*** This post was updated on: January 2, 2021 ***
Last year a neighbor of mine finally gave up on splitting logs the old fashioned way. He decided to drop $600 on what he was told was the best log splitter on the market. He was so excited to try it. But, once he got it hooked up and running, he found it didn't have anywhere near enough power to split most of the wood he had ordered. In fact, he ended up returning two log splitters before finally settling on one that met his needs.
As I do a good bit of log splitting each year for our home in the Pacific Northwest, his experience piqued my interest. The first thing I discovered is that there are lots of options when it comes to finding the best log splitters and many of them are quite expensive.
So I came up with a list of requirements to help me narrow down the choices and make my decision very easy.
And now I'm sharing this information with you.
By the end of this article, you'll know exactly:
- What is the best log splitter for your needs
- How much power you need
- How much you'll need to spend to get the performance you want
The two main categories for log splitters are gas and electric. We'll be reviewing both types. Electric log splitters are typically not as powerful as their gas-powered brethren, but they offer both cleaner and quieter operation. And unless you're looking for near professional speed, they're fast enough for most homeowners.
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#1. Southland SLS20825 (Best Gas Log Splitter)
The Southland Outdoor Power Equipment SLS20825 is the best gas log splitter in 2019. It is a 25 ton, gas log splitter with a 208cc OHV engine offering 8.5 foot-pounds of torque. It can easily split even the hardest species of wood, like hickory and maple.
The Southland SLS20825 boasts a 17-second log split cycle time. The engine starts on the first pull, allowing you to roll up your sleeves and get started without delay.
Not only will this efficiency help you get the job done faster, but this beast of a machine can also handle logs as long as 26 inches in length and 30 inches in diameter in record time.
This log splitter will outwork any electric log splitter on the market in terms of force and power.
Not only is this machine effective, but it's also efficient too as it is good on gas even after you've worked it for hours on end. Its fuel tank holds 0.74 gallons, minimizing downtime for refueling.
Performance of the Southland
With a 2-way steel edge, the SLS20825 won't skip a beat. Since it's been heat treated, the wedge is designed to have an extended life over other splitting edges.
This versatile log splitter is aquipped with both horizontal and vertical splitting capacity and can accommodate logs both large and small.
Technical Specs for the SLS20825
Once you're ready to maximize the tonnage and switch over to the vertical setting, adjusting between the two functionalities is simple and user-friendly. This splitter's vertical function will enable you to roll larger logs under it for splitting rather than lifting as you would in the horizontal function.
If you're looking for a rugged log splitter that can traverse a variety of landscapes and handle a wide range of logs, this may be just the product for you. It's got large, 16-inch wheels making it extremely portable.
Weighing in at nearly 475 pounds, this is not a lightweight piece of machinery. But, it's large, durable tires make towing the SLS20825 a breeze. They are Department of Transportation approved and can handle being towed as fast as 45 mph. It has a standard two-inch ball hitch, making it easy to hook it up to your truck or lawn tractor.
Product assembly can be accomplished by one person. But you'll find it much easier with a second set of hands when getting the heavy central beam into place. The instructions are clear and precise, and we ran into no issues while putting ours together. Only basic tools are needed. Check out the video below to see the full assembly of the product.
Southland offers a generous three-year warranty on this product, covering the steel frame for three years, the engine for two years and the hydraulics for one year. From our experience and our research, this is consistently the best rated log splitter.
#2. Yardmax YU2566
The YardMax YU2566 is the best log splitter for the money. It packs a 25 ton splitting force, enabling it to deliver when faced with even the most demanding of wood splitting needs. Equipped with a 208cc Briggs & Stratton 4-cycle engine, it is easy to start time and time again. The recoil starting system on this Briggs & Stratton engine is easy to start on the first pull and with little effort.
The engine offers both idle control and low oil shutdown. A log opening of up to 26 inches ensures that the YardMax YU2566 can handle large logs as well as small. Working with hardwood with knots in it? No problem. This log splitter will split through it like butter.
