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. Also included here is a new category of saw known as rear-handle types. These are pro-duty cordless saws with their blade to the left of the motor and their handle to the rear of it.

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 of these and other models.

The Best Circular Saws

    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). Save for the two rear-handle saws, 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, 4 x 4, and 4 x 6 pressure-treated southern yellow pine (reserved for full-depth cuts on our pro-duty rear handle saws), 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 wood. 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

    GKS18V-25GCB14 Circular Saw
    BOSCH amazon.com
    $449.00

    • Easy to use
    • Accurate
    • Eco mode

    • Not available as a full kit; you need to buy some key accessories separately

    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

    DCS573B Cordless Circular Saw
    DeWalt Amazon
    $138.70

    • Dead-on accurate

    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 more amp hours in 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

    SPT67WM-22 Circular Saw
    SKILSAW amazon.com
    $99.00
    $89.00 (10% off)

    • Settings are easy to adjust
    • Blend of power and balance

    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 As 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

    5280-01 Circular Saw
    Skil amazon.com
    $59.98

    • Best in homeowner-class power and features

    • We can take or leave the laser guide

    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. 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

    HPCS25 Circular Saw
    Hart walmart.com
    $128.00

    • Safety latch is friendly to both right- and left-handed people
    • Helpful lock button for swapping blades

    • Thermal shutoff prevents it from powering through some wood

    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 BUDGET SAW—

    Craftsman CMES500

    Amperage: 13 | Weight: 7.8 lb

    CMES500 Circular Saw
    Craftsman amazon.com
    $59.00

    • Powerful

    • The blade and the edge of the shoe are slightly off parallel

    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 REAR-HANDLE—

    Makita GSR01M1

    Volts: 40 | Weight: 12.4 lb

    GSR01M1 Circular Saw
    Makita amazon.com
    $394.99

    • Superb combination of light weight, easy handling, and power

    The GSR01M1 combines light weight, great cutting power, and outstanding industrial design. Everything about this saw is comfortable and easy to handle, from the well-shaped trigger switch to the shape and location of every lever to the push lever of the spindle lock. Those are small details, but they add up to make a more pleasant workday, and that matters even more when the weather is hot, humid, or cold. The last thing you need to do is fight your tools. Final detail: Makita puts a great blade on this saw. Don’t spend money replacing the blade when you buy the GSR01M1. Take the saw out of the box, charge the battery, mount the blade, and get to work.


    —BEST REAR-HANDLE CUTTING POWER—

    DeWalt DCS577X1

    Volts: 60 | 14 lb

    DCS577X1 Circular Saw
    DeWalt amazon.com
    $599.00

    • Extremely powerful
    • Excellent shoe

    • The front handle is kind of bulky

    The DCS577X1 is a massive slab of a saw and the heaviest of the five rear-handle saws we tested, even heavier than the 13.4-pound Milwaukee below. Its chief attribute is cutting power. If you need that, particularly for making long beveled cuts in rafters or cutting wet pressure-treated lumber for decking framing or landscape work, this saw will serve nicely for those purposes. The caveat is that it’s not particularly nimble. We don’t see it as a house framing tool where you need a better combination of lightness and power. Could you frame a house with the saw? Of course, probably doing most of your day’s work on a single charge of its whopping 9-Ah battery. The saw is is well designed, with a comfortable and well-shaped handle and a magnesium shoe with about as much friction as a melting ice cube; for such an unwieldy saw, it slides pretty nicely.


    —BEST FOR CUTTING HEAVY TIMBER—

    Flex FX2141R-1J

    Volts: 24 | Weight: 13.4 lb

    FX2141R-1J Circular Saw
    Flex Lowe's
    $399.00

    • Excellent work light

    So what makes the FX2141R-1J a standout for heavy timber? First, we have to define what “heavy timber” means. This is industrial lumber that’s thicker, wider, and more difficult to handle and cut than standard lumber used to build houses. Industrial lumber is used to shore up excavations and mine shafts, support ships in ship yards, and prop up gigantic pipes and valves in fabrication facilities, and it finds a variety of uses in heavy construction, building industrial facilities, such as a petro-chemical plants. In most cases, there are only two ways to cut it: with a chainsaw or the toughest circular saw you can lay your hands on. This Flex’s power makes it superior for this “toughest of the tough” cutting because it has the power of its peers (DeWalt and Milwaukee) but it’s much easier to handle. Its balance and geometry help you settle it quickly on the cut line, and it’s got more than enough power to see the cut through to its completion Also, it’s important to know that a lot of construction involving these materials goes on in conditions that are not well lighted. The Flex’s work light is a huge help in these circumstances, particularly when cutting a very shallow bevel, and you’re looking at the blade from the saw’s right side (normally you look at it from the left, but the shallow bevel makes that impossible). If cutting this industrial material is your game, consider this Flex.


