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Top 5 Best petrol chainsaws for tree felling, making firewood and general garden maintenance
Last Updated on March 16, 2020 by John
It’s the time in your life to buy a petrol chainsaw – and you’re excited. Maybe you’ve decided that the old trees in the corner of your garden really have to go. They’re dropping their leaves all over your neighbour’s lawn and the tree specialist has said that they’re not too healthy. You’re now ready to invest in the ultimate power tool – a chainsaw.
Perhaps you’ve already checked out electric and cordless chainsaws and decided that they’re just not right for your job. You’ve come to the right place to find out about chainsaws with the most power. This review of the Best Petrol Chainsaws covers what these chainsaws are designed to do. It explains the factors to consider in your choice and then gives details of the features, both positive and negative, of each of our top petrol chainsaws. We select our Best Pick, the one that we recommend most highly, and the Runner-up, which is not always the second-place selection but may fill a different niche. This review ends with a FAQ section of the most common questions asked about petrol chainsaws.
Our Best Pick petrol chainsaw is the Husqvarna 236 14″ Petrol Chainsaw. This is one for the chainsaw aficionado as it’s on the upper end of our product prices.
The P1PE P6220C 2-Stroke Petrol Chainsaw is the Runner-up selection for the best petrol chainsaw. It’s an excellent selection for home use with a more affordable price tag.
Whichever petrol chainsaw you select, please don’t neglect safety considerations, especially safety clothing. Our reviews of the best chainsaw safety helmets, boots and trousers will help keep your chainsaw DIY projects exciting and safe.
Top 5 Petrol Chainsaw Reviews
1. Husqvarna 236 14″ Petrol Chainsaw
If you’ve looked at your larger shrubs and small trees and decided that they need tidying up or have logs that need logging to turn them into firewood, the Husqvarna 236 14″ Petrol Chainsaw can do the job. Part of the much-loved dynasty of power tools from Husqvarna, this petrol chainsaw is designed for everyday domestic use and is a perfect choice for the home user and professionals for lighter work.
The 38cc engine has Husqvarna’s unique X-Torque technology that improves its fuel economy by 20% which is good for your petrol budget and maybe more importantly, for the environment. The X-Torque technology also cuts the exhaust emissions by 75%, reducing the chainsaw’s footprint on the earth. A beginner should be able to handle the 38cc of power easily but we do recommend ensuring you have taken a chainsaw safety course. The combined stop control and choke are easy to use and stop the engine flooding when the chainsaw is turned off.
The chainsaw guide bar is 35.5 cm long which lets you cut wood widths up to 30.5 cm very comfortably in one pass which makes it great for logging too. The chain is included with the purchase of the chainsaw.
The centrifugal air cleaning system is of particular interest as it’s not found in many chainsaws. This system stops the sawdust from going into the air filters and clogging them up. This reduces the cleaning and maintenance needs by increasing the time between replacing the air filters.
The safety feature of the inertia chain brake will stop the motor quickly if kickback happens which is essential.
- Designed for light domestic use to cut small trees, cutting firewood and to prune bushes.
- Husqvarna 38cc x-Torque petrol chainsaw engine improves fuel efficiency by 20%.
- The chainsaw guide bar is 35.5 cm long to cut average-diameter tree trunks.
- Safety chain is standard for your protection.
- Stop control and choke are combined to reduce the risk of the engine flooding.
- Inertia chain brake stops the saw quickly in the event of kickback.
- Ergonomic design for ease of handling and comfort.
- Centrifugal air cleaning system stops sawdust from entering the air filters and clogging them.
- Replacement and spare parts are costly but they are for all premium chainsaw brands.
With the full force of the Husqvarna reputation behind it, the Husqvarna 236 14″ Petrol Chainsaw is an excellent choice for the garden hobbyist who wants to keep their bushes and small trees under control or need a decent chainsaw for cutting firewood. Designed for the lighter pruning tasks in the garden, this chainsaw delivers power in a 38cc engine that cuts both fuel consumption and exhaust emissions without having too much of an impact on performance. The 35.5cm guide bar is large enough for most cutting tasks. Notable safety features include a combined stop button and choke and an inertia chain brake.
