Circular saws come in two varieties; good ones, and bad ones. I know it sounds like I’m dumbing it down, but there are some truly terrible circular saws on the market that aren’t just bad at cutting but are actively dangerous.
In this guide we’re going to look for the best circular saw on the market and explore some of the red flags to spot bad circular saws. You’ll know when you’ve found the best circular saw for you because you’ll never use a hand saw again.
When you get used to circular saws you develop your own methods for using them, and yes, they take longer to set up, but they’re also incredibly efficient cutting tools so are almost always worth the effort.
Best Circular Saws for 2022
Circular Saws Buyers’ Guide
What are Circular Saws Used For?
Circular saws are handheld power tools with stiff circular blades. They are typically used for cutting timber as they are too powerful for lighter materials, and the serrations on their blades are too coarse for metals or plastics.
Because circular saws are so well designed for cutting timber they are often the only power saw that joiners will keep with them on site. Although they’re much less accurate than jigsaws or reciprocating saws (see our reviews on the best reciprocating saws available online), they have much more power and are more effective at cutting straight lines in long lengths, or large sheets of timber.
What to Look for When Buying a Circular Saw
Choosing the right saw for you is more about you than the saw in many cases. If you prefer to stand over your work, then there are saws with handles for that, but if you’ve got a shaky hand and prefer to be as far behind your tools as possible, there are tools for that too.
We’ve broken down some of the key points for buying circular saws based on a lot of different tests.
For circular saws, the most common problem is poorly manufactured blade locking bolts. Poor quality locking bolts on cheaper circular saws can’t stand up to the pressure of deeper cuts, and the friction they cause inside the motor (especially on corded circular saws) can literally start a fire.
The stronger the materials the better, and the best circular saws have locking bolts that can be loosened with Allen keys and wrenches. Circular saws tend to tighten up after a few years, so ensuring the locking bolt can be removed with a few different tools is essential for the life of your saw.
Corded circular saws are more powerful than battery operated circular saws, but battery-operated circular saws will do most jobs pretty well. For softwood like pine, I would always recommend corded circular saws though, as they are far less likely to gum up if the timber isn’t completely dry (even the best quality treated timber can still produce sap).
In reality, battery-operated circular saws are safer and easier to use, without wires trailing behind you, or the saw blade running away from you.
Weight is everything with a circular saw; too light and it’ll fly away with the revs; too heavy and you’ll be uncomfortable using it. 3.5 is a lightweight saw, and I’d stay away from anything that light, 5.5 is way too heavy.
Somewhere between 4-5kg is a good weight (and usually a good indicator that it’s well manufactured but not overthought.
Mitre guides are really easy to wear out, and they can weaken over time, meaning you’ll have inaccurate angles, and in the worst-case scenario, your saw can split.
Bad mitre guides make bad cuts, so look for well-built circular saws with mitre guides that are either spot welded onto the shoe, or made of sturdier materials.
Is the blade adjustable? If it isn’t, don’t buy it. A circular saw should always have an adjustable depth. It’s a safety precaution as well as a measure of quality.
Different Types of Circular Saw
Are Corded or Cordless Circular Saws Better?
Corded circular saws plug into the mains, and while both types of circular saw run at the same RPM (between 1500 and 5300 RPM depending on the model) the corded saws run with higher power so are better for heavy city work.
Other than power, the only difference between corded and cordless circular saws is that the batteries have a lifespan of around 2000-3000 charges, while corded saws will last forever without having to buy new batteries (though saying that, most DIYers aren’t going to use their circular saws 3000 times).
Are Worm Drive or Side Drive Circular Saws Better?
Worm drive saws have symmetrical shoes, which help guide the saw across timber with more even pressure, and because they’re symmetrical at the base, you can switch directions without re-measuring the guides.
Side drive saws should always be used with the guide on the blade side of the machine. Guides on the motor side cause obstructions. The big advantage of side drive saws, and the reason they are more common, is because they are better balanced, offsetting user pressure with blade position.
How to Use a Circular Saw
Once you’re used to it, how to use a circular saw is simple, but it follows these basic steps to get started and make sure to check the instructions on your model in case there are any extra safety features:
- Set up your cut.
For simple cuts across lengths of timber, just clamp the batten in place and mark the cut. For more complex cuts, use a clamp to set up the cut, especially for long cuts along timber sheets.
Check the distance between the blade and the edge of the shoe, and clamp your guide material at the same distance from the cut line.
- Adjust the depth of the blade.
Make sure the blade depth is no more than 5mm deeper than the depth of timber it will cut through.
- Adjust the angle of the blade if making mitred cuts.
- Plugin and/or switch on the saw.
