In this paper, we compared the transfection efficiency and cytotoxicity of methylglycol-chitosan (MG-CS) and diethylaminoethyl-chitosan (DEAE-CSI and DEAE-CSII with degrees of substitution of 1.2 and 0.57, respectively) to that of Lipofectamine (used as a reference transfection vector). MG-CS contains quaternary amines to improve DNA binding, whereas the DEAE-CS exhibits pH buffering capability that would ostensibly enhance transfection efficiency by promoting endosomal escape. Gel retardation assays showed that both DEAE-CS and MG-CS bound to DNA at a polysaccharide:DNA mass ratio of 2:1. In Calu-3 cells, the DNA transfection activity was significantly better with MG-CS than with DEAE-CS, and the efficiency improved with increasing polysaccharide:DNA ratios. By contrast, the efficiency of DEAE-CSI and DEAE-CSII was independent of the polysaccharide:DNA ratio. Conversely, in the transfection-recalcitrant JAWSII cells, both Lipofectamine and MG-CS showed significantly lower DNA transfection activity than in Calu-3 cells, whereas the efficiency of DEAE-CSI and DEAE-CSII was similar in both cell lines. The toxicity of DEAE-CS increased with increasing concentrations of the polymer and its degree of substitution, whereas MG-CS demonstrated negligible cytotoxicity, even at the highest concentration studied. Overall, MG-CS proved to be a more efficient and less toxic transfection agent when compared to DEAE-CS.