Top Handle vs Rear Handle Chainsaw: Complete Guide

Published Categorized as Chainsaw Buying Advice

Based on handle positioning, there are two main types of chainsaws, top-handle and rear-handle chainsaws. Homeowners and arborists frequently query whether they should purchase a top-handle or a rear-handle chainsaw. Each form has advantages and disadvantages.

In this article, we’ll discuss top-handle vs. rear-handle chainsaw, their advantages and disadvantages, and which one is best for you!

Table of Contents

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What Is a Top Handle Chainsaw?

Top-handle chainsaws are sometimes known as climbing chainsaws, or in-tree chainsaws, since they are frequently used by professional arborists while climbing trees. The throttle control on such chainsaws is located near the top handle, allowing them to be held with one hand while the other is utilized for support while climbing.

I’ve observed multiple individuals tempted to utilize them off the ground, and with only one hand. Let me inform you that this is not only uncomfortable for you, but it is also dangerous. Chainsaws are dangerous machines in any condition and can cause serious injuries if not handled with care.

What Is a Top Handle Chainsaw For?

Top handle chainsaws are meant to be used while standing, even with a single hand. They are better suited for professional arborists who need to prune branches while climbing a tree.

All of the controls for a top-handle chainsaw are located at the top handle. As a result, the chainsaw may be used with just one hand. These chainsaws are less heavy than rear-handle chainsaws. This makes them perfect for usage by an arborist who cannot employ both hands simultaneously when sawing.

However, I would advise against using a chainsaw with a single hand for safety concerns.

What Is a Rear Handle Chainsaw?

Your more common and traditional rear-handle chainsaws are better suited for ground use and should not be utilized at heights.

What Is a Rear Handle Chainsaw Used for?

Rear handle chainsaws are useful for a variety of activities, including tree felling, branch cutting, and cutting firewood.

Advantages vs Disadvantages of Top Handle Chainsaws

LightweightNeed expertise
CompactnessFor professional use
ManeuverabilityPower consumption

Advantages Top Handle Chainsaw


Aside from their small shape, these chainsaws are also rather light in weight. As a result, transporting them becomes rather simple. The majority of market variations weigh as little as 6.5 pounds.


Top-handle chainsaws are meant to be smaller and more compact than their rear-handle equivalents. They may be carried when climbing a tree because of this function. As a result, if you are a professional arborist who frequently has to saw down branches, a top-handle chainsaw should be your first choice.

Learn more about professional chainsaws in our What Chainsaw Do Professional Loggers Use? guide!


Top-handle chainsaws are significantly more maneuverable and have a greater reach due to their weight and tiny stature. These chainsaws can be used in tight and restricted spaces where a heavier model would be inappropriate.


Top-handle chainsaws not only provide a smooth cutting function, but they are also highly durable and can endure heavy blows while in use. I’ve found them to be quite trustworthy and strong in performance based on my own experience and conversations with others.

Disadvantages of Top Handle Chainsaw

Despite the benefits, there are some situations when a top-handle chainsaw is not ideal.

Need Expertise

The saws require greater skill to wield and operate due to their high level of sophistication. As a result, beginners or those lacking experience and talent will find it difficult to learn and subsequently master these saws.

Many areas also require some sort of certification before use. This increases the expense of use even more.

Professional Use

These chainsaws are intended for advanced and professional applications. If you’re a professional arborist, this type of chainsaw would be ideal for you. However, for small, day-to-day trimming and limbing jobs, these chainsaws aren’t the best option.

Power Consumption

This type of saw requires more power to run. It will undoubtedly generate great effects. However, this usually comes at a greater purchase price. As a result, be prepared to dig deep into your wallet in order to manage and handle these chainsaws.

Advantages vs. Disadvantages of Rear Handle Chainsaws

Better handlingUsing both hands
Beginner friendlyExhausting

Advantages of Rear Handle Chainsaw

These chainsaws, as the name implies, have a handle attached on the rear. As a result, it takes two hands to properly handle this chainsaw. Such a configuration offers numerous advantages and disadvantages.

Better Handling

In two important ways, rear handle chainsaws outperform their top handle counterparts. The first is that they provide more leverage due to their back handle. In this configuration, the hand holding the top handle serves as a fulcrum around which the chainsaw can be spun while cutting. This makes it reasonably simple to use.

Second, the grip on these chainsaws is significantly superior. They are gentle on the hands and prevent blisters and bruising that might occur while cutting forcefully. These saws are also safer to operate because they require you to use both hands at the same time.

