Electric chainsaws are better than gas chainsaws. Here’s our list of the best electric chainsaws of 2021.
Electric chainsaws are better than gas chainsaws. That may feel like a controversial statement, but cordless electric saws eliminate most of the issues that make gas saws a pain.
They seriously reduce emissions by using electricity instead of oil and gas. And they’re cheaper to run — most don’t need maintenance beyond an occasional chain sharpening.
Electric chainsaws also eliminate carburetors, fuel lines, spark plugs, and air filters, including the cost and hassle of maintaining, cleaning, and replacing those. Because they don’t use gas, gas won’t go bad inside the saw. And some are so quiet, not only will they be less disturbing to your neighbors and wildlife, but there’s less chance they’ll impact your hearing.
They’re also super easy to start. If you’re an intermittent user, that may be what convinces you to make the switch. Electric chainsaws start when you release the safety and pull the trigger with your finger. There’s no pull cord, so there’s no need to leave a saw idling so you don’t have to start it again or to keep the gas engine warm. Electric chainsaws turn on and off in a flash. And when they’re on, because they vibrate less, they’re less tiring to use.
Be careful when you use an electric chainsaw. Because there’s no roar of a gas-powered engine, they can seem like toys. But an electric chainsaw chain can do just as much work as a gas-powered saw — and just as much damage if used inappropriately.
Operators should wear the same PPE. And before you use any chainsaw, it’s imperative to get educated on proper safety and handling. Then, get after your project. Electric chainsaws can handle it, no matter how big or small.
Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys, or jump to the category you’re looking for:
- Best Overall
- Best-Value Long-Bar Saw
- Best Midsize Saw
- Best for Trail Work
- Best Light-Duty Saw
- Best for Hard-to-Reach Branches
For more information about electric chainsaws, check out our buyer’s guide at the end of this article.
The Best Electric Chainsaws of 2021
Best Overall Saw: Greenworks GS181 82V 18″ Chainsaw
The chainsaw that made me rethink owning a gas saw, the Greenworks 18-inch-bar GS181 ($350), can handle any task my prosumer Stihl can, from felling mature ash and maple to bucking up the log. I used it to fell and cut four cords of firewood, and I never missed my gas saw.
Greenworks GS181 has the power and torque of a 50cc gas engine with a more reliable, efficient, and economical brushless electric motor. It runs on a 4Ah 82V battery, the biggest battery of the saws on this list.
The battery had exceptional life. Greenworks optimized it for performance in the tool as well as efficient charging. It’s Bluetooth-enabled, so I could register it and track its performance. With Bluetooth, I always know which is the oldest. And when I loaned one to a neighbor, Bluetooth reminded me to get it back.
The GS181’s motor provided instant high torque, zero maintenance, and zero-exhaust cutting with decreased vibration and noise. I’ve used this saw’s predecessor for 2 years, and while it was a fantastic second saw, it didn’t have the power to fell the largest trees. The thinner blade felt too delicate to fell big hardwoods. This tough, powerful big brother crushed any tree felling, trimming, or log sawing project I threw its way, including forestry work.
To operate this saw, I filled the clear oil reservoir with chain oil. Because the reservoir is translucent, it was easy to monitor chain oil levels on the fly. That’s important because unlike a gas saw, I didn’t need to refill the oil every time I switched batteries. On my gas saws, I typically refuel and refill the oil at the same time. The saw’s automatic oiler applied oil to the bar and chain as needed to ensure durability and smooth functioning.
When I was ready to saw, I pressed the power button above the handle, and I was ready to go. To start the chain spinning, I released the lock on top of the saw, pulled the trigger, and the saw came to life. My upper hand was protected by a chain brake that stopped the saw instantly when I engaged it. I could also stop the blade by releasing the trigger.
The saw’s battery status and remaining charge were indicated by LED lights on the 400Ah battery. (It can also be run with Greenworks 250Ah and 500Ah batteries, and Bluetooth batteries are not required.) When the chain brake was engaged, a caution light flashed to let me know.
With the saw pressed against a tree, the steel bucking spikes bit in to give me leverage and control. And the high-quality chain driven by the powerful battery and motor ripped through wood with the same power as a gas saw, but with none of the fumes and a whole lot less noise.
Made for professional use, this saw has a metal plate protecting the bottom. It adds weight, but it also means I won’t ever crack the saw’s body. The new plate ruggedizes the saw and makes it feel even more trustworthy.
