Would You Ever Rent Your Christmas Tree?

When we recently asked Consumerist readers if they would ever purchase their Christmas tree online, a few commenters wrote that they kept their tree potted all year round and would just bring it inside during the holidays. And now we’ve learned that there are a handful of businesses are offering this same service, for a price.

USA Today profiles one such company in Los Angeles that rents out potted trees (five varieties) for the season. Trees are delivered to customers’ doors and picked up after the holidays to be stored until next year.

One benefit is that customers can have the option of getting the same tree year after year. The trees are each tagged with a barcode so they can be identified when the time comes.

Some tree rental businesses have been around for over a decade, but the growing interest in eco-friendly products has more customers checking out this option.

Unfortunately, one of the problems with many tree rental services is the cost. While most of us can go to the local Christmas tree lot and pick up a tree for not too much money, it can cost around $100-$150 to rent a six-foot-tall tree.


Have a green Christmas: rent a tree [USA Today]

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  1. obits3 says:

    It just doesn’t fee like Christmas until I know that my tree will die in January.

    (jk, I have an artificial tree)

    • cash_da_pibble says:

      This is the part I dread most about Christmas.
      This corpse of a tree, sitting in my house, all dolled up like a ten-dollar tree whore.
      It smells wonderful for the first week, and there’s a sense of childlike joy when you finally finish dressing your tree-corpse…
      But other than that, I see it as a huge waste of time, money and space.

      If Only I convince the BF to go artificial.
      In the meantime we wait as long as possible, and buy a baby tree corpse 5 days before Christmas.

  2. whatdoyoucare says:

    Well, we are moving a few days after Christmas. The kids were understandable bummed that we didn’t have a tree. We just got an artificial one off of freecycle. But renting one would have been an option if it weren’t for freecycle.

  3. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I have a fake tree because of my allergies, but even if I wanted a real tree, I probably wouldn’t rent one because $110 is pretty steep. I’ve seen them for far less, and most people would rather spend half the price and just live with the fact that the tree’s going into the dumpster when they’re done with it. If you’re all about being “green” this might be more worth it for you. You aren’t chopping down a new tree every year and you’re not buying artificial trees.

    • Rachacha says:

      While the rented tree may be greener on the surface, you have to consider the negative impacts of getting the tree from the farm to your door and back to the farm.
      1) The tree us dug up and placed in a pot. It is possible this could be done by hand, but it is more likely dug by a large mechanical spade (that operates off of fuel).
      2) The tree is placed on a truck, and driven to your door where it is unloaded and brought into your house
      3) After the holidays, the truck drives back to your house to pick up the tree and it is taken back to the farm to be replanted again.

      Because the tree is planted and dug up every year, the tree does not develop a strong root system which may impact its long term health. The farm likely uses a lot of fertalizer and insectacide to ensure that “your tree” remains in good condition. This causes a large amount of chemicals to get into the water system.

      So that “green” tree, is actually placing a lot of polutants into the atmosphere, probably more than a cut tree.

      • trentblase says:

        But a cut tree would incur most of the same environmental costs (you still have to cut them and get them to your house). Do they really dig up and re-plant the trees? Why not just keep them in the pots the entire time?

    • nbs2 says:

      Of course, the cost of real trees isn’t that low either. I stopped by our local volunteer fire station to look at the cost of a wreath ($25), and noticed that their tree prices topped out at the same $110.

      Same price, less fuss? Not a bad deal.

  4. Intheknow says:

    We just chop and burn our tree in the fireplace at the end of the season. What a fabulous display too!

  5. human_shield says:

    Some cities have programs where they take your tree and the grind them into mulching for city medians, parks, etc.

  6. Necoras says:

    The problem with arguing that this is “eco-friendly” is that it is of course complete BS.

    Every tree that is chopped down to make a Christmas tree is replanted. This should be obvious, because if they didn’t plant new ones, then they would run out of trees to sell very quickly. Each tree that is planted takes some number of pounds of CO2 out of the air over the course of a few years and turns it into tree stuffs (wood, pine needles, etc.). Those trees are then made to look pretty, and then discarded into the local landfill. Depending on the type of landfill the tree will either A) decompose (compost) and probably be sold as fertilizer or something at which point some of that CO2 is released back into the air, or B) stay locked underground for a good long time, sequestering that CO2. Eventually someone builds a park on top of them. Hooray. A family could sequester hundreds if not thousands of pounds of CO2 underground by buying new trees every year. There’s some incidental CO2 use here of course. Chainsaws to cut down trees, gas to drive to and from the tree farm, but we’ll get to that.

