Compared to traditional burial, cremation can be more affordable, which has made it an increasingly popular option. “More affordable” doesn’t necessarily mean “inexpensive,” however, and the actual cost of cremation itself isn’t the only expense that you’ll face. You can minimize your cremation costs by eliminating or minimizing some elements, such as a formal visitation, but there are some expenses that must be included.
How much does cremation cost? You can expect to pay between $1,500 and $3,000 for direct cremation and $2,000 – $4,000 if you arrange it through a funeral home. Prices can vary dramatically by location, however, and it always pays to shop around.
Your expenses could be higher and will typically include some or all of the following:
- Picking up and storing the deceased by a funeral home
- A funeral service or memorial service
- Viewing of the body, including casket purchase or rental
- Death certificates and a permit to release the body for cremation
- Transferring the body from the funeral home to the crematorium
- A witnessing service
- The cremation itself
- A cremation urn
- A cremation burial vault
- A burial plot or columbarium niche
- A memorial plaque or burial marker
- Costs related to scattering the ashes
Transportation and Storage Costs
After a person dies, their body will need to be moved from the place of death to a funeral home or crematorium. Most families call a funeral home to arrange for the body to be transported and stored until the funeral or cremation. Embalming is typically not required if the body is cremated within a few days after death. If the funeral home where the body was moved does not have a crematorium, there will be additional transportation costs related to transferring the body.
If you choose to work with a funeral home, most will charge a basic fee that covers these costs and others, including planning, getting permits and certificates, and coordinating with the crematorium. You have the right to an itemized price list from the funeral home so that you know what you’re being charged for and what you should be receiving. If you aren’t sure what services are included, ask for a clear list to be provided.
Viewing and Funeral Services
While a formal funeral or memorial service is not required, many people prefer to have one to allow family and friends to gather and honor the deceased. You will likely need to pay for the services of a funeral director and clergyperson to help organize and perform the services, adding to your cremation costs. In some cases, the funeral director may lead the service if you do not want to bring in a separate minister. If you would like to have a viewing before the cremation, you’ll need to either purchase a casket or rent one. This gives family and friends the opportunity to spend time with the deceased before the funeral or other service.
A formal funeral or memorial service often involves a number of details that will add to your costs. These expenses can include, but are not limited to, publishing a death notice in the local newspaper, getting flowers for the service, hiring an organist or other musicians, and printing memorial cards.
You can cut your cremation costs by eliminating a formal viewing and services. A viewing is not required, and not everyone feels comfortable attending one. You won’t have to pay for a casket, since they are not required for cremation. Instead of a formal funeral or memorial service, you could host an informal gathering at your home or the social hall of your church to allow friends and family to share their memories of the deceased.
Death Certificates and Permits
If you’re working with a funeral home, the death certificate and any needed copies, along with a permit to release the body, should be included as part of the basic fee and won’t add to your cremation costs. If you are arranging things yourself, however, you will need to file the death certificate and obtain copies. The death certificate must be filed within a few days of the death, often within 72 hours, and it does require that a doctor or medical examiner complete the medical portion.
You can get certified copies of the death certificate from your state’s vital records office, and average $10 – $15 each. It’s best to have at least 10 copies, since one will be required any time you need to claim benefits or property related to the deceased.
In many states, you’ll need to add a fee for the “permit of disposition,” also known as a “burial permit,” to the cost of cremation. Again, this will be taken care of by the funeral home, if you are working with one. Otherwise, you’ll need to request one, which can typically be done when you file the death certificate. This permit is required in many states before you can legally move the body from the funeral home to the cemetery or crematorium to have it buried or cremated.
There are two basic cremation options: direct cremation and cremation through a funeral home. Some states require that a cremation be arranged by a licensed funeral director, and some crematoriums only work with funeral homes. If you have the option of direct cremation – where you work directly with the crematorium and have no embalming or viewing – it will cut your cremation costs significantly.
How much does cremation cost if you don’t use a funeral home? According to the National Cremation Research Council, the average cost of direct cremation was $1,110 in 2010. This includes basic service fees, transportation, and any necessary authorizations.
A casket is not required for cremation, but you may be required to purchase or provide a cremation container, which is a rigid, combustible container to hold the body. You may also be given the option for a “witnessing service,” in which you can attend the cremation.
After the Cremation
Once the body has been cremated, the crematorium will pulverize the cremains and provide them to the family. Unless you have chosen to purchase an urn from the crematorium or funeral home, the cremains are usually returned in a simple, plain container.
You can often save on the cost of cremation by shopping around for urns rather than buying one directly from the funeral home. You are also likely have many more options, including keepsake urns, cremation jewelry, and urn vaults. It’s a good idea to think about what you want to do with the cremains before you purchase an urn, as certain urns are designed for specific purposes. For example, if you plan a water burial, you will do best with a biodegradable urn that’s made to dissolve slowly in the water.
What you do with the ashes can also add to the cost of cremation. Your least expensive option is to keep them at home in an affordable urn. You can also scatter the ashes; laws about where you can scatter ashes vary by state and locale, so it’s important to do your research to find out what the local guidelines are and if you need a permit. If you want to spread the ashes at sea or by air, you will likely have additional costs related to the services of a boat or plane.
Another alternative is to bury the urn in a cemetery. While not legally required, many cemeteries require that you have an urn burial container, unless you’re using an urn that’s made to be buried. You’ll also need to pay for the burial plot.
Alternately, you can have the urn stored in a columbarium, which is a special building with niches made to hold urns. The price of the niche will add to your cremation costs. Some cemeteries also have scattering gardens where you can spread the ashes for a fee.