Home » Electric Or Gas Chainsaw: Which One Is Better For You

Electric Or Gas Chainsaw: Which One Is Better For You

Whether you are cutting down a tree for firewood or simply pruning a few branches, a chainsaw can make quick work out of an otherwise arduous task.  You’ve most likely realized that point, which is why you are here.  A chainsaw is just the tool you need for your project but now what kind should you get?

The choice is pretty straight forward.  There are electric chainsaws, both corded and battery powered, and there are gas powered chainsaws.  Each has their own pros and cons depending on the wood cutting task you need it for.  So, how do you decide if an electric chainsaw or a gas powered chainsaw is better for you?

In a nutshell, an electric chainsaw is best suited for trimming small trees or light duty firewood cutting in your own yard or anywhere electrical power is accessible within 100 feet.  A gas powered chainsaw, on the other hand, is perfect for anyone who cuts significant amounts of firewood or has a lot of trees on their property.

However, that quick answer is only part of the entire picture.  Your situation is entirely unique.  What I need from a chainsaw might not be the same features you are looking for.  Buying a chainsaw can be a big investment that you only want to do once.  That’s why I made it my job to help you decide between an electric or gas chainsaw.  Stick with me through to the end and you’ll know which one is better for you.

Electric vs. Gas Chainsaws Pros and Cons

It’s a good idea to start out with a quick look at the pros and cons of gas and electric chainsaws.  Some features of each offer obvious advantages but there a few disadvantages you may not be aware of.  Take a look at the chart below and then continue reading for a more thorough comparison of chainsaws.

Lightweight and easy to useNo electrical cords or charging needed
Minimal maintenanceLong run time with extra fuel
Less noiseMore power for faster cuts
No need to pre-mix fuelWider range of bar sizes
Easy startupIdeal for in the field use
Suitable for wide range of light duty cuttingSuitable for large diameter trees
Less expensiveAll weather use
Must have access to electrical powerHeavy and hard to manage for long durations
Insufficient power for cutting larger treesGas, oil and exhaust smells
Susceptible to overheatingHigh maintenance
Slower cutsExpensive
Less than 1 hour run time with most cordless sawsMessy to transport and store
Very loud

Electric chainsaws

Electric chainsaws hold a great deal of appeal to suburban homeowners looking to tackle some light duty trimming and wood cutting.  Today’s modern electric saws are more capable than ever.  Both corded and cordless electric saws are seeing use on tough jobs once thought to be reserved for their gas counterparts.  There is a lot to like about electric.  Yet, there are also some limitations that will turn a few of you away.


Ease of use is arguably the biggest advantage to using an electric chainsaw.  Pop in a battery or plug it in and you’re ready to cut.  No pre-mixing gas and oil, no cranking on a pull cord and no messy clean up or exhaust fumes.  And let’s face it, not everyone likes dealing with gas motors.  

Electric saws are no slouch in the power department either.  While they lack the raw horse power of a gas saw, they are able to slice and dice more wood than you probably care to cut in a day.  You can find electric saws with bar lengths up to 18 inches which can handle trees up to 16 inches.  Keep in mind though, that you won’t be ripping through 16 inch logs in mere seconds.  But it can be done.  Get a quality electric saw and most small scale tree trimming or firewood cutting is doable.

For those who dread the tedious process of maintaining their power tools, I’ve got good news.  Electric chainsaws require very little maintenance.  Aside from keeping it clean and dry when you’re done, there isn’t much else to worry about.  Keep your chain properly sharpened, add bar oil and you are good to go.

Any homeowner doing their wood cutting in a suburban neighborhood will also appreciate how quite an electric chainsaw is too.  Be aware, electric saws are not silent.  That rapidly rotating chain still pumps out enough decibels to warrant hearing protection.  However, it is nothing compared to the maddening whine of a gas chainsaw on an early weekend morning.  


You might already be thinking that an electric saw is right for you but there are a few draw backs to consider first.  Among the most obvious is that bothersome extension cord.  Electric chainsaws are greatly limited in their mobility.  It might not be such a big deal around a small yard but when a tree falls in the back forty, you’ll wish for freedom from the outlet.  

