When buying a new chainsaw, you have to decide whether to buy a gas powered model or an electric one. Of course, this can be difficult if you don’t know the differences between the two types. This article is here to help you with that.
People usually ask, are gas chainsaws better than electric? But a better question would be, which one is better for me? Both of these types have characteristics that make them ideal for different users, and your final decision should reflect that.
Gas chainsaws are more powerful and portable, but require more maintenance and are generally more expensive to buy and operate. While electric chainsaws are cheaper, better suited for smaller tasks, easier to handle and require less maintenance.
Of course, there is a lot more to it than that. Down below you will find a list of 11 characteristics, all of which can be important depending on what you intend to use your chainsaw for. I’ll elaborate on each one of them, and decide on a winner when it’s possible.
With that said, let’s get started!
Cost is an important factor for many, especially if they are on a budget. Fortunately there are many quality chainsaws out there that are very affordable for an average homeowner.
As for the price difference between electric and gas powered chainsaws, I’d divide them into two categories:
This is the money you’ll spend to buy the chainsaw. Prices may vary widely depending on the manufacturer and the size of the chainsaw, but in general gas powered chainsaws are the most expensive.
A good quality gas chainsaw starts from around $200 and can go all the way up to $500, but those are professional-grade. Most chainsaws you see in the hands of your average homeowner cost around $200 ~ $300.
Battery powered chainsaws are a bit less expensive than gas powered models, although they can reach similar price levels depending on the manufacturer. This is mostly because the battery itself is pretty expensive. You can buy the smaller ones for about $150, while the more expensive models can cost up to $350.
Corded electric chainsaws on the other hand are pretty cheap. The most expensive I’ve ever seen was about $140, but you can get most of them for under $100.
All chainsaws cost money to operate, but some of them take more money than others. Gas powered chainsaws are by far the most expensive in this regard, simply because they need fuel to run.
On the other hand, chainsaws that run on electricity are very cheap to operate.
Every chainsaw needs bar oil to run properly – this is a cost you cannot circumvent no matter which one you buy. Please note that gas and electric chainsaws use different type of bar oil – not using the correct type can result in the oil leaking through your guide bar.
Also, you’ll have to buy a new chain from time to time. This isn’t a huge expense though, as most of the time resharpening your chain is enough.
As you can see, electric chainsaws are a lot cheaper than their gas powered counterparts, and are also cheaper to operate. Therefore, electric is the clear winner here.
Ease of maintenance
There a number of tasks you need to perform on your chainsaw from time to time in order to ensure that they can give you a hundred percent performance.
All chainsaws need their chains sharpened every once in a while. Again, this is something you’ll have to do no matter what type of chainsaw you buy.
Apart from that, gas chainsaws need their air filter and carburetor cleaned on a regular basis. Neglecting this will result in decreased performance, and can eventually lead to malfunction. Don’t worry too much about though, it’s pretty easy to do it.
Electric chainsaws on the other hand are very low on maintenance. You only need to check if your chain is sharp enough, make sure they have enough bar oil in the tank and you are good to go.
Not only that, but some of the better electric chainsaws have a built in self-sharpening mechanism – something that can make your life a lot easier.
All things considered, electric chainsaws are a lot easier to maintain.
The weight of a chainsaw can be important if you aren’t sure if you could handle your new tool. Generally speaking, the bigger the chainsaw you buy, the heavier it will be. But some types are much lighter than others.
Gas powered chainsaws are by far the heaviest, but they are followed very closely by battery powered chainsaws. This might be surprising to some, but the battery really adds a lot of extra weight.
The smaller models can weigh as low as 10 lbs, but the bigger ones can go as high as 20 lbs or more. Don’t worry though, those are professional-grade chainsaws used by foresters. Your average chainsaw weighs around 10-15 lbs. If you want to see some real examples, check out this article I wrote about the weight of chainsaws.
Corded electric chainsaws are by far the lightest of the bunch, with most of them weighing under 10 lbs. This is because the motor itself has less moving parts, making it lighter and you don’t have to carry the power source either.
As a conclusion, corded electric chainsaws weigh the lowest, while gas and battery powered chainsaws are a bit heavier.
This is where gas powered chainsaws really shine. Their 2-stroke engine gives them a lot of power, easily outperforming electric chainsaws of the same size. This is the main reason professional foresters and loggers all use gas chainsaw.
