Chainsaws are valuable and powerful tools and are very useful for cutting wood, tree branches, and overgrowth. Smaller chainsaws are great because you don’t need to be an expert to use one.
A word of caution – regardless of the size of a chainsaw, it is still very important to know how to operate one safely!
Quick look: the best small chainsaws in 2019:
- Makita XCU02Z: my favorite model and top pick for most people, small but mightly
- Tanaka TCS33EDTP: great gas powered model, can be used for small commercial jobs
- BLACK+DECKER LCS1240: lightweight design to reduce fatigue, very long lasting battery
- Poulan Pro PRCS16i: powerful, small cordless chainsaw that is good for limbs and trees
- Greenworks 20362: mini chainsaw that is great for lower budgets, 10″ bar makes it perfect for small jobs
How I Rated the Chainsaws
I researched hundreds of chainsaw reviews with the goal of providing you with a list of the best small chainsaws available in the marketplace today.
The merits of each chainsaw were carefully considered. I took into consideration the safety features and cutting power of each model, their warranties and relative cost, and more.
An important factor to consider when purchasing any chainsaw is how reliable it is and what type of warranty it comes with.
All of the models I recommend have at least a 2 year consumer warranty.
Size (Portability & Storage)
If you’re in the market for a small chainsaw – one that can be used by anyone – it needs to be approximately 14” or less. It should be lightweight so that it doesn’t cause fatigue after about 10 minutes of cutting.
It should also be easy to carry and store. A lightweight chainsaw can be carried to wherever it is needed and doesn’t put undue stress on the operator.
Small chainsaws should be stored in a dry, dust-free condition. Gas tanks must be emptied in a well-ventilated location and cleaned. Chains and guide bars should be removed, cleaned, and sprayed with a protective oil before storing.
All of the products mentioned meet industry standards for size, portability, and storage.
The smaller chainsaws reviewed are extremely portable and will allow the user to prune, trim, or cut smaller trees and limbs.
They are perfect for smaller jobs or projects with tight spaces.
Noise & Vibration
Gas powered chainsaws with 2-cycle or 2-stroke engines will give you a lot of power; however, they tend to be heavier and will produce more vibration and noise than an electric powered model.
Increasingly, neighborhoods and towns are passing strict rules concerning noise levels, so you’ll need to check local regulations before buying a noisy chainsaw.
Battery powered chainsaws that use rechargeable batteries instead of fuel or direct electricity are a very quiet alternative to gas models. When you consider the fact that an average chainsaw will generate over 100 decibels of noise from a distance of 2 feet, and that noise is louder than a jet airplane when taking off on a runway, it might make you consider purchasing a battery powered chainsaw instead.
All portable chainsaws have a risk factor involved, especially regarding kickback during operation of the machine. Kickback happens when a chainsaw stops suddenly after coming into contact with wood, and the guide bar abruptly jerks back towards the operator.
In the United States alone, there are more than 28,000 chainsaw-related injuries each year. All machines reviewed here today provide a number of the following safety features:
- Chain break – The chain will instantly stop whenever the hand-guard is pushed into a forward position.
- Run-down break – The chain comes to a total stop within one second when the trigger is released.
- Safe starting – A safe start is assured by a lock-off switch that has to be activated before a trigger throttle will start.
- Front handguard – This prevents a user’s front hand from making contact with a chain if the operator loses their grip.
- Low kickback chain – This chain, along with a reduced kickback-bar design, reduces the impact and likelihood of kickback.
- Overload protection – Chainsaws that have overload protection will prevent overheating, as well as too much stress being put on the saw.
Ease of Use
Small chainsaws have a big advantage over larger chainsaws relative to ease of use. They might not match larger chainsaws in general functionality or power, but they are lightweight, very comfortable, easy to control, and a lot easier to use.
Most small chainsaws will be either cordless or electric, but there are several gas-powered chainsaws in this category. These chainsaws might have an easy start button, a tool-less chain adjustment, and also, an automatic chain oiler.
A perk of lithium-ion battery chainsaws is that the operator is allowed greater freedom of movement and doesn’t have to worry about gas refills or noxious fumes, plus they are much quieter than their larger counterparts.
Smaller gas-powered chainsaws are more powerful than electric saws, provide higher productivity, and can reduce power-to-weight ratio user fatigue.
How to Pick the Best Small Chainsaw
What Will You Be Cutting?
If you’re planning to cut larger sized trees regularly, you will need a gas powered chainsaw. There are lightweight two-stroke engine smaller chainsaws available that are equipped with anti-vibration systems and rear air filters that produce ultra-low emissions and will give you all the power you will need.
If you plan on cutting smaller trees, limbs, and branches, or want to clean up after a storm, the best choice for you would be an electric chainsaw.
Cordless chainsaws will give you more freedom while cutting than corded models. Rechargeable batteries power today’s cordless chainsaws and most of them will only give you about 1/2 – 1 hour of cutting time before needing to be recharged.
If you’re planning to do an all-day sawing job, you will need to be equipped with multiple batteries.
Have You Ever Used a Chainsaw Before?
New electric battery-operated chainsaw users should read the following instructions:
- Read the user’s manual thoroughly, especially the safety precautions.
- Choose a lightweight model that starts easily and requires a minimum of maintenance.
- A smaller chainsaw should not be used for cutting down large trees – it’s meant to trim smaller trees or branches.
