Three best pole saws

Bob Beacham

If a broken branch is a hazard, it needs to be dealt with immediately. Otherwise, prune trees when they're dormant in late autumn or winter.

When you need to prune a tree or remove a storm-damaged limb, a pole saw is an ideal tool. You can tackle the job with your feet safely on the ground rather than trying to climb a ladder and manage a chainsaw at the same time.

A chainsaw on a pole is a simple concept, yet there are a number of approaches to it. To help you choose the right one for your particular situation, we've put together the following pole saw buying guide. We've also highlighted a few top tools we think are great buys.

Considerations when choosing pole saws

Pole saw types

Should you get a manual, cordless, corded, or gas-powered pole saw?

Manual pole saws are easy to overlook, but they've been around for centuries. You basically have a sharp saw on the end of a pole. It's simple, quiet, and pollution free. Unfortunately, a good manual pole saw costs nearly as much as a powered saw.

Cordless pole saws promise clean energy and freedom of movement. In the past, drawbacks to cordless tools have included short battery life, long recharge times, and a lack of power when compared to other types.

That situation improved considerably with the introduction of 40V models and 4Ah (amp hour) and 5Ah batteries. 40V pole saws are considerably more powerful than their 20V counterparts, yet they cost little more. The more amp hours you have, the longer the battery will deliver consistent power without sudden drop-off.

Always choose lithium-ion (Li-ion) over nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries because they hold their charge longer and don't suffer from the "memory effect" that can shorten Ni-Cd battery life.

Corded pole saws are light, quiet, easy to use, and often low in cost. Just plug it in and press the trigger; motors range from six to eight amps.

The downside is the need for an extension cord, which can be a nuisance. There's also some potential danger when working outside with a cord. To negate this, always plug your extension into a socket fitted with a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). Should anything go wrong, it will cut the power before you get a shock.

Gas-powered pole saws are the professional's choice. Most are fitted with a powerful two-stroke engine between 25cc and 50cc. As long as you've got gas and oil, you can work anywhere for as long as you like. On some models, you can swap the chainsaw head for other attachments (blower, brush cutter), further extending the tool's versatility.

Of course, gas motors are noisy, often comparatively heavy, and give off unpleasant fumes. If your two-stroke motor isn't CARB compliant, bear in mind that an increasing number of states have banned them.

Keep in mind:

The "bar" is the metal plate the chain runs around. Bars vary in length from six to 10 inches. The length is a good indicator of what the manufacturer thinks the saw is capable of.

Some pole saws are telescopic, which makes them easy to extend and put away after use. Others bolt together in two or three sections.

A pole saw's reach is an important factor to consider when shopping. The longest we've seen is 26 feet, but that was on a manual saw. You could never handle a chainsaw that far away. Powered pole saws range in reach from eight to 12 feet.

All chainsaw blades need regular lubrication to work efficiently. On good pole saws, this is automatic.

On some pole saws, the chainsaw part can be removed and used independently. This is convenient for cutting small-dimension lumber, but a tool like this cannot compete with a full-size chainsaw.

With gas chainsaws, it's important to get the fuel-to-oil ratio right. Details will be in the owner's manual.

Tool-free chain tensioning is a bonus.

The controls on your chosen pole saw should be easy to operate with gloved hands.


Q. What are some safety tips to keep in mind when using a pole saw?

A. Follow these safety tips when using a pole saw:

Wear gloves and a face shield. If you're using a gas-powered pole saw, wear ear protection as well.

Wear sturdy outdoor boots that won't slip on damp grass or leaves.

Make sure there are no children or pets around when you use your pole saw.

Never stand beneath the branch you're sawing.

Think about where a particular limb might fall before you cut it down.

If you're tackling a long branch, cut it off in sections a couple of feet each -- not all at once.

Q. How do I know if the chain tension is correct?

A. The chain should never be completely tight against the bar; it needs a bit of slack to run properly. Most saws automatically apply the correct tension when you release the appropriate clamp or handle. You can check by tugging the bottom of the chain where it runs underneath the bar. Use a thumb and forefinger. There should be enough play to pull it down a little, but when you release it, it should spring back.

If all the tension has been taken up but the chain is still loose, it has probably surpassed its working life and needs to be replaced.

Pole saws we recommend

Best of the best: Greenworks 40V Cordless Pole Saw 

Our take: Finally, a cordless tool that fully lives up to expectations.

What we like: Quiet, clean, consistent power (when fitted with 5Ah battery). Lightweight and easy to manage. It has an auto chain oiler and is easy to adjust -- exactly what most homeowners need.

What we dislike: The eight-foot reach not as great as some other choices. Battery and charger are not included.

Best bang for your buck: Remington RM1025SPS Ranger Electric Pole Saw 

Our take: A versatile tool for the budget-conscious gardener.

What we like:  Easy to use with good reach. The 10-inch bar offers greater capacity than most, and the chainsaw can be used separately. A great value.

What we dislike: Extension cord is a must. Manual chain oiler.

Choice 3: Poulan Pro 967089701 25cc Gas-Powered Pole Saw 

Our take: Batteries run flat, and cords only reach so far. Sometimes, you just can't beat gas. This is a gas-powered pole saw worth considering.

What we like: Starts easily and offers consistent, go-anywhere power. Auto chain oiler. Brush cutter, cultivator, blower, and lawn edger attachments also fit same shaft/motor.

What we dislike: Noisy. Some owners report throttle problems.

Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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