Cost-effective over the long term: Up front, artificial trees are much more expensive than live trees. In 2020, a live tree on average cost $80, according to the National Christmas Tree Association, which represents the live-tree industry. (In 2021, prices rose by 5% to 10%, according to a spokesperson.) But at that average, a $400 artificial tree pays for itself after five years, and the best of them can last years beyond that.
This change required us to set our sights only on the most convincing, lifelike artificial trees, which usually carry a correspondingly high price tag. When we began this research several years ago, we were surprised to find how much a good fake tree cost. And we had an eye-opening shopping experience again in 2021, as tree prices rose across the board (subscription required) due to the widespread supply-chain issues affecting deliveries from China, where almost all artificial trees are made.
On the topic of PVC: The use of lead as a PVC stabilizer was once a genuine health concern, but this is no longer an issue in most artificial trees sold in the US, according to National Tree Company and the American Christmas Tree Association (the latter of which represents artificial-tree companies).
Virtually all contemporary artificial trees have branches permanently mounted on hinges on the center pole. Thanks to this design, they unfurl into place quickly when you set them up. We avoided the outdated designs that have you snap individual branches into sockets on the center pole one by one (a time-consuming and fussy process).
National Tree Company offers a warranty for its realistic pre-lit trees taller than 6 feet (including our pick), and it covers manufacturer defects for five years from the date of purchase. The LEDs are covered for three years. You need proof and the date of purchase to file a claim, and you need to have treated the tree and lights with reasonable care to have your claim approved.
But an in-depth 2007 life-cycle study on the subject gave the edge firmly to live trees, finding that an artificial tree would have to be used for 20 years before its carbon impact fell below that of buying a live tree annually over the same timeframe. A more recent look at the topic reached similar conclusions.
In the U.S., around 10 million artificial trees are purchased each season. Nearly 90 percent of them are shipped across the world from China, resulting in an increase of carbon emissions and resources. And because of the material they are made of, most artificial trees are not recyclable and end up in local landfills. Not to mention the smell of new plastic is just not as nostalgic as a crisp, fresh evergreen.
Once last-minute shoppers picked out their Christmas trees this weekend, vendors started to tally how many evergreens they sold this year. Projections suggest it will be a smaller number than previous years, as artificial trees continue to cut into the market for real ones.
This year 82 percent Christmas trees on display will be artificial, according to an estimate by the American Christmas Tree Association, while just 17.9 percent will be real. A spokesperson from the National Christmas Tree Association estimated that around three quarters of households with Christmas trees will display the artificial variety, slightly more favorable to American tree farmers.
As with so many debates these days, this too can be seen through a partisan lens: In a recent survey conducted by NPR, PBS NewsHour and Marist, 63 percent of Republicans said they planned to buy an artificial tree this year, compared with 44 percent of Democrats. Trump supporters were even more in favor of artificial trees over real ones, with 64 percent over 16 percent, respectively.
NewsHour reader Steven Tamasy agreed. He said he bought an artificial tree for $99 in 2001, so if you divide the sales price by the 18 years he has had the tree, it has cost him about $5.50 each year.
The cost of real trees has risen in recent years, from $64 in 2015 to $73 in 2017. Doug Hundley, of the National Christmas Tree Association said that is good for tree farmers, who took a hit during the 2008 recession: because demand for trees was so low at the time, farmers planted less than usual. It takes about 10 years for Christmas trees to grow, and many have attributed a shortage this year to this recession.
But artificial trees are not immune from price hikes either, especially because the vast majority of them are imported from China, which has been engaged with the U.S. in a trade war. Mac Harman noted that China-imported Christmas lights, along with certain types of artificial trees, had already been hit with a 25 percent tariff this year.
Real trees are a more attractive option for anyone looking to go eco-friendly, Hundley said, as the vast majority are grown in the United States and Canada, and decompose in five to 10 years or can be used to grind into mulch.
Balsam Hill, one of the biggest players in the artificial tree industry, has seen a 40 percent year-over-year increase in U.S. sales so far this year, with sales of other holiday decor including ornaments up more than 50 percent.
The era of artificial trees started in earnest in the 1970s, and as their demand grew, wholesale prices for Christmas trees stagnated. Growers were making an average of about $20 for a six- or seven-foot tree in the 1980s and 1990s, Hundley said, and wholesale prices dropped even lower following the Great Recession.
Make the magic last with the perfect tree for your home, apartment or office. We have an amazing selection of artificial pre-lit Christmas trees in heights from 4 1/2 feet for a tabletop all the way to 12 feet for a grand entry.
Invite the natural color and feel of the spring season into your home and garden with National Tree Company's Artificial Hanging Wreath. This spectacularly spring decoration is the perfect complement to any decorative arrangement, featuring red, pink and yellow hydrangea blooms, berry clusters, wildflowers and a swirl of fern fronds. Crafted with sturdy, high quality materials, this artificial plant decoration is designed to capture the warmth and colors of the spring season year after year. Suitable as an indoor or covered outdoor decoration, hang this artificial spring decoration on a door, window, or mantle to add a natural accent to any area of the house. At National Tree Company, we believe that special seasonal memories do not have to be far and few between. This spring, let our decorations transform your home while you focus on creating more of those magical moments. Includes one Artificial Hanging Wreath that measures 22 inches in diameter and is designed with a thick, woven branch base.
Add a touch of greenery to indoor or outdoor areas around your home with this life-like Juniper shrub. This artificial Juniper appears to be living yet requires no maintenance, water or sunlight. Display along walkways, on porch, patio or entranceways.
Popular with landscapers, an Arborvitae tree is always a welcome topiary for display around the home. This realistic yet artificial topiary in round growers pot is maintenance-free, no need for water, soil or sun. It will add a touch of greenery to porch, patio or entranceways.
The Dunhill Fir tree features snow sprinkled branch tips and is trimmed with clusters of red berries and pinecones. It is pre-strung with 750 clear lights that remain lit even if a bulb burns out. This three section tree features hinged branches for ease of assembly. Sturdy folding metal tree stand is included.
The Kingswood Fir is a pencil slim tree that is great for display in corners, small rooms and areas with limited space. It is pre-strung with 200 clear lights that remain lit even if a bulb burns out. This three section tree features hinged branches for ease of assembly. Sturdy folding metal tree stand is included.
This Virginia Blue Pine has a slightly thinner profile than trees of similar height and may be a better fit for rooms with limited space. It features soft cashmere tips and is trimmed with white-tipped pine cones. This tree is pre-strung with 650 clear lights that remain lit even if a bulb burns out. Hinged construction and included metal tree stand add to ease of assembly.
If you buy a good, inexpensive artificial tree this year, it will likely be more expensive than a real tree. You will pay more up front compared to a real tree, even though the cost of real trees has been rising.
Where you start to save money is when you reuse your artificial tree in subsequent years. You can typically use an artificial tree for a decade, which is significantly more budget-friendly than purchasing a real tree each year (just make sure you recycle them when you're done).
Of course, when it comes time to dispose of your tree, you need to look for a local recycling program or ship it off to a second-hand store. Artificial trees are made from PVC, which is very costly to recycle and breaks down into various poisons when disposed of in a landfill.
One downside to pre-lit trees is that occasionally an entire section of lights will burn out, often due to a blown fuse or a burnt-out bulb. There are fixes for such problems, but it's something you should be aware of before purchasing a pre-lit tree. Unlit trees, on the other hand, are usually less expensive but take longer to decorate and require you to purchase your own string lights. When deciding how many lights to purchase, a good rule to follow is 100 lights per vertical foot of tree. 781b155fdc