How Much Does it Cost to Clear Land in 2023?

The cost to clear land in the U.S. ranges from $1,565 to $4,520, with most landowners paying around $2,900.

The cost to clear land in the U.S. ranges from $1,565 to $4,520, with most landowners paying around $2,900. Pricing varies with square footage, tree density, the land’s condition, and your plans for the property. 

Land clearing prepares your property for development. It might be a simple project, like extending your backyard, or a huge one, like building a house. Clearing involves heavy equipment, long hours, and risky tasks. That’s why hiring professionals is the best option. 

Table of contents:

Average costs to clear land in 2023

Landowners pay an average cost of $2,565 to $4,520 to clear land of trees, brush, and other obstacles. The national average cost is $2,900. You might pay the low-end price of around $430 for a small, flat lot with less vegetation and debris to remove. 

National average cost$2,900
Typical price range$1,565 – $4,520
Extreme low end cost$430
Extreme high end cost$10,850

These are typical prices for average lots of ½ to 2 acres. They include removing obstacles such as trees, boulders, brush, stumps, and other debris. 

Pricing will quickly increase towards the higher end if:

  • The land is on a hillside and is hard to access
  • It’s a wooded lot with dense vegetation
  • Some structures need to be demolished
  • The terrain needs grading or erosion treatment
  • Your project requires excavation

Lower fees are frequent for easy-to-access lots with less vegetation. You can also save money by mulching vegetation waste.

Land clearing cost estimator by lot size

The square footage of your property is a crucial factor to consider when estimating the cost of land clearing. You can pay under $750 to clear ⅛ acre of land, while the price for 2 acres starts at $1,620 and can reach over $11,000. Often, pricing starts at half of an acre or one acre of land. You will also find land-clearing contractors working for an hourly fee. 

Land clearing cost per half-acre

The cost to clear half an acre ranges between $405 and $2,935, depending on land conditions and amount of vegetation. This is the fee for removing trees, bushes, and underbrush. When hiring a land clearing company, check if their base price also includes stump removal.

Average price to clear an acre of land

You’ll typically pay around $810 to $5,870 to have a full acre of land cleared. See below the prices for different land sizes.

Lot size Average overall cost 
⅛ acre$101 – $734
⅕ acre$162 – $1,174
¼ acre$203 – $1,468
½ acre$405 – $2,935
¾ acre$608 – $4,403
1 acre$810 – $5,870
2 acres$1,620 – $11,780
3 acres$2,430 – $17,610
4 acres$3,240 – $23,480
5 acres$4,050 – $29,350

Keep in mind that clearing size is not always the same as property size. You might want to build your house in the middle of forested land and clear just the construction site. 

In this case, remember that you will need to clear enough land for the following:

  • Driveways
  • Electrical grid, water pipes, and gas mains
  • Heavy machinery working on the site (bulldozers, backhoes, etc)

Also, trees too close to home put your roof at risk, even if they provide shade. They are harder to cut down after you start construction, so take care of them initially. 

Average price for land clearing per hour

You may also receive hourly pricing when asking for land-clearing quotes from local contractors. Make sure this is an advantageous option for you. With more complicated land, work hours can quickly build up, and you might pay more than you would with pricing by the acre. The average cost to clear land per hour ranges from $120 to $265.

Other factors that affect cost

There are quite a few other factors that can raise your budget, aside from lot size. Some are useful for site preparation, while others help you consider and improve the condition of your land. Consider these cost factors when budgeting for land clearing. 

Site preparation

Before you can clear land, you may need to take some preliminary measures, such as mapping out the borders of your property or attaining permits from local authorities. See below the average prices for some of the most common site preparation services. 

ServiceAverage cost
Land survey$310 – $750
Land clearing permits$200 – $250
Geotechnical testing $1,000 – $5,000

Land survey

Before bringing out the chainsaws and backhoes, ensure you know your property limits. You don’t want to cut down your neighbor’s tree by mistake. Hire a land surveyor for:

  • Accurate property boundaries
  • A land chart to match the construction blueprint
  • Updated info to help you place fences, driveways, septic tanks, and utilities
  • Enough data to identify which trees and structures need to go

Land survey cost ranges from $310 to $750 for a ½-acre lot. You’ll pay more for a multi-acre property, which will take longer to survey.

