In contrast, a traditional burial typically costs $9,420, which is why cremations are increasingly popular.
The National Funeral Directors Association annual report states that the average cost of cremation is $6,970, which includes a viewing and memorial service.
In contrast, the median cost of a traditional funeral (burial) is about $9,420.
The average direct cremation costs $2,183, and it’s the most affordable cremation type. It’s sometimes called “simple cremation,” “basic cremation,” or “immediate cremation.”
Direct cremation is when the cremation provider immediately cremates the body and places it in an alternative container without a viewing or funeral service.
Your loved ones cannot view the body or conduct a funeral ceremony before the crematorium incinerates the body.
It’s so inexpensive because you’re essentially just paying the cremation fees. You’re not paying for the burial plot, embalming, casket, headstone, refrigeration, funeral facility charges, or other service costs.
According to Funeralocity, the table below outlines direct cremation costs on a high, low, and average basis.
|State||Average Cost Of Direct Cremation||Minimum Cost Of Direct Cremation||Maximum Cost Of Direct Cremation|
What do you get when you have a funeral service followed by cremation?
For starters, the specific options and pricing will vary based on your particular cremation package.
Below is an outline of what you typically get with a cremation funeral.
- Nondeclinable basic services fee ($2,300) — A basic services fee covers the cost of their labor and equipment.
- Removal/transfer of remains to the funeral home ($350) — The charge for transferring the body to the mortuary.
- Embalming ($775) — Embalming is often required for open-casket services or if the body is going to be transferred interstate.
- Various cosmetic preparations ($275) — This fee covers the cost of applying makeup, clothing, hairdressing, and the general preparation of the body.
- Facility usage for viewing ($450) — A basic services fee covers the cost of their labor and equipment.
- Funeral home staff for service ($515) — You will only pay this if you choose to use the services of the funeral home staff to assist with the funeral ceremony.
- Service car/van ($150) — This vehicle can transport family members or may be used to transport a body instead of a hearse.
- Printed memorial package ($183) — Funeral homes will often print pamphlets and prayer cards honoring the deceased and detailing the outline of the service.
- Cremation fee (if the firm uses a third party)* ($368) — This is the typical cost when a third-party crematory performs the cremation.
- Cremation casket ($1,310) — These caskets differ from those used for burial and typically cost less.
- Urn ($295) — Costs vary quite a bit depending on the size and material quality.
The median cost of a cremation service with viewing is $6,970. And if you opt for a basic cremation (the cheapest type of cremation), the average price drops to $2,183.
Cremation pricing is much lower than burial, which is why Americans are increasingly making the switch. NFDA states that the cremation rate is 59.3% vs 35.7% for burial.
Even though cremation funerals are cheaper than burials, they can still get very costly, depending on your preferences.
You can follow some practical steps to save money on these expenses.
Remember, the FTC’s Funeral Rule grants you certain rights when shopping for cremation options.
For example, you have the right to see a General Price List (GPL) that spells out the cost of all their products, services, and additional costs.
Also, they must give you prices over the telephone if you ask.
- Shop around — Call at least five funeral homes or crematories for price estimates.
- Make your budget unknown — Don’t tell any providers how much you can spend. Otherwise, they might offer a cremation package that matches your budget.
- Buy the urn somewhere else — It is your right to buy a cremation container from a third party. By law, they must accept it. You can find affordable urns from online stores such as Amazon or Costco.
- Rent the casket for viewing instead of buying it — If you opt for a wake (viewing), you’ll need a casket to showcase the body. Funeral homes usually offer rental caskets for $750-$1,500. Comparatively, caskets can cost from $2,000-$10,000 on average.
It’s wise to become familiar with all your rights under The Funeral Rule.
Feel free to take full advantage of them to ensure you get the best price possible for your desired service.
After the cremation process is complete, you must decide what will happen with the ashes.
Most people just buy an urn and keep the ashes somewhere safe.
But believe it or not, there are dozens of options, most of which are unknown to the general populace.
- Keep the cremains at home ($70-$2,250) — This is the most common option. You store the cremated remains in an urn and place them on a mantle or other place in your home for safekeeping. The only cost you incur is that of the urn.
- Keepsake urns ($25-$60) — These are tiny urns meant only to hold a portion of the cremains. The idea is that family members will all have their own keepsake urn to retain a part of their departed loved one.
- Scatter the ashes ($100-$1,000) — Some people want their ashes scattered as their final resting place. Many state and local governments have strict rules about scattering human cremains. It would be wise to check your local laws before scattering any ashes.
- Scattering gardens ($100-$1,000) — Some cemeteries have specific gardens set up where you can spread the deceased’s ashes.
- Scatter in water ($100-$1,000) — Dumping the ashes in a body of water is often called a “burial at sea” or “water burial.” You essentially drop a biodegradable urn (with the ashes inside), so it can dissolve in water. Or you can dump the raw ashes directly in the water. Check your state and local laws before disposing of cremains in a body of water. Many states have regulations that govern if and how you can spread human ashes in water.
- Burial (350-$3,000)– While uncommon, some people opt to bury the cremains. There may be additional fees if you work with a cemetery that requires an urn vault.
- Store in a columbarium or mausoleum ($1,000- $60,000) — A columbarium is a building that has little niches meant to hold urns. A mausoleum is a small house-like structure meant to store caskets or urns. Some mausoleums are very large and extravagant, making them extremely expensive.