For corded circular saws, make sure the wires are safe, along the ground, and behind the saw at all times.
- Turn on the laser guide (if your saw has one).
- Line up the saw, press the trigger, and cut (some saws have safety switches with a trigger release button).
- Turn off the saw, wrap up any wires, and clear everything away.
How to Adjust the Blade Depth on a Circular saw
Adjust the blade depth so it is just poking out below the timber when lined up at the edge. This means you’re not wasting energy and time while cutting as the entire blade is cutting the entire time.
Think of the shape of the circular blade; the round edge has the greatest surface area against the timber the shallower the curve. So by using the minimum blade depth, you’re creating the maximum cutting area (the same reason we use hand saws at 45° rather than at 90° to the object we’re cutting – it’s faster).
Safety Guidance for Circular Saws
There are five sacred safety rules for using a circular saw:
- Stand behind the saw at ALL times
- Clamp down ALL timber
- Keep wires lose
- Always switch off after use
- Remove nails/screws from reclaimed timber
While they might seem obvious, the weight of a circular saw, and the power behind it make it feel almost natural to gravitate towards the front while putting pressure on the saw.
Our tendency to use reclaimed timber in garden projects also makes it incredibly important to check for old fittings. Circular saws are designed for cutting timber so metal can damage their blades.
Blunt or bent blades are dangerous, and if circular saws hit really large obstacles they can bounce out of their cut and potentially cause serious injuries.
Best Circular Saw Reviews
I usually don’t like worm drive saws because they have poor balance and can tilt if you don’t take their full weight, but the Skilsaw cordless worm drive saw is nicely built.
It’s a little expensive, but Skilsaw is a contractors brand rather than a DIY brand so is built from stronger materials, with super sturdy fixtures and fittings, and a mitre adjuster that feels like it will last a lifetime.
It’s also quite a rare build, as 99% of worm drive saws are corded, so to find such a well built battery-operated saw is kind of amazing in itself.
The only downside is that Skilsaw isn’t the best-known brand, so when you buy the saw, you’ll need to buy a battery with it, and unlike Makita saws, or Ryobi tools, you’re much less likely to have other tools that can share the battery.
There’s not much separating the Makita from other best value circular saws, but it does come in slightly more expensive. That price is offset by the ever so slightly better quality materials, and minutely better safety guards which spring back smoother.
In many ways, it’s easier to choose high-end tools and circular saws for contractors than it is to find the best value circular saws. The cheaper saws have smaller variations, but those variations can make all the difference.
So, yes, the Makita circular saw is probably the best budget saw on the market, but is it the best value?
I can’t overstate how brilliant this saw is. I’m biassed because I’ve had a Makita plunge saw for a few years now, but I can say with absolute certainty that it works, it’s efficient, it’s safe, it’s effective, and it’s well built (and that’s saying something as it’s put up with three years of very clumsy use from me and my partner).
With the Makita being a plunge saw it's best used with a proper track, but it does come with a pull-out guide for cutting near the end of boards.
Because the blade is entirely encased in a safety shield there’s no chance of catching yourself either, provided you keep your hands above the cutting area.
A useful hack for this saw too: if you ever need to cut battens, just line them up together (it’ll go through two 2x2” timbers), clamp them down, and plunge down like you would with a fixed mitre saw.
The Makita 12V circular saw is a small tool for small jobs, and despite its incredible build quality, and reliable parts, it’s probably not the most sensible tool to buy if you’re looking for a multipurpose circular saw.
I’m also not a big fan of single-handed circular saws, they just feel unsafe to handle, with far less control. Thankfully though, this saw does come with an automatic spring-loaded safety guard that covers the blade immediately if it ever bounces back.
If you’re looking for a simple tool for small jobs then the Makita 12V circular saw is a good choice, but not for any serious renovation on construction jobs.
The DeWALT circular saw feels a bit like a starter tool, in that it’s safe, and it’s effective with really deep cutting capacity, and a really fast motor, but it’s just a little bit rushed.
The parts seem a little bit flimsy and like corners were cut in manufacturing, but that doesn’t make it a bad tool. In many ways, it makes it easier to handle, and lighter to carry too.
Of all the circular saws on review here, I think the DeWALT is probably the best-balanced circular saw we’ve found, and in many ways, that’s because of the lighter parts.
The choice then, for the DeWALT, is whether you’re buying a tool that lasts forever or a tool that’s easy to use. The DeWALT is the latter.
Bosch’s cordless circular saw is surprisingly powerful but is for DIY rather than contractors. Its blade cuts down to 48mm for straight cuts, and less for any mitre joins, but it makes up for a lack of power, and lack of precision with an incredible price.
