If there’s one universal rule of landscaping, it’s this: Never operate a chainsaw when standing on a ladder.
For trimming trees and other hard-to-reach foliage, you want to use a pole saw, a specialized tool that allows you to make precise cuts while standing safely on the ground. However, not all pole saws are the same, so you’ll need to consider fuel type, total reach, safety features, and more to ensure you buy the right one for your specific needs.
Don’t worry if you’re not sure where to start because we’re here to help. Your complete buyer’s guide to the best pole saws for 2021, including our top recommendations, starts right now!
The Top 5 Pole Saws
We’ve rounded up five options you’ll want to consider, including gas, electric, and battery-powered models.
Black+Decker MAX Pole Saw (Best Overall)
- LITHIUM ION CORDLESS POLE SAW - Extended pole saw for pruning and trimming branches
- 8-INCH CUTTING BAR AND CHAIN - Cuts a 6” total diameter with a total reach of up to 14 ft
- ADJUSTABLE LENGTH - Center extension allows for usable lengths of 6.5’ or 10’ with overhead reach of up to 14’
- EASY STORAGE - Disassembles between uses for easy storage and transportation
- INTERCHANGEABLE BATTERY - Powered by the BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX* Powerconnect Lithium Ion Battery system
Our favorite pole saw for all-around use is the Black+Decker MAX. It packs a powerful punch into a lightweight, easy-to-operate package.
This battery-powered saw weighs 10 pounds, so you don’t need much strength to use it. Plus, it’s eight-feet long with a total working reach of 14 feet. The easy disassembly adds to its overall portability.
The 20 Volt Lithium-Ion battery has a lifespan up to five times longer than NiCd batteries, and a Max Smart Battery Charger is included. Although specifics vary based on wood type, speed, and other factors, you can make anywhere from about 20 to 40 cuts on a fully-charged battery. Recharging the battery takes from two to six hours.
- Weighs 10 pounds
- Working reach of 14 feet
- Eight-inch cutting bar (cuts wood with a 6-inch diameter)
- The battery doesn’t last as long as gas or electric power
- The battery can take several hours to charge
Worx WG309 Corded Electric Pole Saw (Best 2-in-1)
- UP HIGH OR DOWN LOW: It’s really 2-tools-in-1: A pole saw for trimming branches from trees, and a regular chainsaw for projects on the ground
- POWERFUL MOTOR: At 8 Amps, you’ll get consistent performance and reliability from this streamlined machine
- AUTO CHAIN LUBRICATION: The automatic oiler will always have the chain operating at peak efficiency, for faster, more controlled cuts
- COMPACT & LIGHTWEIGHT: At only 10 pounds, this saw is designed to be held up high and to be maneuverable once it gets up there
- DO IT YOURSELF. DO IT BETTER. DO IT WITH WORX: WORX tools are engineered with cutting-edge technology, and above modern efficiency standards, so you can build a cost-effective tool collection that’s been designed to last
One of our favorite corded, electric pole saws is the WG309 from Worx. It’s compact, easy to use, and requires minimal maintenance.
The eight-amp motor with 28 feet-per-second chain speed delivers enough power to cut through even large branches while remaining small enough to keep the saw’s weight at a manageable 10 pounds. It also features a 10-foot telescoping bar that rotates 180 degrees, allowing you to move the saw without twisting your wrist.
Although it stays securely in place when attached, the bar can also be removed easily, so you can use the chainsaw normally. Cut down tall branches using the pole saw, and then chop them up with the chainsaw.
Because it’s electric, it’s cheap and simple to operate. Plus, it’s quiet and environmentally-friendly.
- 10-foot extension cord rotates 180 degrees
- Weighs only 10 pounds
- Rod is removable to allow separate chainsaw use
- Oil not included (but necessary for operation)
Sun Joe SWJ800E Electric Pole Chain Saw (Smoothest Cut)
- EXTENDS REACH: Ideal for cutting overhanging limbs and thin logs
- TELESCOPING: Pole extends to 8.7 ft. to provide 15 ft. of overhead reach. No Load Speed (rpm) 6000. Sound Power Level : 108 dB
- POWERFUL: 6.5-amp motor cuts branches up to 7.5-inches thick
- AUTO-LUBRICATION: 8-inch cutting bar and chain with automatic lubrication. Oil tank capacity (fluid ounce): 2.7
Sun Joe is a popular name in outdoor tools, and the SWJ800E is one of their most versatile pole saws. With a 6.5-amp motor, it cuts through branches as thick as 7.5 inches.
