Once you have found a company that can do the work well, price becomes your primary consideration.

The table below shows prices four Checkbook mystery shoppers received from area tree care companies for typical tree removal jobs. As you can see, the price differences are striking—from $1,825 to $6,600 for one of the jobs. Be sure to obtain multiple competitive bids for your work.

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

  • Because it can be difficult to connect with estimators during working hours, when crews are out on the job, be prepared to leave a number where you can be reached during evenings and weekends.
  • Not every estimator actually shows up as promised; no-shows are a common complaint about tree care services. Invite more companies than you actually need; then, once you have enough bids, promptly cancel the remaining visits.
  • If you won’t be home, provide careful instructions as to exactly what work you want done.
  • 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 the debris, cutting wood to desirable firewood lengths, splitting wood, stacking wood, and removing the stump. If you want any of these services, ask companies to include them in their bids.
  • Other points to clarify in bids for tree removal or pruning (and in the contract that follows) include: exact work to be done (for example, “removal of all dead, dying, or 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 include: type of spray and spray 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 to be used and how it will be applied (for example, by drilling holes in the ground or by injection into the tree).
  • 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.
Prices Quoted by Companies for Tree Removal Work
Company Job A Job B Job C Job D
AAA Tree Service, Alexandria, VA $400      
Absolute Tree, Alexandria, VA $1,000      
Adirondack Tree Experts, Beltsville, MD       $2,350
Alvarado's Tree Service, Bowie, MD       $2,900
Atlas Tree, Leesburg, VA   $700    
Arlington Tree Care, Arlington, VA     $2,000  
Artistic Tree Experts, Silver Spring, MD       $3,500
Baileys Tree Service, Falls Church, VA $680      
Bartlett Tree Experts, Springfield, VA $1,192      
Bel Pre Applicators, Silver Spring, MD       $2,600
Bonifant Tree Service, Silver Spring, MD       $6,600
Bonilla Tree Service, Falls Church, VA $900      
Capitol Tree Care, Fairfax, VA $950 $850    
The Care of Trees, Dulles, VA   $1,085    
College Park Tree Service, College Park, MD       $1,825
Dad's Tree Service, Springfield, VA $1,100 $975 $2,200  
East Coast Arborist, Sterling, VA $810 $510    
Economy Tree Care, Fairfax, VA $800      
Family Tree Care, Fairfax, VA $1,060 $1,300    
Freedom Tree Service, Manassas, VA $610 $630    
Growing Earth Tree Care, Ashburn, VA $920 $725    
Hewitt Tree Service, Olney, MD       $2,400
Homestead Tree Experts, Springfield, VA $875      
JL Tree Service, Fairfax, VA $750 $600    
Northern VA Tree Experts, Chantilly, VA   $710    
Premium Lawn & Landscape, Fairfax Station, VA     $2,975  
Quality Tree Care, Springfield, VA     $1,965  
Richard's Tree Service, Annandale, VA     $3,650  
Ross Tree Service, Bristow, VA   $460    
SAB Lawn & Landscaping, Sterling, VA   $1,150    
SavaTree, Springfield, VA     $2,780  
Strictly Stumps, Stafford, VA     $2,200  
Thrive, Sterling, VA   $850    
Tim W Frazier Tree Service, Rixeyville, VA   $600    
Twin Oak Tree Care, Alexandria, VA     $1,705  
Tyson's Tree Company, Sterling, VA   $800    
Woodlawn Tree Service, Alexandria, VA     $1,785  
Difference between lowest and highest price quotes $792 $840 $1,945 $4,775
Job A: Remove 35" circumference, 60' tall holly tree and 50" circumference, 120' tall maple tree, haul away all wood and debris, and grind stumps.
Job B: Remove two blue spruce trees, each with 10" diameter trunks and 12' tall. Haul away all wood and debris and grind stumps.
Job C: Remove 36" diameter, 100' tall oak tree, haul away all wood and debris, and grind stump.
Job D: Remove 8' circumference, 70' tall silver maple, haul away all wood and debris, and grind stump.