How to Buy a Circular Saw

A circular saw is an essential power tool for many DIYers and professionals. With its spinning circular blade, a circular saw can cut through wood, plastic, metal and masonry. Choosing the right circular saw for your needs is important, as the wrong saw can be frustrating and even dangerous to use. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know to buy the best circular saw for your projects.

Determine the Type of Circular Saw You Need

There are several types of circular saws, each designed for different applications:

Corded Electric Circular Saws

These are the most common and affordable type of circular saw. They run on AC power and come in sizes ranging from 5-1/2 to 7-1/4 inches. Corded models provide continuous power as long as you have an outlet nearby. They work well for most home DIY jobs.

Cordless Circular Saws

Cordless saws run on battery power so you can use them anywhere without dealing with a cord. Cordless saws are more expensive but offer great portability and freedom. Batteries provide enough runtime for most tasks but may need recharging for bigger jobs.

Worm Drive Saws

Worm drive saws have the motor oriented perpendicular to the blade rather than inline. This makes them heavier and bulkier but provides more torque. Worm drive saws excel at cutting through dense, thick stock like lumber.

Hypoid Saw

Hypoid saws are lighter than worm drives but offer similar power. The compact hypoid gear case lets them stay lightweight while still delivering high torque.

Trim Saws

Trim saws have small 3-1/2 to 5-1/2 inch blades designed for finer cuts like trim carpentry or cabinetry work. They are very lightweight and easy to control.

Masonry Saws

These specialized saws have diamond-tipped blades made to cut concrete, tile, brick and other masonry. Regular saws should never be used on masonry.

Think about which type best fits your typical cutting tasks. For most home DIY projects, a basic 5-1/2 or 7-1/4 inch corded circular saw will handle the job. Cordless saws provide the ultimate convenience if you don’t mind the higher cost. For heavy duty ripping or framing work, consider a worm drive saw.

Choose the Right Blade Size

The most common sizes for circular saw blades are:

  • 5-1/2 inches – Good for general purpose cuts, especially in tight spaces. Can handle 2x dimensional lumber. Light and easy to handle.
  • 6-1/2 inches – A step up in cutting capacity over 5-1/2 inch blades. Can cut thicker stock like 2x10s or small 4x4s. A good compromise size.
  • 7-1/4 inches – The largest common size. Ideal for cutting structural lumber like 4x4s, 4x6s and treated lumber. Powerful but heavier than smaller saws.
  • 10-14 inches – Extra large blades found on specialized saws like concrete cutters. Not for typical DIY tasks.

While you can make any size blade work, using an underpowered saw on thick material can lead to burn marks, crooked cuts and blade binds. In general, match the blade size to the thickness and hardness of the material you plan to cut most often. The product details for any saw will specify its maximum cutting depth, making it easy to compare.

Review Important Circular Saw Features

Beyond blade size, circular saws offer a variety of features that affect their cutting performance, accuracy and ease of use:

Power and Speed

More motor power enables faster blade speeds and smoother cutting through dense materials. Look for a 15 amp motor on corded saws. Battery voltage determines power on cordless tools. Higher voltage means faster ripping capacity.

Bevel Capacity

The bevel is the angle between the footplate and the blade. Most circular saws can adjust from 90° to 45° for angled cuts. Some go as high as 50° or 60°. Look for a saw with at least 45° to gain flexibility.

Blade Brakes

Electric brakes stop the blade quickly after releasing the trigger to reduce accidents. This is a key safety feature on all modern saws.

Dust Blower

A dust blower nozzle directs air to blow sawdust away from the cut line for better visibility. This is extremely helpful when making precision cuts.

Blade Wrench Storage

On-tool storage for the blade wrench ensures you never misplace this small but vital accessory. Premium saws integrate storage into the shoe.

Adjustable Shoe

An adjustable shoe lets you dial in the exact depth of cut. This enables clean, accurate cuts without over-cutting.

Laser Guide

A built-in laser projects a cut line for guaranteed accuracy. This is great for novice DIYers but less necessary for experienced carpenters.

LED Light

Forward-facing LEDs illuminate the work area for clearer sight of your cut mark. Like lasers, onboard lights assist accuracy.

Think about which advanced features would help you get the best results for the projects you work on. A saw for basic around-the-house jobs won’t need every bell and whistle. Prioritize power, bevel range and dust control for the most bang for your buck.

Check the Balance and Ergonomics

Since you’ll be handling your circular saw frequently, comfort features are important:

  • A well-balanced saw reduces fatigue from extended use. Worm drive and hypoid saws shift weight to the gear case for better handling.
  • Rubberized grips give you a secure, no-slip hold. Ergonomic handles molded for the human hand also improve control.
  • Light overall weight makes a saw easier to use overhead or in tight spaces. But ultra-light materials can sacrifice cutting stability. Find the right balance.
  • Convenient access to controls like blade lock buttons and bevel levers improves the user experience.

