Once you are satisfied the company can do good work, price becomes your primary consideration.

The figure below shows prices three Checkbook undercover shoppers received from tree care companies for typical tree removal jobs. As you can see, the price differences are striking—from $1,500 to $2,350 for one of the jobs and from $2,440 to $3,250 for another. Be sure to obtain multiple competitive bids for your work.

It’s easy to collect proposals. Typically, you don’t have to be home when bidders are looking at the job. But keep these points in mind:

  • No-shows are a common complaint about tree care services. Invite more companies than you actually need; then, once you have enough bids, cancel the remaining visits.
  • If you won’t be home, provide careful instructions as to exactly what work you need.
  • To make sure you know precisely what is being offered, request itemized written bids.
  • If the following services are not included in a written bid for tree removal or pruning, they probably aren’t included in the price: cleaning up the area afterward, hauling away debris, cutting wood into logs for firewood, splitting wood, stacking wood, and removing the stump. Ask companies to include any of these services in their bids.
  • Other points to clarify in bids for tree removal or pruning (and in the contract that follows): exact work to be done (for example, “removal of all dead, dying, and weak branches of at least one-inch diameter”); dates by which the work will begin and end; branches to be lowered or dropped; and precise responsibility for any damage caused.
  • Points to be covered in bids (and contracts) for spraying: type of spray and equipment to be used; pest or disease to be treated; and preparations you must make (for instance, covering lawn furniture).
  • Bids for fertilizing jobs should specify the type and amount of fertilizer needed and its application method.

You may be able to get a better price for pruning or removing trees if you can schedule work during the winter, when companies are less busy and there is less debris to haul away.

After you obtain bids, have the chosen company write up a fixed-price contract for both you and the company to sign.

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