Alas, battery powered saws come to the rescue and offer the best of both worlds.  The portability of a gas saw with the advantages of an electric saw.  Now you can march out to the distant corners of your property and start cutting.  However, cordless saws have a well known limitation.  Battery life.  Some of the best cordless electric chainsaws on the market today only run for a solid 10 minutes or less (about 20-30 cuts).  Great for a small job, terrible when you need to cut up an entire downed maple tree in the middle of your yard.

Come rain, sleet or snow, a gas powered chainsaw is undaunted by the worst Mother Nature can throw its way.  Even if you are not.  An electric chainsaw, cordless or otherwise, is not so hardy in wet conditions.  I’m sure you can appreciate that electricity and water don’t mix.  Dragging around an extension cord on the wet ground and soaking your electric saw in the rain is a bad idea.  Many wood cutting chores can wait for fair weather and a break in the rain but not all of them.   

Who should get one

I’m willing to bet that most people shopping for a chainsaw right now would be perfectly happy with an electric chainsaw.  Although, if you’re like me, you might have a tendency to gravitate towards more horse power and faster cuts when you don’t really need it.  Give yourself a reality check and see if your chainsaw needs fit any of the following situations.  If so, go electric.

  • Homeowners with small yards and occasional pruning needs
  • Cutting less than one cord of firewood each year
  • Mostly cutting logs or limbs less than 10 inches in diameter
  • Suburban homeowners with noise ordinances
  • Anyone who doesn’t want to deal with small engine maintenance
  • Smaller people that find gas saws difficult to maneuver 
  • Anyone not needing to cut wood in wet weather conditions   

If you don’t fit the above situations, then read on to see if a gas chainsaw is better for you.

Cost of an electric chainsaw

One of the best features of an electric chainsaw is the low cost.  On average, a good quality name brand corded electric chainsaw with a 14-18 inch bar will cost between $90 to $150.  Battery powered chainsaws are more expensive.  Low end battery saws start around $150 but getting better quality is going to run you $400 or more.

Gas chainsaws

When it comes to cutting wood, gas chainsaws are true workhorses.  Where power and speed matter, nothing beats the muscle generated by the thrum of a two-stroke motor.  Anyone planning to stockpile several cords of firewood for the season should definitely consider a gas chainsaw.  Although, you never know what kind of tree trimming or yard chores might crop up and gas chainsaws handle those more delicate tasks too.  They aren’t for everyone but before jumping on the electric saw band wagon, let’s see if you would be better served by gas powered chainsaws.  


There is no side stepping the obvious on this one.  When there is wood to be cut, no electric chainsaw can keep up with a gas powered chainsaw.  Not to mention, not all trees destined for the fireplace are small.  Gas saws come in a wide range of bar sizes  to handle everything from small pruning tasks to bucking up enormous downed trees.  Sizes range from 12 to 36 inches but an 18 or 20 inch gas chainsaw will handle all but the biggest jobs.  Once you step up to saws with bars longer than 22 inches, you’ve entered into heavy-duty territory. 

For those with firewood duties that depend on taking a chainsaw out into the woods, you’ll appreciate not having an electrical cord tying you down.  You can pack a gas saw anywhere there is wood to be cut.  Bring enough fuel and your saw will run all day without even slowing down.  Trust me, you’ll need a break before your chainsaw does.  The same can’t be said for battery powered chainsaws.

In addition, a gas chainsaw is unperturbed by foul weather.  Unlike an electric saw, pouring down rain won’t keep a gas powered saw from getting the job done.  There are no electrical components to short out if it gets wet.  So as long as you can handle the elements, so too can your saw.  


Keep in mind that all that power comes at a cost.  I mean that literally.  Gas chainsaws are not cheap.  These are fine tuned tools made with high quality components that need to last a lifetime of hard use.  Buy a good saw and it will last you forever but you will pay for that privilege.  

Further more, two-stroke motors on gas chainsaws require you to mix oil with fuel to keep things running smoothly.  It’s a messy and smelly process.  Make sure you have a good place to store unused fuel where gas fumes won’t bother you.  On top of that, if small engine maintenance is not in your repertoire of skills, you may want to stick with electric.  There are repair shops that specialize in chainsaws but that gets pricey.