For quick tasks, I didn’t feel like I needed hearing protection. But this saw is so big and powerful, and because I have hearing protection built into my Stihl helmet, I wore it anyway.
For people who use a chainsaw a lot, and who depend on it for tasks of all sizes, there’s no better saw. It’s somewhere between prosumer and professional in design and power. And while it’s hefty, it gave me the confidence to get any job done. This is the only saw on this list suitable for professional use.
- Weight w/ battery: 17 lbs. 4 oz.
- Weight w/o battery: 12 lbs. 12 oz.
- Bar length: 18”
- Bucking spikes: Steel
- Chain brake: Yes
- Chain tensioning: Via included but no onboard tool
- Warranty: 2 years
- As powerful as a gas saw
- Long-lasting battery
- Quick charging
- Batteries and chargers sold separately
- No onboard chain-tightening tool
- Manual chain tightening
Best-Value Long-Bar Saw: Ryobi 40V HP 18” Brushless Chainsaw
Powerful and aggressive, Ryobi’s 40V HP 18-inch Brushless Chainsaw ($329) rivaled more expensive saws with its ability to fell trees and cut firewood. While it wasn’t as powerful or long-lasting, it was powerful enough for small projects and occasional use, and it gave us a lot of bang for the buck.
The saw’s load-sensing, brushless motor auto-adjusted the saw’s power levels to what was needed to cut. Using it, I cut a wedge from a 10-inch birch and then felled it with confidence.
A mechanical chain brake protected me from kickback and let me disengage the chain anytime I wanted to stop the saw. It was placed comfortably so I didn’t knock it accidentally but could easily engage it when I needed it. In past Ryobi saws, some users have complained that there wasn’t sufficient space between the handle and the chain brake, so it engaged unintentionally.
The clear oil reservoir was a handy window that let me keep track of my chain oil level. And the tool in the handle was handy for tightening the chain, though smaller than what’s usually specced with a chainsaw. It clips into the handle, so I always had it. But I sometimes needed to use a branch or other tool to remove it from its handle storage area.
This saw can handle the occasional downed mature tree, making it perfect for the homeowner who needs a saw with a longer bar. But plastic spikes, not metal ones, and the smaller battery made it best for household projects, not production work. Plastic spikes gave some purchase on rougher bark, but not enough grab to leverage the saw. And the battery didn’t last long enough to buck up a whole tree.
The saw is well-balanced, with a good grip. My only design concern is that the battery, which is on the bottom of the saw, is exposed. It’s recessed into the frame, but it feels vulnerable.
Pack the saw up, and the scabbard not only sheaths the bar and chain but also covers the bucking spikes. The scabbard inserts into the saw’s plastic carry case that transports the saw and keeps any leaked chain oil contained. It was a convenient system that also didn’t take up awkward space when I stored the case when the saw was in use.
The battery didn’t last as long as the Greenworks or Stihl batteries, but it did recharge in just under an hour, and it’s compatible with many Ryobi tools and chargers. Plus, it has a 5-year warranty.
- Weight w/ battery: 13 lbs.
- Weight w/o battery: 9 lbs. 15 oz.
- Bar length: 18”
- Bucking spikes: Plastic
- Chain brake: Yes
- Chain tensioning: Via onboard tool
- Warranty: 5 years
- Comes with carrying case
- Killer price for a powerful saw
- Plastic spikes instead of metal
- Vulnerable battery position under saw
Best Midsize Saw: Stihl MSA 220 C-B
Capable of felling and limbing small and medium-size trees, and ideal for softwood projects, this light- to medium-duty 36V Stihl ($400) is the brand’s first battery-powered chainsaw with a 16-inch bar. And it’s the most powerful electric saw in the Stihl lineup.
This rugged, well-designed, well-built saw has all the most important convenience and safety features. Its bar and chain stay lubricated while also using up to 50% less oil than conventional saws, according to Stihl. The system works via two ramps placed in the guide bar rail that contain oil flow and channel oil to the sliding faces of the bar, the chain links, the rivets, and the driver holes.
The saw’s chain brake stopped the chain fast when I activated it with my hand. It would auto-engage if the saw kicked back. And one of my favorite features of this saw was a raised and printed felling stripe, a feature not found on any of the other saws I tested. It gave me a visual of where the tree I was cutting would fall. It was accurate and educational.