At the lower end of the Husqvarna power tools price range, the saw is still a little pricey as are the replacement and spare parts. However, we’re impressed with all the positives and pedigree of this chainsaw and have made it our Best Pick and is a good all-round chainsaw for home use for a range of jobs from felling trees to cutting up firewood ready for winter.
2. P1PE P6220C 2-Stroke Petrol Chainsaw
If your garden is well-established and your trees have been there for quite a few years, you’ll need a petrol chainsaw designed for heavier use. The P1PE P6220C 2-Stroke Petrol Chainsaw will satisfy all your major woodcutting needs with investing in a premium expensive brands such as Stihl.
The P1PE P6220C’s impressive 62cc air-cooled engine easily drives its 50cm guide bar and chain, putting it into the range of a professional chainsaw. This saw has a soft recoil system for an easy start so you won’t strain to get it going.
This chainsaw is designed for your convenience and safety. The handles are ergonomic and have anti-vibration technology that reduces the stress and strain on your hands and arms. You won’t tire easily over an extended period of use. The tension adjustment for the chain is quickly accessed on the side of the saw. There’s also an automatic chain lubrication system so you won’t have to worry if the chain is slippery enough. For your extra safety, there’s an anti-kickback brake that immediately stops the engine if kickback happens which is an essential feature all petrol chainsaws should have.
This petrol chainsaw comes with extras. You receive an extra chain so you won’t have to stop and buy another chain in the middle of a project if the first chain gets blunt. You also get a carry bag and a bar cover for the saw’s protection, storage and transport. No more worrying if dirt and debris will get into the engine filters and clog it up, not to mention items bumping into the chain and blunting it. There’s also an additional spark plug and a tool kit of all the tools you need to maintain the chainsaw and all at an even better price with a reliable Hyundai engine.
- Designed for heavy-duty work such as felling trees and home use from general pruning to logging.
- Reliable Hyundai 62cc air-cooled petrol engine, 2-stroke, for long and reliable life of the motor.
- Soft pull recoil system for an easy start.
- Chainsaw bar is 50cm for all the major wood cutting that you have to do.
- Anti-kickback safety brake increases your safety when the chainsaw is in use.
- Automatic chain lubrication so you don’t have to remember when to oil it.
- Chain tension adjustment is side-mounted for easy access.
- Anti-vibration technology in the ergonomic handles increases the operator’s comfort.
- Includes two chains, so put the spare somewhere you remember.
- One-year warranty extended to two years if register within thirty days of purchase.
- Comes with a carry bag and bar cover for storage and protection.
- Chains quality could be better but are easy to replace and affordable at most DIY stores and online.
Less expensive than our Best Pick, the Husqvarna 236 14″ Petrol Chainsaw, the P1PE P6220C 2-Stroke Petrol Chainsaw is a great choice if your woodcutting tasks lean to the heavier side and you looking for a more affordable model. This model can handle heavy-duty chores such as felling taller trees and cutting large logs with its 50cm guide bar. The ergonomic handles with anti-vibration technology reduce the strain on your hands and arms during the longer periods you’ll need to use the chainsaw to accomplish these woodcutting feats.
Online reviewers are concerned that the chains are of poor quality and stretch quite a bit and blunt quickly. Others have pointed out that some manufacturers pre-stretch the chain and P1PE doesn’t do that. The solution to this is just to invest in a couple of new chainsaws.
For its price and its ability to handle the heavier woodcutting tasks around the garden, we’ve made the P1PE P6220C 2-Stroke Petrol Chainsaw our Runner-up Best Petrol Chainsaw and the fact that they use a Hyundai branded engine instead of a cheaper unbranded Chinese engine that most budget chainsaws use. Great value for money.
3. McCulloch CS 35S Petrol Chainsaw
The McCulloch CS 35S Petrol Chainsaw is designed to start easily and is another trusted brand to consider. No more huffing and puffing and muttering on your part, this chainsaw has two features in particular that make it easy to start.
