What Are The Differences Between The Common Types of Pole Saws?

If you have taller trees or hedges on your property, a pole saw is one of those must-have outdoor tools. We tend to focus on the shorter bushes and shrubs when landscaping a property, but trimming the taller branches is equally, if not more, important to the health of your trees. 

There are several types of pole saws and each is more suited to a specific purpose or job. In this article, we’ll take a look at the best features of each type, including the pros, cons, and intended audience who most often uses each tool.

What Is A Pole Saw & How Does It Work

A quick definition first – A pole saw simply is a saw mounted on a thin pole. The basic function of a pole saw is to cut trees or branches that are too high for you to reach with hand tools. The extended pole provides the extra reach required to access those higher branches while keeping your hands and body safely out of harm’s way.

Types of Pole Saws

There are several types of pole saws you can use for maintaining your trees. This article will walk through the different types and review which is best for each tree trimming job. 

1. Non Extendible Manual Pole Saws

The manual pole saw is your basic tool. Essentially this is a saw on a stick. It simply extends your reach, so you don’t need to climb on a ladder to cut high branches. It has a very straightforward design. There is no battery or motor, just a manual saw on the end of the pole.

Some people prefer this model because it’s not dependent on any power source. This means it’s more durable than electric models and extends your reach without having to charge batteries or oil the chainsaw between uses. 

You can take out the mechanical parts of the saw and clean them, all without worrying about electronic components getting wet or breaking down. 

You can also use it to cut branches on the ground. Some manual pole saws have a detachable head that can be used as a regular hand saw. 

  • Best Quality: Easy to use.
  • Pros: Not dependent on a power source, durable, and easy to maintain.
  • Cons:  Requires the most manual effort, takes up a lot of room and is harder to store. 
  • Recommended For: DIY homeowner that likes to keep things simple.

2. Notch Multi-pole saw  

notched multi pole saw and tree pruner

A notch multi-pole saw is a flexible tool that can execute precision cuts while maintaining control. It has both a hook-shaped blade for cutting and a hook to grab branches. 

There is a detachable head, so you can use the saw head for cutting or swap it out to use a pruner head to trim smaller twigs. The pruner works with a rope pulley system to close the blades. 

Multiple poles connect together with a locking pin. Depending on the model, it can extend up to 20 feet. 

  • Best Feature: Precision cuts.
  • Pros: Dual-purpose pole saw & pruner.
  • Cons: Multiple pieces.
  • Recommended For: Great overall functionality. Many tree trimmers say this is their favorite of the bunch. 

3. Telescoping Pole Saw

The telescoping pole saw is made from a single metal or fiberglass section where you can twist the shaft and extend it to the length you need. Multiple sizes are available from 5 feet to upwards of 15 feet long.

They are designed to be portable and make a good travel tool for camping, hunting, or general contractors. Many fold down to a size small enough to carry in a backpack. You can also take the saw off to use it as a hand saw. 

Due to the portable nature of the telescoping pole saw, the blade is pretty simple with a straight edge & no hooks. While the cutting ability isn’t as impressive as some of the other options, you can’t beat the portability of this type of pole saw. 

  • Best Feature: Portability – You can actually climb a tree with it. 
  • Pros: Compact size; adjusts to exactly the length needed.
  • Cons: Strength of blade.
  • Recommended For: Travel, light use.

4. Electric Pole Saws (Corded) 

man using a pole saw to trim a tree demonstrating the proper stance

An electric pole saw combines the power of a chainsaw with the reach of a pole. They are lightweight are take less manpower to operate than a manual pole saw. 

Electric pole saws use bar & chain oil during operation just like a regular chain saw. They also require regular maintenance such as cleaning and or sharpening the blades. 

The big benefit to using an electric pole saw is the ease of use. They do not require the mixing of fuel and oil like gas-powered tools and are easy to start. They are also quiet to operate, which is great for residential areas. 