Gas chainsaws are also heavy which makes maneuvering them very tiring.  Small framed individuals often find gas saws cumbersome to use for extended periods.  Unfortunately, that makes for a dangerous situation.  It’s not just the weight that gets tiring either.  Vibrations and a very noisy exhaust add to the fatigue.  Gas saws are significantly louder than electric saws.  In fact, there are some areas with noise ordinances that may prohibit the use of gas chainsaws altogether.   

Who should get one

Still not sure if a gas chainsaw is right for you?  That’s okay.  It’s entirely possible that an electric chainsaw is all you need.  Although, if there is any chance you’ll need to do a little more than trim a few small trees, think twice before overlooking the utility of a gas chainsaw.  If you fit into any of the following situations, a gas chainsaw is probably more useful in the long run.  After all, you need to think about future needs as well.  A gas chainsaw can last a lifetime so you will get your money’s worth.

  • Property owners with lots of big trees (eventually some will fall)
  • Anyone who gathers large amounts of firewood
  • Outdoors enthusiasts that camp or hunt in the woods
  • Individuals proficient in small engine maintenance
  • Someone who needs a chainsaw that works in all weather conditions 

Some of you probably feel like you can’t decide.  For instance, you may need a chainsaw mostly for trimming around the yard but you like the idea of having the capacity to cut more wood if you need too.  My advise, go with a mid-size gas chainsaw.  It is better to have a little bit more saw than you need as opposed to not enough.  Besides, if you buy an electric saw but need to upgrade later, you end up spending more money.  Save some cash and buy one saw that will handle all of your wood cutting needs.

Cost of a gas chainsaw

Gas chainsaws are not on the cheap side.  That’s probably why so many homeowners shy away from them.  You can expect to pay at least $200 for the most basic gas saws with a 16-18 inch bar.  High performance gas chainsaws made by top brands like Echo, Stihl or Husqvarna with 18+ inch bars range in price from $400-$800.

Electric and gas chainsaw similarities

I want to point out that there are a couple similarities among gas and electric chainsaws.  The first being that both kinds of saws rely on sharp, well maintained chains to cut efficiently.  An electric saw may require less maintenance mechanically than a gas saw but its chain will dull just the same.  

Also, both gas and electric chainsaws (including battery powered saws) need bar oil.  Bar oil is important for maintaining lubrication during the cut.  Beginners often over look the importance of bar oil and assume it is not critical for electric saws.

Are electric chainsaws safer than gas chainsaws

Like any power tool, chainsaws have the capacity to cause serious injury or death if not handled with care.  It’s often assumed that electric saws are innately safer than gas saws.  In some ways that is true but people still end up in the Emergency Room when they get complacent.

In general, electric chainsaws are a little safer to use than gas chainsaws.  Mainly because they are easier to control and have less power which reduces the risk of dangerous kickbacks.  However, it is still a chainsaw so all the same safety precautions one would use with a gas saw should be exercised when using an electric chainsaw.

At a minimum, you’ll need eye and ear protection, gloves and sturdy shoes when using a chainsaw of any kind.  And remember, your saw needs proper maintenance and sharpening to function smoothly and safely.  The most dangerous chainsaws are the ones with dull chains that cut poorly.  

Are battery powered chainsaw worth it

Battery powered tools have come a long ways and with the invention of lithium ion batteries, they are better than ever.  In the world of chainsaws, battery power is a huge benefit for the majority of people who need a chainsaw on occasion.  

Granted, battery chainsaws will never be able to cut on the same scale as gas saws or even electric corded saws for that matter, but they do fill a niche that would suit many homeowners.  However, they are not cheap.  Most are actually just as expensive as a good quality gas chainsaw.  So, are they really worth it?

I would say yes, a battery powered chainsaw is worth it for many people.  What you are paying for is the convenience and ease of use.  Battery chainsaws have plenty of power to tackle the majority of wood cutting jobs the average homeowner might have.  All without the hassle of mixing fuel or dragging around a cord.

Like any power tool, there is a wide spectrum of prices and quality.  In most cases, you get what you pay for.  Expect to pay around $150 for a bottom tier battery powered chainsaw and up to $400 for a better quality saw. 

For anyone already leaning towards getting an electric chainsaw, a battery saw is a viable option.  If you only need to make a couple dozen cuts at a time and portability is important to you, definitely consider a battery operated chainsaw.