Step back 5 to 8 feet and check the tree from several angles. Look for a densely branched tree with good shape, color, and fragrance. The trunk should be straight (or nearly so) and should not be visible through the foliage.
Bend a branch slightly; it should bend easily and not crack or break. Another sign of a fresh tree is sticky sap on the trunk.
Grab a handful of needles and pull gently. Few, if any, needles should come loose. Shake the tree and avoid a specimen that drops a lot of needles.
Check the height to ensure you are getting what you pay for.
Selecting a Live Tree for Planting Later
Buy your tree from a reputable dealer or grower. Check to be certain the variety will thrive in your climate.
In general, the younger a live tree, the better it will withstand the transplanting process.
Look for a tree with a single, straight trunk, and a healthy appearance -- good color, pleasing shape, and no evidence of browning or insect damage.
Plan on keeping the tree indoors no more than 7 days.