- Best Cordless Reciprocating Saw
- Best Corded Reciprocating Saws
- Best Budget Reciprocating Saw
Best Reciprocating Saw
More than anything, reciprocating saws are demolition tools. There’s no finesse, no fine line of accuracy and most of all, no “finish cuts” with a reciprocating saw. On the other hand, when you need to take something down quick, a reciprocating saw will do it faster than anything else, except maybe a chain saw.
These saws are often referred to by their nickname, “Sawzall.” This is the name that Milwaukee Tools gave their first reciprocating saw, and it seems to have stuck pretty well. While Milwaukee is still the champ of the Sawzall, there are plenty of other contenders to look at.
Because these are a specialty saw, most do-it-yourselfers have a hard time justifying their purchase. In that case, you might want to consider looking at one of the budget models we have listed. While these are not as heavy duty as the professional models, for the homeowner who occasionally needs to take something apart or cut up a fallen tree limb, they’re plenty. I’ve cut up trailers, trees, fences and even part of a city bus frame with a low-dollar reciprocating saw. We’ve also included a helpful buyer’s guide below to take some of the guesswork out of your search.
Best Cordless Reciprocating Saw:
Reciprocating saws, otherwise known as “Sawzalls” (Named after the original Milwaukee tool) are the tool of choice for demolition of just about anything from cutting a car in half to taking out a wall. Quite frankly, about the only thing you can’t cut with one of these powerful tools is brick and concrete. These tools are simply designed for tearing stuff apart or making a hole through it. Sawzalls are not a finesse tool, so don’t try and use one like you would a handheld jigsaw.
In the past, the problem was these tools required so much power their batteries wouldn’t last. Now, with lithium-Ion battery technology, we finally have rechargeable batteries with enough capacity to power these tools for longer periods of time. I highly recommend you have two batteries on hand as you can have one recharging while the other one is in use.
The other thing to mention regarding batteries is the amp-hour rating which gives you a comparative number to use for determining how long the battery will last on one charge. The number refers to how many hours that one amp of power can be drawn from the battery, before the battery runs low enough on power where it won’t produce sufficient voltage for use. As the tools draw more than one amp of electrical power from the battery, don’t expect one hour of continuous use. Use this number as a comparison between different batteries.
With cordless tools, the higher the battery voltage, the more powerful the tool. For a while, 18 volts was the maximum voltage used in any cordless tools. We’re starting to see a breakthrough on that, with three of the new saws on the list being over 18 volts and in one case even twice the power.
One of the nice things manufacturers have added on these newer reciprocating saws is to put a tool-less blade holder on them. Older models required loosening and tightening three allen screws to change the blade. Now, blade installation requires you simply twist the collar, pull out the old blade, and insert the new one.
Additionally, these tools are fairly heavy to work with and when it comes to using them in an awkward position, operator comfort can become a major issue. Finally, you want the most powerful Sawzall you can get. Demolition can be tough, and requires a tough tool to master it.
At 36 volts, this is the most powerful cordless reciprocating saw on the market. Like all of Bosch's reciprocating saws, it includes a variety of helpful features including the blade holder, which allows for convenient, one-handed blade changing. Read Full Review
See it at:
Milwaukee, the original inventor of the "Sawzall" reciprocating saw, is not allowing themselves to be upstaged on this one. This 28 volt saw comes with two 3.0 Ah batteries, allowing it to run twice as long as its 18 volt cousins. Read Full Review
See it at:
DeWalt's 20 volt cordless saw comes in at a mere 7.35 pounds, making it the lightest saw on this list. That makes a huge difference, especially when you're using it for hours at a time. Read Full Review
See it at:
Hitachi beats everyone with the CR18DL for the overall best and easiest tool to work with. This 7.5 pound saw is shaped and balanced to ensure operator comfort during extended periods of use. The unit comes with lithium-Ion batteries, but is built to accept nickel-cadmium or nickel-metal hydride varieties. Read Full Review
See it at:
Makita is known for long life and durability. Every detail of this saw shows quality, as is to be expected from Makita. The tool-less blade changer is one of the easiest to work with. Read Full Review
See it at:
Best Corded Reciprocating Saws:
Reciprocating saws (Otherwise known as “Sawzalls”) are named after the original reciprocating saw made by Milwaukee. These are tough saws made for cutting quickly without much grace; they definitely aren’t the saws you want to use when building cabinets! Reciprocating saws are intended for demolition, cutting through and taking apart what others have spent a lot of time putting together.