Land clearing permits

Permits for clearing land typically cost around $200 to $250, but fees vary with location. Pricing will increase if you need permits for:

  • Demolition
  • Excavation
  • Land grading
  • Construction

Zoning laws vary by state, so before clearing the land, do a little research for your area. You might need to consider the following:

  • Protected plants or animals on your lot
  • Erosion risk from cutting down trees
  • Wetlands in your area

Geotechnical testing

Geotechnical surveys cost from $1,000 to $5,000, but for a residential home, you will fall on the low end of the range. This survey checks for erosion risk and is essential before building a house. 

Geotechnical surveys analyze:

  • Soil type, strength, and density
  • Groundwater levels
  • Soil compaction
  • Seismic design factors

The geotechnical report tells you:

  • Where to install a well or septic tank
  • If your land can safely support a home
  • What measures should be taken before land clearing and construction 

Land condition

A few cost factors have to do with the condition of your land. When budgeting and getting quotes, consider the following:

  • Erosion control: Do you need to take measures to stop erosion while clearing the land?
  • Land accessibility: How easy will it be to drive equipment through your land?

Erosion control

Do you need to clear land on a hillside? In that case, it has higher risks of soil erosion if you remove vegetation. You may need to take erosion prevention measures that could increase your costs, such as:

  • Leaving topsoil and natural growth undisturbed as much as possible
  • Dividing the project into phases
  • Stabilizing the soil with mulch, seeding, turf blankets, silt fencing, etc
  • Creating sediment traps and ditches to capture runoff water

These measures may add to your budget but will help preserve land value.

Land accessibility

Bulldozers and excavators might find it more challenging to access steep-sloped terrain. Also, cutting down trees and moving waste can be more difficult if the land isn’t easy to navigate. In this case, the cost of land clearing will likely increase. 

Vegetation density

Removing trees is the most costly component of lot clearing. You can expect to pay $3,300 to $5,600 per cleared acre if you have a heavily wooded property. By comparison, for land with fewer trees, the cost lowers to an average of $580 to $2,100. 

Cost of clearing lightly forested land

Clearing a lot with fewer trees is 3 to 6 times cheaper. You can pay from $75 to cut and grind, pushover, or pullover the trees on a ⅛-acre lot or under $600 for a full acre. Here are some estimates for different property sizes.

Lot sizeAverage cost to clear lightly forested land
⅛ acre$75 – $265
⅕ acre$115 – $420
¼ acre$145 – $525
½ acre$290 – $1,050
¾ acre$435 – $1,575
1 acre$580 – $2,100
2 acres$1,160 – $4,200

Cost of clearing heavily forested land

Clearing a heavily forested property will take more work, equipment, and money. Prices start at $3,300 for an acre and can go over $10,000 for 2 acres. See below cost estimates for ⅛-acre to 2-acre lots.

Lot sizeAverage cost to clear heavily forested land
⅛ acre$415 – $700
⅕ acre$660 – $1,120
¼ acre$825 – $1,400
½ acre$1,650 – $2,800
¾ acre$2,475 – $4,200
1 acre$3,300 – $5,600
2 acres$6,600 – $11,200

Brush removal cost

Not all land is covered with trees. Some lots are just acres and acres of brush. In this case, land clearing prices will be much lower, with an average price for brush removal of $330 to $630 per acre

Brush removal is also something you could take on DIY in small and medium-sized areas. Another option is to rent goats to clear brush for you. The cost of renting goats is $400 to $800 for an acre, and they eat everything from grass and shrubs to vines and small trees.

Tree removal cost

If there are only one or two trees on your land, you don’t necessarily need land clearing. Instead, you can have the trees removed individually for a typical tree removal cost of $385 to $1,070. This cost is per tree, and pricing varies with the size and height of the tree. See below some estimates by tree height.

Tree heightAverage cost to remove
Up to 30 feet$285 – $435
30-60 feet$435 – $870
60-80 feet$870 – $1,160
Over 80 feet$1,160 – $2,000

Stump removal cost

Stump removal is necessary for land grading, landscaping plans, and building a house. You can choose between several methods, with an average stump removal cost of $130 to $350 per stump

Removing tree stumps with all their roots is essential if you plan to build on top of the land. Basic land clearing may not include stump removal automatically, so you may have to pay extra per-stump for this service. 

Forestry mulching

Forestry mulching is cutting trees, bushes, and stumps into small pieces. The chopped-up pieces form layers of mulch on the ground and work as a natural fertilizer. Mulching uses only one piece of equipment, and there are no trees to pile or waste to remove. All this makes it cheaper than standard land clearing, costing an average of $450 per acre.