Most electric pole saws extend between 6-1/2 to 10 feet, providing an overall reach of up to 15 feet. To see two of our favorite models – check our head-to-head competition between the Sun Joe and WORX electric pole saws.

  • Best Feature: Lightweight
  • Pros: Quiet and Powerful
  • Cons: Need to keep track of the cord & access to power
  • Recommended For: The average homeowner with several trees to maintain.

5. Cordless Pole Saws 

Cordless pole saw have all the great features of their corded counterparts, with more freedom to move about the yard. 

The popular manufacturers of cordless power tools have an interchangeable battery system. So you can purchase a single battery (and maybe a backup) and use them with all your power tools, such as string trimmers, hedge trimmers, leaf blowers, and rototillers. 

To save money, consider sticking with a single brand of outdoor garden tools. Black & Decker, Dewalt, and Stihl are all good manufactures of cordless power tools. 

  • Best Feature: They are cordless! 
  • Pros: Quiet and Portable
  • Cons: Limited use; Need to charge the battery
  • Recommended For: Homeowner with a few trees to maintain in their backyard

6. Gas-powered Pole Saws

STIHL HT 103 31.4 cc Gas Pole Saw
The Stihl gas-powered pole saw in action. Image Credit: Ace Hardware

Gas-powered pole saws are the most powerful on our list. They can run for long periods and cut through tree branches with ease. Landscape professionals and arborists use gas-powered tools due to their long-running time and powerful cutting ability.

The balance of a gas-powered pole saw is generally better than electric-powered saws. The engine is located at the handle and the chain on the other end of the pole. The balanced weight makes it easier on your muscles, so you can cut longer without experiencing fatigue. 

These powerful tools are the best choice for larger properties and thicker branches. See our head-to-head comparison of two popular gas-powered pole saw brands – Echo and Stihl.

The drawback of gas-powered tools is that they require mixing gas and oil for operation and are much louder than their electric counterparts. 

  • Best Feature: Power, power, and more power.
  • Pros: Quick & efficient way to trim your trees.
  • Cons: Not as precise as a manual pole saw.
  • Recommended For: Landscapers or heavy use.

Frequently Asked Questions

tall trees in backyard
Tree limbs hanging over structures in our yards can be a safety hazard.

What Can A Pole Saw Be Used For?

The most common use of pole saws is for trimming tall tree branches, hedges, or bushes in our backyards. But homeowners and DIYers have found a variety of other uses for the tool. Here are just a few other ways to use your pole saw.

  • Cleaning up a campsite
  • Removing overhanging branches above your hunting stand
  • Bringing down hornet or animal nest in your backyard that has become a problem
  • Clearing webworms out of your trees
  • Trimming brush to make a new pathway

What is the Longest Pole Saw?

Notched multi-pole saws come in some of the longest configurations. While they are sold with three sections for a reach of about 15 feet, you can add a fourth section and still have a usable saw. With the four sections in place, you’ll have a maximum reach of up to 20 feet. 

What Pole Saw Do Professionals Use?  

Professional landscapers prefer gas-powered pole saws due to their power and long running time. Two popular commercial-grade brands we see most often recommended by professionals are Stihl and Husqvarna.

Why Should I Trim Those Taller Branches?

It is important to remove dead tree branches before they fall on their own. Heavy snows can easily knock down weakened tree limbs. 

The wind of winter storms can carry these branches longer distances causing unintended damage to your house, car, or even your person and pets.

It is good to remove diseased branches before they spread to other areas of the tree or surrounding plants. Trimming out unruly branches can also bring more light into your yard. See our article on taking care of trees for more tips for keeping them healthy year-round.

Which Type of Pole Saw Is Best For You?

The best thing about a pole saw is you can extend your reach to cut back unruly tree limbs and remove dead or diseased tree branches. 

The type of pole saw you need will depend on the size of your property and the height and number of trees you need to maintain. But both professional landscapers and homeowners agree that if you have taller trees in your yard, a pole saw is one of the best tree trimming tools of the trade.