For a reciprocating saw to be effective, it needs to be tough. These saws commonly cut through nails, pipes, metal brackets and anything else that gets in their way. If they’re not tough, they’re not going to last. Any carpenter or construction professional who’s ever had to tear something apart has learned the value of a tough reciprocating saw.
Power and durability differentiate these reciprocating saws from lower-cost models. Power is what helps the saw get through the tough materials it encounters while you’re tearing things apart while durability keeps from falling apart from regular abuse.
In addition to those two key elements, there are a few handy options to look for in a reciprocating saw. These tools have a tendency to vibrate and shake a lot during operation resulting in operator discomfort. Realizing this, manufacturers have worked to develop systems and features to reduce vibration such as padded handles and snouts thereby helping make them easier to work with.
Another innovation heavily represented on this list is orbital blade action. The orbital action pulls the blade back from the line of cut on the return stroke, reducing friction, blade wear and vibration. Some saws come with only one orbital action while others have as many as four different settings you can choose from.
Finally, most of the newer reciprocating saws have quick-change blade clamps, allowing tool-less blade changes. That’s a nice feature, saving time and making life easier for the guy who’s got to get back to cutting quickly. Make sure you buy quality, long-lasting blades to go with the quick change feature because you still don’t want to have to change them out too often.
For pure power, I'd go with this Milwaukee sawzall. The 15 amp motor gives you plenty of power along with reduced vibration and a clutch to protect the gearbox and motor. Read Full Review
See it at:
This reciprocating saw is another 15 amp powerhouse. This one has four different orbital settings for accommodating different materials. Makita claims this saw has half the vibration of others thanks to their anti-vibration technology. Read Full Review
See it at:
If you’ve got to do a lot of cutting with your reciprocating saw, this is the one for you. Bosch offers the best power to weight ratio of any reciprocating saw on the market. Read Full Review
See it at:
The unique thing about this saw is its "swing mode" for cutting, which produces significantly less rebound effect. It's much more ergonomic shaped than other swazalls, making it easier to work with. Read Full Review
See it at:
This saw has several nice features on it, including a two-position shoe allowing maximum blade usage. If you’re cutting in wood, rather than metal, switch it over to orbital mode for more efficient cutting. Read Full Review
See it at:
Best Budget Reciprocating Saw:
Reciprocating saws, or “Sawzalls”, are tough tools used primarily for demolition work, cutting through wood, metal, lath, plaster and more. The sawzall has a reputation for cutting through almost anything and there’s even a “Hackman” challenges where individuals wielding sawzalls cut through cars, buses, airplanes, boxcars, a house and even an armored car (See it and believe it at www.cutsomething.com.) Bottom line, these aren’t saws meant for making nice finish cuts. Rather, they’re the brutes you turn to when you need to cut your way through something and the finished look isn’t majorly important.
There have been a couple of important changes in the design of these saws, first being the blade clamp. It used to be an Allen wrench was needed to change the blades, but now they pretty much all come with a spring loaded collar for locking the blade in place. The second important change is some now have a rotating barrel allowing users to rotate the front end of the saw 90 or even 180 degrees from the handle. When you’re cutting through something rough for demolition work, it’s an amazingly nice option as it reduces operator fatigue immensely.
This list has been limited to saws found find online in the $80 range. The major differences between these low-dollar saws and their higher priced counterparts are going to be their power and life expectancy. Admittedly, quality versions of this tool will last longer but for the individual infrequently using their budget sawzall, there’s no reason to dish out big bucks for a professional grade model
The major thing to look for in a reciprocating saw is raw power, the main criteria for rating the best budget reciprocating saws on this page. There are other elements to a sawzall which are important as well, but they all play second fiddle to its power. If the saw doesn’t have enough power to get through what you’re cutting, no amount of flashy additional features will compensate for it.