A unique U-Beam structural design is currently pending patent and offers added strength when compared to traditional I-Beam designs seen used in other log splitters. This improved design places less stress on the beam, improving the life of the machine and its durability.
Performance of the Yardmax
The structural design isn't the only feature that makes this product unique, it also has a foot plate pending a patent. This footplate serves to rotate logs when they are being split and decreases reliance on the beam, improving functionality and helping the user when working with unevenly cut end pieces of wood.
The steel wedge is 7 inches in size, both a two way and four-way wedge are included. Transitioning between a vertical and horizontal position takes less effort than ever due to a cylinder beam handle.
An oversized hydraulic pump serves to reduce cycle time to under ten seconds with the YardMax YU2566. The 4.2-gallon hydraulic reservoir has been built into the wheel shaft with an internal filter providing added protection. Four gallons of hydraulic fluid are included with the unit to get your reservoir started without the added expense.
The auto return function ensures that you don't have to manually hold the lever up, allowing you to concentrate on wood splitting. This log splitter is also equipped with a pair of log cradles, helping to ensure that logs are positioned exactly where you want them, and stay in place, every time.
Weighing in at nearly 520 pounds, this log splitter is towable with 16-inch road tires and a two-inch ball hitch making it easy to do so.
Here's a video demonstrating the use of the YU2566.
Max Log Size
Horizontal & Vertical
2 & 4 Way Wedge Included
Assembly for the YU2566 is minimal and can be accomplished with ease by one person. Overall, this log splitter performs well in its class and offers several unique features like the 4-way splitting wedge, a spinner plate, and U-Beam construction, which is difficult to find in the same price range.
The consumer warranty covers the log splitter for three years while a separate commercial warranty provides additional coverage for 90 days. The consumer warranty covers the craftsmanship for three years, the engine for two years and the hydraulics for one.
#3. Dirty Hand Tools 100171
The Dirty Hand Tools 22 ton log splitter strikes the right balance between power and functionality. Its Kohler SH265 engine has 6.5 and a 196 cc engine. The engine is air cooled to ensure it can keep up with you without overheating, regardless of how much wood you have to split.
We found the manual start worked every time without fail. A minimum of five gallons but no more than 6.5 gallons of hydraulic oil are required to operate this log splitter.
Notably, it does not come pre-filled nor does it include oil with the purchase, but depending on the type of oil needed, it can be purchased for about $50.
A 10.9 second cycle time to fully complete a log split ensures that you're speeding through cords without blinking an eye. This efficiently operating machine will keep you working at a quick pace to keep up with it.
Performance of the Dirty Hand Tools
The versatility of this log splitter is evidenced by its ability to function as a horizontal and a vertical log splitter. Bolstered by its vertical wood splitting capability, this beast of a machine can process logs 25 inches in length and a whopping 36 inches in diameter. It operates smoothly and splits large, green logs with ease.
Note that if you're using the horizontal log splitter function, it does not come with any type of attachment to help catch the excess wood produced, opening up the opportunity for the parts below to be damaged. If you bump up a class to the 27 ton unit, the attachment is included.
Like other log splitters in its class, the Dirty Hand Tools 22 ton gas log splitter is road towable, so you don't have to think twice about the feasibility of moving it. Whether you're running between job sites or wowing your friends by letting them borrow your machine, transporting this splitter is simple and safe with a 2-inch ball and safety chains.
Much like the two other gas log splitters we're reviewing, this splitter also has Department of Transportation approved 16-inch wheels. The manufacturer's warranty covers workmanship for three years, the engine for two years and the hydraulics for one year.
At 634 pounds, the log splitter is the heaviest and largest on the review list. Consider that you will need a fairly large truck to help move the log splitter as it is large even when disassembled, palletized and packaged in a crate.
