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Today’s crane-mounted planting heads plant seedlings with biologically similar or better results than operational manual planting. However, the total cost of mechanized tree planting in southern Sweden must decrease at least 25% to compete economically with manual planting. Although seedlings packed in machine-specific packaging increase the productivity of planting machines by reducing seedling reloading time, they also increase logistics and investment costs. In this study, we analyzed the total cost of outplanting seedlings with an excavator-mounted Bracke Planter and seedlings packed according to four different concepts: cultivation trays, cardboard boxes, band-mounted seedlings in cardboard boxes and linked pots in container modules. The total cost per planted seedling was calculated for each packaging system as the sum of all costs from nursery to the recovery of empty packaging. The results showed that today’s system of transporting seedlings in cultivation trays is the most cost-efficient of the four alternatives. Machine-specific seedling packaging was 16–23% costlier per planted seedling than cultivation trays when trucking distances were 100 km. Sensitivity analyses indicated that machine-specific seedling packaging increased in cost-efficiency relative to cultivation trays primarily when more planting machines were contracted, but also as planting machine fixed costs and productivity increased. Moreover, the relative cost-efficiency of band-mounted seedlings, but not seedlings in container modules, increased with increasing trucking distance. Thus, we show that investments in machine-specific seedling packaging for today’s planting machines are justified only when the fixed costs, productivity and number of contracted planting machines increase substantially.