Log Splitters Buying Guide, for Every Price Range
When I first started out on the task of researching log splitters, I was pretty overwhelmed. There’s a lot of terminology and a lot of numbers that get thrown around, and it can all get really confusing, really fast. That’s why I created this buying guide, so that anyone starting out can quickly learn everything they need to know to get up and running.
The first thing you need to think about when it comes to the power source for a log splitter is whether or not you want to have one to begin with, as there are many manual options on the market that come with a good number of benefits. Manual log splitters are typically the cheapest options out there, but also the weakest because they require you to use your own strength to drive the wedge. You can find a few models that include manual hydraulics for some extra power, but it still won’t come close to what you can get from others types of splitters.
If you’re in need of more serious power, then you’re going to be looking at either a gas-powered or electric log splitter. Electric splitters are the lighter of the two, but also tend to be weaker overall. Electric motors aren’t as loud as gas motors, and also require little maintenance. Just remember that an electric splitter needs to be connected to a power source, so you won’t be able to take it out into the middle of a field unless you’ve got a portable generator.
Finally, gas log splitters provide the best power, but are also the heaviest and usually the most expensive splitters. These models are great if you plan on splitting a huge number or logs, or if you have a particularly thick or hard type of wood on your property. This machine can get pretty loud, and you’ll need to replace the fuel and oil regularly to keep it running smoothly. However, you can take it anywhere you need to split some logs, as long as you have a method to transport it.
The amount of force that a lot splitter is capable of producing is usually written in tons. A manual log splitter is usually going to top out at 2 or 3 tons, while an electric splitter can get as high up as 10 tons. Both of these options are usually enough for jobs around the home, such as clearing out lumber from a downed tree in your back yard or preparing some kindling for use in your fireplace during the winter months. It’s important to remember, though, that models with lower output sometimes have a smaller log capacity. Depending on the construction, the cradle might only fit logs under about 1 ½ feet in length, and they usually can’t handle anything too thick, either.
Gas log splitters are where the real power is at, with some consumer models offering as much as 30 tons of pressure. If you’re looking for a log splitter to keep in your garage to help clear up spare lumber a few times a year, this might be too much power for you. However, if you’ve got a large property, like a farm or a rural home with a big back yard, or you plan on splitting big, thick logs regularly, a gas splitter could really come in handy. You’re usually going to end up paying more for the splitting power, so just keep that in mind.
Generally speaking, the more power a splitter has, the heaver it is. And the heaver a splitter is, the harder is it to move around. So you’re going to have to think about how much you’re going to be moving the splitter, and how much power you’re going to need when you get there. As you can imagine, a manual log splitter is going to be pretty portable. Some models are essentially the size of a broomstick, which makes them very easy to store or to take with you between locations.
Once you add an engine to the mix, your portability options are going to start getting trickier. Both gas and electric models tend to have wheels, which can be a huge bonus because the smaller units can literally be dragged by hand. It’s not ideal if you need to move it long distances, but it can be a real lifesaver if you’re going to be moving it within the same general area, like from your garage out to your backyard.
The heavy-duty log splitters, which are usually gas powered, are going to be the hardest to move, even though gas motors mean you’re not stuck tethered to an outlet. If you need a lot of power, and you need to move the splitter pretty often, then you’ll need to make sure you have a vehicle to get these machines around. Most of the time this means loading it into the back of a pickup truck and driving it where you need to go. However, some models include a ball coupler, which means you can attach it to the back of a truck or a UTV. This is only for short distances, though, as the splitter probably wouldn’t stand up very well out on the open road.
Safety is incredibly important when it comes to operating a log splitter, because most of them can cause some serious damage if you’re not using them properly. Most models take safety very seriously, and include many features such as safety guides near the cradle or actuator levers at the opposite end of the feeder, so it’s really about finding the unit that makes you feel the safest. I would recommend thinking about who is going to use the splitter to determine what kind of safety options are appropriate. For example, if you’re going to have some trained workers operating it, then you can focus on the more mechanized splitters. However, if you’re going to have family members using it who don’t have a lot of experience with splitting logs, then a manual model or a low-powered electric unit might be better. This one is really a personal call, so just make sure you read up on all the safety features of each splitter to find what feels right.
More and more log splitters are adding special features to help them stand out from the rest, which is great for most of us. But sometimes these features aren’t exactly useful for everyone, so you’ll need to make sure you’re not paying extra for something that doesn’t really matter for you. A lot of log splitters have automatic ram return features, which means that once the log is split the ram and wedge reset without any extra effort. This helps save time, but might not be such a big deal if you only use the splitter a few times a year.
Higher end splitters tend to have more features, which can also drive up the price. Options like configurable builds or the ability to shift between horizontal and vertical splitting modes can be great, but if you’re not likely to use them then you really don’t need to put down the extra money for them.
My last piece of advice for you while you’re shopping for a new log splitter is to make sure you carefully consider all of the options together. Think about how much you’re going to use the machine and where you’re going to use it, so that you know what features matter most. I like to make a list of “Must Haves” and “Nice to Haves” to help me sort through what I absolutely need and what’s just not necessary. This helps to weed out models that are too much or too little, and lets me focus on comparing only the ones that really have everything I need.