A Real Christmas Tree vs an Artificial One: Costs and Cons

They cost about the same in dollars, but a real tree is better than a fake one for the environment.

Pink aluminum Christmas tree in retro living room
Image: Krys Melo

Live Christmas trees are better for the environment than artificial Christmas trees: They’re renewable and recyclable, unlike that petroleum-derived faux model. 

In terms of price there’s not much difference between the real and fake varieties, unless you get really fancy with an artificial one. Depending on where you live and the size and species of tree you buy, the real deal runs about $20 to $150 annually.

You can pick up a basic fake Christmas tree for less than $20 at some big-box retailers. Prices go up from there to as much as $430 for a deluxe, already-lit number. Buy a used artificial tree, and you'll save — plus have less impact on the environment.

All I Want for Christmas is the Greenest of Trees. What Do I Look For?

  • Visit a local Christmas tree farm. Christmas tree farmland often can’t be used for other crops, says Brian Clark Howard, an environmental reporter. When the tree farmers plant new trees, the growing young trees combat climate change by absorbing carbon. And tree farms conserve soil -- farmers only till the land once every six or eight years. If you buy from a Christmas tree lot, your tree was likely shipped from Oregon or North Carolina, and getting it to you created pollution, Howard says.
  • Do business with a local Christmas tree farmer who grows organic Christmas trees without pesticides. Whether an organic tree costs more depends on where you live.


G. M. Filisko

G. M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer. A frequent contributor to publications including Bankrate, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, personal finance, and legal topics.