Selling trees before land clearing

Land clearing can be expensive, so selling the trees on your property might help add to your available budget. Think about this before you start clearing the land. You’ll need to cut down the trees with more care if you want to sell them for furniture to preserve the wooden fiber. 

You can sell trees through an independent consultant or a registered forester that will:

  • Evaluate your trees 
  • Find mills to bid on them
  • Take care of the selling

These consultants usually ask for 5% to 20% of the selling price to find you the best deal possible. 

Tree preservation

You can keep some specific trees intact when clearing land, but you need to plan it early. Most trees have extensive roots. Compacting the soil around the bases or cutting into the root system will harm them. 

Keep excavation and heavy machinery at least one to two tree heights away from the trunk base of trees you want to preserve. Consider hiring an arborist to tell you:

  • Which trees are healthy enough to preserve
  • Where you can and can’t excavate if you want to protect certain trees 
  • If you have protected species on your land

Arborists and foresters generally work for an hourly fee of $85 to $220 for consultations. You will pay more if the preserved trees need to be trimmed or treated for pests or disease. 

Demolishing underground and ground-level structures

The need to tear down old buildings and underground structures raises the price of clearing a yard, with demolition costs ranging from $1,500 to $15,000.

Demolition fees depend on the following:

  • What you need to demolish
  • Site accessibility 
  • If the contractor includes debris removal 

Asbestos testing

Asbestos inhalation is still a risk in restorations and demolitions. Testing for asbestos is essential before taking down any old structure as part of clearing land. If you have to demolish old structures on your land, the preliminary asbestos test will cost you around $225 to $780.

What is asbestos, and why should you test for it? Asbestos is a sound-absorbent mineral fiber with excellent fire resistance. Constructors used it widely from 1950 to 1980. The U.S. banned asbestos in 1989 after studies showed that it damages lung-tissue. It can cause serious diseases, such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.

After clearing your lot of trees, brush, and other obstacles, you may need additional services to prepare the land for construction, such as: 

Excavation

You might require excavators if you want to build a basement for your house, an in-ground pool, or a larger pond. Excavation cost ranges, on average, from $1,450 to $5,850 total. The cost breaks down to about $55 to $150 per hour or $60 to $200 per cubic yard. 

Land grading and leveling

When grading your land, you level the soil and prepare it for construction or planting. It also helps improve drainage and prevent water from puddling. Land grading cost ranges, on average, from $800 to $4,000

Drain installation

Whether you’re building a house or using the cleared land for planting, you might need to install drainage if heavy soil, land slope, or other issues cause pooling water. Drain installation costs, on average, between $1,500 and $11,000

A french drain is the most popular option to help you redirect water from problematic areas. A french drain is a trench dug in the soil with a perforated pipe wrapped in a porous layer and covered with stones or gravel. The average cost of a french drain ranges from $2,800 to $6,500.

Building a fence

Are you clearing land for a farm, vegetable garden, pasture, or residential home? Whichever it is, your property may need a proper fence. The average cost to install a fence is $12 to $35 per linear foot for a professional installation. Cost depends on material and height. You may get a lower price per linear foot for a large property.

Landscape improvements

Landscaping will occur after you clear the land and build the house. But details should be planned even before clearing the first trees. This way, you involve the designer in deciding what natural growth should stay and what can be removed. Landscaping cost ranges from $3,300 to $13,200. Use a land survey and soil testing to choose the correct landscaping elements.

In-ground swimming pool installation

Building a new swimming pool is as good a reason as any to extend your yard by clearing a wild vegetation area. Don’t forget you might need a permit for it. Typical in-ground pool costs range from $32,400 to $60,875.

Pond installation

While excavators and bulldozers are on your land, you should take care of all excavations, such as digging a pond. The price varies based on size and local wildlife, but the typical cost to install a pond ranges from $1,900 to $6,500.

Poured concrete driveway or patio

Land clearing and leveling is an excellent opportunity for pouring concrete slabs for driveways, pathways, or a patio. The cost of concrete ranges from $4.34 to $7.73 per square foot.

