Miter saw vs Circular Saw – Which One Should I Get First in 2021?

If you’re unsure of the similarities and differences between a miter saw vs circular saw, then this article is perfect for you. I know everyone knows the basic difference between the two power tools.

However, things can sometimes get a little bit challenging especially when you are on a budget and can’t afford to get both saws at the same time.

In this article, I will compare miter saw vs circular saw and will tell you the similarities and differences between both tools. 

I will try my best to give you all the information about both tools so that you can make a decision when choosing the tool that is right for you.

So without wasting any more time let’s get started.

In a Hurry? Here’s a Quick Summary of the Article

Feature Miter SawCircular Saw
TypesSingle Bevel, dual bevel, sliding, compound, corded, cordlessCorded, cordless
Ease of useEasy to useTakes practice to master
Cutting AnglesVery Easy Hard
Accuracy High Low 
Safety High Low 
Efficiency High Low 
Portability Low High 
Dust Collection YesNo
Versatility Medium High 
Price High Low 
Applications Miter cuts, cross cuts, bevel cutsMiter cuts, rip cuts, cross cuts, dado cuts (wit jigs)
A comparison table between a miter saw and circular saw

The first thing you need to know about is the types of miter or circular saw. It will help you know both tools closely and give you a rough idea about using a miter or circular saw for your applications.

Types of Miter saws

Miter saws are available in two types: bevel and compound miter saws.

Bevel Miter Saw

dewalt single bevel miter saw

A bevel miter saw is a powerful tool that allows you to make different cuts at different angles (Also called bevel cuts). It can do both crosscuts (cutting perpendicular or 90 degrees) and beveling of wood, metal, and plastic.

The bevel miter saw will allow you to make compound cuts that depend on the angle which is set on it.

The major benefit of a bevel miter saw is that it can handle large jobs because it has enough power to go through thick wood and metal pieces.

Bevel miter saws can further be divided into two types i.e. single bevel miter saw and double bevel miter saw.

Compound Miter Saw

A compound miter saw is considered as a more powerful tool than the bevel miter saw. It is considered more powerful because it can make wider cuts and deal with larger materials too.

With it large and more powerful blade, it’s capable of tackling jobs that the bevel miter saw can’t do. A compound miter saw can produce both rip cuts and angled miter cut.

Compound miter saws are also available as sliding miter saws which are more powerful and provides a much better experience. Sliding miter saws are almost as powerful as table saws however, they may not be as efficient as table saws during cross cuts.

Types of Circular Saws

Circular saws are also available in two types: corded and cordless (or battery) circular saws

Corded Circular Saw

circular saw vs miter saw comparison

A corded circular saw is a powerful tool that is capable of producing high-quality cuts through different materials such as woods, metals, plastics, etc. It has a strong motor that can produce high rotational speeds (no load speed) around 5500 RPM.

Corded circular saws are very powerful and can easily tackle big jobs. They can make clean cuts through different materials without any problem.

With its strong motor, it’s a tool that is considered more useful than the cordless circular saws; however, they do have a major problem which is the cord that can get in the way sometimes.

Cordless Circular Saw

A cordless circular saw is actually considered as a very good tool and more powerful than its counterpart (the corded one). It has a lithium-ion battery that powers it. 

The drawback of using a cordless saw is that you will have to keep charging it when its battery power runs out

Lithium-ion batteries are very powerful and can produce high speeds (no load speed) of over 5000 RPM.

It’s a great tool because it doesn’t have the hassle of a cord which makes you move around easily while working.

An added advantage of using a cordless circular saw is that it’s lighter than the corded one.

The major problem with a cordless circular saw is when you run out of power while working, you will have to wait for about 1 hour or more (depending on how much battery power is left) before your tool can be used again.

Quick Note: Miter Saws are also available in both cordless and corded versions.

Similarities Between a Miter Saw and a Circular Saw

accurate laser guided cutting on a miter saw

Like I said earlier, both tools are designed to cut through a variety of different materials. When choosing which tool is right for you, you should always think about the material that you want to use it on.

Most miter saws will have an adjustable table whereas circular saws usually do not have this feature and will require more work if you need to adjust the angle.

A lot of miter saws today come with laser guides so that you can make accurate cuts without the hassle of measuring or marking where your next cut will be. 