The telescoping pole extends eight feet. When combined with the length of the saw, you get a total cutting range of 15 feet (including your total height). Extending and retracting the pole requires just a quick twist of the locking collar.
One of its most noteworthy features is its automatic chain lubrication. An eight-inch bar and chain have an auto-oiler to stay lubricated, helping the engine run safely and efficiently. Oil is stored in a two-ounce reservoir.
- Lightweight seven pounds
- Total reach of 8.7 feet
- Electric saw with cord lock
- Chain stays lubricated automatically
- Trigger lock isn’t intuitively designed
- Customer service can be difficult to reach
Greenworks GMAX 8.5’ Cordless Pole Saw (Best Battery-Powered)
- Green Works GMAX 40-Volt 2.0 Amp Hour Lithium-Ion Pole Saw with 8-inch Bar and Chain, Includes Battery and Charger, Model No.20672.
- 8-Inch Bar and Chain
- Up To 60 Cuts on 4x4 Lumber
- 3-Piece Aluminum Shaft Can Be Extended To 8 FT (11 FT Max Reach)
- Automatic Oiler Applies Oil to the Bar and Chain for Continous Lubrication
If you need to trim trees in an area beyond the reach of an extension cord, or if you simply want the freedom of a cordless saw, the GMAX from Greenworks is our favorite battery-powered option. Its two-amp motor is powered by a 40-volt Lithium-ion battery (the charger is included).
The three-piece aluminum shaft is strong but also light, weighing just eight pounds. It extends eight feet for a total reach of about 11 feet, including your arm and the saw. Controlling the saw in action is easy with the pole’s comfortable over-molded grip.
It starts and stops instantly with the electric start trigger. Additionally, it has a simple, efficient design. You can easily open it up and replace any worn or damaged parts if necessary. However, major repairs on your part shouldn’t be required, as the saw has a four-year warranty. The battery itself has a two-year warranty.
- Cordless saw allows for maximum flexibility
- The three-piece aluminum shaft extends to eight feet
- Includes a four-year warranty against defects
- Two-amp motor
- Chain tension adjustment screw is difficult to reach
Poulan Pro PR28PS (Best Gas Powered)
- SureFire Fuel Delivery System. Easy as..Prime, Choke and Pull
- Effortless Pull Starting - Spring assisted starter system for ease of starting
- Auto return stop switch automatically resets to the ON position for easier starting
- Equipped with a dual-line feed Tap'N Go head for a superior cutting result. Reloading the trimmer spool is quick and simple
- Air Purge removes air from carburetor and fuel system for easy starting. Type of shaft : Straight
If you’re looking for the strongest pole saw, suitable for thick branches and even commercial work, you’ll want a gas-powered engine. Poulan Pro’s PR28PS is one of our favorite gas-powered pole saws because it’s reliable, starts without issue, and includes six attachments.
The 28cc, two-stroke engine powers an eight-inch bar, which delivers enough power to cut through limbs with a six-inch diameter. It has a 12-foot working reach.
Aside from trimming, included attachments help you edge, prune, till, blow, and brushcut. It’s a great all-in-one option for household use and is even suitable for professional landscaping. Switching between attachments requires no tools. Simply click the new attachment into place.
Finally, it’s easy to operate and maintain. Its Effortless Pull Starting (EPS) system uses a spring-assist pull cord along with an efficient purge bulb.
- Two-stroke gas-powered engine
- Twelve-foot working range
- Cuts branches up to six inches thick
- Quick, reliable starting
- Consumes gas fairly rapidly
- Tilting the saw can cut off access to fuel
2021 Guide to Pole Saws
Whether you’re an experienced tree trimmer or are looking to buy your first one, the tips below will help you find the best pole saw for your specific needs.
Pole Saw Types
There are three different categories, each with specific benefits as well as some potential drawbacks:
An electric pole saw plugs into a standard household outlet, so you’ll need access to outdoor electric sockets plus an extension cord. They’re great for general purpose trimming in residential yards.
Electric saws are typically lighter than the other types, making them a good choice for anyone without great upper arm strength.
Additionally, they’re easy to maintain. You never need to add fuel or oil, which means you don’t have to stop work until the job is done. Another benefit of electric power is that the saw emits no harmful exhaust. Plus, they’re quiet when running.
