How much does it cost to hire a tree service?
Removing a tree is the most expensive service, and typically includes cutting it down section by section, then hauling away the pieces. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Kathleen L. of Keizer, Ore.)
Trees are marvels of nature, but they aren't always cooperative with homeowners. Some push roots into basements, some overgrow so severely they threaten power lines or windows and some age and die before their time, creating an eyesore. Professional tree services can safely prune or remove trees on your property, but come with a cost. Here's a breakdown of typical prices.
Tree removal, pruning and stump grinding costs
The cost of tree services depends on several factors, including the type of tree, its height and how difficult it is for technicians to access the tree. Oak trees, for example, can grow to over 60 feet and are extremely difficult to cut; you'll pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars to remove a small oak to more than $1,000 to remove a large oak. Pine trees, meanwhile, are easier to cut but can grow far taller, meaning removal cost has a larger variation. Removing a tree is the most expensive service, and typically includes cutting it down section by section, then hauling away the pieces. If your tree is an out-of-the-way area or you live in a rural area, expect to pay more for hauling. In 2013, Angie’s List members reported paying an average of $1264 to remove a large tree.
It's also possible to have your tree pruned back rather than removed, but this cost will again depend on how high a company needs to reach and how they'll dispose of the cut branches. Some companies offer on-site chipping or will cut up pruned branches to make firewood - each comes with an additional cost. Be aware that even in cases of full removal, the stump remains. Grinding down or digging out the stump is often an extra $65 to $350, depending on its depth and solidity.
Hiring an experienced tree service company
The price you pay also depends on the experience of your contractor and the equipment used. True pros often utilize boom trucks, which can raise between 10 and 70 feet, allowing a worker to tackle high or hidden branches. Some companies also employ certified arborists who are trained in tree care and removal. These experts not only have the tools necessary to prune trees, for example, but know what time of year is best to cut back branches depending on tree species and also where on the tree a cut will do the least amount of damage.
Many professional tree services will offer free, on-site estimates for any job. Make sure to get a quote in writing before you sign any agreement, and beware of any estimate you get over the phone or online. If it isn't followed up with a personal visit, the price is subject to significant change.
Removing fallen or dead trees
Dead or fallen trees, for example, are easier to haul away than their living counterparts but will still run between $75 and $150. Tall trees - especially those beyond the reach of standard equipment - will cost at least $1500 to completely remove. In addition, if you have a pruning job which requires the company to come close to power lines or buildings, you will pay more.
Related: How Much Will Tree Removal Cost?
Licensed companies are insured against any damage but don't want to invite unnecessary risk. One special circumstance worth noting is when tree branches come close to power lines. In this case, you can often call your local utilities provider, who will send out someone to prune back the branches for free. The lines are their property, and they can't risk damage to the power system or accidental injury.
Trimming your own trees
Small-scale tree pruning with an extendable tool ($30) or stump grinding with a rented grinder ($75 to $150 for half a day) is something you may be able to tackle on your own. You'll want a thick pair of gloves, safety glasses and at the very least a long-sleeve shirt. If you're pruning tree branches, do it in late fall or winter if possible to minimize the impact. If you're grinding a stump, wear ear protection in addition to safety glasses. Work your way across the stump, going down at least four inches with each step. Once done, try to dig out the stump. If it won't budge, repeat the process.
Editor's Note: This is an updated version of a story that originally posted May 1, 2013