That’s not to say electric chainsaws are useless, but they are more suited for smaller tasks rather than heavy work for an extended period of time. Of course, this also depends of the size of the saw as a big corded chainsaw with a 18″ bar can handle some decent sized logs too.
Overall, gas chainsaws are more powerful. That’s just how it is.
This is another great selling point of gas chainsaws. While electric chainsaws need a power cord to operate (or a battery that needs to be recharged every hour or so), gas chainsaws only need fuel that can be refilled easily.
This makes them ideal if you intend fell some trees in the forest, or just have a really large property.
That’s not to say there aren’t any workarounds for electric chainsaws for these situations. With battery chainsaws, you can simply buy more batteries and switch them out if one of them have been depleted. Corded chainsaws can also be used in remote locations if you connect them to a generator.
However, both of these solutions are pretty expensive unless you already own a generator, so I wouldn’t recommend buying one just for this.
All things considered, gas chainsaws win this round.
Chainsaws are rather loud in general – so loud that they can cause permanent damage to your hearing ability unless you wear some form of hearing protection. Many people like to skip this when they are only planning to cut a few logs, but I wouldn’t advise you to do so.
Either way, noise can cause other problems too if you have neighbors. People can get really annoyed if you’re using your chainsaw all the time, especially early in the morning and late in the evening. So if you are planning to use your chainsaw in an urban area, you should consider buying one that is relatively quiet.
Electric chainsaws are far more quiet than gas chainsaws. Their motor doesn’t emit too much noise to begin with, and another big advantage they have is that the motor completely stops if the chain isn’t moving, unlike the engine of gas chainsaws.
That being said, the noise can still be very loud when they are cutting wood, and there is no helping that. So please be mindful of your peers, and do your cutting when people presumably aren’t asleep.
Gas chainsaws on the other hand are pretty loud regardless of their size. Of course, this isn’t a problem if you are using them out in the forest, or if you have a huge ranch with no civilization in sight.
I’m not saying you can’t use a gas powered chainsaw in an urban area. But if noise is a big concern to you, then you will be better off with an electric chainsaw.
Ease of use
Chainsaws aren’t exactly hard to use, although you do need some practice (and preferably, training) to use them safely – more on this later.
When I’m talking about ease of use, I mainly mean things like how hard is it to start up the saw, how hard is it to handle it, etc. With that said, I don’t feel like there is any significant difference between the two types here.
Electric chainsaws are easier to start up, that’s for sure. You only have to press a button and the chain blades are spinning. With gas chainsaws, you’ll have to fire them up with a pull cord before you can use them. This can be a pain with older chainsaws, but a new chainsaw should start with two or three pulls maximum.
So if you dislike the pull cord mechanism for one reason or another, this can be a plus vote for electric chainsaws. But other than that, you can base your final decision on other factors.
Tolerance to weather conditions
There are times when you have to use your chainsaw under bad weather conditions. Maybe you are cutting some firewood during Winter, or perhaps you have to clean up some storm damage while it’s still raining.
At times like this it’s good to have a chainsaw that won’t give in from a bit of snow or rain. I’ll tell you right now that in most cases like that, a gas chainsaw will be a better choice. An electric chainsaw can handle a bit of cold, but rain… not so much.
Although most manufacturers do give their electric chainsaws some level of water protection, you still shouldn’t use them in rainy weather. Water and extension cords are a very bad mix to begin with, and in the worst case scenario you could put your life in danger.
As for battery chainsaws, the voltage in the battery probably won’t be enough to hurt you before it gets drained, but a short circuit can ruin your saw regardless. Also, Li-ion batteries don’t really tolerate extremely high or low temperatures. Your battery will drain really fast in freezing temperatures, although it will probably be enough for smaller jobs.
On the other hand, gas chainsaws can handle cold and rainy weather pretty well. With the heat the engine generates there is no real chance of anything freezing over, and since these saws use no electricity, the rain can’t cause a short circuit either.
The only thing you should be concerned about is cleaning the chainsaw’s air filter before using it. This is because the fine dust on it, if mixed with water can easily stop the chainsaw from getting fresh air. If you want to read more about this topic, check out this article I wrote about chainsaws’ relation to water.
The bottom line is, gas chainsaws tolerate extreme conditions better.