Kohler engines are considered by many to be as durable and long-lasting as any in the industry. This product performs very well and is a powerful piece of machinery. Overall, the log splitter is user-friendly as it is easy to assemble and easy to use, with auto return and a powerful engine.
Product assembly takes about 3 hours plus or minus. The instructions are very clear, and there are several videos on Youtube that you can watch if you need help.
We like the Dirty Hand Tools 100171, but because of it's higher price and lower power output we've ranked it third overall.
#4. Boss Industrial ES7T20 (Best Electric Log Splitter)
The Boss Industrial ES7T20 log splitter is a compact, powerful, easy to use electric log splitter. This top rated log splitter occupies little space and is easy to store in the off-season. A push button start has this machine powered up in no time while one-handed operation and automatic ram return ensure ease of use.
The Boss Industrial may be the best home log splitter. Packing 7 tons of power, it is strong enough to split small, dry logs for firewood. With one hand free, you can better guide the log in place and ensure your safety.
Projects can be accomplished safely and cleaned up quickly. Stability while log splitting is ensured with built-in side rails, so you do not have to worry about manually stabilizing your logs or keeping them in place. Maneuvering the log splitter is made easier with front-side handles within reach.
The Boss Industrial log splitter draws up about 1500 watts, equating to approximately 13.5 amps, and has 3,500 lbs of pressure.
Performance of the Boss Electric
The split time is about 10-15 seconds per cycle. Depending on your needs, the few seconds of added split time may not matter. A large 5-inch steel wedge is strong enough to cut through even tough, knotted pieces of wood. Unlike a gas log splitter, this electric log splitter is relatively quiet and only produces a low hum when operating as intended.
Weighing only 108 pounds, this log splitter is easy to pick up and move as needed without any assistance. A 2 HP electric engine alleviates any concerns over emissions and is more environmentally friendly than a gas engine. Whether you're planning on splitting wood inside or outside, you can do so without giving consideration to a proper ventilation setup with this splitter.
A patented hydraulic system gives the Boss Industrial electric log splitter an additional advantage over its competitors. Although it sits a little low, extension legs are available for purchase to prevent the user from bending over too far and causing back pain. This log splitter is only equipped for horizontal use and cannot be adjusted for vertical wood splitting, making it ideal for smaller logs but not best suited for logs that are larger in diameter or length.
According to many user reviews, it can easily split logs up to 21 inches in length, both freshly cut and dry. While not ideal for commercial use, this powerful yet compact log splitter works perfectly for residential projects. Best of all, this splitter requires no assembly, simply take it out of the box, and you'll be ready to tackle that wood pile that's been staring you down for months.
#5. Powerhouse XM-580 Log Splitter
The Powerhouse XM-580 Log Splitter is nimble, electric, compact, and weighs only 118 pounds. While it is the best small log splitter for 2019, with a cut length maximum of 21-inches, the Powerhouse Log Splitter XM-580 can handle relatively large logs to accomplish your wood splitting needs at home.
It's highly portable and can easily be transported to and from work sites. Durable pneumatic wheels make it easy to tow around without worrying about putting any strain on your back.
The wheels provide plenty of traction for any ride; the Powerhouse XM-580 can be towed on the highway without any cause for concern.
This consumer-grade log splitter has a contemporary design and can be used on a work table or lowered to the ground. Since the electric motor doesn't emit any fumes, it can be used indoors or outdoors without any need for ventilation.
Performance of the XM-580
Significantly stronger than a 5 ton log splitter and packed with 9 tons of hydraulic power, this piece of machinery can handle a lot of splitting. If you're looking for a low-maintenance addition to your machinery fleet, this may be the right fit.
There is no need to refill the tank for this electricity dependent piece of machinery. There is also no need to change the oil, which is one less thing to worry about. If you are working outside, you may need a heavy duty extension cord to increase your range, as it will be limited.
