When you make the decision to buy a new saw, one valid question you might ask is: what is the best chainsaw brand? It’s a topic which can get people extremely animated and product loyalty amongst the chainsaw community can be strong. You will often hear people talking passionately about their favorite brand and how so much better it is than the competition.
To consider this further we need to look at what makes a top rated brand. The table below is a list of the most popular manufacturers currently selling products in North America. The picture is complicated a little by the fact that some manufacturers are owned by others in the list, so for example:
- Poulan and McCulloch are both part of the Husqvarna Group
- Tanaka is part of Hitatchi
- Dolmar is owned by Makita.
The table helps us to compare some basic information but doesn’t in itself tell us which the best brand is. It does, however, act a starting point to enable us to consider the question further.
|Brand||Gas||Electric||Battery||Distribution||Saw Ranges||Lowest Price|
Reading the Table
The manufacturers are listed alphabetically and there is a record of the total number of products offered by each at the time of writing.
The distribution column looks at distribution channels. These are analyzed as follows:
- D = Available only through a single dealer.
- MR = Available through multiple retailers/dealers
- O = Online
So, as you can see, a company such as Stihl only offers its products through a network of dealerships, whereas Craftsmen chainsaws can only be bought at Sears or on the Internet.
The next column, entitled Saw Ranges, looks at the range of products manufactured and the type of work they are designed to carry out. Light generally means light pruning, trimming and cutting small trees. Medium involves felling and bucking larger medium sized trees and will cover most requirements of the home and farm user. Heavy involves large, demanding cutting and in this case refers to the type of work carried out by the professional user.
The final column indicates the lowest priced machine in the company’s range as defined by current listings on Amazon or other retailers. I need to conduct some further research with regard to some of the dealership prices and these are marked with asterisks.
What makes a top rated brand?
Here are my thoughts on what makes a quality brand, though I’m sure you will have your own views and can think of some more.
Industry reputation: This is something buyers place great faith in when they are looking to invest in a new product. Some manufacturers are synonymous with the product they are selling. Think of Hoover and you think vacuum cleaners right? In the context of chainsaws, company’s such as Stihl and Husqvarna have a strong industry reputation, as well as great awareness from experienced chainsaw users. Other companies, such as Black and Decker, Remington and Makita have a broader industry reputation covering a wider range of power tools.
Product range: The size of the product range could also be considered as a factor. The bigger the range, the greater the versatility of the products resulting in more choice for consumers. A large range might also hint at product specialism as opposed to a large manufacturer just dipping its toes into a particular market.
Reliability: There are few things which can kill a brand easier than poor product reliability. Once an organization gets a bad reputation it is really difficult to shake off and turn things round. When it comes to chainsaws, this is a difficult one to judge. Whilst conducting research one thing I’ve noticed is that even the market leaders are capable of producing a really disappointing product. The question is, does this negatively impact on the whole brand?
Differentiated. Having a unique selling point and standing out among the competitive alternatives can contribute to how good the brand is. This can be a particular challenge but it is something organizations strive for to stay on top. Top brands find a market position where they can beat the competition based on things like price, product quality or outstanding customer service. Worx, for example, has focused on the home user market by producing a small range of low cost, high performing saws and this has been reasonably successful with some of their products being online best-sellers. Becoming a leader in a particular niche is a great advantage but with so much competition this is easier said than done.
Innovative: The question about whether a brand can survive without being innovative is an interesting one. Many Chinese made chainsaws, for example, are simply copies of existing chainsaw designs. Innovation, however, is about excelling and pushing products on to the next level by delivering the things that buyers want. Find me a gas chainsaw that starts after one pull of the cord- every time, or a saw with a chain which never dulls or slips the bar and you will have a winner!
Accessible: You need to be able to easily access the products. If you see a $100 chainsaw you really like the look of, you’re hardly likely to travel two hundred miles to the nearest dealer to buy it. On the other hand if the dealer is in your town or you can get the product on-line then this is a different story and you are more likely to make the purchase.
Popular: Whilst some brands thrive on their exclusivity, generally speaking the best brands tend to be very popular.
How can one chainsaw brand make itself better than another?
The answer to this question is to focus on some of the issues covered above.