Try holding any saw before buying to check its balance. You don’t want a tool that strains your wrists and shoulders. Also consider safety switches that prevent accidental startup. Your grip should easily access all controls.

Determine Key Specs Based on Your Needs

Besides physical features and ergonomics, pay attention to these key performance specs:

  • Horsepower – Directly related to saw power and speed. Look for 13-15 amp electric motors or high-voltage lithium-ion batteries.
  • Blade speed – Measured in RPMs (revolutions per minute). Faster blade speeds provide cleaner cuts. Look for at least 4000 RPM on smaller saws.
  • Max bevel angle – As mentioned earlier, 45° minimum for angled cuts. Larger is better for versatility.
  • Max cutting depth – How deep the blade can cut vertically with a 90° bevel. Should match typical material thicknesses.
  • Weight – Balances power against handling comfort. Heavier isn’t always better for control.

Match these key specs to the types of materials you expect to cut. With the proper blade, most 7-1/4” saws can rip through 2×8 framing lumber all day long. Don’t buy overpowered features you won’t fully utilize.

Know Which Accessories You’ll Need

A bare tool won’t get you very far. Be prepared to buy these must-have add-ons with any new circular saw:


Carbide-tipped blades designed for various materials are essential. Start with a general purpose combo blade for both ripping and cross-cutting. Then add specialized blades like plywood, melamine, framing, concrete cutters, etc.

Clamps and Guides

Clamps hold your work steady and precisely aligned with cut marks. Edge guides ensure straight rip cuts. Get a pair of each.

Dust Bag

Attaching a dust bag helps contain the vast debris produced by frequent cutting. Dust gets everywhere without one.

Earmuffs and Eyewear

Hearing and eye protection are not optional. The noise and debris produced by a circular saw demand ANSI-rated earmuffs and safety glasses.

Diamond File

A diamond file trues and sharpens the teeth on a blade. Well-maintained teeth deliver smoother, cleaner cuts.

Battery and Charger

Cordless saws require enough high amp-hour batteries to complete big jobs plus a rapid charger to minimize downtime.

Research bundles with included accessories, but know you’ll likely need to buy add-ons. A basic starter pack is a good value for new tool buyers to get going immediately.

Compare Prices and Warranties

Before deciding on any particular model, do some comparison shopping:

  • Check online prices – Online retailers often beat local prices for tools and hardware. Compare Amazon, big box retailers, manufacturer websites, etc.
  • Factor in any discounts – Sign up for email lists from your favorite retailers to get discount codes and sale notices. Saving 10-20% is common.
  • Consider refurbished deals – Refurbished or factory reconditioned tools offer big discounts. They operate like new with a full warranty. Great way to save money.
  • Compare warranty terms – Better saws come with 3-5 year warranties on parts and craftsmanship. Cheaper models may only offer 1 year coverage.

For most occasional DIYers, a basic homeowner grade saw in the $100 to $150 range has plenty of cutting power and features. Expect to pay $200 and up for better balance, more torque and advanced features like LED lights. Professional grade saws run $300 to $500 but are overkill for typical homeowners.

Weigh the Pros and Cons of Each Brand

There are numerous reputable power tool brands to choose from, each with their own strengths and downsides:


  • Pros – Trusted pro-grade performance. High-powered motors and proven designs. Packed with advanced features.
  • Cons – Premium features come at a premium price. Overkill for basic users. Heavy tools.


  • Pros – Impressive power in compact sizes. Smooth precise cuts. Responsive speed control.
  • Cons – Can be almost too lightweight. Somewhat pricey.


  • Pros – Constant innovation in tools and batteries. Lots of torque. RedLithium batteries last longest.
  • Cons – Like DeWalt, Milwaukee leans pricey. Mostly pro-level gear.


  • Pros – Legendary German engineering and quality. Quiet efficient motors. Excellent dust control.
  • Cons – Prices tend to run a little higher than competitors.


  • Pros – Reliable tools at a very affordable price point. Great for homeowners on a budget.
  • Cons – Won’t match pro brands in power and features. Not meant for daily job site use.


  • Pros – Decent performance at a super low price. Massive battery platform flexibility.
  • Cons – Serious pros should look elsewhere. Better for homeowners doing occasional tasks.

Most major brands like Makita, DeWalt and Bosch make excellent saws since they cater to pro construction crews. Pay their premium prices only if you truly need that level of capability. For casual DIYers, SKIL, Ryobi and other budget brands provide reliable cutting power at lower costs.

Test It before You Buy

If possible, get hands-on with any saw you are seriously considering. Checking a tool in person can expose strengths and weaknesses reviews may not reveal:

  • Heft it to check weight and balance. An awkward saw leads to fatigue.
  • Inspect build quality. Check for plastic parts that look flimsy or thin metal.
  • Operate the blade. Listen for smooth startup and running. Check for vibration.
  • Check ease of bevel adjustments. The lever should glide smoothly.
  • Try side handles and power switches. Do they feel natural?
  • Can you easily access the safety lock button?
  • Is onboard storage solid and out of the way?
  • Does it come with a case? Sturdy cases prevent damage.

