5 minute read

Breaking Down the Cost of Cremation

More people are being cremated than ever before. In this guide, we break down the cost of cremation and why it’s the most cost effective end-of-life planning option.

Patrick Hicks

Patrick Hicks, @PatrickHicks

Head of Legal, Trust & Will

Contradictory to centuries of tradition, more people in the United States appear to prefer the prospect of cremation over burial. According to the National Funeral Directors Association's (NFDA) latest estimates, at least 57.5% of people are choosing to be cremated over buried. Perhaps even more surprisingly, the association projects that as much as 80% of the people in America will opt for cremation in as few as two decades.    

The latest change in sentiment may be attributed to personal preferences, but the rising costs of funerals and burials are also a primary factor. Memorials with viewing and burial services are becoming a financial burden nobody wants to leave to their loved ones in an estate plan. As a result, more people are opting for cremation, or — more importantly — the cost of cremation.

The costs of cremation can be a fraction of their burial counterparts, but it is still important to know where your money is going. This guide was designed to break down the cost of a cremation and tell you everything you should expect to encounter, including:

What is the average cost of cremation?

The average cost of cremation is entirely dependent on three primary factors: complimentary services, location, and the private funeral home carrying out the end-of-life requests. That said, the more services that accompany a cremation, the more the price will increase. Fewer services, on the other hand, will coincide with a smaller price tag.   

The average cost of a cremation with a full-service viewing and memorial, according to the latest numbers released by the NFDA, is approximately $6,971. On the other end of the spectrum, cremation without any memorial or additional services will cost less. Otherwise known as direct cremation, the average cost of a cremation without additional services is somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,183. 

To be clear, the numbers above are simply averages. In reality, the costs of cremation can run anywhere from a few hundred dollars to upwards of $10,000. The most significant variances in cremation prices will result from the accompanying services being provided, but the location at which the cremation is taking place will also play a role in the average cost.   

For more context on the average cost of cremation, let’s take a closer look at the most populous states in America: California (40,223,504), Texas (30,345,487), Florida (22,359,251), and New York (20,448,194). Surprisingly, prices appear to share a correlation with population. 

The cost of cremation in California

While it has the largest population of the states listed above, the cost of cremation in California also appears to be the most affordable. Direct cremation in California costs an average of $1,582. Cremation accompanied by a full-service memorial and subsequent viewing, on the other hand, costs an average of $6,028.

The cost of cremation in Texas

Despite the state’s smaller population, the average cost of cremation in Texas is about 11.8% more than in California. On the lower end of the spectrum, the average cost of a direct cremation in Texas is about $2,108. On the higher end, the average cost of a cremation (with a viewing and memorial service) is about $6,405.

The cost of cremation in Florida

With the third-highest population of the four states listed above, Florida also has the third-highest cremation costs. It is worth noting, however, that direct cremation in Florida costs about $1,683. While that’s more than California’s average rate, it is less than the cost of a direct cremation in Texas. It isn’t until you factor in the average cost of a full-service memorial that Florida becomes more expensive than Texas. To that end, the average cost of cremation in Florida with an accompanying memorial is about $7,070. 

The cost of cremation in New York

The cost of cremation in New York is higher than in the other states listed above in every respect. Direct cremation costs an average of $2,391, and full-service memorials cost about $7,463. At that rate, the average cost of cremation in New York is about 29% higher than in California, 16% higher than in Texas, and 13% higher than in Florida.  

The most common cremation costs and fees

The average cost of cremation represents the convergence of several smaller fees. The most common fees you can expect to see in the cremation process include, but are not limited to: 

  • Basic services fee (about $2,300): The most expensive cost associated with cremation, the basic services fee covers the labor and equipment offered by the respective funeral home.

  • Removal and transportation of remains (about $350): The removal of the body from its current resting place and its subsequent transfer to the mortuary will cost money. 

  • Embalming (about $775): The embalming process preserves the corpse for long-distance traveling or memorial services.

  • Cosmetic alterations and preparations (about $275): In the event of an open-casket service, cosmetic preparations will be made to make the corpse more presentable to loved ones.

  • Site fee (about $450): A site fee will be charged to use the funeral home or mortuary’s chapel.

  • Staffing fee (about $515): A staffing fee will be charged if you intend to use the site’s staff to facilitate the memorial service.

  • Transportation fee (about $150): Transportation may be arranged for the body or the family of memorial service attendees.