    Compare this with renting a tree. The company grows one tree. They then use power tools to dig up the tree every year. Or, they keep them in pots and use forklifts to move them around. Either way, more gas is going to be burned than with a chainsaw (or, even better, an ax.) They then load the trees up on trucks to deliver them. Then, they go out and pick them up a few weeks later. Rinse repeat. This at least doubles the gas use (2 trips) likely more (trucks are less efficient than cars). Add to all of this that you only have one tree, and unless it dies, it’s not going into the landfill. If you put the tree back in the ground, you then have to dig a new hole for it too. More gas.

    This may be a good business model, but it’s crap on the environment.

    • mobiuschic42 says:

      About forklifts, etc…fresh cut trees still have to be delivered somewhere (local parking lot or other sale place), and picked up afterward (usually by garbage trucks).

      • Necoras says:

        I’m sure there are lots of incidentals I’ve missed. However, as far as the garbage truck, they’re driving by your house and to the dump every week anyways, so that adds no real cost to the disposable tree. The real difference here is burying the trees and replanting them every year, as opposed to having just one tree moved around a lot. A potted or transplanted tree will grow much slower than one in the ground, and thus take up less CO2.

      • Rachacha says:

        Cut trees are typically loaded/unloaded by hand, because they are relatively light. If machines are used, they can move dozens of trees at the same time. For potted plants, usually 1-2 can be moved by a machine at the same time.

        Hundreds of cut trees are transported from the growth forest to the store with one truck. Fewer potted plants can be transported on a single truck because of the size. The polution amount per tree is going to be higher for a potted tree.

        A potted plant because of the shock that a “rented” tree sees every year being dug up, potted, and then planted again, lots of fertalizer is likely used to ensure that the tree remains healthy because the rented tree is never given the opportunity to form a mature root system to gather its own nutrients from the ground.

        If you want to be evnironmentally friendly and have a fresh tree, purchase a potted evergreen, use it for your christmas tree, plant it in your back yard, and when nect december rolls around, unplant it and use it as your Christmas tree again and again. By doing this, you eliminate a lot of the polutants.

    • Wrathernaut says:

      Incidentally, this is the same reason not to use post-consumer recycled paper.

      Paper trees are farmed, trap CO2, and are turned into paper via blending and pouring (yes, over-simplified)
      Recycled paper needs all of the above, minus the farming and trapping of CO2, with the addition of chemicals to clean the inks and such off the old paper.

      Now, recycling paper into other products, like shredding for packing materials and such, is a good thing.

  7. FatLynn says:

    Where’s the, “no, I’m a Jew” option?

    • Rocket says:

      Seriously. I’m Jewish, and it’s great not to have to worry about trees.

    • Mark702 says:

      In that case, I’m not Jewish. Glad I don’t have to worry about a Menorah. And a cannabis plant makes a great Xmas tree alternative, think I’ll go that way.

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      We have Sikh neighbors and they are the first to put up all the Christmas decorations. Clearly, I’m confused. They’re also out in force on Halloween but not giving out candy. There is a Catholic family on the block who does the same thing, they say it’s against their religion. The Catholic family installed the most expensive Christmas display I’ve ever seen. It included several flagpoles at various heights so they could suspend Santa, sleigh and his reindeer flying over their house.

      So what I’m saying is, Jews can celebrate Christmas too; Santa is non-denominational.

      • GearheadGeek says:

        Non-denominational? Santa and most of the other Christmas traditions are pagan stuff the Church couldn’t manage to get rid of. Except for the Joseph/Mary/birth-of-Jesus parts, none of it is particularly Christian. Even the 3 Magi are only mentioned in one of the Gospels and some apocryphal texts.

        • JennQPublic says:

          My husband is an Arab Muslim, and he celebrates Christmas, and believes in Santa Claus. My mother told him the same thing she told me- when we stop believing in Santa, he will stop bringing us presents.

          We still believe. ;-)

    • yessongs says:

      What about all those who celebrate Festivus? All we need is a simple pole.

  8. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    I know someone who wheels their decorated tree in and out of the garage each year.

    These days it’s hard to find an artificial tree that’s not pre-lit. Next will be pre-decorated.