The electric power of this machine promises 20 amps and 120 volts of electric power. Positioned horizontally, it is ideal for projects involving smaller, lightweight dry logs. Equipped with a steel wedge, this the Powerhouse Log Splitter XM-380 is as durable as any electric log splitter on the market. Torque has been increased by 45% with the hydraulic system employed by the product, an improvement which has recently been patented. It has a hydraulic oil reserve with a 0.8-gallon capacity.
Its strong steel wedge will not only perform with every use but will also last many seasons to come. While the warranty could be longer, it does come with a one year warranty, six months of covering repairs with the remainder of the year applying only to parts. This log splitter is very simple to use, making it perfect for an entry-level user with little to no experience splitting wood with a log splitter. This is one of the top rated wood splitters in 2019, and working with it is as simple as plugging it in and pulling the lever to get going.
Pros & Cons of Gas Powered Log Splitters
- Lots of power
- Relatively short cycle time
- Works on Hardwoods, fresh & wet wood
- Highly Portable
- More moving parts
- Louder and dirtier
- Needs gas and oil
- Require maintenance
Advantages of Gas Log Splitters
Gas powered log splitters have several notable advantages over electric log splitters, power being one of them. If you're splitting larger green logs, a gas log splitter will be much more effective in splitting the wood efficiently.
Since they won't need to be plugged in, gas log splitters are more portable and will allow you to take your log splitter to the farthest reach of your land, if needed. You'll have a greater range if you need it, with the ability to be towed being a standard feature. Our gas log splitter reviews show that they offer anywhere from 8 tons to over 34 tons, which is plenty of force to take on almost any wood splitting project head on. For this reason, they generally get good reviews and sell well on Amazon.
Disadvantages of Gas Log Splitters
When compared with electric log splitters, gas log splitters will obviously be much louder. Depending on how close your nearest neighbor is, regular use of a gas log splitter can certainly strain relations. They also need additional maintenance, such as servicing the engine and doing oil changes regularly.
Gas powered wood splitters, although they are more powerful and are considered to be the best wood splitters, tend to be heavier than electric products, potentially requiring assistance when being moved. In comparing price points with an electric product, gas log splitters are more expensive and will present a larger upfront cost.
They are less environmentally friendly as they emit potentially harmful fumes and cannot be used indoors. Be very mindful when operating a gas powered log splitter in even a partially enclosed space as the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning is odorless but very real.
Pros and Cons of Electric Log Splitters
An electric log splitter is convenient in that it can be used both indoors and outdoors as it requires no ventilation as compared with a gas log splitter. There is no need to be worried about carbon monoxide levels when operating an electric log splitter. No more braving the bitter cold to get some fresh logs to split for the dying fire in your living room.
- Can be used indoor
- Powerful enough for most woods.
- Lighter weight
- Not as portable
- Not as much power as wood splitters
- Smaller capacity
You won't have to deal with gas or oil in order to run your electric log splitter, but you will have to ensure you're plugged into an outlet. This reliance on electricity means they're not as portable as gas wood splitters as the motor must have electricity.
Electric log splitters are more cost-effective and can be a budget-friendly option for those using them infrequently.
As a good rule-of-thumb, an electric log splitter will rarely be rated over 10 tons. If you're splitting logs remotely, and with no easy access to an electrical outlet, you'll have to worry about lugging a generator to the project site. Overall, electric log splitters are not as flexible as gas, as they can't accommodate logs that are as large, nor can they offer as much force and power when splitting wood.
Key Considerations Before You Purchase a Log Splitter
When I first started looking at log splitters, I had loads of questions...
- Which is better hydraulic or kinetic?
- Should I go with gas or electric?
- How fast does my log splitter need to be?
- How much power do I need?
- How are log splitters divided into power classes?
- Is it worthwhile to have horizontal and vertical wood splitting capability?
We can answer all of these questions by quickly determining how you'll be using your log splitter.
