How Much Should it Cost to Cut Down a Tree?

Very often when I am asked to assess a tree or to give an estimate for removal, pruning or trimming, there is a quick "cut to the chase." I have to examine your particular tree and its unique challenges before I can make an accurate, free estimate because every tree's situation is different.

"How much do you think this is going to cost?"

The question frequently comes while still on the phone, and before I have had an opportunity to look at the tree. I understand where the question comes from. Most people have had no experience with hiring pros to remove trees, and have never had to think about how much it costs. So unlike buying something on the retail market where prices are posted, or hiring a mowing service or cleaning service where the pricing is somewhat standard, there is the element of the unknown. The consumer does not want to waste anybody's time if the price is simply too high, so the question comes right away.

Of course there is no way to estimate the cost of a tree removal without seeing it, so the question cannot be answered until the estimator sees the tree. The good news is this: Pricing tree work is what an estimator does. So there is no wasting of time so long as you are genuine in your wish to have work done. A sales arborist knows that not everybody can afford what they are shopping for, and that the price must be known before any decision is made. So the representative that you talk to will always be more than happy to look at your tree. Estimates are always free, so rest assured that it is completely normal to have someone look at the tree.

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What The Estimator Considers

With that being said, you may want to know what the arborist is considering when he or she looks at your tree. To put it very simply, the factors that will be considered will be:

  1. Resources - both personnel and equipment, and
  2. Time.

These two factors mean different things to different companies. The variables of a company's investment in the crew that it sends to your project include payroll, insurance, training, tools, equipment, uniforms, and supervision. Of course there are other costs associated with business, but they are the same for all, so the variables will be our focus. Each company will invest in these variables at different levels, making its costing formula unique.

You can determine where you are getting the most value for your money by investigating the above variables. If all estimates are equal, then you get the most value from the firm that has spent the most on those critical variables. The good news is that all of them are apparent, with the exception of payroll, after a little looking. Let's go through them.

Insurance

For obvious reasons, it is not advisable to hire anyone who is uninsured. Since everyone claims to be insured and not everyone is, it is necessary to check. Always request a certificate of insurance (COI). This should come directly from the insurance company and list you and your property on it. There will be either three or four policies on a COI. Liability, workers' compensation, and auto at a minimum, and some will have an umbrella. Cutting cost on insurance allows a tree service to lower it's investment, but exposes you to more risk.

Training

This is something that you can find out by interviewing the representative. A company's training program, if they have one, will include safety and arboreal skills. Things to listen for are ANSI (pronounced ansy), ISA, and TCIA. These are the organizations that provide training and regulate the industry.

Tools

This may be the most difficult to determine. However, if a good training program is in use, then good tools will also be in use because the training will require it.

Equipment

This will probably be listed on the proposal. It can include chippers, stump grinders, light moving machines, and cranes.

Uniforms

This one's easy. Look at the brochure, or simply ask the representative. The bare minimum of a uniform is personal protective equipment (ppe), and includes hard hat, eye protection, ear protection, gloves, chainsaw-protective chaps, and boots. A crew that does not wear at least this part of the uniform is not even ANSI and OSHA compliant. Beyond this a crew may be fitted with varying levels of uniform clothing that add to the appearance of professionalism.

Supervision

In tree care, supervision is best provided by certified arborists. Certification is handled through the International Society of Arboriculture, and credentials are easily verified on the ISA website. Remember that the representative that you are talking to is probably not the supervisor, so you will need to ask about the supervisor's credentials.

So, while we may not have answered the question, "How much will it cost?" we have identified a method to find out if the cost is fair. Compare prices, and then see where the money is going by looking at the variables.

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More About Tree Related Costs

Cost of Tree Removal — There are many reasons you might need help with tree removal. A big wind storm often damages a tree on your property beyond saving. A tree near your house might have outgrown its space. Or perhaps the tree is diseased.

How to Estimate the Cost of Tree Removal — An estimator will know that he or she is talking to a savvy consumer if you ask for proof certification, and a certificate of insurance.

Other Tree Service Providers Cut Corners But Pro Arbor Does Not — Quite often, a lot of other companies will damage other trees, and scar other trees with crashing wood, and crashing limbs, and just never tell the clients.

Tree Removal Cost of Pros vs Amateurs — The homeowner called Pro Arbor after becoming frustrated over dealing with another company.

Why Does Tree Removal Cost So Much? — The equipment and tools that will be on site at your removal project cost about $250,000. The cost to you will obviously be a whole lot less!