A clear chain oil reservoir let me continuously monitor how much was left and when I needed to refill. But the handiest feature of this saw was Stihl’s Quick Chain Adjuster, which let me tension the chain without tools.
The MSA 220 C-B uses a light and compact brushless electric motor with reduced vibration. The soft rubber on the handle was easy to grip and comfortable to hold all day. While it was quieter than a gas saw, this saw was louder than other saws we tested and required hearing protection at all times.
I ran this saw with Stihl’s AP 300 S battery — a 7.8Ah battery and the most powerful Stihl offers. The battery has 25% more capacity than the AP 300 for longer runtime as well as an enhanced power-to-weight ratio. It’s compatible with a wide range of Stihl tools, including extended-reach hedge trimmers, pole pruners, chainsaws, and blowers.
The saw comes with Stihl’s three-eighths-inch PICCO super chain and a low-profile, low-kickback saw chain with a square-cornered cutter shape for minimum chain friction and a smooth, clean cut. It was one of the nicest chains of any saw we tested. It sliced through small logs like a knife through butter with the power and precision practically synonymous with the Stihl name.
Metal and plastic spikes bit into the bark to give me a purchase. But when I tackled trees 8 inches or larger, despite the long bar, the saw hesitated even when I wasn’t applying pressure. We tested the 16-inch bar saw. But considering its power, I’d buy this saw with the 14-inch blade instead.
- Weight w/ battery: 12 lbs. 9 oz.
- Weight w/o battery: 8 lbs. 8 oz.
- Bar length: 14″ and 16″
- Bucking spikes: Plastic and metal
- Chain brake: Yes
- Chain tensioning: Tool-free
- Warranty: 3 years
- Tool-free chain tensioning
- Louder than other saws of similar size
Best for Trail Work: DeWalt XR 12″ 20V Battery Chainsaw Kit
Small and light enough to carry in a backpack, this 12-inch saw ($235) is my new go-to for trail work. A homestead workhorse, it cut landscaping timbers, cut down a stud wall, limbed trees, and cleaned up winter blowdown.
The 12-inch-blade saw was light and easy to handle, but it had the safety and convenience features of bigger, more expensive saws. It was the only sub-14-inch saw we tested that had a chain brake. It was self-oiling for continuous use, with a sealed reservoir that kept from leaking when I carried the saw in a pack. All of the other saws in this class that we tested had manual oiling mechanisms, which were messy and unreliable.
The low-kickback, 12-inch Oregon bar and chain got the job done, though with a lot more vibration than larger saws. On the bright side, when the chain rattled loose, adjusting it was tool-free.
The tool is designed for smaller jobs. It had plastic ridges — not quite spikes. But that wasn’t a deal-breaker, as most of the time I used this saw to clear branches, cut down saplings, and trim bridge planks. It could cut down a tree up to 8 or so inches; it just took longer than larger saws we liked.
This saw is part of Dewalt’s 20V Max system of tools. The kit includes the tool plus a 5Ah 20V Max battery, charger, and a bar cover.
- Weight w/ battery: 9 lbs. 5 oz.
- Weight w/o battery: 7 lbs. 15 oz.
- Bar length: 12″
- Bucking spikes: Plastic ridges
- Chain brake: Yes
- Chain tensioning: Tool-free
- Warranty: N/A
Best Light-Duty Saw: Hart 8” Pruning Saw
One step up from manual loppers, the no-oil-required Hart 8-inch pruning saw ($118) is a handy lawn and garden tool for light jobs around the house and relatively infrequent use. The 20V saw is powered by a 2Ah battery with a fast charger. The battery is compatible with many other Hart tools, and the saw is compatible with any Hart 20V battery.
Though the saw is light-duty, it comes with a chain-tensioning tool in the handle. There’s no chain brake, but a plastic block protects your hand.
Hart does provide a tip guard to help prevent improper sawing techniques that could lead to kickback. With the tip guard installed, the bar cover didn’t fit. The frame of the saw keeps the blade off the ground, so when I sopped to clear out the branches I had cut, it didn’t get in the dirt.
- Weight w/ battery: 6 lbs. 8 oz.
- Weight w/o battery: 5 lbs. 11 oz.