Very similar to lasers and saws, they contain a blade around 12 in long.

circular saws also feature a worm gear box that raises and lowers the blade as it rotates. This is the best feature when working with longer pieces of lumber or wood as it makes it a lot easier to make rip cuts.

You should use both saws for general construction work. You can also use them in making larger projects at home like building decks, cutting trim and molding, etc.

The tools are designed to be used on different materials so you will always get what you pay for depending on your needs.

If you want speed then go for the circular saw and if accuracy is what you need then go for the miter saw.

Difference Between Miter Saw and Circular Saw

portable and handheld circular saw cutting through the lumber

When choosing between a miter saw vs circular saw there are some different things that I should mention about each power tool.

The miter saw is supposed to be used on wood and wood products while the circular saw can be used on a variety of different materials including plastic, stone, and even metal.

Although a miter saw can be used for cutting other tools too but mostly it works best with wood and wood products. 

Miter saws are great for more accurate measurements and cuts which is why they are generally better than the circular saw when it comes to building furniture such as cabinets or cutting moulding. 

It is also much smaller in size making it easier to store because you don’t have to disassemble parts like you would with a larger power tool like a circular saw.  

Circular saws usually have higher RPMs compared to the miter. The high RPM helps make it go faster than a miter but less accurate because it’s harder to control

Circular saws are also much cheaper compared to miter saws and you can easily get one for a good price that will provide the accuracy needed for your work

If you don’t mind having a tool with less precision but just need something affordable then go with a circular saw

Other Factors When Choosing Between Miter Saw vs Circular Saw

One of the most important factors when choosing between the two power tools is how they’re different from each other.

This factor should be your ultimate consideration because not all materials require high precision cuts like cabinetry or molding.

If that’s not what you want to use them on, then there really isn’t any point in buying one just for that.

You should also consider how fast you want the power tool to move because if you want it to be fast then a circular saw would do better than a miter saw

When it comes to cutting wood and other small material, both tools will work great but they have their differences when it comes to accuracy.

easy cutting with a miter saw

Accuracy is one of the main things that you have to take into consideration when deciding between the two tools.

I personally prefer using a miter saw over a circular saw because its main purpose is for making detailed cuts, so having high precision from this tool is very important especially if you’re going to use them on wood or wood products

When trying to decide between them, always remember that it’s mostly about what you will use them for. If you need a tool to cut corners and trim on your walls then either will work just fine.

It is because they are both good at those things. However, when it comes to making saw cuts or miter cuts, then go with the one that is more accurate than the other.

Blades for Miter and Circular Saws

Circular saw blades are the kinds of blades that are mounted on a circular saw. It is used for making cuts in wood, metal, and plastic.

This type of blade consists of several parts – an arbor nut, threads to accept the shank of the blade, and the actual steel/toothed part that will cut through whatever material you’re using it on.

It is a thing that must be kept in mind when you’re using a circular saw

A miter saw blade is one of the important parts that should not be forgotten when dealing with power tools. This kind of blade is usually used for cutting wood, plastic, metal, and drywall materials.

Ease of Use: Miter Saw vs Circular Saw

Miter and circular saws are used differently. The miter saw is much easier to use because it only has one main blade and the machine can be tilted at different angles controlled by a handle or lever.

The circular saw will require you to change out the blades depending on what material you are cutting

It also requires several other tools, such as a jigsaw and drill, to make your cuts more precise

This is why I suggest that people with less experience use a miter saw because they are easier to operate than a circular saw because of all of the other accessories required for using a circular saw

Another reason why I suggest beginners go with a miter saw is because the safety precautions for using a circular saw are much greater than when using a miter saw.

The more safety precautions it has, the easier it is for people to use them because they have less to think about

A lot of first-time users can become very nervous and flustered during tasks like this because there’s so much going on at once.

The more simple you make things for yourself the faster and easier you will be able to complete the task.

angled cuts with a circular saw

Which one is Good for making Angled Cuts?

Miter saws are good at making angled cuts because of the way its blade is adjusted to make the cut.

With a miter saw, all you have to do is adjust it and then push a button for the machine to do its thing

Circular saws on the other hand require you to tilt them and line up where you want it using a laser pointer or marking tape of some kind

If you’re looking for something that will help with accurate angled cuts when working with wood material, then I suggest getting a miter saw instead of a circular one.

The reason why is because miter saws can be tilted in different ways giving them more control over their final product compared to a circular saw which could have some slight errors if not lined up perfectly.

Which is More Efficient?