    —BEST REAR-HANDLE FOR HOUSE FRAMING—

    Metabo-HPT C3607DWA

    Volts: 36 | Weight: 10.6 lb

    C3607DWAQ4 Circular Saw
    Metabo-HPT amazon.com
    $195.00

    • Lightest rear-handle saw we tested
    • Very easy to handle

    The C3607DWA embodies aspects of the traditional left-blade circular saw that have endeared it to generations of carpenters. Its chief virtue is that it has a high power-to-weight ratio. This is a fast-cutter, even if it’s not quite as strong as the DeWalt, Milwaukee, or Flex rear-handle saws, but (depending on the saw you’re comparing it to) it is almost 3 to 4 pounds lighter. And since house framing is all about speed, weight counts. Shaving a couple of pounds off will help you get more work done in a day. That could get the house finished sooner and might also contribute to your bottom line. But let’s say that you’re simply a do-it-yourself owner-builder type. You’ll find this Metabo-HPT a pleasure to use and a great choice for any DIY project. It will cut any typical framing material but also easily handles 4 x 6 pressure-treated timber (our test material for rear-handle saws), and it has enough power for full depth cuts of about 2.5 inches—whether you’re cutting framing lumber, multiple sheets of plywood, or breaking down plywood sheets or lengths of hardwood lumber for that furniture you want to build. The fact that it’s so easy is a help not only to professionals, but to those of us who don’t handle a circular saw everyday.


    —MOST DURABLE REAR-HANDLE—

    Milwaukee 2830-20

    Volts: 18 | 13.4 lb

    2830-20 Circular Saw
    Milwaukee amazon.com
    $199.95

    • Incredibly powerful
    • Excellent work light

    You can’t help but be impressed by this Milwaukee saw’s cutting power and longevity. Slide in a massive 12-Ah battery and you’ve got several hours of carpentry capability unencumbered by a cord. Our 4 x 6 pressure-treated lumber was no match for it, barely putting a dent in its battery capacity. Furthermore, it really does cut with the same authority that we get from our old corded worm-gear saw, but the Milwaukee is infinitely safer and more productive due to its electric brake that instantly stops the blade the moment you let off the trigger. Would the Milwaukee be suitable for framing a house? Yes, in the sense that its massive motor and equally sturdy gear assembly provide it power to spare–more than enough for house carpentry. On the other hand, all that motor and gear assembly creates a lot of outboard weight and bulk to the right of the blade. In that respect, it’s very much like a corded worm-gear saw. So if you’re already framing with a corded worm-gear saw and have a well developed right forearm, the Milwaukee is a good fit for you. But perhaps a better application for this is cutting form lumber for concrete and making cuts in industrial lumber used to shore up excavations and mines. In those applications, much of the cutting goes on at a central cutting station. Power and durability, not so much mobility, rule the day in those applications. And if you need those two features, this Milwaukee delivers.


    —BEST POWER-TO-WEIGHT RATIO—

    Worx WX520L

    Volts: 20 | Weight: 8.6 lb

    Nitro WX520L Circular Saw
    Worx amazon.com
    $189.99

    • Surprisingly powerful

    • The dust port is too close to the blade guard lever

    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 PRO-LEVEL CRAFTSMAN SAW—

    Craftsman CMCS550B

    Volts: 20 | Weight: 8.2 lb

    CMCS550B Circular Saw
    Craftsman amazon.com
    $119.00

    • High-quality
    • Affordable

    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 to your arsenal. You won’t be disappointed.


    —BEST LASER-EQUIPPED SAW—

    Chicago Electric 69064

    Amperage: 12 | Weight: 9.6 lb

    69064 Circular Saw
    Chicago Electric Harbor Freight
    $54.99

    • Affordable power

    • Handle geometry needs to be brought up to date

    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.