Fake Christmas tree vs real Christmas tree - which is cheaper?

It’s the most expensive time of year but not everyone can afford to splash out this Christmas, so we investigate which is cheaper - a fake Christmas tree or a real Christmas tree?

Left, fake Christmas tree with decorations on and presents underneath. Right, a father and young son buying a Christmas tree
(Image credit: Getty images)

One of the biggest costs at Christmas is buying a Christmas tree, but it’s not going to fit everyone's budget this year with the rising cost of living, so it’s good to know which is cheaper: a fake Christmas tree or a real Christmas tree.

According to a cost of living survey by the consultancy Deloitte (opens in new tab), 59% of consumers will have less money to spend over the Christmas period. 

For those on a hunt for a new Christmas tree this year, it makes sense to look closely at the costs involved of a fake Christmas tree vs real Christmas tree, the pros and cons, and the environmental cost too.

Fake Christmas tree vs real Christmas tree

The pros, cons and costs of a fake Christmas tree

Fake Christmas tree with presents underneath

(Image credit: Getty images)

According to retailer Scribbler (opens in new tab), artificial Christmas trees are more popular in the UK than real trees.

And that’s no surprise as they’re known to be less hassle and last longer.

Let’s delve into how much fake Christmas trees cost and how long they really last. 

How much does a fake Christmas tree cost?

The cost of a fake tree can go up to around £800, but it really depends on the quality, brand and size. You can also get fake trees at a fraction of the price, such as this one from Argos, for £11.25.

Here’s a comparison of fake Christmas trees in different sizes.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Brand6 ft tree7 ft tree
Amazon £38.20£48.40
Homebase£75£110
John Lewis£199£279

Cost to the environment

The good thing about fake Christmas trees is you can reuse them year after year, but that doesn’t mean they are environmentally-friendly. 

Libby Peake, head of resource policy at the thinktank Green Alliance, said: “Basically, there are differing estimates, but most life cycle analyses suggest that fake Christmas trees have a lower carbon impact if they're reused enough - in the order of 15 years or so. 

“These fake trees won't degrade naturally, though, so most will eventually wind up in landfill where it could be thousands of years before they disappear or, more likely, they will end up in incinerators where they will release greenhouse gases.”   

According to Less Waste (opens in new tab), you can reuse your fake Christmas tree for seven to 20 years, which is better than purchasing a tree that has been cut every year.

Pros and cons of a fake Christmas tree

PROS

  • The major benefit about buying a fake Christmas tree is you’ll get your money’s worth if you re-use it for a number of years. A good-quality tree could last you several decades. If you get bored of the same thing every year, instead of buying a new tree, you can switch up the decorations instead. 
  • Fake Christmas trees are low maintenance. You don’t need to water them, and you don’t need to worry about pines dropping on the floor. 
  • If you reuse them for at least 15 years, they are said to have a low carbon impact.
  • If you are investing in a good-quality tree that you plan to keep for a number of years, you can get one that’s easy to build, for example pre-lit Christmas trees or ones that you can fit together in two or three separate parts.

CONS

  • The initial cost of a good-quality tree can be higher than buying a real tree. Even though a fake tree will pay for itself in a few years’ time, the initial cost may put some people off (although you can buy cheaper versions from low-cost stores and websites like Amazon).
  • It isn’t environmentally-friendly to dispose of a fake Christmas tree, as it could take thousands of years for it to degrade (or they’ll be incinerated, releasing harmful greenhouse gases). 
  • You need to have space to store the tree when Christmas is over. This may be difficult for those living in properties with no loft or garage, and little storage.
  • Artificial Christmas trees don’t have a nice “tree smell” (they could smell of plastic, and that’s not exactly the festive pine smell that many people like).

The pros, cons and costs of a real Christmas tree

Mother and young daughter carrying a Christmas tree they have bought

(Image credit: Getty images)

Between six and eight million real Christmas trees are sold in the UK every year, according to the British Christmas Tree Growers Association (opens in new tab).

How much does a real Christmas tree cost?

Research by Which? (opens in new tab) suggests that buying a real Christmas tree can cost anything from £15 upwards, depending on the size and type of tree.

