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

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

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

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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.