Overall, both tools will get the job done just fine but they work differently

The miter saw does require a little bit of practice to use because you have to set it up correctly and make sure that the blade is parallel with your cutting line before you start your cut.

With a circular saw, however, it’s much easier to use because the blade moves back and forth which takes away the stress of having to think about how to align things up

In terms of efficiency, both tools will work great but most people will get better cuts with a miter saw than they would with a circular saw.

They both have their advantages and disadvantages but depending on what you are cutting and the materials that you are working with, one might work better than the other.

Which One is Cheaper?

Miter saws are more expensive to purchase because they require more attachments than a circular saw does

Most powerful miter saws are made for professionals, while circular saws are mostly for DIYers

If you’re a professional contractor or work in a job that requires you to do these cuts often then I would suggest purchasing one because they are more efficient and they get the job done faster.

Which One is Portable?

Circular saws can be more portable because they do not need any additional attachments to operate.

However, if you are working inside of a small space and do not have a lot of room to cut then I suggest purchasing a miter saw instead because it is smaller in size compared to the circular one and will give you more room for movement.

Which one is Safer To Use?

If you are new to woodworking  then I would recommend using a miter saw over a circular saw because of the safety precautions that it comes equipped with

miter saw vs circular saw

Circular saws have no blade guard, while the miter saw does.

This means that if an accident occurs when using a circular saw, the aftermath can be more severe than if you were to use one with blade guards.

Miter saws also have things like hard hat attachments and laser pointers which will make your job easier and safer because they eliminate any chance of making random cuts that could possibly result in injuries.

Circular saws do not have any safety precautions that a miter saw has.

Miter saws are also easier to store because they do not require as much space as the circular saw does.

As far as choosing between them goes, I would choose the one with blade guards instead of the one without because you never know what could happen during your job.

Dust Collection System

Both tools are going to produce some dust, but miter saws collect dust much more efficiently than modern circular saws because they have a built-in dust collection system.

With the way that their blades work, most of this dust will come off when you start cutting and not reenter the air again. If you’re working somewhere with very little air circulation then the dust from your cuts may cause you to cough, sneeze, or have trouble breathing.

This is why I suggest that people don’t use either tool in such an environment because the only way for them to avoid health problems would be to use a respirator and that will take away from their time using it on other projects.

If you need to use one of these tools in this type of environment then I suggest that you contact the manufacturer for a list of approved respirators so that you can find something safe to wear.

circular saw throwing out the dust while operating

What Do Most People Prefer?

It really depends on what the person is cutting

Most people stick with circular saws because they’re very easy to use due to their handheld nature and they work with a lot of materials.

If you don’t like using circular saws then I would suggest that you go ahead and purchase a miter saw because it will have more capabilities than what most people need but if you do this, make sure that the blade is parallel with your cutting line before starting it.

What Can They Cut?

Both tools are capable of cutting through the same materials but circular saws aren’t able to cut as many angles

This makes miter saws more efficient than a lot of common circular saws because they can make angle cuts and they don’t need to be adjusted in advance.

Limbs, 2x 4’s, plywood, and 2 by 6’s are all materials that both tools can cut through but circular saws will have more trouble with some of these than miter saws.

If you don’t need to make angled cuts then a less expensive circular saw will get you the results that you want.

A lot of people own both miter saw and a circular saw because they have different uses, The miter saw is great for angled cuts while the circular saw makes straight ones.

Circular Saw Vs Miter Saw: Final Verdict

Both tools are very useful and they get the job done but it really depends on what type of material you’re working with and how much you have to cut.

If you need a tool that doesn’t take up a lot of room or is expensive then I would suggest shopping for a handheld circular saw.

If however, you work with a lot of materials then I would recommend buying a miter saw because it is very efficient and makes every cut perfectly.

This guide should help you decide which tool you’re going to buy, but keep in mind that there are other factors to consider such as power and portability.

Here’s a quick tip when it comes to selecting the right tool for your needs.

Whenever you are purchasing a power tool ask yourself the following questions

  • What will I cut with it?
  • What is my primary Jobsite requirement?
  • Do I need to carry the tool? 
  • Can I afford the tool right now? 

It will help you make a better decision. 

Jack Logan is a student of MS Global Navigation Satellite System who spends his free time researching and writing articles, many of which are geared towards helping people. His favorite power tools are miter saws and impact wrenches Read More About Jack

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