Top Handle Vs. Rear Handle Chainsaw (10 Aspects)

Last Updated on October 9, 2022 by Barry Gray

There is a common misconception that all chainsaws are alike. While different types of chainsaws share similarities, key differences set them apart. This is especially true when you consider top handle chainsaws and how they compare to rear handle chainsaws. 

Top handle chainsaws are more powerful than rear handle models while also being more compact and easily maneuverable. These are intended for professional use and can be used with one or two hands. Rear handle chainsaws must be used with two hands but are energy-efficient and better for beginners. 

By doing a detailed comparison of top and rear handle chainsaws, you’ll better understand the advantages each type offers and what they are generally used for. This will allow you to distinguish between these chainsaws and choose the one best suited to your project. 

top handle vs rear handle chainsaw

Top Handle Vs. Rear Handle Chainsaw 

To adequately compare these different types of chainsaws, we’ll be considering various aspects. From the differences in design to their varying uses, these comparisons will highlight the core differences between top and rear handle chainsaws. 


As their names suggest, these chainsaws differ in design. With top handle variants, the chainsaw is operated using a handle located on the top of the chainsaw. On rear handle chainsaws, the handle can be located at the back of the chainsaw instead of the top. 

top handle chainsaw

While the placement of the chainsaw’s handle may seem inconsequential, it greatly impacts how a chainsaw is operated and what it can be used for. This will be evident throughout our comparison of top and rear handle chainsaws. 


In terms of their size, rear handle chainsaws tend to be bigger and bulkier tools than top handle variants.

rear handle chainsaw

In fact, there are many benefits to the compact size of top handle chainsaws. Of course, these chainsaws are lighter, but they’re also easy to store and highly portable. 


The compact nature of top-handled chainsaws makes them more streamlined overall. Due to this, top handle chains are highly easy to maneuver.

This makes them a great chainsaw to use in confined spaces. Top handle chainsaws can also be used to reach areas that would be inaccessible with a rear handle chainsaw. 


Despite their smaller size, top handle chainsaws offer more power than rear handle variants. This makes top handle chainsaws the ideal choice for tackling projects that require more power.

The increased power of top handle chainsaws means that very little muscle power is needed to use the chainsaw. However, rear handle chainsaws are better suited to lighter tasks and chores. 


Now that we’ve considered various aspects of these chainsaws, it’s important to consider how each is handled. Due to their differences in design, size, and power, the way they are handled also differs. 

using rear handle chainsaw

When it comes down to rear handle chainsaws, two hands need to be used to operate the device. By holding a rear-handled model in this way, you’ll have a fantastic grip on your tool. This handling also makes rear handle chainsaws safer to use. 

With a top handle variant, however, the chainsaw can be operated with one or two hands on the handle. However, it’s important to keep in mind that top handle models are also more powerful – which leads us to our next point. 

Required Expertise 

Due to their unique design and sheer power, more expertise is required when handling a top handle chainsaw.

using top handle chainsaw

Many countries will even require people to become certified when using this type of chainsaw. Due to this, top handle chainsaws are generally intended for professional uses. 

For those with limited experience using chainsaws, a rear handle chainsaw will be the better choice. Those new to using chainsaws will quickly be able to get the hang of using a rear handle chainsaw.

Generally, there aren’t restrictions placed on the sale of this type of chainsaw. 


As mentioned above, top handle chainsaws are commonly used by professionals. Top handle models are perfect for tasks that require maneuverability and more power, such as pruning tree branches. Generally, these chainsaws are designed to be used at a height, which is why many countries require certification. 

Rear handle chainsaws, however, are intended for use on the ground. This makes rear handle variants perfect for use around the house. You’ll be able to trim your hedges, cut fallen logs, and trim back an overgrown garden. Rear-handled models are more practical for homeowners. 


The controls on rear-handled chainsaws are more conveniently located than those of top handle models. The buttons for various controls are easy to reach.

This allows you to turn the chainsaw on and off and toggle gears and leverage. The well-positioned controls streamline the process of using a rear-handled chainsaw. 

Energy Efficiency 

When you look at the energy efficiency of these different chainsaws, it’s clear that top handle chainsaws require more energy to be operated.

Of course, this is largely due to the increased power offered by top-handled models. In comparison, rear handle chainsaws are more energy-efficient, making them cheaper to use overall. 


In terms of long-term reliability, top handle chainsaws come out on top. Top-handled chainsaws are more resistant to wear and tear than rear-handled chainsaws. Top handle chainsaws are also better at handling impacts.

Rear-handled chainsaws are also more susceptible to corrosion and cleavage, impacting their reliability in the long term. 


Top handle chainsaws are more compact, more powerful, and can be operated by one or two hands.

However, these are intended for use by professionals with the right expertise.

However, rear handle chainsaws are operated with two hands, making them easier to use. Rear handle models are ideal for lighter tasks that don’t require too much power. 

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Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.

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