- Cremation jewelry ($1,250-$13,200) — You can have a small portion of the ashes mixed in with the materials necessary to make a ring, pendant, or another piece of jewelry.
- Vinyl record ($2,250) — The ashes can be pressed into a vinyl record that plays whatever music you want.
- Tattoo ($200-$500) — The tattoo artist will add a small amount of the cremains to the ink. Then they apply the tattoo like normal.
- Painting ($100-$1,000) — An artist will mix a small amount of the ashes into their paint.
- Space ($5,000-$12,500) — You can pay to have your ashes ejected into space.
- Coral reef ($4,500-$7,500) — Companies like Eternal Reefs use some of the ashes when they construct an artificial reef formation. Over time, this will attract and grow into an entire reef system in the ocean.
- Fireworks display ($400-$5,000) — Some ashes will be incorporated into the fireworks.
- Memorial tree ($6,700-$25,000) — Companies like Better Place Foresters will integrate some of the ashes into the soil near a dedicated tree that you select. They’ll also place a permanent marker on or near the tree, signifying who lies there.
Believe it or not, the list goes on. You can even have your ashes dropped out of a plane.
Pre-planning your funeral is an act of love. Everyone should do it so that surviving loved ones don’t have to make hasty decisions under great emotional duress.
That said, how the funeral will be paid for is another critical funeral planning step. You cannot rely on Social Security because they only provide $255 after someone dies, and Medicaid rarely provides assistance.
Here are the most practical ways to pay for the cost of cremating a person.
- Buy cremation insurance — A cremation insurance policy is a small whole life plan to pay for cremation costs. These plans last your entire life, and the monthly premiums remain level. After you die, your beneficiaries will get tax-free funds from the policy. There are no restrictions on how they spend the money either. That means any unused money is theirs to keep. Bear in mind that a death certificate is required for your beneficiaries to be able to collect the money.
- Setup a pre-paid funeral — A pre-paid funeral plan is an agreement directly with a local funeral home. After you design your entire funeral, they will inform you of the net cost. There are a few different payment options. First, you can pay it in cash and be done with it. You can also opt for monthly payments over many years. Once you pass away, the funeral home will execute your final wishes as you’ve designed. Pre-planning is very different than a final expense insurance policy. With a final expense policy, you name people, not the funeral home, as the beneficiary.
- Put money in a savings account — If you’re a disciplined saver, you can reliably put money into a savings account. The money in this account should be explicitly earmarked for your final expenses. You must not touch this money when you encounter financial emergencies. Otherwise, life will happen as it always does, and then you’d have no money to pay for your cremation service. Also, having someone else named on your account would be wise. If not, your bank account will be subject to the probate process. That would render the funds inaccessible for many months until probate is complete.
- Set up a POD account — A Payable on Demand Account is a unique bank account that includes a beneficiary(s). The money in the account will automatically disburse your beneficiaries upon death. Ensure that your beneficiaries are aware of this account so they know to file a claim after your passing.
- Use existing life insurance — All types of life insurance payout cash to your beneficiaries. There is no reason the proceeds from existing life insurance cannot be used to pay for your cremation expenses. In fact, covering burial and final expenses is the #1 reason Americans purchase life insurance. Just be sure that your current life insurance won’t expire before you do. Some life insurance, such as term life, will expire after a specific number of years. Ideally, you want permanent life insurance if you’re counting on the policy to pay for your funeral bills. Many life insurance companies sell policies dedicated to paying just for final expenses. They’re often referred to as “burial life insurance” or “senior final expense life insurance.” Before making your final decision, compare offers from the best funeral insurance companies to find the policy that best meets your needs.
- Pay cash — If you can afford it, it’s a great option to just pay it off in one lump sum. That way, you lock in the price at today’s rates and can feel comfortable that your family won’t have to come out of their pocket.
- Liquidate assets after death — Essentially, your family sells your real property and other items you own. That is the least ideal option because of how long it can take to sell off your assets. More than likely, your entire estate will likely need to go through the probate process (which can take months) before anyone can sell your valuables.
If a funeral ceremony, memorial, or unique disposal of your ashes does not interest you, consider donating your body to science.
If they accept you, they will cremate your body and return the ashes to your family free of charge.
You should be aware that some people will not qualify for a body donation.
For example, Mayo Clinic reports that you won’t be eligible if you have certain infectious diseases such as Hepatitis or HIV.
It’s important to remember that every organization that has a body donation program sets its own guidelines.
For example, Science Care would deny you because of an extremely high or low BMI.
If you plan to donate your body, it would be wise to ensure the receiving organization accepts you.
According to the NFDA, the average cost of a cremation service with a viewing in 2021 was $6,970. Direct cremations, however, are much less expensive, typically costing $1,600-$3,000 through a funeral home.
Direct cremation and direct burial is the cheapest type of funeral. A direct cremation typically costs $1,000-$2,200 through a crematory. A direct burial typically costs $2,597.
Yes, cremations can be carried out without a funeral. Often called “direct cremation” or “immediate cremation,” these are cremations without a memorial service of any kind. The body is immediately cremated, and the ashes are returned to the family.
A direct cremation is the cheapest form of cremation. With direct cremation, the body is immediately cremated without undergoing a viewing or funeral service of any kind. On average, a direct cremation costs $1,000-$2,200 if you work directly with a crematory.