Nordmann is the most popular type of Christmas tree bought in the UK, and you can find one in a range of retailers like B&Q and Ikea, supermarkets like Tesco, Aldi and Morrisons, plus garden centres. Aldi is the home of the cheapest Christmas tree this year, according to Which?, with a 1.5-1.75m, Scottish-grown, cut tree costing £14.99.

If you buy a tree from the Realchristmastrees.co.uk (opens in new tab) website, you can get a tree as big as 10 foot costing you £145, or a 4 foot costing £48. 

If you’re looking for a Christmas tree in a pot, Tesco (opens in new tab) has a pot-grown Nordmann tree for £25, which can be between 0.6-1.3m tall.

Cost to the environment

It’s easy to come to the conclusion that real Christmas trees are more environmentally friendly than plastic ones, but Green Alliance says cutting down real trees also has an impact. 

Libby Peake said: “If households buy a real Christmas tree and it has been cut, it will last only for the Christmas season and so they would have to buy a new one every year. 

“But, increasingly, there are options for buying living trees, either small ones in pots that can then be planted in gardens, or sometimes very large ones that can be rented.

“There are an increasing number of companies specialising in living Christmas trees who will deliver them to customers and collect them after the Christmas season to be used again the next year. This is usually a more expensive option, but is definitely kinder to the environment.”

There are also ways to replant or dispose of your tree in an environmentally friendly way. 

This is what the government (opens in new tab) suggests:

  • Take the tree to a recycling centre where they will either turn it into soil or chippings for paths
  • Search for a charity that offers “treecycling” where they use the tree to build flood barriers in communities around the UK
  • Replant your tree in a pot outside in the garden, which will give it a new lease of life
  • Check if there is a special collection service with your local council

Pros and cons of a real Christmas tree

PROS

  • There are a lot more options to make sure the disposal of the tree is environmentally-friendly, compared to the options with an artificial tree.
  • Choosing and buying a real Christmas tree, and the smell of a real tree, may feel more festive to you.
  • You don’t have to build or assemble a real tree, like you might have to with a fake tree.

CONS

  • Cutting trees down so people can have a real Christmas tree at home for a few weeks of the year is not environmentally-friendly. According to the charity WWF (opens in new tab), global forest loss and damage contributes to around 10% of global warming. 
  • Buying a new tree every year is costly - for example, if you were to purchase one for £30, in 10 years that’s a whopping £300 spent.
  • Some real trees can drop pines (although “non-drop trees” are available). You also need to remember to water them.

The verdict

You can probably tell, there is no right answer here. 

Both real and fake Christmas trees add a cost to the environment, so it’s really dependent on the following:

  • If you own a fake tree, how long you keep it will determine how environmentally friendly it is. 
  • If you own a real tree, how you decide to dispose of it will be a major factor. 
  • Green Alliance said it takes thousands of years for a fake Christmas tree to degrade, so there is no way to ensure there is no environmental impact - but you can help by using your tree for as many years as possible.

When it comes to the cost of buying a Christmas tree, in most cases, a fake one works out cheaper in the long run. 

For example, if you bought a £200 fake Christmas tree, here’s how much it would cost depending on how long you keep it:

  • £20 per year if you reuse it for 10 years 
  • £13.33 per year if you reuse it for 15 years 
  • £10 per year if you reuse it for 20 years

If you opted for a real Christmas tree every year that costs around £50, in 10 years’ time that would work out to be £500. 

Whereas that £500 could get you a really nice artificial tree, all the decorations, and hundreds of pounds left over for festive food, drink and presents.

If you’re not bothered about the long-term cost, and just want a low-cost option for this year during the cost of living crisis, there are some decent fake and real Christmas trees available for less than £20.

Vaishali Varu
Staff Writer

Vaishali graduated in journalism from Leeds University. She has gained experience writing local stories around Leeds and Leicester, which includes writing for a university publication and Leicester Mercury. 

She has also done some marketing and copywriting for businesses.

When she is not writing about personal finance, Vaishali likes to travel and she's a foodie.