Beginner Friendly

These chainsaws, unlike top handle chainsaws, do not require a high level of experience. Even a novice can rapidly become acquainted with and use the saws. Furthermore, several states do not impose any extra limits on their purchase or use.

It is perfect for everyday chainsaw use due to its ease of operation. They can be used to trim hedges, cut down overgrown shrubs, and tend to your yard. As a result, it is more useful and practical than its top handle counterpart. Its overall operational costs are also lower.

If you’re new to chainsaws, visit our Chainsaw Tips for Beginners guide so that you can become a confident chainsaw user!


Certain chainsaw controls, including as the start/stop button, gears, and leverage, are easily accessible. As a result, you won’t have to worry or exert too much effort to reach them. This design has the advantage of allowing you to operate more quickly and efficiently than others.

Disadvantages of Rear Handle Chainsaw

Using Both Hands

You must use both hands to operate this style of saw. It is difficult to operate them with with one hand. This makes it nearly impossible to accomplish anything else with the other hand at the same time. As an example, pushing something aside or lifting something.


Because you must use both hands at the same time, the saw can be more tiring than a top handle saw. If you have a lot of duties, this saw will be difficult to use.


Because you must use both hands at the same time, the saw can be more tiring than a top handle saw. If you have a lot of duties, this saw will be difficult to use.

Top Handle Chainsaw vs. Rear Handle Chainsaw: Which Is Better?

When it comes to chainsaw top handle vs rear handle, and deciding which to buy. I’ve encountered a lot of folks who aren’t sure what they want.

As a result, I believe it is vital to clear up any confusion in this topic. So that when the time comes to decide between a rear handle vs top handle chainsaw, you have the information you need to make the best decision. And, by now you should be crystal clear!

I recommend utilizing a top-handle chainsaw for off-the-ground settings since it is more comfortable and safer. For any jobs at ground level, a rear-handle chainsaw is recommended as it provides better grip, control, and safety.

Visit our How to Use a Chainsaw Safely guide for our top tips & tricks to ensure your safety while using a chainsaw!

Regardless of the chainsaw you opt for, maintenance is key in prolonging the use of the chainsaw and ensuring it’s safe to use. Visit our Chainsaw Maintenance Checklist & Chainsaw Bar Upkeep and Maintenance guides to learn the necessary steps you MUST be taking!

Are Top Handle Chainsaws Dangerous?

When comparing top handle chainsaw vs rear handle chainsaws, sure, the latter are safer. But, top handle chainsaws, in my opinion, are not inherently unsafe. It’s just how most people use them. As a result, they have a much greater accident rate than rear handle chainsaws.

I’ve seen that most chainsaw users are enticed to use these saws with one hand only and ignore the safety issue. They are, however, unaware that they are at risk of serious injury in any chainsaw kickback circumstance.

People use these saws carelessly. They imagine that because these saws are small, they will be easy to handle, but this is not the case.

The majority of chainsaw-related accidents are caused by improper use of top-handle chainsaws. That is why, in most states, users must be certified before using a top-handled chainsaw.

It all relies on whether you follow the safety protocols and treat the chainsaw with respect. If you are not experienced, you are very likely to injure yourself.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Is top handle or rear handle chainsaw better?

Arborists can reach tough locations while operating securely and efficiently because to the lightweight construction and maneuverability of top-handled saws. Traditional chainsaws with rear handles are better suited for usage on the ground and should not be utilized at height.

What is the advantage of a top handle chainsaw?

They are extremely light, compact, and have excellent balance for chopping branches while climbing a tree.

When should you use a top handle on a chainsaw?

For off-the-ground work, you should utilize a top-handled chainsaw. Light pruning or felling some branches while climbing a tree are examples. It is tough to grasp the chainsaw with both handles when climbing a tree. As a result, trained arborists would grip their saw by the top handle and use the other hand to support themselves while climbing. Certain tree firms require their arborists to climb with top handle chainsaws. These saws are better suited to such tasks.

Can you use a top handle chainsaw on the ground?

Operators are not permitted to operate top-handle chainsaws on the ground, according to AFAG regulation. They should only use these saws to get off the ground. Rear handle saws should be used for ground applications.

By Dave Cross

Hi, I'm Dave. I’ve been sawing for more than 40 years. I feel most at home when I’m surrounded by nature and my saws, but occasionally, I’ll share some of my know-how and experience on Cross Saw Mill.

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