For DIY enthusiasts looking for a tool that will do the job, then this will be enough, but do make sure to check the bolts and guides are all fully secure before you use them as they are all set using plastic wing nuts, so require a bit more work to get tight.
If you’re looking for a basic circular saw on a budget, you can get a much better circular saw if you buy a corded model rather than a battery-operated one.
Ozito proved that outright, with their budget circular saw. OK, so it’s made from aluminium and it’s likely to clog up when cutting softwood, but it’s super-efficient at hardwood, and if you’re willing to spend a little extra to replace the blade it’s capable of incredibly clean cuts.
Because it’s corded, it’s automatically got more power than a budget cordless circular saw, which makes it a much more sensible investment.
DeWALT’s corded mitre saw is unusual in that the same brand makes a battery operated circular saw that’s more powerful, makes deeper cuts, and slightly more durable, it only costs a tiny bit more.
The big advantage of the corded DeWALT however, is that you don’t need to buy a separate battery pack. Like 99% of battery-operated tools these days, they don’t come with the battery included.
Most manufacturers will sell tools as part of a range, with matching batteries that tie you into their tools, so if you like the freedom to shop around for different tools, then maybe this slightly more budget corded version is the choice for you.
Porter-Cable might not be a household name, but they make good tools and, as standard, give a warranty with their tools too. It’s becoming increasingly rare to get a warranty included with power tools now, so it’s good to see some brands are still ready to prove their confidence.
I really like this saw. It’s simple, effective and has a much sturdier steel shoe than most circular saws for this kind of price, which means it can stand up to some seriously heavy work.
It’s a bit of a shame its fittings and knobs are plastic, but otherwise, it’s a very well built power tool, ready for serious work on-site or in the workshop.
When I was growing up, Black+Decker was like this magical brand that I just remember coveting. Every Christmas I’d have something at the top of my Christmas list, and thirty-something years later I’ve still got half of those tools.
If there’s one thing Black+Decker always does, it’s strong tools that last a lifetime, and even though this circular saw is a true budget choice, it’s powerful, makes deep cuts and its parts are reasonably well made.
They’re not perfect, but they’re never going to be at such a low price.
So, if you’re after a true value circular saw that you can rely on to last for years without spending more than you need to, then this Black+Decker circular saw is for you.
Aussie Green Thumb Top Picks
Top Rated Circular Saw
I’m honestly amazed that I’m picking a worm drive saw as the best circular saw on the market right now, but the SKILSAW SPTH77M-01 Cordless Worm Drive Circular Saw is a seriously impressive piece of kit.
It eradicates the usual problems of worm drive saws by realigning the balance with a top grip handle, and better reader weighting. But the real star of the show with the Skilsaw is its materials.
Every single piece of this tool is beautiful. It looks good, it feels good, and it’s made from materials that will, literally, last forever.
Best Value Circular Saw
Makita’s budget model Makita MAKHS7600SP Corded Circular Saw is just as well manufactured as their high-end circular saws, but with a few corners cut here and there.
This side drive circular saw is one of the easiest to use, and while its safety shield is quite sharp to retract it’s everything you need for simple DIY woodwork.
If you’re on a budget, this might not be the cheapest circular saw, but it’s definitely the best value.
Premium Choice Circular Saw
The Makita DSP600ZJ 165 mm Plunge Circular Saw is another incredible piece of kit. It’s definitely more than you need for most DIY jobs but if you’re being self-indulgent it’s an incredible tool to have in the garage, and capable of almost every DIY job under the sun.
Its best feature is safety, with far greater control for the user than any of the other saws, and a permanently protected blade.
Circular Saw FAQs
What is the best circular saw size?
It might seem obvious but when it comes to circular saws, the bigger the better. Small saws are great for small jobs, but if you’ve got limited space, it’s better to buy one tool that can do every job, than loads of tools for different jobs.
Bigger saws are harder to control but can handle large sheets or timber, or short battens as long as they’re clamped down properly.
What’s the average price of a circular saw?
The average price of circular saws is around $200. There are loads of budget circular saws for under $100, but the best circular saws can sell for over $500.
Make sure you set a budget when choosing a new circular saw to avoid spending more than you can afford but check it has all the features you need.
Get the Best Circular Saw For Your Needs
I’m always amazed by the memories I have with tools, but writing this made me realise just how much I owed to my circular saw. I know it sounds overly sentimental, but without it, I’d still have a single level garden, and I’d probably still have a 1970s school desk in the back-room to work from in the evenings.
I’ve got the right circular saw for me, and I’m not going to tell anyone that there is a one size fits all ‘best circular saw’ because everyone needs something different, but I hope the reviews and user guide for circular saws moved you closer to a decision.