First up is the soft start feature. This reduces the resistance in the starter cord by 40%, making it easier to tug on. Secondly, there’s the manual fuel pump. This feeds the carburettor with fuel so that you need fewer pulls of the (now with less resistance) starter cord to start the saw.
The guide bar is 35.5 cm long so can cope with most of the regular woodcutting tasks in your garden – small trees and large bushes won’t stand a chance when pruning time comes.
The safety feature of the chain brake works in two ways. There’s the regular chain brake which is activated during kickback when the chain brake lever comes into contact with the operator’s left wrist. For extra safety, the brake is also activated by inertia from the guide bar which also stops the motor from running.
The McCulloch CS 35S Petrol Chainsaw comes with a one-year warranty from the manufacturer.
- 35cc engine has enough power to handle light to medium garden tasks.
- Soft start feature for ease of starting.
- Manual fuel pump leads to fewer pulls to start the engine.
- Auto-return stop switch also helps the saw start quickly and easily.
- Chain tension adjustment is done without tools, so you don’t need a special gadget for this.
- Cutting bar length is 35.5 cm so should cover most of your garden needs.
- Air filter cover is easily accessible by removing just one screw and the engine cover.
- Chain brake lever-activated in two different ways if kickback occurs.
- One-year warranty.
- Not to the same quality, they used to be many years ago, now seem to be made as a more budget-friendly brand.
The McCulloch CS 35S Petrol Chainsaw is a good chainsaw for light to medium tasks concerning cutting and pruning trees and bushes. The designers have made an effort to ensure that this chainsaw is easy to start and operate. Adjusting the chain tension and accessing the air filter are easily accomplished. Safety is also covered with a chain safety brake which is engaged two ways.
Reviews online highlight that some users encountered problems with the quality of this chainsaw right from taking it out of the box. We think the problem is that if you purchased one of these 10 years ago, they were a reliable trusted brand known for top quality machines but at a higher price point. Now they are sold to a different market as an affordable brand so the quality is not what they used to be but they still have their place.
We recommend the McCulloch CS 35S Petrol Chainsaw for everyday maintenance of the trees and bushes in your garden for lighter tasks.
4. Makita EA3500S40B 35cc 40cm Chainsaw
The Makita EA3500S40B 35cc 40cm Chainsaw has a 35cc engine coupled with a fairly large (40cm) guide bar. This makes it the right size for those medium-size pruning tasks in your garden. The engine conforms to standard exhaust emission regulations so won’t annoy your neighbours with pollution.
Starting and stopping the chainsaw has been well thought through. The on-off switch is in combination with the choke so the engine receives the correct amount of fuel when you’re starting up the chainsaw and also when you’re closing it down. The engine won’t flood from too much petrol or stall from too little. The electronic ignition system also adds to the easy start procedure.
When the chainsaw is running, the ignition coil controls its idling revs so that the guide bar receives a constant and stable amount of power for an even cutting process. This also gives protection from the engine overrunning, as does the automatic half-throttle lock. The safety feature of the inertia chain brake stops the motor quickly in the case of a kickback event.
The Makita EA3500S40B’s automatic lubrication system is paired with a large oil reservoir. Not only do you not have to remember whether you oiled the chainsaw recently, but you also don’t have to check the level of oil in the reservoir very often either. But you can adjust how much the chain is lubricated if you feel it’s receiving too little or too much oil.
- Two-stroke, 35cc, engine complies with exhaust emission regulations for environmental considerations.
- An on-off switch is combined with the choke for easy one-switch control of the tool.
- The electronic ignition system for an easy start.
- Cutting bar length is 40 cm to handle most of the DIY woodcutting chores in the garden.
- Ignition coil controls idling giving you a stable power flow and protection against the engine overrunning.
- Automatic half-throttle lock.
- Automatic chain lubrication keeps the chain moving smoothly without maintenance.
- Access to the carburettor through external holes lets you adjust it easily.
- Comes with a chain cover and a toolset.
- 3-year warranty for full peace of mind.