- Battery powered chainsaws with a higher voltage will last longer between recharge times and will be more powerful than machines with a lower voltage.
- Higher-priced chainsaws will have additional features to increase ease-of-use like anti-vibration features, automatic oil mechanisms, chain brakes, and a reduced kickback chain.
- Use safety gear when operating any chainsaw.
Guide Bar Length
Depending on the length of a chainsaw guide bar you can determine what size timber that the saw will be able to cut. The length of a guide bar (an elongated bar that has one round end, typically constructed of wear-resistant alloy steel) also contributes to the ease of handling and to the weight of the saw itself.
If you have a relatively heavy long guide bar, it will move the center of gravity of the saw away from the user and make the saw more difficult to control.
Chainsaws that are designed for pruning jobs and other typical residential cutting chores are usually equipped with fairly short guide bars. It is recommended that the guide bar on your chainsaw should be between 12” and 16”.
Difference Between Cheap and Expensive Models
The old adage that says that you get what you pay for is true in the case of small chainsaws.
Gas powered chainsaws tend to be more expensive than electric or battery powered chainsaws because they typically provide more power.
More expensive cordless electric chainsaws are lightweight, have a fast cutting speed, are made of better quality materials, are extremely easy to use, and have a larger number of safety features.
Cheaper chainsaws tend to have more plastic parts that are not as durable do not have as much power or as many safety features, and have a shorter lifespan in general.
Best Selling & Top Rated Brands
- Poulan Pro
How Much Should I Expect to Pay?
I would expect to pay somewhere between $100 to $300 for a good small chainsaw.
Small Chainsaw Reviews
1) Makita XCU02Z 36V LXT Cordless Chainsaw
- Includes 2 rapid-charging 18 volt 5.0 Ah LXT batteries plus a dual-port charger
- Has a special built Makita motor which delivers 1,650 FPM (Feet Per Minute) for increased cutting speed and less noise (just 89 dB(A))
- This chainsaw has reduced maintenance – zero emissions, no oil to change, no muffler or air filter to clean, and no spark plug to replace
- Chain must frequently be adjusted, and battery-charge level indicators, don’t work as well as stated
- Oil tank filler neck and plastic tension adjuster should be better made
The Makita XCU02Z features an electric brake, a front handguard that has been specially engineered to activate chain break whenever it’s engaged, and a useful 12” guide bar.
This chainsaw has plenty of power for an electric machine, and it is quiet, safe, and doesn’t emit any noxious gas fumes.
2) Tanaka TCS33EDTP/14 14-Inch Chainsaw
- Two-stroke commercial grade Pure Fire gas engine provides a powerful, clean performance (ultra-low emissions) while using a lot less fuel consumption
- Oregon chain equipped with a sprocket nose bar allows extra control while making easier cuts
- Half-throttle choke with a purge primer bulb provides a simple start and warm up
- Constructed with cheaper plastic and is heavier than expected
- A little expensive, and leaks a bit of chain oil
The Tanaka TCS33EDTP/14 is ideal for commercial use, hobby work, and all types of pruning and shaping. This outstanding machine has a built-in lanyard ring perfect for easy climbing, simple access to the rear air filter, and an anti-vibration system.
All features contribute to higher productivity and reduced fatigue for the user.
3) BLACK+DECKER LCS1240 Lithium Ion Chainsaw
- No manual oiling necessary because the chain and bar are constantly primed and lubricated
- Wrap-around handle and a lightweight design eliminates user fatigue
- 40V lithium-ion battery can hold a charge for up to 18 months and can cut more than 60 4″ x 4″ pine lumber cuts per charge
- Charger charges slowly
- Auto-oiling function spills too much oil on the chain
The Black & Decker LCS1240 chainsaw stays charged 5 times longer than other similar products. It features tool-free chain tensioning, a lightweight design, a wraparound bale handle, and constant chain and bar lubrication.
This chainsaw is simple to take apart to maintain and clean, and replacement parts are easily available.
4) Poulan Pro PRCS16i Chainsaw
- Quiet, environmentally friendly machine is perfect for de-limbing and small tree felling
- Low vibration cutting is aided by a 16” chain and bar as well as a top-efficiency brushless motor
- Can cut through trunk sections that are 26” in diameter
- Battery didn’t last as comparable competitors
The Poulan Pro PRCS16i chainsaw features an electronic chain break for extra safety, an automatic oiler that keeps the chain well lubricated, and a 16” bar and chain that allows precision cutting of trees and limbs up to approximately 6” in diameter.
5) Greenworks 20362 Small Cordless Chainsaw
- Features a translucent oil tank for simple viewing of oil level, and an automatic oiler to extend the life of the arm and chain
- Lithium-ion 24V battery is compatible with both outdoor and indoor tools, and a 2Ah battery plus charger is included
- Plastic parts wore out faster than expected
- Only works on very small limbs and trees
The Greenworks 10” 20362 chainsaw is an ergonomically designed powerhouse. This machine provides up to 35 cuts on one single charge when cutting 4” x 4” wood on a freshly charged 2Ah battery.
It’s good for limbs between 1” and 8” thick.
After researching many small chainsaws online, the Makita XCU02Z is my overall favorite. In my opinion, it provides the best combination or price, power and size.
I’d love to get your opinion too- please leave a comment below!