsaw to a top rival in T3's Stihl GTA 26 vs Bosch AdvancedCut 18 versus feature.

Oregon CS300 cordless chainsawT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Oregon)

2. Oregon CS300

Best long-bar chainsaw for heavy duty tasks

Specifications
Power: 36v
Type: Cordless
Bar length: 40cm
Weight: 5.4kgs without battery
Reasons to buy
+Amazing power+Cuts branches up to 8-inches in diameter+Excellent self-sharpening system
Reasons to avoid
-It's heavy-You'll need to fit the chain-Bigger battery costs extra

If you’re planning to embark on some serious 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 high-end 36v beast from renowned USA power tool behemoth Oregon is the way to go.

Oregon invented the type of chain used in most modern chainsaws so it clearly knows its stuff. This model is supremely powerful and no lightweight when it comes to dealing with pruning on a massive scale. Put another way, the optional 6Ah battery we received 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 tried it out on an apple tree and its 40cm (16-inch) chain bar literally scythed through a three-inch branch like it was made of blancmange. It’s a heavyweight beast mind (it weighs 5.4 kilos without the battery), so you will need to rest between cuts, especially if using it horizontally. However, that extra weight came into its own when cutting up a pre-felled tree trunk using a parallel log holder. I simply let the weight of the unit do all the work and it was through all eight inches of it in seven seconds flat.

Another brilliant thing about this model is that it comes with its own built-in chain sharpener. Simply run the motor, pull on the red handle for about two seconds and the chain is automatically sharpened. Nice.

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.

best chainsaw: karcher PSA 18-20

(Image credit: Kärcher)

3. Kärcher PSA 18-20 Cordless Pole Saw

Best cordless pole saw for reaching high branches

Specifications
Power: 18v
Type: Cordless
Bar length: 20cm
Weight: 3.7kgs
Reasons to buy
+Amazing 3m reach+Superb performer+Matchless battery system+Comes with chain oil
Reasons to avoid
-Very top heavy-Tiring to use

If you’re planning to prune high branches, a dedicated cordless pole saw is a much more convenient – and safer – kind of chainsaw. The PSA 18-20 comes with a 20cm (8-inch) Oregon bar angled at 30˚ for lopping tall branches up to six inches in diameter and possibly beyond. 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 tried this saw out on a 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 saw dust around the chain housing after a couple of cuts but this is the norm with any chainsaw.

This model 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 power tools or lawnmowers. It does, however, come with a small bottle of Kärcher-branded chainsaw oil. Speaking of batteries, Kärcher’s 18v model is one of the best this writer has ever come across 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 then 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.

best chainsaw: Ryobi 18v ONE+ Cordless Pole Pruner

(Image credit: Ryobi)

4. Ryobi 18V ONE+ Cordless Pole Saw

Another great cordless pole saw for tall lopping tasks

Specifications
Power: 18v
Type: Cordless
Bar length: 20cm
Weight: 3.7kgs
Reasons to buy
+Excellent performance+Three metre reach
Reasons to avoid
-Heavy when extended-No chain oil supplied

Bizarrely, 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 doesn’t come with a battery or charger so you’ll have to buy those separately unless you already own a power tool that uses Ryobi’s 18V ONE+ battery system. It also doesn’t come with any chain oil so be sure to buy some and fill up the oil chamber before you start using it.

Given that the Ryobi is so similar to the Kärcher above, I found zero difference when 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.

Which type of cordless chainsaw is best for you? The mighty tall Ryobi 18V ONE+ Cordless Pole Saw or the mighty powerful Oregon CS300?

Greenworks GD40CS15 chainsawT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Greenworks)

5. Greenworks Cordless Chainsaw GD40CS15

Best cordless full-size chainsaw

Specifications
Power: 40v
Type: Cordless
Bar length: 35cm
Weight: 3.2kgs
Reasons to buy
+Excellent performance+Good run time+Comes with fitted chain
Reasons to avoid
-Do you like the color green?

The excellent Greenworks GD40CS15 comes with a long 35cm (14-inch) Oregon bar and chain, a brushless motor that will last forever and a full gamut of safety features, including a brake guard hand protector that must be pulled back to engage the drive. A large 40-volt G-Max Li-Ion battery keeps it sawing for around 25 minutes and recharges in 90 minutes.

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 for the battery and charger. 

The Greenworks has a decent heft to it, and makes short work of cutting tree trunks, branches and logs up to 30cm (14 inches) across. Also, the chain comes pre-fitted so there’s no chance of cocking up setup. Not that you would, of course.