The Makita EA3500S40B 35cc – 40cm Chainsaw is a good choice for some of the medium-size chainsaw tasks you might have and is a great choice for professionals looking for a reliable petrol chainsaw. The control of its idling speed delivers a smooth cutting experience and the combination on/off switch and choke ensures that just the right amount of fuel is delivered to the engine when you stop or start the chainsaw. The inertia chain brake adds the comfort of knowing that, in an emergency, the chainsaw will stop as quickly as possible.
Some online reviews have noted that the Makita EA3500S40B starts up at full speed, in spite of its automatic half-throttle lock. Just be aware of this possibility when you use it.
The Makita EA3500S40B 35cc 40cm Chainsaw will handle some of the larger everyday maintenance pruning tasks for you and is a great alternative to premium models from Stihl and Husqvarna.
5. Stihl MS181 14-Inch Petrol Chainsaw
The Stihl MS181 14-Inch Chainsaw comes from a well-renowned power tool company and has some technological features not found on other brands of chainsaws.
The Stihl MS181’s engine is 31.8cc which is on the lower end of the engine size range of the chainsaws in this review. The Stihl engine does have reduced-emission technology to cut down on pollution, though. In this engine’s advanced combustion technology, four overflow channels swirl the air-fuel mix together before ignition to extract a highly efficient performance from the fuel. This results in a lower fuel consumption of up to 20% and lower exhaust emissions by up to 50% which are all good points.
This chainsaw, with its 35.5cm guide bar, is designed to cut down small trees and to chop up firewood so is a good choice for home users looking for a premium chainsaw. Anti-vibration technology dampens the vibrations at the handles significantly and makes the chainsaw more comfortable to use for prolonged periods, perfect for hours of cutting firewood.
The Stihl MS181 14-Inch Chain Saw’s air filtration system is worth explaining as it’s different to a conventional air filter system. The Stihl system swirls around the air that’s drawn in and ejects the larger, heavier particles. The pre-cleaned air is then directed through the pre-separator duct to the air filter. This process extends the life of the air filter by five times over the conventional method.
Other convenient features of this Stihl chainsaw include an automatic lubrication system which can reduce oil use by 50%, this is a common feature on most chainsaws though. The filler caps for the fuel and oil tanks are opened without the use of any tools. Note that the fuel tank is translucent so you can quickly see how much fuel is left. And the tensioning screw for adjusting the chain tension is accessible through a sprocket at the side of the saw so you don’t have to touch the sharp chain. You can extend the warranty to three years for domestic use when you register or 2 years for professional use.
- Cutting bar is 35.5 cm long, enough for most domestic cutting tasks.
- Petrol engine is 31.8 cc with reduced-emission technology.
- Advanced combustion technology for highly efficient fuel use.
- Designed to cut firewood and to cut down small trees.
- Designed to reduce vibrations, making it more comfortable to use.
- Tension adjustment for the chain is at the side of the saw so you don’t have to touch the saw chain to make the adjustment.
- The chain brake is activated manually and by inertia of the guide bar.
- Advanced combustion technology for highly efficient fuel use.
- Air filtration system pre-cleans the air before it reaches the air filter lengthening the life of the air filter.
- Automatic oil lubrication reduces the use of oil by 50%.
- Two-year warranty extended to three year when you register your purchase online (2 years for professional use).
The Stihl MS181 14-Inch Chainsaw continues the esteemed reputation of the Stihl brand with this very good petrol chainsaw. Although the engine’s power is not as great as some of the other chainsaws in this review, the advanced combustion technology allows the engine to use the fuel efficiently and to produce fewer exhaust emissions. The use of unique technologies continues with the air filtration system which pre-cleans the larger, heavier particles of debris from the air before it enters the air filter. This much gives longer life to the air filters. The Stihl MS181 will very ably perform any of the light to medium chainsaw duties you ask of it and is perfect for cutting up firewood.