On the downside, they’re not as powerful as gas saws. Also, dealing with a long extension cord can be a hassle. While electric saws are an easy and affordable way to trim trees at home, they’re typically not quite strong enough for heavy-duty, commercial use.
Cordless drills are powered by a rechargeable battery, typically either a 20 or 40 Volt Lithium-Ion or Ni-Cad battery. They’re the most portable option, and they’re also usually very lightweight and great if you want maximum maneuverability.
Battery life varies by brand, but you’ll generally need two batteries to complete medium to large-sized jobs. Additionally, they’re the least powerful type of saw (although they’re still effective for most residential home use).
Gas-powered saws are the most powerful option, with two-cycle engines and a wide range of capabilities. They’re the most common type used by professional landscapers and for commercial purposes.
On the downside, they’re a bit more complicated to run than the other two. They need more maintenance, including the correct amount of oil, to ensure they perform properly. Also, they’re much louder than the other two options, which does limit their use in residential areas.
Features of Pole Saws
Regardless of the type of saw you choose, you’ll still have a few features to consider:
The most common source of confusion is determining the actual length of the pole. Watch for the term “working length.” It refers to the length of the pole PLUS an extra two or three feet to account for the length of your arm and upper body.
Pole saws range in working length from about ten to 14 feet or a real length of about eight to 12 feet. It’s difficult to find anything beyond 14 feet, as anything longer generally isn’t considered safe. Regardless of length, most poles have a telescopic design, so you can adjust them as needed.
A pole saw might feel light and comfortable when you first pick it up, but it can start to feel heavy even after short periods of use because you’re holding it up over your head. If you want the lightest options, go with electric. They range between eight to 14 pounds.
Gas-powered pole saws are the heaviest option. Something powerful for big jobs and commercial work can weigh 20 pounds or more. Battery-powered saws tend to weigh less than gas but more than electric.
Many pole saws give you the option to detach the pole, so you can use the chainsaw separately. You can cut larger, longer branches off trees and then use the chainsaw to reduce them down further for disposal or firewood.
The saw should be easy to maneuver when you’re holding it up in the air. Look for a collar that twists, so you can adjust the angle of the blade with a twist of your wrist instead of moving your arms.
Along those same lines, make sure the grip is comfortable and ergonomic. Most pole saws have a rubberized handle around a trigger.
Bar and Chain Length
The chain bar determines the thickness of wood that the saw will cut. Typically, they average between eight and 10 inches. The diameter should be at least two inches greater than the tree limb you intend to saw. Measure a few limbs around your property if possible, so you can ensure your saw will be able to trim them.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are quick answers to common questions many people have about these tall tools:
What Is a Pole Saw?
Essentially, it’s a chainsaw attached to a telescoping pole. It allows you to trim tree branches and other towering foliage without climbing up a ladder.
How Does a Pole Saw Work?
The pole saw has a grip on one end with a trigger. You simply pull the trigger to start the blade. In many ways, it operates similar to a weed trimmer, only balanced in a way that allows you to hold it vertically.
How Far Does a Pole Saw Reach?
Most pole saws allow you to trim trees between 10 and 14 feet in the air. They’re telescoping, so you can adjust the height as necessary.
What Is Working Length?
Sometimes also called “working height,” the “working length” is a measurement of the total reach of the saw. However, it’s more than the pole’s length. The working length is the length of the pole plus an extra two or three feet to account for the length of the user’s arms and upper body.
What Are the Different Types?
Pole saws are divided into three different categories based on fuel type. The options are gas, electric, and battery-powered.
Gas-powered pole saws are the most powerful, but they’re loud and emit exhaust. The electric type requires access to an outlet, which does limit portability, but they’re also lightweight and maintenance-free. Finally, the battery saws give you the most portability, but they’re also not as powerful as the other two types.
If you’re looking for a general-purpose option that’s easy-to-use and portable, we recommend the Black+Decker MAX Pole Saw. It’s well-suited for maintaining the trees found in the average backyard.
However, it’s not the most powerful option on our list. If you want something with a more powerful engine that still remains lightweight and relatively maintenance-free, the Worx WG309 Corded Electric Pole Saw delivers faster cuts and the ability to remove the chainsaw for groundwork. Finally, if you want the strongest possible saw, go with the Poulan Pro PR28PS, which is strong enough for commercial work.
A pole saw is the safest and most efficient way to trim tall foliage. Use our guide above to find the best option for your needs, and enjoy how easy it is to improve the look of your yard!