Hands-on testing removes doubts and helps confirm a saw feels right for your needs. If a store won’t demo a tool for you, consider buying from a retailer with a satisfaction guarantee that enables no-risk returns.

Key Considerations When Purchasing a Circular Saw

Purchasing a circular saw is an investment that requires careful consideration. Follow this checklist covering all the key factors to ensure you select the right saw for your needs and budget:

Intended Use Cases

  • What materials do you expect to cut most often? Thick framing lumber requires more torque than plywood.
  • Will you use the saw for job site work or only occasional home projects? Job site saws need to withstand constant heavy use.
  • Do you need to make angled bevel cuts? If so, choose a model with 50°+ bevel range.
  • Will you need to cut masonry like concrete blocks or tile? Requires a specialized masonry blade saw.
  • Is this saw primarily for ripping lumber or crosscutting boards to length? Ripping needs more power.

Matching the saw to expected tasks prevents underpowered or overpowered purchases. Know how you will use it.

Power and Performance

  • Research the motor amps and max blade speed in RPMs. Higher numbers aid cutting.
  • Favor worm drive or hypoid saws for raw torque to power through dense materials.
  • Cordless convenience depends on battery technology. Look for high voltage lithium-ion packs.
  • Compare the maximum cutting depth of blades. Needs to handle material thicknesses you cut.
  • Don’t pay for power you won’t use. Occasional users don’t need pro-grade torque.

The right power enables smooth cuts without burning or binding the blade. But too much power adds cost for homeowners.

Design and Handling

  • Is the saw comfortable to grip and hold? Unbalanced tools cause fatigue.
  • Does the shoe adjust for precise depth control? This prevents over-cutting.
  • Are safety features like blade brakes and lock buttons easy to operate?
  • Does the saw offer smart extras like LED lights or laser guides? Or are they unnecessary add-ons?
  • Is the blade wrench securely stored onboard? Lost wrenches are frustrating.

Good design combines power and features with ergonomics and handling for controlled cuts even in tight spaces.

Build Quality and Durability

  • Inspect the overall fit and finish. Are materials high grade? Is it tightly assembled?
  • Does the brand have a reputation for quality and reliability? Search reviews for premature failures.
  • Consider brushless motors on cordless saws. They run cooler for longer life.
  • What warranty is included? Look for at least 3 years of coverage.
  • Does the saw feel well-balanced or front/tip heavy? This affects long-term comfort.

For a tool you’ll own for years, don’t compromise on durable construction. But also don’t overspend on unnecessary ruggedization.

Cost and Value

  • Compare retail prices online to find deals. Amazon and factory-direct sales can offer major discounts.
  • Consider your budget tradeoffs. More money brings more power, longer warranties, and premium features.
  • Refurbished or factory reconditioned models provide significant savings over new in box.
  • Start with a mid-range model. Upgrade later if you outgrow it. Limit buyer’s remorse.

For most homeowners, an affordable but capable starter saw in the $100 to $200 range hits the sweet spot of value. Pay more if you truly need the power.

Choosing the optimal circular saw depends on realistically assessing your needs, avoiding “feature overload,” examining build quality, and finding the best balance of price versus performance. This checklist covers all the key factors so you can make an informed purchasing decision.

Top Circular Saw Models and Features Comparison

Here is a detailed overview of some of the best circular saw models currently available, comparing their features, specs, pros and cons:

Makita 7-1/4” Magnesium Hypoid Saw

  • Power – 15 AMP motor delivers 5800 RPM max speed
  • Design – Lightweight magnesium components. 57° max bevel.
  • Performance – Hypoid gearing creates high torque in compact housing. Makes ripping easier.
  • Extras – Onboard blade wrench storage. Electric blade brake.
  • Price – $149.00

Pros – Very powerful for the compact, lightweight design. Smooth accurate cuts. Easy bevel adjustments.

Cons – No LED cutline indicator. Higher price tag.

DeWalt 7-1/4” Worm Drive Saw

  • Power – 15 AMP motor. 5200 RPM max speed.
  • Design – Redesigned slimmer body and handle. 53° max bevel.
  • Performance – Worm drive gearing provides 30% more torque than previous model.
  • Extras – Electric brake. Onboard storage.
  • Price – $299.00

Pros – Dependable worm drive power that handles thick lumber all day. Improved balance over older models. Premium features like electric brake and magnesium housing. Smooth accurate cuts.

Cons – Very expensive for a homeowner. Worm drive design is heavy. No LED cutline indicator.

SKIL 5-1/2” Brushless Cordless Circular Saw

  • Power – Brushless motor comparable to 15 AMP corded saws. 5150 RPM max speed.
  • Design – Aluminum shoe. Weighs only 6.95 lbs. Includes 20V lithium-ion battery.
  • Performance – Can make up to 250 cuts per charge in 2x material with 4.0 Ah battery