A circular saw is the only practical tool to cut large quantities of lumber and plywood and to break down big pieces of hardwood so that you can feed pieces through the table saw or other machines. Sure, there are alternatives. You can use a handsaw for some of this, but it doesn’t work well on plywood. And you can use a jigsaw for all of it. But it’s slow.
The circular saw is the best tool for fast and accurate cutting.
That’s why we constantly test circular saws and use them in our own projects. Below, you’ll find a selection ranging from budget-priced circular saws to tools any contractor could use to frame a house. And regardless of the product that we’re testing and advising about, our advice is always the same. Your goal isn’t to buy the most powerful tool or the least expensive, but the tool that’s the right fit for you. Using our data, look at the circular saw’s performance, its price, and its physical characteristics, such as its weight and whether it’s corded or cordless. From there, consider how you like to work, and make an informed selection.
Read on for quick info on the best circular saws from our testing, then scroll down for buying advice and in-depth reviews.
The Best Circular Saws
- Best Overall: Bosch GKS18v-25GCB14
- Most Powerful Cordless: DeWalt DCS5736
- Most Powerful Corded: Skilsaw SPT67WM-22
- Best Value Corded: Skil 5280-01
- Best Value Cordless: Hart HPCS25
- Best Left-Bladed Saw: Metabo-HPT 3607DWA
- Best Power-to-Weight Ratio: Worx WX520L
- Best Budget Saw: Craftsman CMES500
- Best Pro-Level Craftsman Saw: Craftsman CMCS 550B
- Best Laser-Equipped Saw: Chicago Electric 69064
What to Know About Circular Saws
Circular saws are powerful tools that crosscut wood (cut across its grain) and rip it (cut with the grain). The tools that we tested do not exhibit much design variation. With a few exceptions, most of the blades are 7.25 inches in diameter, positioned on the right side of the motor. When the blade is fully lowered, the saw cuts to about 2.25 inches deep (or slightly deeper).
A More Powerful Saw Isn’t Always Better
If you’re ambitious, you might want the same saw the pros use. Contractor-grade saws can have the blade on the left or the right of the motor. Corded models have motors that draw as much current as 15 amps. The saw rides on a larger, more damage-resistant shoe and is equipped with a big, tough trigger switch, larger and tougher bearings, and a thick but highly flexible cord. These features promote durability but increase the saw’s weight. The average homeowner-duty saw (with a motor drawing 12 amps) weighs 8 to 9 pounds. Contractor saws start at 10.5 pounds and go up from there.
But a contractor-grade saw may not help you get the job done faster, believe it or not. While it’s true that pro saws cut faster compared to homeowner saws, their most important attribute is durability. A homeowner working with a pro-level circular saw may find it too heavy and be unable to take advantage of its speed and power.
With manufacturers working so hard to develop cordless tools, you also may wonder if these are the best fit for you. Homeowner-grade cordless saws have enough power to cut 2 x 3 and 2 x 4 lumber, pine planks, and plywood. But if you expect to make more difficult cuts such as plunging through an interior floor, frame out your basement, or cut pressure-treated lumber, opt for a pro-duty cordless or corded circular saw.
What Else Do You Need?
Aside from the saw, you need a couple of carpenter’s pencils and a square to both mark the lumber and guide the saw for accurate crosscuts. For corded circular saws, you also need a heavy-duty, 15-amp extension cord, safety glasses, and some ear plugs.
How We Test
Our test material is Douglas fir 2 x 4, 2 x 10, and 4 x 4, some pressure-treated southern yellow pine, some hem fir, and some rock-hard red oak thrown in for good measure. We use each saw to cut across and with the grain, the blade perpendicular to its shoe and at an angle to it.
Next, we did some hairsplitting crosscuts guiding each saw along a square held across the workpiece. If the saw held true along the cut, that told us that its shoe edge and blade are parallel. If the saw moved off the square (and the cutline), we knew something was amiss. The most common cause is a saw motor and body that makes a slightly sloppy fit with the shoe on which it rides.
Here’s how the best corded and cordless saws—from inexpensive, homeowner-duty saws to pro-worthy models–fared in our test.