Petrol Chainsaw Buyer’s Guide
While buying a chainsaw seems to generate quite a bit of excitement, it’s important to remember that it is a very powerful tool and can be dangerous. It’s also quite an investment of your power tool budget, so you need to be sure that you’re getting the chainsaw that’s best suited for you and for your project. This Buyer’s Guide helps you with that decision.
We start by briefly describing how a petrol chainsaw works, for those new to chainsaws who may be a little (or a lot) intimidated by them. We continue by covering the major factors to consider when looking at your chainsaw options and introduce some minor factors that also play a role in your decision making. Putting all this together with our detailed reviews should lead you to the petrol chainsaw of your dreams.
What is a chainsaw?
Starting right at the beginning, a chainsaw is a power tool that cuts wood, specifically branches and trees. It’s powered by an engine, which in turn may be powered by petrol, a battery or by electricity. The engine drives a looped metal chain that’s in a groove in an oval guide bar. The chain moves very fast and makes contact with the wood. On contact, the chain’s sharp teeth are dragged across the surface, cutting the wood. This is a really dangerous tool as it’s not possible to put a guard around the chain; it’s open and unprotected. Chainsaws have many built-in safety features to protect the operator, including a stop button, a throttle lock and a chain brake. You need a certain amount of strength to safely operate a chainsaw, depending on its weight and the power it has.
Factors to consider when selecting a petrol chainsaw
Guide bar length
As the chain goes around the guide bar, the guide bar length is the largest diameter of tree trunk or branch that you can cut in one pass. In other words, it’s the active cutting area. Experts recommend that you buy the shortest guide bar that you need for your projects. You can cut wood that’s longer than the guide bar but you’ll need to do it in two passes.
The shorter the guide bar, the more manoeuvrable the chainsaw is. Beginners should definitely stick to guide bars of 50cm or less, leaving the longer guide bars to the professionals. Remember that, in general, the longer the guide bar, the heavier the chainsaw. Kickback, in which the guide bar unexpectedly comes upwards towards you while in use, is more likely to occur with longer bars.
Each model of chainsaw has a recommended guide bar length; go with what the manufacturer suggests.
The more powerful the engine, the more it weighs and the heavier it is to hold. But on the other hand, you need a certain amount of power to drive the longer guide bars in particular. This comes back to buying just the size guide bar you need. If you’re only going to be pruning your hedges, you don’t want to be holding up a chainsaw that’s equipped with a motor powerful enough to fell trees.
Small tree felling can be done with a petrol chainsaw that has a 30cc-40cc motor, for example, while moderate trees need a 45cc (or more) motor chainsaw to be brought down. For really serious tree felling or log cutting, look at chainsaws with 50cc engines.
When you look at what can go wrong when operating a chainsaw, you may wonder why you’d ever want to use one. It’s not that a chainsaw is dangerous if used incorrectly; it’s dangerous even if it is used correctly.
Lecture aside, petrol chainsaws have many safety features built in to lessen the risk in using them. Check each chainsaw for all the safety features that it has, and for those that it doesn’t.
Chainsaws intended for home use should all have an anti-kickback chain in place. This special chain lessens the chances of kickback, which is when the guide bar suddenly comes back towards you at 96 kph.
The chain brake stops the chain from revolving and is powerful enough to stop a chain that’s moving under full power. The operator can manually engage the brake or it automatically engages when kickback happens. The automatic engagement usually occurs when the operator’s left hand is violently thrust away from the handle during kickback. Some chainsaws use an inertial chain brake in which just the motion of the guide bar jerking upwards is enough to force the brake to engage.
The chain catcher is there to stop a broken chain from flipping up towards the chainsaw operator. The on-off switch in a petrol chainsaw is also called the kill switch. It must be clearly marked with the off position and should not be able to be accidentally turned off. There’s also a safety throttle that can’t be moved from the idle position unless the lock-out switch is also pressed.
As well as these and other built-in safety features, don’t forget that safety clothing is highly desirable (to say the least) for a safe chainsaw operating experience. Boots, helmets and trousers are all designed for chainsaw use to protect you just in case something unforeseen and nasty happens.