The DeWalt 10 Amp is powerful enough to call it professional grade. With a 10 amp motor and 1-1/8 inch stroke, you'll be able to get through just about anything material you apply it to. Read Full Review
See it at:
At 9 amps, the Skil 9.0 is a very respectable saw for a do-it-yourselfer. SKil has added in a speed control knob, so you don't have to try and control the speed with the trigger. A couple handy features including a power-on indicator and on-board blade storage are included. Read Full Review
See it at:
Although a bit less powerful and a bit shorter stroke, this entry by Black & Decker is still a good sawzall to work with. The rubber coated front end and ergonomic handle help get rid of the vibration all reciprocating saws are plagued with. Read Full Review
See it at:
If you're looking for a bargain with some exclusive features, the Porter-Cable Tradesman sawzall might be for you. It's still got a fill 1-1/8" stroke and runs up to 3,100 RPM, even though the motor is only 7.5 amp. You can also limit the depth of your cut with an adjustable shoe, the only model on this list with this option. Read Full Review
See it at:
Reciprocating Saw Buyer's Guide
When the Milwaukee Tool Company first brought out the Sawzall, they gave it an apt name that perfectly described their new reciprocating saw's capability. If there was ever a saw invented that could cut everything, the reciprocating saw was it. While other saws may cut certain things faster than a reciprocating saw can, they can't cut the same wide variety of materials.
Reciprocating saws are rough cutting saws, ideal for demolition work and for cutting larger pieces of wood such as laminated beams. Like the jigsaw, the reciprocating saw uses a floating blade that is held only at one end. This means that the blade can be easily bent to one side, simply by the pressure of the weight of the saw.
Unless the neatness of a finish cut is not needed, anything cut with a reciprocating saw may have to be re-cut or sanded to give it a nice edge. However, if the edge is to be hidden, this step is unnecessary.
The blade used with the reciprocating saw is extremely important. There are a variety of blades on the market for these saws, running up to 12 inches long. Both metal cutting and wood cutting blades are available as well as some specifically designed for demolition work.
What Type of Reciprocating Saw Do You Need?
Cordless varieties operate on the highest voltage batteries that tool manufacturers make. That's so they will have enough power. Keep in mind though, that when running continually, these saws will go through batteries rather quickly. If you do a lot of demolition cutting or other cutting where you would use a reciprocating saw, cordless might not be the way to go. There are a wider range of corded models available, than there are cordless ones. The corded ones eliminate the problem of batteries dying, and area also somewhat cheaper.
Cordless means that you don't need to have an electrical power source available to use one of these. There are certainly times when this might be needed, especially if you’re working construction or plan on taking your reciprocating saw to your cabin in the woods to cut firewood.
If you are a homeowner or do-it-yourselfer and only need to use a reciprocating saw from time to time, you can probably get by with a budget model. I have a budget one that I've used for a number of years now, mostly for cutting tree branches off and then cutting them up into firewood. It works as well as the day I bought it, even though the way I've been using it could be considered hard use.
The number one requirement in any reciprocating saw is sheer power. When you look at the saws we have listed, their motors range from 7.5 amp to 15.0 amp; exactly double. The higher power allows you to use the saw for heavier applications. I can cut through a 4" or 5" branch with my 7.5 amp reciprocating saw, but that's about its limit. If I go for anything bigger, it starts to bog down.
Cutting metal requires much more force than cutting wood, so if you are intending to cut a lot of metal, you'll want to have a high amperage saw. This will help ensure that the saw doesn't bog down while you are cutting; but I'll warn you, the saw may pull you back and forth if the blade gets bound up.
In addition to power, cutting metal requires a slower blade speed, so that the blade doesn't overheat. You'll want to make sure that you buy a saw with a variable speed trigger on it, so that you can slow it down. Otherwise, for wood, it's usually full speed ahead.
Quick Release Chuck
Pretty much all reciprocating saws now have a quick release chuck for the blades, eliminating the need to use tools for blade changes. This is a great convenience, as well as a time saver. Check if the chuck allows the blade to be mounted horizontally as well as vertically. This allows you to rotate the blade direction, without having to change your grip on the saw.
Some of these saws now have nosepieces that rotate. They may only rotate 90 degrees or a full 360 degrees. In either case, there will be stops every 90 degrees to lock the nosepiece in place. Having this capability or the ability to mount the blade at a different angle adds to the saw's ergonomics.
One other thing you want to look at in these saws is comfort. They are fairly heavy saws, which produce a lot of vibration. That adds to operator fatigue. Some manufacturers have added features to reduce vibration, as well as padded handles and rubber boots over the nose which is where most people hold the tool with their other hand.