Some brands, for example Black and Decker, Remington and Worx have very low entry cost points which might attract the first time buyer who is testing the market or needs a product for occasional use. Other brands such as Stihl have large product ranges and try to focus on quality, supported by their reputation. In such cases price and quality are two issues which need to be considered. Products sold cheaply tend to be of a lower quality than their more expensive counterparts. With chainsaws this can mean more plastic parts, lower quality chains and so on. This isn’t to say that cheap chainsaws aren’t worth buying, it is simply a matter of deciding whether the product represents good value.
As with Stihl, organizations such as Husqvarna and Jonsered can promote their reputations. It’s a bit like when a company is interviewing for a new position. If the interviewing panel sees an extremely strong cv., they expect a strong candidate and will already have a favorable impression of the person before meeting them. The principle is the same here, if you were to offer consumers the choice of a Husqvarna or say a Tanaka, most would probably choose the former. This is because it is a higher profile, more recognized brand.
Other manufacturers also try to lead the way through innovation. Oregon, for example, is more renowned as a chain and bar producer but also produces a chainsaw with a self-sharpening chain. This might not appeal to the purists but this is certainly something which might attract people looking for a low maintenance product. Black and Decker’s innovative loppers help to add variety to their range of products and will attract people who are slightly intimidated at the prospect of using a traditional saw.
Brands such as Makita, Black and Decker and Greenworks produce battery powered products as part of an overall power tool range. Greenworks, for example, has a G-Max 40v system and the same rechargeable battery can be used in 25 different tools, including lawn mowers, trimmers, cultivators and blowers. If you already own an existing Greenworks power tool it might make sense to add a chainsaw to the collection.
Dealer vs On-line
Some people say that when it comes to buying a chainsaw it is better to buy through a dealer rather than buy online. For some products there might be an element of truth in this and many sales people are likely to tell you the same. This is probably because they don’t want to lose a sale but the reality is that running a retail outlet, with all the overheads which come with it, is an expensive proposition. Maintaining a high level of sales is critical for the success of the business and online sales have an adverse impact on this.
My guess (and it is only a guess) is that if say an organization like Stihl, which sells only through approved outlets and which targets high end buyers, were to sell their products online, it would undercut or take away business from their dealer network. This in turn could lead to a number of them going out of business and therefore reducing the size of the network.
As I mentioned earlier, for some products I think that buying through a dealer is a good idea. If I wanted to spend $2,000 on a professional grade product, I would certainly want to see it first hand and get a demonstration. For a $300 product I wouldn’t be as concerned. Nowadays there are plenty of videos available to see the product in action, not to mention the number of customer reviews to give an idea of how effective and reliable individual models are.
Many manufacturers would agree with this and nowadays have a variety of distribution channels.
Why buying a top quality chainsaw might not be your best option
I’ve heard it said of many products that you should buy the very best you can possibly afford. In some circumstances I would tend to agree. For example, if it was something I used regularly, such as a pair of running shoes where quality is critical I would always go for the best.
I’ve already highlighted numerous factors that make a good brand and which makes it difficult to easily say which is the best. But let’s just say that Stihl, Husqvarna and Jonsered came out the best in terms of quality. Does this mean you should go out and spend a lot of money on one of their products?
Absolutely not. My brother has a reasonable sized garden containing some medium sized trees which he prunes every now and again. He probably uses a chainsaw four or five times a year. He has a $120 electric saw which is perfectly adequate for his needs. It starts first time and is quiet so doesn’t annoy the neighbors. My brother could easily afford to buy a Stihl or a Jonsered but for 361 days each year it would be just an expensive garage ornament!
The point is that there is a balance to be struck. Yes, quality can be an important consideration but so too can be cost and purpose.
The model not the brand
As you can see from the above, it is really difficult to decide which the best brand is because they are being judged on so many different criteria. Stihl may have the reputation, but it falls short in terms of delivery channels and low cost options. Instead, therefore, the focus should be on the individual products produced by each manufacturer.
Conclusion – how this affects your buying decision.
Okay, I know you perhaps wanted a definitive answer about the best brand but if you’ve picked up anything from this article, I hope it has made you realize that it is almost impossible to pick a single winner. When you are looking to purchase a chainsaw, the brand shouldn’t be the only consideration. Great companies can make the occasional lousy product, whereas relatively new businesses are capable of delivering some excellent equipment.
My advice would be to sit down and look at exactly what you need a chainsaw to do, what features it has, how much it costs and what the reviews and product ratings are like. In this way you will get a balanced overall view and get the right brand and chainsaw for you.