Chainsaws enable us to tackle demanding outdoor jobs like felling trees, limbing logs, and bucking firewood. With their sharp cutting chains powered by gas or electricity, chainsaws make quick work of tasks that would be extremely laborious with hand tools. They allow homeowners and professionals alike to prune trees, clear downed branches after storms, and harvest lumber and fuel wood.
However, chainsaws are also dangerous equipment. Kickback, accidental contact with the spinning chain, and other hazards can lead to severe lacerations and injuries if proper precautions aren’t taken. When buying a used chainsaw, risks are magnified due to the unknown history and potential damage or wear to the saw. Extra care and diligence are required to ensure you don’t end up with a faulty or unsafe tool.
In this article, I’ll discuss the key risks of purchasing second-hand chainsaws and provide guidance on inspecting used saws to avoid lemons. I’ll also cover alternatives like buying refurbished or new chainsaws if a used model doesn’t pass muster. My goal is to equip readers with the knowledge to make smart purchasing decisions and end up with a reliable chainsaw ready for work around the homestead.
Why should one be wary of buying a second-hand chainsaw?
Used chainsaws come with a unique set of risks and uncertainties that demand caution on the part of buyers. Here are some of the key potential issues to beware of:
Potential issues with used chainsaws
Difficulty in tuning
The carburetor on a used chainsaw may be out of tune from years of use, poor maintenance, or improper adjustments. Fine-tuning a carb for optimal fuel mixture can be tricky without the right experience and tools. An untuned saw will be difficult to start, run rough, and lack power.
Unknown history and possible damage
Without service records, it’s impossible to know if a used saw has been maintained properly or abused and damaged by previous owners. Dropping a saw, running it low on oil, or other misuse can cause issues that may not be immediately visible.
Risk of buying a worn-out saw
High hour saws with years of use will naturally have more wear on components like the chain, sprocket, clutch, and bearings. Worn parts can lead to frustrating breakdowns and costly repairs down the road.
Presence of non-OEM or Chinese aftermarket parts
To cut costs, some sellers replace original parts with cheap Chinese knockoffs that may fail quickly or have safety issues. Critical components like chains and guide bars should always be OEM equipment.
Buying a second-hand chainsaw can be risky due to potential tuning difficulties, unknown history, possible damage, and the presence of non-OEM or Chinese aftermarket parts. Careful inspection and evaluation is required to avoid purchasing an unsafe or unusable saw.
Tips for buying a used chainsaw
If you decide to roll the dice on a used chainsaw, there are steps you can take to minimize the risks and avoid getting burned. Here are some tips for vetting a second-hand saw before buying:
Evaluating the seller
Trust your gut feeling
If something seems off about a seller or their prices appear suspiciously low, walk away. Don’t ignore red flags even if the saw looks fine at first glance.
Check the seller’s reputation and reviews
Purchase from reputable dealers and check reviews from previous customers if possible. This provides insight into the quality of their used equipment and customer service.
Inspecting the chainsaw
Check for physical damage
Look for cracks, gouges, warped metal, and frayed electrical cords that may indicate damage. Examine the handle and plastic housing closely.
Verify all parts are OEM
Aftermarket components are a bad sign. Check that the chain, bar, sprocket, clutch, and air filter are original equipment.
Inspect the chain for dullness or damage
A dull, stretched, or damaged chain is unsafe and requires replacement. This adds cost to purchasing a used saw.
Asking about the chainsaw’s history
A seller that provides detailed maintenance records gives you greater confidence in the saw’s condition and care.
Previous owners and usage
Knowing a saw’s former duties and owners provides clues to how it was operated and maintained. Commercial use saws see harder service than backyard cutting.
Alternatives to buying a used chainsaw
If used chainsaws have too many red flags, purchasing a new or refurbished model may be wiser. Here are some options to consider:
Buying a new chainsaw
Advantages of buying new
A brand new chainsaw provides factory quality assurance and comes with a warranty for defects. Newer models have updated safety features. You’ll have full service records from day one.
Warranty and support
New saws carry a manufacturer’s warranty, typically for a year or more. Reputable companies stand behind their products if you face issues.
Difference between refurbished and used
Refurbished means the saw was repaired and reconditioned by the manufacturer rather than an unknown third party. It meets quality standards for performance and safety.
Pros and cons of refurbished chainsaws
You get quality closer to new without the full price tag. Drawbacks are shorter warranty periods and limited selection of models available.
While a used chainsaw can seem like an affordable option, the potential for underlying issues means buyers must tread carefully. Closely inspecting any second-hand saw and asking the right questions helps mitigate the risks. Consider alternatives like new or refurbished models if you have concerns about used equipment. Weigh your options, budget, and application to make the chainsaw purchasing decision that best suits your needs and risk tolerance. With due diligence and proper safety protocols, a used saw can still be a good value. Just enter the process with eyes wide open.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the signs of a worn-out chainsaw?
Signs of a worn-out chainsaw include difficulty starting, sputtering or dying at full throttle, excessive vibration, loose hardware, a loose or stretched chain, dull cutting teeth, and leaks in the fuel or bar oil systems. If you notice these issues in a used saw, walk away.
How can I verify if a chainsaw has OEM parts?
Checking that part numbers match the manufacturer’s diagrams is the best way to confirm original equipment components. Aftermarket parts won’t have proper part numbers stamped on them.
What are the most reliable chainsaw brands?
Professional landscapers and arborists agree that Stihl and Husqvarna make the most reliable gas-powered chainsaws. For electric models, Makita, Ego, and Greenworks have outstanding reputations.
How often should a chainsaw be serviced?
Chainsaws should be tuned up annually with tasks like replacing the spark plug, cleaning the air filter, and inspecting components. The owner’s manual provides model-specific maintenance schedules.
Can a damaged chainsaw be repaired?
Minor issues like dirty filters or a worn chain can be repaired easily. But major damage like a cracked housing or seized engine usually exceeds the cost of replacement.
What safety features should I look for in a chainsaw?
Key chainsaw safety features include chain brakes, anti-vibration handles, safety interlock switches, chain catchers, hand guards, non-kickback chains, and safety throttle locks.
How do I properly maintain a chainsaw?
Proper chainsaw maintenance includes cleaning debris and sawdust from the body, checking/replacing air filters, inspecting/sharpening/replacing chains, replacing worn sprockets, tuning the carburetor, and changing engine oil/fuel filters. Always follow the manufacturer’s maintenance checklist.
Michael Boyle is the founder and main author of Chainsaws Finder, boasting over 20 years of experience in the chainsaw industry. Hailing from Texas, Michael combines his extensive knowledge and hands-on expertise to provide reliable advice and top-notch service. His vision is to empower chainsaw users to tackle any project with confidence, making Chainsaws Finder a trusted resource in the field.