Worm Drive vs. Direct Drive Circular Saws: Which One’s Best for You?

Updated: Jan. 30, 2024

Learn about the differences between a worm drive circular saw and a direct drive circular saw, and determine which one is best for you.

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Worm Drive Circular Saw vs Direct Drive: Questions to Ask Yourself

What type of circular saw should you buy? It depends. Here are several factors that can influence your decision:

  • What are you using the saw for?
  • How much power do you need?
  • Are you a righty or a lefty?
  • How strong are you?
  • How much experience do you have?
  • What’s your budget?
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Worm Drive

Advantages of a Worm Drive Circular Saw

The centerline of the motor on a worm drive saw is parallel to the plane of the saw blade, giving the saw a narrow profile that allows users to get into more confined spaces. The longer distance between the handle and the blade extends your reach while making a cut, which is helpful for crosscutting sheet goods.

A worm drive also has larger gear teeth with more load-carrying capacity than a direct drive, which provides more power but also adds weight. The average worm drive saw weighs in at about 13-14 lbs. A pro-grade worm-drive saw costs about $150 to $200.

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Sidewinder circular saw

Advantages of a Direct Drive Circular Saw

The blade on a direct drive saw (often called a sidewinder) is next to the motor, creating a wider profile but shorter overall length. Because the handle is closer to the blade the reach is reduced, but this can provide more control for a less-experienced user. Direct drive saws are lighter (9-10 lbs.), making them ideal for less-demanding applications or a whole bunch of repetitive cutting. A pro-grade sidewinder costs between $125 and $150.

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Left handed saw

Righty vs. Lefty Circular Saws

Whether a user is right or left-handed does not confine him or her to one type of circular saw, but consider this: The blade on a worm-drive saw is on the left side, so it’s easier for a right-handed operator to see the cutline. The blade is on the right side of a direct-dive, making it easier to see the cutline for a lefty.

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Circular saw

Pro or DIYer

A direct-drive saw is lighter, more compact and easier to manage, making it ideal for DIY users, but a pro-grade sidewinder will still have plenty of power for most jobsite tasks.

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Fiber Cement Saw

Bottom Line About Worm Drive Circular Saws vs Direct Drive

One of the most important features of a saw is how it feels. When choosing a new tool, try it out whenever possible. Feeling comfortable and safe using a tool is more important than any spec sheet.

Meet the Expert

Gregg Mangialardi is a SKILSAW Product Manager with over 40 years of experience in the power tool industry. During his time at SKILSAW, he’s contributed to a variety of SKILSAW products. Most recently, he’s been a part of the development and launches, for the worm drive, sidewinder, metal and concrete saws. Gregg holds several patents spanning multiple products.