"We suggest three bids for tree care work and it should be written, fixed prices as opposed to estimates, or we're going to charge you X amount per hour," said Kevin Brasler of Checkbook.org.
Brasler and his team at Checkbook.org just surveyed thousands of local tree service customers for the new issue of Checkbook magazine. Customers weighed in on nearly 60 companies in the Puget Sound region to rate the quality of work, prompt start and competition, neatness, advice on service options and costs and overall performance. Checkbook also did an undercover price check. Quotes to remove a 35 foot tall tree with a 50-inch trunk -- debris, stump and all -- ranged from a low of $350 to a mid-range price of $550 to a high of more than $1,000.
To avoid surprise when you're getting quotes, be specific about what you want. Will the crew need to haul away everything or leave chopped fire logs?
"And really most importantly, whether you want the stump ground or not -- that adds a lot of cost, whether they're going to grind the stump for you or not," Brasler said. "It's just a lot more work. It's labor intensive and requires a different piece of equipment be brought in to do it. It'll mess your yard up a little bit so they'll have to spend more time grooming and re-grading afterward."
It's also important to make sure the company has adequate insurance and workman's comp coverage for its workers. Accidents happen even under the best circumstances. Limbs are dropped on fences, cars and homes. Gardens and landscape are ruined. Workers get injured.
And if you have tall trees on your property that haven't fallen yet, remember the best time to find a good tree service is before that treacherous tree comes down.
Just remember, always get a detailed bid in writing and only pay after the work is done. Steer clear of people coming door-to door offering tree care or tree removal and asking for money up front.
If you subscribe to Checkbook, you'll find the Tree Care Report on page 47. As a special courtesy to KOMO viewers, checkbook.org is sharing the full report, including company ratings, on our website.
The special link will be up until May 28.