- Bar length: 8″
- Chain brake: No
- Chain tensioning: Onboard tool
- Warranty: 3 years, limited
Best for Hard-to-Reach Branches: Greenworks 10″ Brushless Pole Saw
For most people, a pole saw falls in the n+1 category, — as in non-essential. But once you’ve used this pole saw, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.
With a small chainsaw at the end of a three-piece pole that extends to 10 feet, this pole saw ($179) is ideal for maintaining trails and driveways, cleaning up storm damage, pruning fruit and ornamental trees, and getting to broken branches that are higher than you can reach.
The saw, which has an automatic chain-oiler, is on an angle at the end of the pole. That gave me the best angle for sawing overhead tree limbs and let me be precise. The angled head also directs the weight of the saw down for a gravity assist with cuts. The three-section 10-foot gave me 11 feet of reach. It twists to adjust.
To engage the saw, I pressed on the release and pulled the trigger in the handle (at the end of the pole farthest from the saw). That’s also where the battery lives, which kept the weight low and acted as ballast to help me control the saw overhead.
When I cut a limb and it got hung up in the tree, a branch hook at the base of the saw helped me pull it down. I also used the branch hook to hang the saw when I was alternating between pole saw and chainsaw.
The 10-inch Pole Saw ran on the same batteries and used the same charger as the Greenworks GS181 82V 18-inch Chainsaw. It was a great tool for an ambitious homeowner but is capable of handling professional jobs.
- Weight w/ battery: 12.8 lbs.
- Weight w/o battery: 12.65 lbs.
- Bar length: 10”
- Bucking spikes: No
- Chain brake: No
- Chain tensioning: Tool-free
- Warranty: 4 years
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose an Electric Chainsaw
What Other Battery-Powered Tools Do You Already Own?
The key to battery-powered tools is that many of the batteries can be used in a family of tools, not just a single tool. This can save you some major money.
If you’re already committed to a brand’s battery system, it may make sense to buy a compatible chainsaw. If you haven’t committed to a brand’s battery system, choose carefully, because you may be committing to more than just the chainsaw once you get started. The batteries in my Greenworks chainsaw also power my lawnmower, a leaf blower, a pole saw, and more.
Choose Your Batteries and Charger Wisely
Electric chainsaws run on quick-charging lithium-ion batteries. Many recharge in about an hour. A bigger battery will give you saw longer life. It will also weigh more. If you’re doing light yard work and using your saw infrequently, it may make sense to have multiple smaller batteries instead of big ones.
Actually, it always makes sense to have multiple batteries, because there’s nothing more frustrating than being halfway through a project and having to wait until your battery recharges, which could be 40 minutes to several hours. Some e-chainsaws have battery-charging options. If a quick recharge is important to you, spend a few extra bucks to save yourself hours of waiting.
What Do Ah and V Numbers Mean?
When shopping for a battery-operated chainsaw, amps (A), amp-hours (Ah), and voltage (V) tell you how much work you’ll be able to do with the saw-and-battery combination.
Amps or amperage is the amount of electrical current the battery can provide. Amp-hours tells you how long the battery can provide a certain amount of current. And voltage is how much force the saw has to push current from one part of the electrical circuit to the next. More expensive saws will have higher numbers.
Weigh Your Options
Smaller saws are lighter and easier to operate. Pick one large enough to get your jobs done. If you’re planning on carrying a saw for trail work, you may want the smallest, not the most powerful. If you’re using your saw to fell trees and buck up firewood for the season, power and large size are key.
Battery choice also affects the saw’s running weight. Choose batteries with enough juice you won’t be waiting for a recharge. Keep in mind that lighter batteries are usually shorter-lived but also make a saw easier to manage.
What Features Matter?
Not every saw has a chain brake, and not every saw is self-oiling. Pick a saw with the operation and safety features that are important to you. Some e-chainsaws have tool-free chain tensioning, some have clip-in storage for a tool, etc.
You Get What You Pay For
Electric chainsaws are like most other tools: You get what you pay for. If you buy a cheap saw, expect that it won’t have all the bells and whistles of a more expensive saw, and the battery likely won’t be as powerful or long-lasting.
Not everyone needs a pro-grade saw, but for me, features like a chain brake and automatic chain-oiler are non-negotiable. Chainsawing safety is paramount, and an auto-oiler will keep your saw in tip-top shape.
Have a favorite electric chainsaw? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll check it out for future updates to this article.