Waste and debris removal

Some pros burn the vegetal waste on your land or include transportation to the dump in their basic service. Others just pile it up on your property, and you have to take care of it. If you have to pay an additional cost for waste removal, here’s what it will look like:

Waste removal optionWhat you should knowAverage price
Tree and yard waste removalFor logs and stumps, look for a company working with trees.$60 to $515
Construction waste removal costYou can get this service from almost any junk removal company in the area.$125 to $750
Cost to rent a dumpster per weekThis includes dump fees that are around $50 for 4 tons of debris.$270 to $500 (10 to 15-yard dumpster)

Pro cost vs. DIY cost of land clearing 

Clearing acres of wooded land is risky, hard, and better left to professionals. Here’s why:

  • If you cut the trees too high, you’ll have tall stumps all over the place, blocking construction equipment.
  • Gathering fallen trees and piling them is more challenging than it seems.
  • You need rented equipment that might be more costly than the clearing service.
  • Land clearing takes longer if you don’t know what you’re doing.
  • You can easily hurt yourself or damage your property.

However, if you think you’re up for the challenge (even though we don’t recommend DIY land clearing), below are the rental costs for some equipment a professional crew would use to clear land. 

Cost of equipment rentals for land clearing

EquipmentAverage rental cost per dayAverage rental cost per week
Dump truck$250 – $550$815 – $1,400
Bulldozer $410 – $620$910 – $2,035
Stump grinder $170 – $310$525 – $950
Root grapple $60 – $135$175 – $525
Excavator$240 – $470$850 – $1,480
Landscape rake $170 – $210$500 – $625
Total:$1,300 – $2,295$3,775 – $7,015

As you can see, the cost of renting the equipment required for land clearing is just as much or even more than the cost of hiring a professional land clearing service. That’s not to mention the hours or days of work it would take to clear a whole lot. You’re much better off hiring a pro if you need to clear trees from a large property. 

Equipment and tools cost for DIY brush removal

While large trees and extensive lots are better left to the pros, you may be able to clear a few young trees or brush from your backyard on your own. For the necessary tools, you would spend between $380 and $615 for a one-day project.

Equipment/tools for DIY brush clearingAverage cost
Eye protection$6.50
Hearing protection$27
Chainsaw safety glove$30
Steel toe work boots$100
Chainsaw rental per day$45 – $90
Brush remover$100 – $190 per day
Rake$40
Pickup truck $130 per day
Total cost of equipment for DIY brush clearing with 1-day rentals$380 – $615

Using chainsaws and brush mowers can be risky if they are unfamiliar to you. You will also work longer than a professional, and you might pay more for your rentals than you would for a land clearing service. Professional brush clearing costs $330 to $630 per acre on average, so if you have an acre or less of land to clear, the cost for a pro vs. DIY is about the same. Our advice – go with a pro. 

Cost to clear land by location

Land clearing prices vary by state because of differences in land profile, labor rates, and permit costs. Here are some examples of average land clearing costs by state.

StateAverage cost to clear land
Florida$2,550
Tennessee$3,100
Oregon$3,125
Colorado$3,200
Texas$3,850
Nebraska$3,300
New York$3,400
Maine$3,350

FAQ

How long does it take to clear an acre of land?

Clearing an acre of land can take two to four hours if done by professionals on lightly forested terrain. Heavily wooded lots and sloped areas can take an entire day or more to clear.

How many acres of land can professionals clear in one day?

If it’s rugged terrain with many trees and underbrush, bumps and hills, or a steep slope, one acre or less than one acre. They can clear two to four acres a day on a flat field with less vegetation. This also depends on the number of workers involved.

How much does it cost to check for underground utilities?

Checking for underground utilities is free. All you have to do is call 811 and give the precise location of your land.

What does land clearing consist of?

Land clearing refers to removing all overgrowth, like trees and shrubs, and also smaller bushes and underbrush. It can also include grubbing, which is cleaning all roots and underground debris up to one foot deep.

What is the purpose of land clearing?

The purpose of land clearing is to prepare the land for development. This can be pasture, planting trees, agriculture, or construction.

Final thoughts 

Land clearing cost in the U.S. ranges from $1,565 to $4,520, with a national average of $2,900. Prices vary with property size, tree density, and land location. You can pay more if you need to prevent erosion, demolish structures, level the land, or do some excavations. Contact a land clearing company in your area and ask for a quote to find out how much your project will cost.

Note: Lawn Love may get a referral fee for matching you with contractors in your area.

Main Photo by: Jim McDougall – Flickr – CC BY 2.0

Sinziana Spiridon