CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Forget real Christmas trees, get a fake one instead

Cut down on holiday headaches by getting an artificial Christmas tree this year.

Brian Bennett Former Senior writer
Brian Bennett is a former senior writer for the home and outdoor section at CNET.
Brian Bennett
4 min read
Angela Lang/CNET

This year, you should buy an artificial Christmas tree. Yes, they tend to cost a lot more -- especially luxury models. And dropping $500 at once may not be in your budget. If you have the cash, though, it's worth it. Here's why. 

For one, today's fake trees look fantastic, whether they're ultra-realistic or playfully not. Also, synthetic Christmas trees don't shed, nor do they need constant watering. New artificial trees also pose much less of a fire risk than natural ones. In my book, that's reason enough.

If you've ever pondered the fabricated tree path before, now's the time to just buy one. You'll be glad you did.

The case for artificial Christmas trees

They're a lot safer

Natural Christmas trees might smell nice, but they are big fire hazards. Dried-out trees are outrageously flammable objects, and they can turn your home into a fiery death trap in minutes.

A recent National Fire Protection Agency report says that Christmas tree fires "are much more likely to be deadly than most other [home] fires." On average, one out of every 32 reported Christmas tree fires resulted in a death. That's higher compared with the average of one death per 143 of total home fires reported. These figures are based on data from 2001 to 2015.

The study also concludes that the number of holiday fires are disproportionately caused by natural Christmas trees. Over the same period, the report calculated the chance of an artificial tree-caused fire to be extremely low (statistically zero).

This doesn't mean artificial trees never cause fires -- only that they're extraordinarily safe by comparison. Just make sure your prospective tree is labeled as fire resistant. If a fake tree comes with built-in lights, look for the UL certification symbol. That signifies it's been tested to meet industry-accepted safety standards.

They are more convenient

If it's convenience you're after, nothing beats the simple setup and teardown of a well-designed, prelit tree.

There's no need to trek to the store, the nursery, or the forest to pick out and haul home a real tree. Plus, you can say goodbye to stringing up all those lights and putting them away each year. 

However, you will have to find adequate storage space though for your artificial tree. It'll need to stay hidden for 48 weeks out of the year as well. That reality won't be feasible for city dwellers, or anyone living in a cramped apartment.  

They're reusable

A high-quality artificial Christmas tree is built to last for many holiday seasons. And each season you reuse it, is another you won't have to shell out for a real one.

The American Christmas Tree Association, an industry trade group, estimates the typical lifespan for an artificial tree to be 11 years. That's a long time to avoid spending cash on naturally harvested evergreens.

Expect to pay between $105 and $110 for a fresh cut tree (Fraser Fir, 6 to 7 feet) online. Both Home Depot ($106) and now Amazon ($109) will even ship them to you for free. If you're game to drive your tree home yourself, you'll typically chop that fee in half (not including tip).

Prices for comparable fake trees typically start there but climb quickly as you add features. More realism, built-in lights, etc. will boost costs accordingly. For instance, the premium $599 Balsam Hill Fraser Fir (6.5 feet) comes with a set of white and multi-colored LED lights.

They can be stunning

Today's artificial Christmas trees are a far cry from what they once were. They're not the stick-like aluminium lamp posts of the 1950s and '60s.

Thanks to new manufacturing techniques, many current models are created for hyperrealism. The Balsam Hill company sells plastic trees that mimic the detailed structure of genuine pine needles and branches.

Fabricated trees aren't limited by what you find in nature, either. You can easily find trees that are hot pink, red, blue, lavender, black, white and pretty much any color of the rainbow. For all these and even wilder variations (including metallic!), check out Treetopia.  

They're less hassle

Between daily waterings and constantly having to pick up sprinklings of dead pine needles, real trees are a pain to maintain.

Not so with a plastic facsimile. Unless it's a real lemon, artificial conifers don't shed needles like real pine trees do.  

They won't make you (and your guests) sick

For me, there's one aspect natural Christmas trees have that plastic ones can't match -- real pine fragrance. That said, pine trees can spur allergic reactions in some people, which make the holidays less joyful.

There are multiple reasons why genuine Christmas trees could cause you discomfort. Terpene, a compound found in pine sap, is a known skin allergen. The same goes for mold spores, pollen, and dust a real tree may carry in from the wild. Even insects can enter your home via once-living trees.

Opting for a real tree this year? Here's how to set it up right.

CNET's Holiday Gift Guide: The place to find the best tech gifts for 2018.