–BEST OVERALL– Bosch GKS18V-25GCB14
Volts: 18 | Weight: 11.6 lb
We’ve tested many circular saws, and this one comes as close to perfection of the form as is possible. Equipped with a standard 7.25-inch blade and an 8-Ah battery and weighing 11.6 pounds, it’s a nimble cutter by itself. But the good news gets better: It has an aluminum accessory track—no special shoe or mounting hardware required. Lay the track on the board or plywood and slide this Bosch down it like a locomotive riding the rails. The resulting rip or crosscut is table saw-accurate.
To control cutting depth, the GKS18V-25GC14 has a thumb latch right above the trigger. Move the latch forward and press down, and the saw’s shoe drops. To fine-tune the shoe’s position, simply hold it with one hand while pressing down on the latch. When the shoe is where you want it, release the latch. And the amount of blade exposure below the shoe is right where you need it.
Several other features position this saw firmly as a tool for this digital age. An “Eco” setting reduces power for light cutting while conserving battery life. The GKS18V-25GC14 has six speed settings to suit the material: Select a low one to make cut after cut in thin plywood, or go full bore (and maximum blade depth) to cut construction lumber. A battery life readout tells you how much charge you have left.
—MOST POWERFUL CORDLESS— DeWalt DCS573B
Volts: 20 | Weight: 9.2 lb
DeWalt took its 20-volt cordless circular saw and sent it to the gym. Now it can run on a standard 20-volt Max battery or the hulking dual-voltage 20/60 Flex Volt power pack. The latter enables a ridiculous amount of cuts on one charge or repeated cuts at its depth of 2-9⁄16 inches. It made so many buzzes through 2 x 4 in our test that we didn’t even bother counting them; we ran out of wood before the battery showed any signs of fading. Suffice it to say that the larger the amp hours of the power pack you put in this thing, the more cuts you can expect, up to a day’s work or close to it. The DCS573B is a powerful, smooth-cutting saw with outstanding accuracy. If you’re thinking of going cordless but you want pro performance, get this one.
—MOST POWERFUL CORDED— Skilsaw SPT67WM-22
Amperage: 15 | Weight: 8.6 lb
This is the saw we use in the PM Shop. We build projects with it, prepare materials for testing power tools, and use it for slicing up what’s left when the test is done. That means sawing through lumber and hardware alike. We’ve been pleased with the power, balance, the clear line of sight to the blade, and how easy the blade height and angle are to adjust. It gets straight A’s in all of those features, plus one more: the magnesium shoe that allows the saw to slide over a piece of lumber like it was on ice. At the day’s end, when all you want to do is make that last cut and go home, you won’t appreciate anything more than the SPT67WM-22.
―BEST VALUE CORDED― Skil 5280-01
Amperage: 15 | Weight: 8.8 lb
Skil has a long history with the circular saw, and it puts that institutional knowledge to good use with this inexpensive but capable tool. Among the homeowner saws we tested, this one is about as close to pro-grade as you can get. And given what it costs and its price-performance ratio, it would be perfectly fitting for a contractor to keep this saw on the truck as a backup or a tool for the helper. It handles nicely, its depth of cut is easy to adjust, and it cuts accurately. The shoe is perfectly parallel with the blade. And we were pleasantly surprised by the torque its 15-amp motor provides. Even with the blade fully submerged in lumber for rips and crosscuts, it powered through nicely.
—BEST VALUE CORDLESS— Hart HPCS25
Volts: 20 | Weight: 8.4 lb
We test homeowner and professional circular saws the same way. In the case of this 20-volt Hart, that meant cutting Douglas fir framing lumber, sawing through the 1.5-inch thickness and also with the board turned on edge so the blade was fully submerged at its maximum depth in the lumber. Our verdict: You won’t confuse this saw with one used to frame houses; push it too hard and you’ll trip its thermal cutoff. But it’s got enough oomph for cutting some lumber, including a 4 x 4. We liked the lock button (officially, the spindle lock); press it to hold the blade in place to more quickly turn off the nut that tightens down on the blade. We also liked its safety latch, which is easy to work whether you’re right- or left-handed.
