What to Look For In a Pole Saw
When it comes to pole saws, there are four basic power sources, each with its own pros and cons.
Manual pole saws, including our Best Manual pick, the Notch 40207 18-Foot Manual Pole Saw Set, often called pole pruners, do not have a power source beyond their own design and your applied muscle power. Typically, a manual pole saw is basically a pruning saw on an extension pole, although these often telescope to longer lengths than powered options, allowing you to reach branches way high up in the tree.
On the plus side, these gardening tools are generally light in weight and low in cost. They require little maintenance beyond occasional sharpening, and they don’t emit fumes. Professional models can often cut through branches that are quite large. However, unless you are a professional arborist or have training in safe tree trimming, it’s best to stick with smaller models that are designed to cut through branches measuring no more than a couple of inches in diameter. And, of course, another downside to a manual pole saw is that it can be tiring to use one.
Corded electric pole saws—our Best Corded pick is the Worx WG309 8-Foot Pole Saw— require you to add an extension cord that’s no more than 100 to 150 feet long, which means you’ll be limited to trimming trees within close range of an electrical outlet. However, for many homeowners with smaller yards, that’s not a difficult feat. Corded pole saws tend to be lighter than other powered pole saws; that’s important when holding a long pole above your head for any length of time. Plus, you won’t need to worry about a battery running out of power before you are finished pruning, nor will you need to add gasoline or smell gas fumes while you work. And corded pole saws are generally the least expensive of the power options. Most have motors that are 6 amps to 10 amps and can handle branches that are 2 inches to 5 inches in diameter.
Battery pole saws are rapidly gaining in popularity as battery technology improves. Our Best Battery pick is DEWALT’s DCPS620M1 20-volt model with an 8-inch chain. You won’t need to worry about an extension cord or electrical outlet, so you can cut branches anywhere. There’s no need for gasoline and no fumes with these models. However, they can be heavy, you’ll need to keep an eye on your battery runtime, and unless you have a backup battery, you’ll need to wait an hour or longer for the battery to recharge before you can get back to work. You’ll find these pole saws with batteries ranging from 20 volts to 80 volts, although 20-volt or 40-volt are the most common for home use. Battery pole saws can generally handle branches up to 8 inches in diameter.
Gas-powered pole saws are by far the most powerful type, suited to professional use or heavy-duty tasks cutting large branches. Our Best Gas recommendation is the Echo PPT-2620 X-Series, which has a 12-inch cutting bar. Most homeowners won’t need these heavy-duty tools, but if you are a homesteader or have very large trees on your property, and you are well-trained in tree-trimming techniques, then you might find the higher cost and maintenance needs of a gas-powered pole saw to be worth your while. The engine of a gas pole saw is usually 20cc to 40cc, and these tools are useful for branches up to 10 or 12 inches in diameter, although for anyone not trained as an arborist, it’s best to leave such large branches to a professional.
Cutting Bar Length
The cutting bar length determines the thickness of the branch you’ll be able to cut with the pole saw. You’ll find saws with blades as short as 4 inches and saws with blades that are a foot long, but generally, pole saws for residential use have cutting bars that are 6 to 8 inches long. Our Best Overall choice, the Greenworks 20672, has an 8-inch cutting bar. As a rough guideline, subtract two inches from the length of your cutting bar, and that’s the maximum thickness of the branch it can handle. So, for example, a 6-inch cutting bar should be used for branches no thicker than 4 inches unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer.
If you need to cut branches that are much beyond 9 inches thick, a chainsaw is your best bet, rather than a pole saw.
Height and Reach
There are two important lengths to consider when choosing a pole saw: the pole’s actual length and the “reach” or height you can actually achieve while using it. Remember that a pole saw is held in both hands up above your head, so your own arm length adds to the overall reach of the tool. Generally, the reach of a pole saw is 2 or 3 feet longer than the actual length of the pole, so for example, a pole saw with a 7-foot extension pole would have a reach of 9 to 10 feet.
When choosing a pole saw, consider the average height of the branches you’ll be trimming, as well as the length of your own arms. Don’t automatically assume that the longer the pole saw the better; keep in mind that the longer the pole, the more difficult it can be to maneuver and the more it will weigh, so it’s best to stick with a tool that’s not longer than necessary. Generally, power pole saws have a reach height of 10 to 12 feet, while manual models might reach as high as 18 to 20 feet. BLACK+DECKER’s LPP120, our Best for Light Pruning recommendation, has a 10-foot pole that gives you around 12 feet of reach.
Because you hold a pole saw above your head for a considerable amount of time while working, it can be very tiring to use one for long. For that reason, it’s a good idea to consider the weight of the tool before choosing one. The lightest options are manual pole pruners, but if you need a powered option, then typically, it’s the corded models that are lightest. Many of these weigh less than 10 pounds, and some less than 8 pounds. Battery and gas pole saws are considerably heavier. These options can weigh over 20 pounds, making them difficult to use for a lengthy work session. However, you’ll find some that are 15 to 20 pounds. If you need a really light pole saw, then check out our Best Lightweight choice, the Sun Joe SWJ800E, which is only 7.7 pounds and has an 8.7-foot pole.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was researched and written by Michelle Ullman, who is a writer specializing in home and garden products. She has been a commerce writer for The Spruce since 2020, covering a wide range of home improvement products including power and hand tools, painting supplies, landscaping tools, and tool organizers. To choose the best pole saws for this article, she evaluated dozens of these tools from various brands, evaluating each for power, bar size, length, effectiveness, ease of use, and overall value. She also relied on feedback from customers, both positive and negative, as well as information from various tool and landscaping websites.
Noah James, professional landscaper and owner of Liberty Lawn Maintenance, offered further extensive expertise on choosing and using the best pole saws.