There are a few important questions you should ask yourself.
Are you stockpiling personal firewood for the winter? Or are you interested in launching your own firewood business? What budget range are you working with? What types of wood do you plan to split?
But the 2 MOST IMPORTANT questions are:
1. Will the logs be freshly cut or cured?
2. Will they be hardwoods or soft?
Having a clear idea of how you intend to use your log splitter allows you to determine what is the right product for you quickly. If you're unsure about what you need, the following information will lead you in the right direction.
Should You Buy a Hydraulic or Kinetic Log Splitter?
Hydraulic log splitters offer a lot of power to plow split logs, but they are slower in terms of cycle time. Kinetic log splitters are quick, but they offer almost no follow-through power beyond the initial impact (sort of like a hammer hitting a nail).
Most of the wood splitters currently on the market are hydraulic, and we have focused only on hydraulic log splitter reviews. In considering the differences in hydraulic and kinetic log splitters, there are several distinctions that are worth noting. While many of the hydraulic log splitters out there are ALMOST as fast as the kinetics in terms of cycle time, some people just want lots of speed. So I'll spend a bit of time discussing the differences and which is right for you. Towards the end of the article, I'll even highlight one of the top selling kinetic log splitters in case you're interested.
Hydraulic log splitters can be divided into two categories: gas and electric. I'll cover the pros and cons of both and showcase my picks for the best of both types. While both gas and electric products work to accomplish the same task, they often have very different capabilities.
More on this later...
Pros & Cons of Hydraulic Log Splitters
Log splitters were traditionally designed this way using a method that employs valves and pumps. Over a period of anywhere from 10 - 20 seconds, it pushes a splitting ram into the log, gradually splitting the wood.
Even the best hydraulic log splitter will have a longer cycle time, and this slows the process down, usually to 10-15 seconds, but it can take as long as to 30-seconds with some wood splitters.
In terms of maintenance, hydraulic products have more moving parts. There's the pump, valves, motor, and hydraulic fluid. More moving parts CAN translate into a higher probability of things going wrong. Some of the common problems are broken or leaky valves, pump issues, and leaking hydraulic fluid.
The top rated log splitters are usually hydraulic, because where really shine is in their power and flexibility. These products will perform better with harder woods, knotty logs, and misshaped logs with "y" splits. They're also better for logs that are freshly cut or wet not just properly seasoned wood.
On top of that, they're not THAT much slower.
- Lots of power
- Relatively short cycle time
- Powers through hardwoods, fresh & wet wood
- More moving parts
- Slower than kinetic
- Requires hydraulic fluid
Pros & Cons of Kinetic Log Splitters
While a hydraulic log splitter may offer more force, measured by the ton, it doesn't come close to a flywheel-based log splitter in terms of speed.
If speed is more important to you, kinetic log splitters are tough to beat as they split logs immediately by releasing a great deal of energy in one burst, rather than through a gradual process as is found with hydraulics. For this reason, they will always be the top log splitters for speed.
I like to keep things simple. If you like the idea of faster cutting and most of the logs you'll be working with will be seasoned, a kinetic log splitter is the way to go. If you don't care about speed so much as being able to cut through whatever the hell you throw on your splitter, go with a hydraulic log splitter.
Kinetic log splitters operate with a pinion gear and heavy flywheels. The two parts work as part of the system that stores the energy needed for a split. Activation of the handle releases the energy, this burst of energy immediately splits a log apart.
About six times faster than most hydraulic wood splitters, the best kinetic log splitter products offer a cycle-time as short as 2.5 seconds. They use high velocity and low force to get the job done efficiently.
If you're considering kinetic log splitter, you need to understand their shortcomings. Yes, they work very quickly. But they often won't work as well on logs with knots or "Y" splits in them. They can also struggle with harder or denser woods as there is no energy to follow up the initial release.
Because the generation of force behind the two types of wood splitters is different, it is often difficult to find direct comparisons of the two types.
