Our ratings of tree care services will help you find professionals who provide sound advice and high-quality work. But before hiring any company, get competitive bids from several. Our mystery shoppers found very large price differences when they asked companies to provide bids for tree removal work, with some companies charging fees that are thousands of dollars higher than their competitors for the same work. Because you don't usually have to be home to meet with companies when they prepare their proposals, it's easy to shop around for a good price.

Get the details of what will be done in a written contract. It should specify who will clean up afterwards, haul away debris and wood, and remove the stump. What is not specified in writing is very unlikely to get done.

Also check whether a company’s liability insurance and worker’s compensation insurance is currently in effect. Ask to see certificates of insurance, and call the company’s insurance carrier to verify. This is a serious concern because high-powered equipment, heavy branches and trunks, lofty heights, and proximity to power lines make tree work dangerous.

You don’t need an advanced degree in arboriculture to spot many potential tree problems. Like most plants, trees have ways of indicating distress.