The Bottom Line
Overall, we recommend the DeWalt 20V Max Polesaw, because it’s a battery-operated option that gives you 96 cuts on a single charge. Just note that the battery and charger are not included in the accessories provided. For a more affordable option, the Wen 4019 Electric Pole Saw is a superb pick that costs less than $100 and can handle a variety of trees.
What to Know About Pole Saws Before Shopping
Pole saws derive power in several ways—there are gas-powered, battery-powered, electric corded, and manual options. Gas-powered pole saws are considered to be the most powerful. They feature heavy-duty engines and typically have more torque compared to battery and electric options. Because you don’t have to recharge them and are not dependent on an electrical outlet, they are a favorite of professional landscapers. Unfortunately, they emit fumes that can be harmful to people and the environment.
Battery-powered pole saws are a cleaner alternative that is still cordless. They are powered by rechargeable batteries which you have to pre-charge before using. The batteries can either be included or sold separately. Run time on these models is usually about an hour. However, this varies based on brand and output.
Electric corded pole saws are the lightest non-manual pole saws because they are not weighed down by batteries or fuel tanks. However, they must be connected to an outlet to work—which greatly hinders their movement. As long as you are connected, you have power, so you never have to worry about a diminishing charge or fuel supply. Manual pole saws are the simplest devices to maintain, however, they require a lot more labor on the user’s part.
Pole saws can range between 5 to 25 pounds depending on the type. Gas-powered and battery-powered options tend to be heavier, while corded and manual are usually lighter, but there’s really no standard weight. “If weight is an issue, a corded electric model would be the way to go. These pole saws have a starting weight of less than 8 lbs,” Murphy says.
“Pole saws typically have a bar size of 8 to 12 inches,” Murphy says. “Personally, I find that the 10-inch bar pole saw that I currently own can handle most tasks. For larger diameter and ground-level logs, I use my gas-powered standard chainsaw.”
A pole saw’s reach is usually around 15 feet but that can vary based on the type of extension it includes. According to Murphy, reach is important safety-wise because it keeps you at a safe distance while cutting. “No more falling branches on your head or sawdust in your eyes,” he says. “Typically you want to use the shortest comfortable length when using a pole saw to cut tree branches.”
According to Jackson, accessories for pole saws include extension wands, which allow you to make the pole saw longer, replacement bars and chains, oil (for gas units), chain sharpeners, and wrenches to remove the bar. Shoulder straps are Murphy’s must-have accessory. “If you are going to be using a pole saw for a while you’ll start to feel the weight of it. The strap keeps you comfy during long pruning sessions.”
On the other hand, Jackson favors a high-quality chain. “A premium chain will cut faster, cleaner, and last longer,” he says.
Your Questions, Answered
What is better, a gas or battery pole saw?
“If you are working in a landscaping business, using a gas-powered saw probably makes the most sense,” Murphy says. “They typically have more power than battery-powered versions and can be used for extended periods of time. Gas-powered pole saws are easier because you can put more gas in every time you run out.”
Battery-powered pole saws are better for homeowners who want to landscape their own lawns themselves. “They are typically lighter, more eco-friendly—no fumes to breathe—and easier to store,” Murphy says. But the downside is that, once the battery dies, these pole saws can take hours to recharge, depending on the brand and battery size.
To emphasize the difference in power between the two, Murphy says, “I once burned up a couple of battery-powered chainsaws cutting through an old, hard pine stump, then used a more powerful gas-powered chainsaw and ripped right through the rest of the stump.”
How thick of a branch can a pole saw cut?
The thickness of a branch that the pole saw can cut is called cut capacity, and it depends on the saw’s bar size. “Typically, a saw can handle 2 inches less than the bar size,” Jackson says.
Murphy adds, “Pole saws are very much like chainsaws and as long as they have enough power/gas to run along with a sharp blade, can continue to cut as long as the bar is long enough,”
But if you find that a branch is too thick for your pole saw to handle, Murphy advises homeowners to “cut through part of a thick branch from one side and then walk to the other side of the branch and cut the rest.” He adds, “Just be careful and not walk under the branch in case it breaks and falls before you get to the other side!”
What is better, a pole saw or a hedge trimmer?
Pitting pole saws against hedge trimmers may not be a fair fight because each tool is designed for a specific function. “You’ll want to use a pole saw to remove individual, thicker branches from hard-to-reach areas,” says Jackson.”Hedge trimmers are more focused on cleaning up bushes, shrubbery, and other smaller twigs. They are more efficient than pole saws so you can work faster. However, you won’t be able to remove the thicker pieces with them.”
Who We Are
Nor’Adila Hepburn is a freelance writer who specializes in writing in-depth buying guides for Better Homes & Gardens. She specializes in commerce, home, and lifestyle niches.
To find the best pole saws she researched many types of pole saws including corded electric, manual, and gas-powered options. She also spoke to Mike Murphy, owner of You Had Me At Gardening, and Kevin Jackson, product manager of outdoor handheld products at Troy-Bilt.