- Very fast
- Very short cycle time
- Allows for smaller cuts, as multiple cuts take less time
- Not as powerful
- Won't work well on wet or uncured logs.
How Important is Speed for You?
While a cycle time under ten seconds sounds impressive, the reality is that anything faster than that will require a second set of hands in keeping up with the machinery.
If you're using a log splitter at home to build a firewood stockpile, increasing efficiency by just a few seconds likely isn't important, especially if you're working alone.
On the other hand, if you have commercial intent for your log splitter purchase, having a quick cycle time is likely a priority, so a gas log splitter is the way to go. If speed is not as important to you as power is, make sure you are prioritizing that when reading reviews of the best rated log splitters.
Gas vs. Electric Log Splitters
When it comes down to choosing between gas and electric products, the choice should be pretty straightforward. With gas you're going to get more power, and more portability. You can take your log splitter wherever you need it without having to worry about how you're going to power it.
The downside is they're louder, heavier, use gas and oil, and cannot be used inside.
Electric log splitters are cleaner and CAN be used indoors. This is a nice feature if you don't want to be splitting wood out in the elements. The downside of electric log splitters is that they aren't as powerful and can only be used where you have access to power.
How Much Power Do You Need?
The pressure your log splitter applies to a log is measured by the ton, and log splitter ratings are usually based on this. Each log splitter review we do lists the tons of force that the machine can apply to the wedge.
Determining how much force you truly need for your project can go a long way in narrowing down the best wood splitter for you. Ultimately, making the decision boils down to a few factors: log size and density. The wider the log you are splitting, the more tons of force accomplishing the split will require.
For logs that are 6-inches in diameter, 4 tons of pressure will get the job done. On the other side of the spectrum, larger logs 24-inches in diameter will require over 30 tons of pressure to split. Most log splitter users fall somewhere in the middle, working with logs 12-inches in diameter which, on average, require anywhere from 7 tons to 16 tons of pressure to split.
You might have noticed this is a pretty wide range of tonnage. The reason for this is that a seasoned log is much easier to split than a fresh/green log.
The drier the log, the less tonnage it will need to split as dry logs are considerably easier to split. A seasoned log was cut long ago and has dried out, retaining very little moisture. Green logs, on the other hand, have been freshly cut, retain significant moisture, and are more difficult to cut than dry, seasoned logs.
Unsurprisingly, splitting green wood will require more tonnage than splitting seasoned wood.
Do You Need A Horizontal and Vertical Log Splitter?
For some people, a horizontal log splitter is all they'll ever need. With a horizontal-only log splitter, the log is placed in the guide, the ram pushes the log against the wedge, resulting in a split.
If you only plan to split small, low-weight logs and have no problem lifting them onto the splitter, a horizontal log splitter will work just fine. Horizontal log splitters are ideal for homeowners looking to split small, seasoned logs up to 14-inches in diameter and 21-inches in length.
As you might've guessed, vertical log splitters do the same work, but with the log in the vertical position.
This allows you to work with larger logs WITHOUT having to lift them.
A good practice to evaluate your needs is to simply look at your woodpile, find the widest log and measure its diameter to determine whether you'll need a log splitter that accommodates horizontal or vertical wood splitting.
Vertical wood splitting is more effective when splitting large logs as it will spare your back the pain of hoisting a heavy log atop the log splitter. With a log splitter equipped to split a log vertically, you can simply roll the log into the right position and pivot the wood appropriately.
This feature allows larger, heavy logs to be split on the ground. There are several log splitters on the market that offer both functions and are enabled to transition between a vertical and horizontal position with ease.
There is a lot to consider when deciding who makes the best log splitter. If your priority is speed, power, and portability, then you'll want to take a close look at our pick for the best gas-powered log splitter.
On the flip side, if you want a clean solution that offers quieter operation, then our pick for the best electric log splitter is the way to go.