What’s the best chainsaw brand? Everyone has an opinion and today I’m going to let you know what I think.
Yep. I’m one of those. A woman that likes tools. No, scratch that, I LOVE tools. I would rather be given a nice table saw than a big diamond. I’m not kidding. So when I found myself in the market for a chainsaw, I did my research. Obsessive amounts. Through my research I learned a lot. Probably more than I ever really need to know. Nonetheless, I think there is some useful information here for other chainsaw virgins out there.
It’s What’s Under The Hood (or housing) That Matters
The prevailing opinion is that gas chainsaws offer more power, tool longevity and portability than their electric counterparts. While the electric versions are fine for light use where electricity is readily available, they don’t offer the power needed for heavy-duty cutting (such as downed tree trunks). So I decided to look strictly at gas models, as I have a wide variety of cutting needs.
The best chainsaw brand for me is not necessarily the best chainsaw brand for you. Keep that in mind. There is no absolute answer but I will tell you what works for me.
Meet The Maker
There are dozens of chainsaw manufacturers out there. I assumed there were maybe three. Au contraire mon ami. Some produce the Rolls Royce of chainsaws and others, well… let’s just say they make Ford Pintos look good. I’ve rated the brands from best to not-so-great for ease of reading. The first five are the ones that ultimately made it into the running for me, in no particular order. The others that didn’t make the shortlist? I’ll tell you about those, too.
Husqvarna – considered one of the better chainsaw manufacturing companies, Husqvarna is a Swedish company with a history longer than that of the U.S. It originally started in 1689 as a gun factory, then saw a progression through sewing machines, cast iron kitchen equipment, bicycles, motorcycles, lawnmowers and finally in in 1959, chainsaws. Most of their chainsaws will fall into the affordable luxury category. Somewhat like a Lexus. Well-built, nice to look at and comfortable to use. They make heavy-duty models like those that wildlands firefighters use to cut fire lines, down to more precision-based saws for clean pruning.
Model under consideration: Husqvarna 460 Rancher
I need something in-between, so I’m considering the above model. It’s considered an all-around saw, which is what drew me to it. It’s heavy-duty with a 3.6 hp engine and can take up to a 24″ bar. The only drawback I’ve found so far is replacing the chain. If the brake isn’t off, it is a complete pain to reset. Like, put-your-fist-through-the-wall aggravating.
Dolmar – Dolmar has been around almost as long as Remington. They’ve been building chainsaws since the beginning. They were acquired by Makita in 1993, making it possible for them to go global. They are lauded for many of their die-cast housings, making their tools much more strong and long-lasting.
Model under consideration: Dolmar PS-421
This model was recommended to me for its sheer reliability and generally easy-to-use design. It has a 2.9 hp engine, which is plenty of power to get through all of the stuff I want to cut up. Which is a lot. I can’t run everything through with my Skilsaw, you know. The PS-421 is built in a die-cast magnesium housing – not crappy plastic. It’s also pro-grade. It doesn’t seem to have too many issues that people want to kvetch about. It does only offer up an 18-inch bar, which could be problematic in some cases.
✓Note: The Makita EA4300F40B is the exact same model as the Dolmar PS-421 — except that it’s cheaper, as in in, less expensive. The quality is the same.
Tanaka – the Tanaka brand has been around for a while, gaining popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, making Bike Bug bolt-on motors created especially for bicycles. Their main focus is now outdoor two-stroke equipment.
Model under consideration: Tanaka TCS40EA18, 18-Inch
This brand was recommended to me somewhat tactfully by a guy friend. It’s apparently smaller and easier to handle (you know, because I’m a girl), which I did consider a plus. It may only offer up a 2.4 hp engine as compared to the above Husqvarna, but it’s also about half the price. It’s also apparently very easy to handle, due to a great shock system. That said, some of the cons for buying this would include the extremely hot exhaust. It is reported to get super hot – in the realm of catching fire to dry wood hot. It’s also made in China, making me leery of the potential quality issues that might exist.
Remington – started in 1921, this company managed to survive and even expand, despite the ravages of WWII. They introduced their first chainsaw model back in 1954 and never looked back. A more tried-and-true brand in the lower price range, I admit I’m drawn to the reported ease with which their saws operate. After sorting through their different models, I was impressed with all of the options for the weekend warrior to the more serious, regular user.
Model under consideration: Remington RM5118R Rodeo 51cc 2-Cycle 18-Inch
It’s lack of kickback is appealing, as is the basic, no-frills design. It looks like it could easily take care of the downed trees I need to cut up, or help with the snow-damaged large limb pruning that’s on my list. It’s touted as being an easy starter and runs well in all weather conditions. It apparently has a few quality control issues, but don’t we all?
Poulan – the Poulan brand seems to be a popular option for those that are a little on the thrifty side, but still want some tooth to their chainsaw. Started in 1944, this company has a long history of making fairly solid tools. They specialize in outdoor power equipment such as lawn mowers, riding mowers, trimmers, tillers, blowers, chain saws and snow throwers.
Model under consideration: Poulan Pro PP5020AV 20-Inch
I wasn’t sure I was even going to consider this saw after seeing its $200 +/- price tag, but the Poulan Pro PP5020AV 20-Inch actually seems like it might be a good deal for infrequent use. It serves up a 50 cc, two-stroke engine, so it has enough “oomph” to get through yard debris and the occasional slim fallen tree. It isn’t my first choice, though, due to its lack of rave reviews. What can I say? I’m a follower sometimes.
Baby, You’re The One
After reading and reading, I’ve narrowed it down to these three. It wasn’t easy, but I felt that the Husqvarna offered the most compelling power, the Remington an appealing ease of use and the Dolmar for its reliability.
So which one is the best, in my opinion? The Husqvarna. The longevity of the company and its widespread use among the most demanding professionals, such as forestry workers, loggers, arborists and woodcutters definitely convinced me that they know what they’re doing. Knowing the problem with the chain brake, I’m not thrown off. It’s something I believe they should revisit and redesign, but I can look past it if it means I will end up with a reliable tool that I can depend on whenever I need it, be it cutting up a pile of dimensional scrap lumber or removing a fallen tree across the driveway. Besides, let’s face it, that 24” blade is pretty bad-ass.