It’s no use saying that you can do 50 push-ups – yes, really – or are close to running a half-marathon, when most of your training has been watching Ninja Warrior UK. You’ll be found out by your complaints about your aches and pains after you’ve been using your new, shiny but heavy chainsaw for 30 minutes.
This is yet another argument for buying just the size of chainsaw that you need, nothing bigger or heavier. The weight of that “lightweight” petrol chainsaw may not seem heavy right now but imagine how it feels after lifting it for 30 minutes or one hour or longer. And check its weight with the petrol in it. Be honest with yourself about how much chainsaw you can comfortably handle.
Consider these as well
Ergonomics includes the placement of the handles as well as any anti-vibration technology in the chainsaw. Chainsaws are designed for right-handed people so left-handed operators have to make adjustments to how they normally use power tools. If this applies to you, make sure you try out the chainsaw before you buy it if possible to make sure that it’s comfortable for you to hold. Repeated, long-term strong vibrations, as in those from a chainsaw, can damage your hands. Anti-vibration technology dampens those vibrations and reduces their impact on the muscles in your hands and arms, as well as lessens your discomfort. If you’re planning on using your chainsaw in the winter, you may be interested in models that have heated handles.
Maintenance can be as little as wiping down the chainsaw after use and as much as taking it apart and looking after each component. In general, you do need to know how to access the air filter and the spark plug and to tighten the chain. Some models lubricate the chain automatically, so that removes one maintenance chore. Others have self-sharpening blades. If you’re in any doubt about how to maintain your chainsaw, please take it in for a professional service, which you should do regularly anyway.
What is the best brand of chainsaw?
Recommending the best brand of chainsaw depends on so many factors. The most important consideration is what you intend to use it for, your experience with chainsaws and what size of chainsaw you can safely handle. Check out our Buyer’s Guide in this review for the factors to consider when considering a (petrol) chainsaw and then read the individual reviews for our recommended models. If these don’t appeal to you, move over to our reviews for the Best Electric Chainsaws and the Best Cordless Chainsaws.
Is Stihl made in China?
These days it’s difficult to say where something is made as each part may be made in a different country. How do you decide how much of a product should be made in one country to say that it comes from there? Regardless of where Stihl products are made, the company stands behind the tools that carry their name. The best way to ensure you’re purchasing an authentic Stihl product is to buy it from an authorised Stihl dealer.
Is Stihl better than Husqvarna?
The answer to this really depends on who you ask, what brand of tools they’ve grown up using and what particular product you’re talking about. Both Stihl and Husqvarna are world-class brands, each with their avid fans. In this review of petrol chainsaws, our Best Pick is the Husqvarna 236 14″ Petrol Chainsaw. In our reviews of other products, we’ve sometimes selected a Stihl model over a Husqvarna one. All we can say is decide what you’re looking for in a particular tool and research what each brand has to offer you for that tool.
What is the best size chainsaw for home use?
When you’re looking at the size of petrol chainsaws you should consider both the size of the motor and the size of the guide bar (the active cutting area). Motors between 30cc and 40cc are good for home use; guide bars between 35cm and 45cm are a suitable length for light to medium pruning tasks in your garden. Our Buyer’s Guide in this review has some more information about this.
Our final conclusion
Despite the excitement that surrounds them, petrol chainsaws are serious power tools. Our Best Petrol Chainsaw review has introduced the best of these powerful tools for felling trees, cutting logs and pruning bushes to keep your garden in the best possible shape. And we’ve mentioned safety all along the way. By now, you should know whether a petrol chainsaw is in your future and which one you would like.
Our Best Pick is the Husqvarna 236 14″ Petrol Chainsaw designed for the lighter chainsaw tasks in the garden. It’s a way to buy into the Husqvarna line of products without the expense of the costlier tools and still get the brand’s quality.
Our Runner-up is the P1PE P6220C 2-Stroke Petrol Chainsaw. This petrol chainsaw can cope with the heavier tasks in the garden, with the thicker trees and the more established bushes. It comes with some useful extras as well.
Last update on 2020-10-20 at 08:22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API