Oregon CS1400 chainsawT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Oregon)

6. Oregon CS1400

Best budget electric chainsaw for all your domestic needs

Specifications
Power: 2.4KW
Type: Corded electric
Bar length: 40cm
Weight: 6kgs
Reasons to buy
+Keenly priced+Cuts quickly+Top Amazon seller
Reasons to avoid
-The cable restricts use

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 (B&Q sells a decent one) into the awkwardly positioned reservoir port and the chain will remain in tip-top condition. However, you will need to sharpen the chain from time to time so if that sounds like a hassle, perhaps consider its more expensive CS1500 stablemate, which features Oregon’s automatic PowerSharp chain sharpening system.

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.

STIHL MS 170 petrol chainsawT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: STIHL)

7. STIHL MS 170 Petrol Chainsaw

Best petrol model for all domestic garden tasks

Specifications
Power: 1.2KW
Type: Petrol
Bar length: 30cm
Weight: 4.1kgs
Reasons to buy
+Excellent choice for domestic duties+Powerful two-stroke engine+Reliable brand
Reasons to avoid
-You're going to need petrol

Not for nothing is Stihl the horticultural power tool of choice among most council workers and professional tree surgeons. 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 domestic-spec petrol-powered beast for all your large-scale garden topiary. 

The 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 ear splitteringly 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.

Einhell GH-EC 2040 corded electric chainsawT3 Approved badge

8. Einhell GH-EC 2040

Another excellent corded electric chainsaw

Specifications
Power: 2000W
Type: Corded
Bar length: 40cm
Weight: 6.2kgs
Reasons to buy
+Excellent performance+Long blade+Handles big cuts
Reasons to avoid
-Quite heavy-You'll probably need an extension cable

Looking for a keenly-priced and extremely effective electric model that comes highly rated by a horde of chainsaw-wielding gardenistas? Step right this way. 

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 – manufactured by top supplier Oregon – will cut through most woods with ease; many users report it 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 (£6.28 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 exceptionally well.

Bosch AdvancedCut 18 mini chainsawT3 Approved badge

9. Bosch AdvancedCut 18

Best mini chainsaw

Specifications
Power: 18v
Type: Cordless
Bar length: 65mm
Weight: 1kg
Reasons to buy
+Handy pocket-sized pruner+Good all-round DIY tool
Reasons to avoid
-Not for cutting down trees, obviously

Perhaps more of a hobby and DIY tool than something for gardening – although it does make short work of pruning – 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.

Black & Decker GK1000 chainsawT3 Approved badge

10. Black & Decker GK1000

Best handheld powered secateurs (possibly the only one, too)

Specifications
Power: 550W
Type: Corded
Bar length: 10cm
Weight: 3kg
Reasons to buy
+Safety chain guard+Easy to use
Reasons to avoid
-Not for big jobs

Okay, this isn't really a chainsaw, it's some electric secateurs. Good product, though. Unlike real chainsaws, which 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 easily 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 scaredy cats, although it is, strictly speaking, more like an extremely hardcore pair of secateurs than a chainsaw in the classic sense.

Chainsaws: a beginner's guide

There are two and a half 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 soon run out of puff. 

No matter what kind of chainsaw you buy, it’s essential to remember that they are incredibly dangerous: 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 you check YouTube for Husqvarna chainsaw safety you’ll find some useful advice. If in doubt, hire an expert to do the sawing for you.

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. 

What is the best chainsaw?

From a power source point of view, our favourite corded electric model is the very cheap and undeniably potent Oregon CS1400, which cuts trunks up to 14 inches in diameter. If you fancy similar performance from a cordless model, go for the Oregon CS300. And if petrol power is a must because you have a forest in the yard, you won’t find many better models than the excellent STIHL MS 170.

But if all you need is a small one armed bandit for light occasional lopping of branches then the new dinky Stihl GTA 26 is undeniably the way to go.

Oh, and don’t forget to keep an eye on our Amazon Prime Day hub for potential big savings on chainsaws in the not-too-distant future.

Derek Adams
Derek Adams

Derek (aka Delbert, Delvis, Delphinium, etc) specialises in home and outdoor wares, from coffee machines, white appliances and vacs to drones, garden gear and BBQs. He has been writing for more years than anyone can remember, starting at the legendary Time Out magazine – the original, London version. He now writes for T3.