Among gas chainsaws, reviews rank Stihl and Husqvarna models at the top, while Echo and Solo chainsaws also get good marks.
The Husqvarna 455 Rancher (*Est. $400) 55 cc gas chainsaw consistently gets top ratings from experts and owners -- in fact, it's recommended more than any other chainsaw of any type in this report. Owners have posted abundant feedback at Husqvarna's website (over 480 reviews as of this update) and rave that it's reliable, durable (many say they've owned theirs for years), and powerful, able to handle everything from winter firewood cutting to professional tree work. One contractor posts that since he uses two 455s on the job -- different bar lengths on each -- "I am constantly being asked by their workers if I want to sell one of my saws."
The one thing working against the pro-grade Husqvarna 455 Rancher is that it's so capable, it might be too much saw for the average homeowner. At almost 13 pounds without its cutting equipment installed, the Rancher is heavy, which could make it difficult to handle, and the $400 price point might go beyond the budget of the average consumer and homeowner seeking a quality chainsaw for occasional use around the yard. That said, if you're one of the countless homeowners (in the Northeast especially) who has had to deal with an inordinate amount of weather-related tree damage and related cleanup of late, and you're ready to make a lasting investment in a saw, the Husqvarna 455 Rancher comes highly recommended.
While we don't name it a Best Reviewed product because it goes beyond consumer grade for the purpose of this report, the 455 Rancher is about as strong a runner-up selection as you'll find, given that context.
Fortunately for homeowners, Husqvarna offers a lower-priced saw that incorporates most of the features found in the 455 Rancher. The Husqvarna 240 e-series (*Est. $240) is better suited to moderate homeowner use. It has a 38.2 cc engine and can accommodate cutting bars from 13 to 16 inches. Standard features include Smart Start technology for reduced starting effort, tool-free chain tensioning, vibration dampening and engine tuning that encourages high efficiency and low emissions. The Husqvarna 240 e-series is included in a 2008 Popular Mechanics comparison test of gas chainsaws, where it tied for the top rating with the more expensive Stihl MS 211 C-BE (*Est. $340) , which editors said "cuts like a pro product." Popular Mechanics calls the 240 e-series a "great saw," and owners post mostly positive reviews on the Husqvarna website as well as at NorthernTool.com. Husqvarna chainsaws come with a two-year warranty.
The best budget-friendly runner-up is the Poulan Pro PP3516AVX (*Est. $150) . In addition to its 35 cc engine and 16-inch cutting bar, the Poulan features an anti-vibration system to improve comfort and safety and has tool-free chain tensioning and auto chain oiling. Safety features include an inertia-activated chain brake (which stops the chain if it senses kickback), a low-kickback chain, a reduced-kickback cutting bar, a front hand guard and in-line handle design. This Poulan chainsaw comes with a two-year consumer warranty.
Popular Mechanics includes the Poulan Pro PP3516AVX in its test of seven gas chainsaws. Editors say it "offers a lot of cutting speed and power for such an inexpensive saw," and rate it 3 out of 5 stars. They say the chainsaw they tested stalled intermittently, but "given how well the saw ran otherwise, we suspect it's a small defect that could be taken care of under warranty." Almost 60 owners post ratings and reviews at Amazon.com; they give the Poulan Pro PP3516AVX a middling 3.5-star overall rating, praising the chainsaw's light weight (11.8 pounds), good balance and smooth operation, but with complaints ranging from a chain that won't tighten to engine failure. We also found user reviews at NorthernTool.com, most expressing satisfaction. However, at both Amazon.com and BackyardBoss.com, where about 20 people review this Poulan Pro chainsaw, we saw complaints about the no-tools chain tensioner, with some owners also saying the chain often comes loose.
For its relatively fast cutting speed plus good safety and convenience features, another runner-up that might be worth a look is the Stihl MS 180 C-BE (*Est. $230) . The 180 C-BE is included in ConsumerReports.org's ongoing chainsaw test program, and it is featured in the publication's latest ratings roundup. It has a 32 cc engine and a 14-inch cutting bar; the bar lacks a tip guard, but tapers at the end to help prevent kickback. (This chainsaw can also be equipped with a 12- or 16-inch cutting bar, but reviews indicate the 14-inch bar offers the best balance.) The MS 180 C-BE is easy to start, according to reviewers, and its chain brake stops the cutting chain in a fraction of a second, activated manually or by inertia. An anti-vibration handle makes operation less tiring as well. Chain adjustment is tool-free, and bucking spikes on the front of the saw help hold logs in place during a cut (this is particularly convenient when cutting firewood). A translucent oil tank is another added convenience.