Miter Saw vs Circular Saw: Which One Is Better?

If you’d like to take your DIY skills to the next level, the right kinds of power tools will help you get there faster and easier.

With so many hand and power tools you can use to do all kinds of projects, it can be more confusing than helpful.

To get you started on the right track, we’ll help you distinguish between a miter saw vs circular saw.

Table of Contents

    Miter Saw vs Circular Saw: The Key Differences

    In the past few years, there has been an increase in the number of people doing home renovations.

    But for those who are not able to afford expensive and drastic changes in their homes, DIY projects are the way to go.

    That said, you will have to build up your arsenal of tools first before you can start any project.

    Making the wrong decision to buy anything just because of good advertising can be a huge mistake.

    In some instances, you can end up with a full garage while only using 30 percent of those that you buy.

    When it comes to choosing between a miter and circular saw, both are great for anybody trying to make their woodwork experience a more personal one.

    Enumerating the cuts that each tool can make as well as highlighting their functions and their various blade sizes and specifications, can help you decide better.

    Overall Design

    Some think that miter saws and circular saws are interchangeable. But if you believe that they are alike in all ways, then you will be missing out on the unique capacities of each.

    Among the most crucial factors that differentiate the two is how they look.

    Ultimately, the tool’s overall design will largely impact how you can use it and where the project is going to be done.

    Regardless if you are handling beginner projects or more advanced ones, appearance goes beyond just the aesthetic of the product.

    Miter Saw

    Miter saws, like this one from Bosch, are usually big and stationary. They consist of a fixed base and a hinged saw on a large arm.

    You can lift up the arm up and tilt it sideways away from the base when you want to make 45-degree angle cuts.

    These saws have a round blade, and the blade is pushed down to cut a material of a limited size.

    You can choose between corded and cordless models; the former is more lightweight than the latter.

    Circular Saw

    Circular saws are highly preferred for their portability. They are much smaller in size compared to miter saws and can run either plugged in or on a battery.

    It has a circular blade that rotates at high speed to make clean and precise cuts.

    Circular saws are sometimes confused with table saws in functionality.

    With the latter, the material is pushed to the equipment’s blade to make cuts. In comparison, the blade is pushed through the material to make the intended cuts in circular saws.

    miter saw vs circular saw differences

    Uses and Type of Cuts

    The kinds of cuts you can make are also good points of comparison when choosing between a miter and circular saw.

    Miter Saw

    Since you can accomplish more accurate cuts with a miter saw, you can take on projects that require several repetitive cuts, such as making fences.

    By keeping your adjusted settings in place, you can easily make identical cuts on materials.

    Also, precision is something that this saw is good at. Bevel cuts, miter cuts, compound cuts, and crosscuts are all possible with a miter saw.

    However, you are limited by the size of the blade and the size of the base.

    Because it is usually big and stationary, you don’t always have the freedom to cut through the full length of a board.

    If you need to cut materials at a 45-degree angle, make sure you look for a miter saw that can handle it, like the Metabo HPT C10FCGS.

    Cutting small pieces of material is also this power tool’s specialty.

    Circular Saw

    On the other hand, circular saws will require you to measure, mark, and align your blade every time you want to make a cut.

    While accuracy for cuts will almost always depend on the person handling the tool, it would be wiser to use a circular saw when cutting larger pieces of materials, such as sheets of plywood.

    A circular saw has a much wider range of cuts. As such, it surpasses the performance of the miter saw when it comes to flexibility.

    Because of its uninhibited movement, you do not need to worry about the length of the material you are cutting.

    You can basically do everything from bevel cuts and miter cuts to compound cuts, accurate crosscuts, and even curved cuts.

    You can also make plunge cuts possible in the middle of the material you are working on.

    Blades and Performance

    Miter saws and circular saws have varying blade sizes.

    Remember that by adjusting the blade size, you will also compromise the other performance factors of your saw.

    Miter Saw

    A miter saw’s most common blade sizes are 7.25 inches, 10 inches, and 12 inches.

    These saws are usually stationary, so big blades do not always equate to better performance. Bigger means heavier, more expensive, and space consuming.

    A small miter saw might also benefit you in terms of portability. However, a smaller blade size will limit its cutting capacity.

    With a miter saw, you have to be very specific in your needs because its blades are not interchangeable.

    More expensive miter saws generally have bigger blades and heavier weights.

    Circular Saw

    The most common circular saw blade sizes are 5.5 inches and 7.25 inches. Also, the blade tooth count for circular saws can either be high or low.

    For quick, rough cuts, a lower tooth count blade would work well for you. But if you prefer cleaner cuts with fewer tear outs, a higher blade tooth count will serve you best.

    You can choose from 24-, 60-, and 120-tooth blades.

    Circular saw blades are not interchangeable, and every circular saw uses a specific blade size.

    Different Kinds of Miter Saws and Circular Saws

    In particular, beginner DIY enthusiasts can easily be overwhelmed by the vast number of power saws available in the market today.

    Plus, they come in different types, and it’s up to you to figure out what you need exactly.

    The types of projects you will be taking on a regular basis will matter largely when choosing the type of miter or circular saw to get.

    Basic Miter Saw Types

    • Single-Bevel – makes single-direction miter cuts and bevel cuts
    • Double-Bevel Miter Saw – makes bevel cuts in both directions; perfect for making several angled cuts
    • Compound Miter Saw – makes compound cuts (a combination of a bevel cut and a miter cut)
    • Sliding – helps extend the limits of cuts you can do; instead of just moving straight down, the blade can also move forward

    Basic Circular Saw Types

    • Sidewinder – the most common type of circular saw. The motor is located at the left side of the blade, allowing more flexibility in the shaft and high speed functionality.
    • Compact / Miniature – given the name, miniature circular saws are lightweight and smaller. The blade is often under five inches in diameter, limiting its cutting depth.
    • Standard – a more versatile tool than the miniature circular saw, as it can be used for all sorts of cutting projects. Blades used for this kind are 7.25 to 10 inches in diameter. The motor is located behind the blade, resulting in decreased speed and increased rotational functionality.
    • Track – a more advanced type that produces more straight and precise cuts. This is best used for plywood sheets.

    Do I Need a Circular Saw if I Have a Miter Saw?

    The differences between a miter saw vs circular saw would have an impact on their function, as well.

    For beginner projects requiring the cutting of pieces up to 12 inches wide, a miter saw will suffice.

    However, more advanced projects requiring straight, quality cuts and complicated trims will need a circular saw.

    A circular saw is especially useful in cutting through plywood sheets and bigger materials.

    Can I Use a Circular Saw if I Don’t Have a Miter Saw?

    Yes, you may. Generally, circular saws are able to do more flexible cuts because it is more lightweight and portable.

    If you do not have a problem with accuracy, you can also adjust the depth of your cuts and make a cut in the way you want by simply directing the saw in your desired shape.

    You will be able to cut round corners and any free-form shape by doing so.

    Miter saws cannot do all the cuts that a circular saw can, but a circular saw can do all the cuts that a miter saw can.

    However, cuts made by the circular saw might not be as accurate as that of a miter saw and would need repetitive marking and aligning.

    When Is a Miter Saw Preferred Over a Circular Saw?

    Whether you should get a miter saw or a circular saw will largely depend on the project you are working on.

    In general, those that require more accurate cuts would prefer to use a miter saw. On the other hand, those that prefer a more flexible variety of cuts would favor the circular saw more.

    A miter saw is perfect for you if you need to make repetitive, straight, and precise cuts.

    It is a very user-friendly machine and is safer to use in general because circular saws have a tendency for a kickback.

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