Electric chainsaws are considered to be easier to control than gas chainsaws. This is mainly due to the fact that they aren’t as powerful in general, but some models are deliberately equipped with a slim chain to make kickbacks less powerful.
That said, most chainsaws nowadays are equipped with a chain brake to stop the chain from spinning in case of a kickback, and also with a chain catcher on the bottom of the saw to stop the chain from hitting your legs if it ever gets thrown off the guide bar. If you want to read more about the dangers of using a chainsaw, you can check out this article I wrote.
Although I tend to recommend electric chainsaws for beginners, real safety is the result of proper training and practice, and wearing adequate safety equipment – not buying a certain type of chainsaw.
Yes, electric chainsaws are somewhat easier to control, so if I had to choose a winner here it would be them. However, never forget the holy grail of chainsaw safety: protective equipment.
Being environmentally conscious is all the hype nowadays, and understandably so. Buying the right chainsaw can also be a step forward towards saving our planet, so let me show you what pros and cons the different types of chainsaws have in this regard.
First off, corded electric chainsaws are obviously the most eco-friendly of the bunch. They require no fuel, and therefore they have zero harmful emission.
Battery powered chainsaws are also pretty good, they would be on par with their corded siblings if not for the battery itself. The new batteries made with Li-ion technology will last for many years, but eventually they too will reach the end of their lifespan.
When this happens, you can’t just throw them in the trash – due to the acidic materials within, they are considered a hazardous waste. Fortunately, most cities have special trash cans dedicated to collecting old batteries. If you place your dead battery in one of these, they will dispose of them safely.
And finally, we have gas powered chainsaws. Unfortunately, 2-stroke engines aren’t exactly eco-friendly, although it’s worth mentioning that the engines made nowadays use fuel much more effectively than the ones from 15-20 years ago. They need less oil mixed into the fuel too, resulting in lower emission.
Some are even compliant with the CARB regulations in the state of California, so if this is a concern to you, you can look into buying one of these.
All things considered, corded electric chainsaws win this one – but the others aren’t all that bad either.
If you treat your chainsaw right – with regular cleanups, chain sharpening and maintenance – they can last for many years. In an average household, it isn’t uncommon to find a chainsaw that is over 10 years old.
I’m pleased to say that all types of chainsaws can last for quite a bit of time, but there are a few things you should keep in mind.
With electric chainsaws, avoid buying one with a brushed motor if you can. Sure they are cheaper, but the brush inside the motor will wear down over time and will need to be replaced. But a chainsaw with a new, brushless motor instead. These will give you increased performance and lifetime.
The only time I’d consider buying a chainsaw with a brushed motor is when the chainsaw is very small, and I know that I’ll only use it on occasion for some light limbing. For harder tasks and regular usage, get one with a brushless motor instead.
For battery chainsaws, the obvious risk factor is the battery. These can start losing their charge faster and faster as they age, but there are a few things you can do to delay this process.
First, try not to leave your battery on the charger after it has been fully charged. Not all chargers come with a limiter, so this can decrease your battery’s lifespan drastically. Also, do not store your chainsaw outdoors during Winter – at the very least, keep the battery in your home at room temperature, as freezing can decrease its lifespan.
As for gas chainsaws, they are pretty sturdy. You may need to replace the spark plug and the air filter from time to time, but it really isn’t a huge expense.
The main thing you’ll need to keep in mind is that you should never run them with unmixed fuel. Without oil mixed in as a lubricant, the engine will get ruined in under 10 minutes in most cases.
With that, we have reached the end of this article. Let’s recap what we have learned:
- More expensive, and the upkeep cost is also higher.
- Takes more time to maintain.
- Weighs more than corded electric saws.
- The most powerful type of chainsaw.
- Very portable.
- Noisier than other types.
- The bets chainsaw type for not-so-optimal weather conditions.
- Cheaper in general, but battery powered models can match gas chainsaws in price.
- Upkeep cost is minimal.
- Low on maintenance.
- Weighs less in general, but battery powered models weigh about the same as a gas chainsaw.
- Not as powerful as gas chainsaws.
- Portability can be an issue.
- Less noisy than gas chainsaws.
- Not the best choice for bad weather conditions.
Hopefully, this will make it easier to determine which type is the best fit for you. It really depends on your unique situation, as some factors are more important than others.
Thank you for reading! And as always, if you have any kind of question or suggestion, feel free to contact me!