Most homeowners with medium to large trees on their property will need the services of an arborist at least once in their lives to trim or remove the tree.

Arborists can be quite expensive due to their services being highly specialized, the need for a supporting crew to get the job done and the large overheads associated with running an arborist tree service business.

Let’s look at why they are expensive, how much they cost and how to save.

why are arborist so expensive

Arborists needs to have studied a minimum of Certificate III in Arboriculture to legally be able to work on trees. From an on-looker, trimming or removing a tree might not seem too technical, but the arborist does make it look easy. The years spent studying and training are all used in the trimming and removal process.

Supporting crew

You will never see an arborist working alone. In most cases when trimming or removing a tree there is a climbing arborist (in the tree) and 2 – 5 supporting ground crew known as groundsmen working the ropes, lowering branches, and feeding the tree through the chipper. All these workers are very well paid and all add to the cost of arborist services.

arborists supporting ground crew

Plant equipment

Heavy equipment is required to work on trees. This will include at a minimum a truck, chipper, pickup and a stump grinder. Combined this will cost $100,000 – $500,000.

On top of that, you have chainsaws, blowers, specialized chainsaw pants for all the crew, and climbing equipment including harnesses, ropes and everything else needed to get a tree trimmed or removed in a safe and timely manner.

Dixons trees with crew and equipment

Crane assisted tree removal

Trees in tricky spots may require the use of a crane. Without it, removing the tree would be near impossible without damaging property. Crane assisted tree removal can cost from $1,200 – $5,000 per hour depending on the size of the crane. This will be charged at a minimum of 4 hours and added to the cost of removal. 

The average cost of crane assisted tree removal is $3,950 to $7,890.

crane use for tree removal

Insurance

It’s not hard to see that one of the most dangerous professions in the USA will need to be insured.

This includes;

  1. Cover for the workers
  2. Public liability insurance which covers your property if damage occures
  3. Plant and equipment insurance cover

The most expensive insurance out of the three above is normally workers cover which can be charged by insurance companies at up to 9% on top of wages. This means that for every $100 paid to workers, the owner of the business needs to pay $9 on top to cover them… ouch!

How much do Arborists cost per hour?

This will depend on the task being performed and the company you use. Normally arborists will quote by the job and not by the hour. The reason is this:

Imagine you have a tree that needs to be removed and you have quotes from two companies each charging $2,000 for the job.

Company 1 – They Have a crew of 8 and it will take them 2 hours to complete the job.
Time taken: 2 hours
Cost per hour: $1,000
Total Cost: $2,000

—-/–/—–

Company 2 – They have a crew of 4 and will complete the job in 4 hours.
Time taken: 4 hours
Cost per hour: $500
Total cost: $2,000

As you can see from the above example, the arborists cost per hour is not important because every company is different. You will need to go off a quote or estimate given by the arborist upon inspection of the tree.

Arborist report cost

Arborist report costs are different. They are completed by a single consulting arborist and are normally a set price. For an arborist report on a single tree, the arborist will charge around $500.

This does not guarantee a favorable result for you either. They are trained to make an unbiased opinion on the tree and write up a report based on its health, vigor, and its amenity value.

What does an arborist charge to remove a tree?

There are 4 main factors that contribute to the cost of tree removal.

  • Tree size
  • Trunk Diameter
  • Location on your property
  • Difficulty of removal

Below is the average price of tree removal by tree size without taking into account very hard-to-access locations or trees hanging over powerlines.

Small tree – A small tree 5 – 15 ft tall will cost $165 6o $329 to remove.

Medium tree – This is a tree 15 – 25ft high and will cost between $595 and t $980 to remove.

Large tree – A large tree is any tree 25 – 60 ft tall and will cost $1,100 to $3,800 to remove.

Xlarge tree – These are your real monsters and can be 60 – 120 ft high and will cost upwards of $3,500

Consulting arborist fees

A consulting arborist will normally be used for tree reports or tree inspections. They can also be used for resistograph testing, soil sampling and pest and disease control.

These fees are as follows:

Arborist reports$500
Tree inspections$0 - $250
Resistograph testing$650
Soil sampling$425
Pest and disease controlUp to $850

Free arborist consultation

An arborist will come out to your property for free to inspect your tree job if needed. Normally this is in relation to tree trimming or removal.

You might be hard-pressed to get someone out to have a look at your tree just for free advice. It would be like asking a plumber to come out to your home and check your sewer for free.

Time is money and these guys are running a business. If you have work for them, they will come and have a look and give you an estimate free of charge, but normally don’t drive around town for free looking at trees and giving free advice.

Free tree removal is possible depending on your tree species, check out our article on that for more information.

How to save on arborist services

There are a few tips and tricks you can use to save money on arborist services.

Get the job done in winter

Winter is always a lot cheaper to have a tree trimmed or removed. Most will tell you it’s because the trees has no leaves, so it is easier to work on, but the reality is it’s simply a supply and demand issue. As there is a lot less work on in winter, but the same number of local tree arborist looking for work, they tend to drop their prices in winter to win more work. Then when they are busy in spring and summer, it’s business as usual.

Get 3 quotes

This sounds like a no-brainer, but so many people just go with the first arborist that comes out to give them a price. Don’t get sold too quickly, see what other arborists are charging for the same job.

Go deep in search results

Whether you are using Google search or yellow pages, I implore you to scroll to page 2 or 3 of the results. It is no accident some companies are at the top of the pile, they have paid to be there. Their large marketing budget to get them at the top of search results is then passed onto the customer in the form of higher prices. Arborist on page two of Google results will normally be 10 – 15% cheaper on average.

Ben McInerney
Author: Ben McInerney - Ben is a qualified arborist with 15 plus years of industry experience in Arboriculture. He ran a successful tree service before turning to writing and publishing. Ben is dedicated to providing users with the most accurate up-to-date information on everything trees.