—BEST LEFT-BLADED SAW— Metabo-HPT C3607DWA
Volts: 36 | Weight: 10.6 lb
The C3607DWA is a left-blade the looks like a cordless version of a worm-gear circular saw. In fact, it embodies two aspects of that traditional saw that have endeared it to generations of carpenters. First is relentless cutting power. The other is the position of its rear handle, which allows the saw to hang comfortably in your hand. The handle’s location orients the saw in a ready-to-cut position when moving vertically or along the face of a sloping piece of lumber. It’s not unusual for carpenters to lift the edge of a wide piece of wood, like a floor joist, when crosscutting it. The downward slope this produces helps the saw slide as it cuts.
In testing the saw’s power, we selected pressure-treated southern yellow pine 4 x 6. We made crosscuts and rip cuts at the saw blade’s full depth of 2-7⁄16 inches. No problems there. Then we pivoted the saw’s shoe to 45 degrees and made crosscuts, rips, and compound angle cuts through the test material. Our verdict: This circular saw did just as well cutting full-depth bevels as it did full-depth rips and crosscuts. It’s a powerhouse.
Equipped with the 4-Ah battery that comes with it, the C3607DWA weighs only 10.6 pounds. Its light weight, power, and easy-handling features help to make this a truly productive circular saw.
—BEST POWER-TO-WEIGHT RATIO— Worx WX520L
Volts: 20 | Weight: 8.6 lb
This petite saw weighs a mere 8.6 pounds, yet we found it to be unusually capable. Equipped with a 7.25-inch blade, it made short work of 4 x 6 pressure-treated lumber, 2 x 10 Douglas fir, 3⁄4-inch plywood, and laminate flooring. And with the 4-Ah battery, this saw will do a significant amount of work before you need to swap in a new one or give it a recharge. To those attributes, we would also add that it’s well balanced and easy to handle. Anybody can appreciate those features, but you will especially if you use a saw only on weekends for home projects.
―BEST BUDGET SAW— Craftsman CMES500
Amperage: 13 | Weight: 7.8 lb
The Craftsman renaissance is real. Since Stanley Black & Decker (also the owner of DeWalt) bought the company, Craftsman tools have been improving. We’ve always liked the brand, and we were very pleased to find this saw carrying on a capable tradition of high-quality power tools. It’s about a pound lighter than the Skil above. That may not sound like much, but it can make a work day go a little bit easier, especially given that you’re probably also moving lumber and hammering nails. Yes, the Craftsman’s motor is a bit smaller than the Skil in terms of its amperage, but the cutting performance between the two tools is negligible. That Skil ranked slightly higher for us due to the fact that the edge of the CMES500’s shoe isn’t quite parallel to the blade, creating minor inaccuracy when you run the saw along a square in crosscuts or use a long straight edge for rips. Fortunately, if you apply a little extra due diligence, you can keep the saw cutting true.
—BEST PRO-LEVEL CRAFTSMAN SAW— Craftsman CMCS550B
Volts: 20 | Weight: 8.2 lb
We liked this 20-volt saw’s handling, light weight, power, and great line of sight to the blade. So much so that we used it to test 7.25-inch circular saw blades that we were investigating for recent coverage. We didn’t pamper it, cutting Douglas fir framing lumber and red oak. Everything about the saw is excellent, from its workmanship to its reliable cordless power to the accuracy of its cut. If you’re in the 20-volt Craftsman system, we fully recommend adding this saw to your arsenal. You won’t be disappointed.
―BEST LASER-EQUIPPED SAW― Chicago Electric 69064
Amperage: 12 | Weight: 9.6 lb
The Chicago Electric 69064 is big and heavy, which gives it a solid feel. It has the lowest amperage of the group, but you’d never know it; it’s a smooth-cutting saw that plows right along. And if you’re the kind of person who likes to cut holding the saw with two hands and the wood clamped to sawhorses or a workbench, you’ll find the intentional two-handed design and its wraparound handle a perfect fit.
We do have a couple of small complaints. The saw’s blade guard is so large that it blocks the left-side view of the blade. We appreciate safety, but you’ve got to be able to see the cut line. And the guard’s spring tension is so high that it requires a lot of force to retract the guard at the beginning of the cut. This creates a tendency of the saw to move away from the cut line. Yes, the saw has a laser, which you might appreciate if you spend a lot of time cutting in low light or like a little extra visual guidance. If that’s the case, the laser line is there to help point the saw along the cut line.