  9. Straspey says:

    I make my own Christmas trees at home…thankyouverymuch.

  10. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Where’s the option ” I would rent a Hannukah Bush “

  11. mobiuschic42 says:

    Yay for artificial tree option!!! I was disappointed by it being missing on the last Christmas Tree survey. My sister is allergic to lots of tree pollens/sap/something, so I’ve only ever had artificial trees.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      We always did too, growing up, because my parents just didn’t want to mess with a real one. We begged and begged and begged until one year, they caved and got a great big cedar tree.

      We were so happy; we decorated it, and it smelled so good. Then it started to drop needles. The first time we stepped on those sharp cedar bits in our sock feet, the novelty wore off pretty fast. The next year, it was back to the fake tree.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      Same here always a fake tree, we all have allergies and there is no way my family would mess with a real tree.

  12. sufreak says:

    Yes, but I’m Jewish. My wife however isn’t. But I still think she would rent it. We don’t have alot of storage space.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      Out of curiosity how do you deal with that? Do you have kids? (asking because my boyfriend is christian, but I’m not, and I’m unsure what to do when his mom appears asking “but where’s your christmas tree?!”)

      • Necoras says:

        Buy a $20 3 foot tree from walmart and put it in the corner. Christmas is more of a commercial holiday these days anyways. If she wants to have an in depth theological discussion about your soul, that’s one thing, but if it’s really just that she expects to see a tree, then give her a tree.

  13. TasteyCat says:

    Interesting concept, but far too expensive.

  14. Ele says:

    I cannot imagine that I would ever rent a tree — the price is just silly.

    This year I have been thinking very hard about buying a potted rosemary “tree” — they’re the size of very *small* trees — and they smell delicious!

  15. Press1forDialTone says:

    I’ll just pot my own tree and rent it to myself for (as MasterCard puts it) “zero dollars”.

  16. NotEd says:

    We do have a fake tree, so no.

    I would consider buying my own live tree, though, but only if I plant it in the spring. Bringing a live tree back inside seems like a good way to get bugs and such in the house.
    Maybe even a squirrel, Mr Griswald.

  17. Eric0001 says:

    I find it entertaining to use exotic live trees for Christmas. Sadly, my last one got a fungal infection and died last month (just in time to miss Christmas). The rental fee is about what I spent on that one, so I guess it’s not more expensive, but it is if you count the fact that these rental trees are just common pine trees.

  18. Big Mama Pain says:

    So, you have the ability to keep paying over $100 a year to rent the same tree year after year? What is the point of that?

  19. RickScarf says:

    This sounds like a decent business idea if it includes delivery/removal and plenty of price tiers for options such as size, live/artificial, plain/basic-decoration/premium-decoration, etc. If you set up shop in a wealthy town where people can’t be bothered to drive a tree home on their Lexus SUV, you could price it right I think where people would happily pay for a well-decorated tree with no hassle on their part. Selling “holiday trees” to businesses would be awesome profit potential. Setting up and storing our artificial tree at the office is a pain.

  20. yessongs says:

    No I wait until December 26 and buy my tree. You would be surprised how cheap they are.

    • Michaela says:

      Prices of candy canes also drop. A friend of mine got a few hundred candy canes for only ten dollars Dec 27th. :P

  21. gman863 says:

    I can predict exactly where this trend is going:

    Next Thanksgiving Hulk Hogan will be pitching your choice of either a tree or Menorah from Rent-A-Center for only $39.99 per week.

  22. Nea says:

    My mother-in-law recently went to Home Depot and purchased a tree in a pot, probably around 5 ft. tall for about $60. She’ll be planting it after Christmas. Why would you want to pay over $100 every year for a tree you will be returning?

  23. Yorick says:

    I noted that real trees at local spaces run $45 to 65. My friend got a real 6 ft tree at Wal-Mart for $30, and the following week I saw similar trees (size & type) for $25 at Lowe’s. I have a fake tree in the house I got for around $15 right after Christmas a few years ago. It’s all I need or want. Renting is comparatively expensive, which is odd given that usually renting for one use is cheaper than buying an item.

  24. bcsus83 says:

    I gotta say it’s a novel idea, although I think the potted trees in the photo look kind of…um…Charlie Brown-ish? However, I’d rather have a decent artificial tree than to cough up that kind of money to RENT a potted tree year after year.