When you buy a cordless circular saw, you have two choices. You can buy a "kit," which includes the saw complete with one or more batteries, a charger, and a case, or you can buy the "bare tool," which is the saw and nothing but the saw. Buying the kit is usually cheaper than purchasing the batteries and charger separately, but not always; it depends on which particular battery you want to go with your saw and how good a deal you're able to find on it. To add to the confusion, some cordless circular saws are sold only as bare tools, with no kit available.
For the sake of consistency, we've listed all the prices in this section as bare-tool prices and provided the battery and charger prices separately. But if you intend to buy both, check kit prices first to see if you can get a better deal that way.
We found two cordless circular saws that get excellent reviews from both professional testers and users. The 7.25-inch, 18-volt Milwaukee M18 2630-20 (Est. $115) is the top pick in three professional comparison tests, chewing through wood faster than any other cordless saw. At around 8.5 pounds for the bare tool, it's heavier than most cordless circular saws. However, reviewers say it also comes closest to a corded saw in terms of performance, and it runs longer on a charge than most saws of its size. Both professionals and home users appreciate its large, stable aluminum base and ergonomic design, with generous control levers and over-molded handles. They also appreciate the clear, precise 50-degree bevel scale, with engraved marks for every degree, and the battery fuel gauge that shows how much charge you have left. Aside from the weight, this saw's only real drawback is that it doesn't control sawdust spillage very well.
If you're not buying the kit, it's important to make sure you get the right battery to go with this saw. Several users at Amazon.com were miffed to discover, after receiving the tool, that the M18 2630-20 can't take the standard battery that goes with other tools in the M18 line. Instead, it requires M18 Compact REDLITHIUM batteries, which are available in several capacities. When you buy the kit, it comes with the 3-Ah M18 REDLITHIUM XC Extended Capacity Battery (Est. $75), model 48-11-1828, but you can upgrade to a 4-Ah or 5-Ah battery for more runtime. You can charge all these batteries with the M18/M12 Multi-Voltage Charger (Est. $30).
The other standout in tests of cordless circular saws is the DeWalt DCS391B (Est. $100). This 18-volt, 6.5-inch circular saw is rated the best value in tests at Fine Homebuilding. The bare tool weighs less than 8 pounds, and tester Doug Mahoney says its "perfect balance" makes it feel even lighter. He also praises its "ample power and sports-car handling." In another test at the Journal of Light Construction, this DeWalt saw comes in a close second to the Milwaukee in terms of both power and runtime. Reviewers say the cut-line markers, 50-degree bevel setting, stability, and blade visibility are all very good, but the guard action is only so-so. They like the battery fuel gauge included on the saw, but Mahoney notes that its location requires you to flip the tool over to read it. Although the DeWalt is clearly an excellent saw, we've given our Best Reviewed pick to the Milwaukee, which trumps it in power and runtime.
Like the Milwaukee, the DeWalt DCS391B has several battery options. Users at Amazon.com and HomeDepot.com say it tends to run down smaller-capacity batteries very quickly, so they recommend either the 4-Ah DeWalt DCB204 (Est. $170 for two) or the 5-Ah DeWalt DCB205 (Est. $140 for two). For either of these, you'll need the DeWalt DCB115 MAX Lithium Ion Battery Charger (Est. $70) . Alternatively, you can buy this saw as a kit with a single 5-Ah battery as the DeWalt DSC391P1 (Est. $220).
Another cordless circular saw that gets good, but not outstanding reviews is the Bosch CCS180 (Est. $120). Most reviewers describe it as well balanced and comfortable, with good runtime and excellent guard action. However, it's not as powerful as some other saws, and its motor-to-base stability is only fair. It's very lightweight, at just 6.6 pounds without the battery, but still rather bulky for a 6.5-inch saw. This saw is sold only as a bare tool, but will accept any Bosch 18 volt Lithium-ion battery. One user-recommended option is the Bosch SKC181-101 18-Volt Lithium Ion Starter Kit (Est. $100), which includes a 4-Ah battery and a charger.