  • Printed materials (about $183): Pamphlets, schedules, and prayer cards may be printed for everyone in attendance at an additional cost.

  • Third-party cremation fee (about $368): It is common for a third party to carry out the cremation process.

  • Cremation casket (about $1,310): The use of a casket will result in additional fees, whether rented or purchased.

  • Urn (about $295): The price of an urn to place the cremated remains in can vary, but the cost needs to be accounted for.

Other cremation costs to account for

Outside of the memorial and cremation services themselves, there are a handful of additional costs that need to be accounted for: 

  • Coroner fees: While not always necessary, the cremation process may require the assistance of a coroner. More often than not, coroners will help with the transportation and storage of remains, each of which will coincide with a fee. The fee itself will vary from coroner to coroner, but many counties limit the maximum amount coroners can charge. This particular fee may be charged independently from the cremation services or as part of the basic services fee listed above.

  • Death certificates: As their names suggest, death certificates officially document and register the date, location, and cause of a person's death. In doing so, the corresponding  government office will charge a minimal fee — usually under $50.

  • Permits: It has become commonplace for many end-of-life plans to call for their cremated remains to be scattered in a desired location. However, scattering cremated remains may involve additional costs, like permits. While not exorbitantly expensive, permits to scatter remains in certain areas need to be accounted for when calculating the costs of cremation. 

  • Interment: In the event an estate plan calls for interment, or the burial of the ashes in a cemetery, fees can run anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to thousands. 

How to reduce the costs of cremation

While cremation services are already considered the more affordable alternative to burials, there are ways to lower costs even further: 

  • Familiarize the FTC Funeral Rule: The Funeral Rule, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, gives everyone the right to choose the goods and services they want (no more and no less). The rule is specifically designed to prevent predatory practices in the funeral and cremation industry by providing the utmost transparency. 

  • Shop competitor estimates: Not unlike every other industry, the funeral and cremation industry is competitive. As a result, competition facilitates competitive pricing models and the opportunity to capitalize on better deals. Those who shop around will be able to compare more prices and land on the one that suits their budget the best.

  • Do not divulge your budget: Don’t tell any cremation service providers your budget upfront. Keeping your budget to yourself will prevent providers from upselling you to more expensive packages at the beginning.  

  • Shop around for a more affordable urn: Most funeral service providers sell urns at a premium price. However, cheaper alternatives may be offered by third-party retailers. Some of today’s biggest retailers offer more affordable urns than their funeral home counterparts.  

What is the cheapest form of cremation?

Not everyone is interested in the prospects of a full-service memorial, nor can they afford it. As a result, cheaper alternatives are made available to those who either don’t have enough money or simply don’t want a memorial service or viewing. As it turns out, one option is cheaper than all of the others: direct cremation.

As its name suggests, direct cremation cremates the body immediately, without a funeral service or viewing of any kind. The lack of services provided makes direct cremation much more affordable. Direct cremation is usually about one-third the price of its full-service counterparts with memorials and viewings.

Weighing the cost of cremation vs burial

Cremation is just as much a financial preference as it is a personal choice. If for nothing else, many people choose cremation not only because they want to, but because it is much more affordable than many burial alternatives.

For context, the average cost of a direct burial is about $2,597; that’s about $414 more than the average cost of direct cremation. To accentuate the difference even further, the average cost of a burial (with service, vault, and viewing) is upwards of $9,420. A cremation with comparable services is about $6,971.  

There’s no doubt about it; burials are almost always more expensive than cremations. As a result, more people are including cremations in their final wishes. Doing so prevents loved ones from receiving a significant financial burden at the worst time possible. 

Make sure your estate plan specifies your cremation intentions

Cremations are becoming more popular for several reasons, not the least of which is the cost of alternatives. Full-service funerals with a viewing and burial are simply too expensive for most people. Subsequently, nobody wants to burden their loved ones with an unexpected bill upwards of $10,000. Instead, the cost of cremation is much more reasonable, which is why more people are including it in their estate plans. 

Instead of leaving your end-of-life plan up to someone else, make sure your estate plan specifies your cremation intentions. Here at Trust & Will, we’re here to help keep things simple. You can create a fully customizable, state-specific estate plan from the comfort of your own home in just 20 minutes. Take our free quiz to see where you should get started, or compare our other estate planning and settlement options today! 

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