I'm looking to get a saw to take down a 16" or 17" diameter pine and several other small trees. I've done tree removal before but I had an old Husqvarna saw (terrible) to use and they weren't over 12" trunks.
Will a 3hp 12A 16" electric ($80) do the job or something more like a 42cc 18" ($200) gas saw be required? Chances are this one tree will be the biggest tree I will ever really need to fell but will do other small stuff occasionally.
I have, with my dad, used a 25 year old 6 or 8A Remington (the cheap black one sold at sears) saw to bring down 40' 12" trunk pines but it was a pita and the saw nearly died from it.
Both saws are Homelite as I'm not into spending lots on this project.
I lived (mostly) off the grid for 3 years and carried a 24" Husqvarna 390XP in the truck and a 14" 346XP as my daily driver, and used it 5 days a week in the winter and at least once a month in the summer.
This is all of course before I took this desk job and got all doughy, but that's another story...
Whatever you use, make sure you have more bar than you do trunk to cut. If you go too short and bury the tip, it WILL come back in your face. I don't know what your experience is with saws, but make sure you have the right safety gear. This includes chaps rated for the CHAIN SPEED of the saw you are running. Don't be that jackass out there in a pair of Levi's, Nikes, safety glasses and work gloves and then try to tell me you are properly equipped. I've never seen an electric that was built for more than the occasional backyard pruning work, so I cannot recommend one. They just do not have the power to clear a chip. Without the power and a properly sharpened blade, you are going to have issues. I couldn't imagine trying to fell with one.
If you EVER plan on using it again, I would recommend you buy a quality gas unit. Even the higher-end Craftsman, Echo, Poulan or any of those other house brands should work fine, provided you give them a bit of break-in (if purchased new.) I have seen too many people buy cheap homeowner rinky-dink bottom of the barrel saws that ended up being disposable due to parts nonavailability. If you don't want to spend money or don't plan to use it often, can you borrow one? Hell, I think even the HomeDespot will rent them these days.
Screw electric, they won't have the ***** to do any real work.
I have a tiny Homelite. 16", I think. Cutting oak for firewood at the hunting camp killed 2 chains, but the saw itself keeps on going. Yet it's still small, and mostly gutless. Not much good for more than cutting up the tops. It'd take too long to fell with it.
Search CL for a used one. $200 ought to net you a decent, man-sized chainsaw.
Did some cutting a few weeks ago with my bro's 20" Stihl - very nice saw! Always had used 93 octane that was always no older than a month old mix. If he new he was not going to run if for several weeks, he'd drain out the fuel and idle it empty. I've got 2 old McCullochs, a 20" and a 24" - Titan 57 and a 70 (big toy).
Anyway, I was one of the jack-asses EO2K was mentioning.... after swinging that saw for 5hrs (eyes and ears - no chaps), my arms were quite worn out - got lazy and after a cut, lowered the saw to relax my arms, and as the chain was idling down I bumped my left leg with the bar/chain and promptly ripped a nice hole in my levis... dam. BUT, it could have easily done worse so I was quite thankful - after that I figured I had enough for the day and started into the case of BL.
I have a Husqvarna as well which I purchased after considering all the options and reading the reviews. It is a great chainsaw: Light, powerful, reliable, and not fatiguing.
I forget what Husky calls it but it has a vibration isolation suspension between the body of the chainsaw and the handles. That is nice. Also if you are going to use it a lot, the lighter, more expensive ones (in the same engine size) like the Husqvarna are worth the extra money. The heavy ones are cheaper but they will wear you out faster. The nicer chainsaws cost a bit more but you are getting something for your money.
Buy several chains so that if you dull one you can switch chains and keep going. Resharpening it takes time depending on what you use. Also get one of those grease injector things for the sprocket at the end of the bar. +1 on the safety equipment.
I've got a Stihl MS361 pro which is a top notch saw, but I doubt you want to drop $650 on a saw.
Each of the $200 saws available anywhere under any name are just as bad as the next one. If you want to go that route, at least buy it used for $50 of CL.
Many people buy a saw for that one job and never use it again and sell it cheap. Bear in mind, many good chain saw repair places won't even touch one for repair. Not worth their time. So be sure the used one that you are buying runs well when you pick it up. Fresh gas/oil mix every time extends the life exponentially.
I landscaped professionally for more than 10 years. My old man still does.
If you're not going to use the chainsaw but a few times a year, a home depot job will do fine. But, you want to get the most powerful one you can, 2 cycle, NOT electric. Make sure the chain gets plenty of lube, and take your time. Don't be afraid to stop and tighten the chain often, and don't be afraid to use the power. Nothing sucks more than using an underpowered chainsaw.
Really though, I bought for $175.00 a Stihl MS261 off ebay to work over a tree we had fell a couple years back. Put that saw through complete hell and it kept asking for more. 20" bar, 50cc, 3.75hp and was used to cut up an entire 4.75' oak tree that was around 80' long.
Just wanted to report that although most recommendations (from various sources) were for a husky product I decided to try the big electric (3hp) from home depot as they have a 30 day satisfaction guarantee on them. The guy says this means if it doesn't do what I want they'll refund or exchange it.
I cut 8 trees today in 4.5 hours work (including limbing, bucking and stacking) with it! 0 issues and I have a nice stack of fire wood. I haven't tackled the big tree yet, it's mostly limbed and has yet to be topped as it doesn't have the space to fall intact. I'm sure a bigger gas unit would be faster but I was spending most of the time loading / unloading the truck with branches than cutting.
It was mostly cedar (~8-12") and a maple (10") that was done today, the biggie is a 16" dia trunk 22 yr old pine. I'm limbing the big pine with an 18v ridgid 3x recip saw (bigger 2 hander) which does an awesome job, just keep the fresh batteries flowing.
It seems like there are many negatives to the gas machines (vibration, loudness, sometimes weight) that need fancy features to overcome them. The electric doesn't vibrate, it's ~10lb with full oil and bar / chain, oil use seems reasonable / doesn't leak, chain didn't need tightening after the first tightening and it's quiet. It's so quiet the neighbour was wondering how I was cutting trees so fast without a chainsaw.