While artificial trees (or faux firs) are more expensive up-front, they can be reused for several years and are easier to maintain. However, real Christmas trees are biodegradable and better for the environment. About 35 million Christmas trees are estimated to be sold in the U.S. in the 2012 Christmas season, 22 million of them real and 13 million artificial.

Comparison chart

Artificial Christmas Tree versus Real Christmas Tree comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartArtificial Christmas TreeReal Christmas Tree
  • current rating is 3.36/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
(22 ratings)
  • current rating is 3.97/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
(30 ratings)
Artificial Christmas TreeReal Christmas Tree
Pine Smell No Yes
Production Made from PVC, ,usually in China Grown naturally on tree farms
Average lifespan after purchase 10 years A few weeks
Cost Varies based on the size. A mid size tree costs around $100 Varies based on the size. A mid size tree costs around $40-$50
Sheds Needles No Yes
Fire Risk No Potentially
Biodegradable No Yes
A kid decorating a Christmas tree
A kid decorating a Christmas tree


Artificial Christmas trees do not need to be watered and do not drop needles. They can be stored in a box, but can be difficult to assemble.

Real trees must be transported from the place of purchase and transported again after Christmas for disposal. They need watering and tend to drop needles.


Artificial trees cost an average of about $100, and have an average lifespan of 10 years. Real Christmas trees cost an average of $49 in the 2012 season. A family farm in Delaware, for example, was charging charging $7 a foot for cut-your-own pine and spruce trees, $9 a foot for Canaan and Concolor firs, and $10 a foot for Fraser firs. Another farm near Granville was selling cut-your-own pines for $35 and Canaan firs for $50, no matter how tall, as well as pre-cut Fraser firs from North Carolina priced starting at $40.[1], but you need to buy a new one every year.

In 2010, the average price of a live Christmas tree was about $37. 27 million real Christmas trees were sold that year. Before the recession, almost 33 million live Christmas trees were sold every year.

Most popular varieties

The Fraser fir is the most popular Christmas tree variety in the U.S. In places like Ohio, the Canaan fir is more popular.

Where to buy

Home Depot is the largest seller of pre-cut live Christmas trees in the U.S. Amazon.com also has a great selection of Christmas trees, including artificial 6' trees for around $35.


Artificial trees are made from metal and PVC, which is a non-biodegradable, petroleum-derived plastic. They are non-recyclable.

New trees are planted to replace those cut down on Christmas tree farms. Recycling programs are available for real Christmas trees. A single real Christmas tree also absorbs more than 1 ton of CO2 while on the tree farm. However, trees can be treated with pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers while growing, and may need to transported long distances before being sold.


Artificial trees are reusable, and can be easily disposed of when no longer wanted. However, they are non-biodegradable, and will then sit in landfills for centuries.

Real Christmas trees must be transported to land fills to be disposed of. Some tree farms run “treecycling” programs where the tree can be mulched for reuse.

Economic Impact

More than 100,000 people are employed either full- or part-time in the Christmas tree industry in the U.S. Most are local tree farms that plant 2-4 seedlings for every Christmas tree that is cut down that year. On the other hand, the artificial Christmas tree industry has most of its manufacturing base in China. So an argument could be made that using live trees supports the local economy. [2]


Share this comparison:

If you read this far, you should follow us:

"Real vs. Artificial Christmas Trees." Diffen.com. Diffen LLC, n.d. Web. 16 Oct 2016. < >