Band saws and table saws are two different applications. Even though they both cut wood, comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges. They both do different things better. But in home shops when cost is the main concern, the question becomes one of efficiency, usage and type of work being done.
The table saw has always been the workhorse of cabinet shops. In niche-type woodworking, such as toys, furniture and speciality wood items, the band saw is king. The table saw is essential for cutting large pieces of plywood, ripping long lengths of lumber or handling straight lines, while the band saw is the best at cutting fine detail, curves and angles. The table saw easily cuts dados and tenons, while the band saw cannot. A band saw can re-saw lumber, cut round work pieces like legs, logs, and dowels, while a table saw is insufficient for any of these uses.
Safety and Ease of Operation
The table saw is a powerful machine that can kick back lumber or cut hands and fingers in the blink of an eye. The band saw is less powerful, but with a quiet ease of operation that can lead to complacency and the likelihood that a sudden lack of focus can lead to accidents. It takes far less energy and physical fitness to run a band saw, and the band saw is overall a safer machine, while the table saw requires a certain amount of strength, preparation and even more focus because of kickback and debris flying into the operator's face.
A table saw and a band saw cost about the same for the same quality. A high-end table saw costs more than a high-end band saw, takes up more room, and is harder to move without assistance. Table saws are loud, and throw dust and larger chips into the air, while a band saw is relatively quiet, producing a finer dust than a table saw.
A table saw cuts a kerf normally 1/8 inch wide, while a band saw cuts a kerf of approximately 1/16 inch. This makes the band saw a cleaner-cutting machine that chips out veneer less than a table saw. The band saw is also cleaner and cuts plastics, nylon, rubber and other composite material well; a table saw requires special blades to cut these.
Generally speaking, a band saw is better for the average hobby woodworker. For any type of cabinetmaker, a table saw comes first. For industrial or commercial-type applications, the table saw and band saw are on equal ground.