Cremation Cost: 2020 Comprehensive Guide

The cost of cremation for a loved one who passed varies by a number of factors, including who the provider is, the location where it will take place, and by the services that are included and performed. The actual cremation and services that may come along with it can be as low as a few hundred dollars (for a direct cremation) to well over ten thousand dollars. While the actual cremation is relatively straightforward, there are also many other services and factors to consider, all of which can quickly add to the cremation cost of a loved one.

Average Cremation Cost

cost to cremate

The average cost of a direct cremation is $1,100. In certain places, such as New York City, the cost of a direct cremation can be thousands of dollars. On the other hand, there are smaller towns that have direct cremations being offered for under five hundred dollars. With this wide range in cost, it is important to do your research and get a few quotes before making a decision. It is generally a good idea to ask friends and family for a referral, if possible. Be sure to understand exactly what is being provided with each quote. For example, is it just a cremation?  Does it include a cremation casket that;s used during the actual cremation? Will there be a viewing? What about a memorial service? Does the cost include transporting your loved one? The key is to ask questions, and many of them. Make sure you fully understand the cost and what is being offered for the cost you are quoted. Far too often a family, in their time of grief, won't fully understand what is being offered by the provider for the price they’re quoted and end up paying much more than expected for last minute add-on services.

What is Direct Cremation?

Direct cremation, or low-cost cremation, is the most economical way to be cremated. With direct cremation, many of the costs of a traditional funeral service are not incurred and you aren’t typically offered the option for a service, viewing, or other extras.

A direct cremation typically includes:

  • transport of your loved one to the crematorium
  • a simple biodegradable container is provided to place the body in during cremation
  • the actual cremation
  • the return of your loved one’s cremated ashes in a basic container (which can be temporary)

Similar to a funeral home, the cremation provider who performs the direct cremation will be in charge of the entire process - including transporting the body, performing the cremation, returning the cremated remains, and filling out a death certificate. However, with direct cremation, there is typically no embalming nor body preparation – therefore, a viewing or visitation is typically not an option. The fees charged by direct cremation providers are typically much less than a funeral home.

What Other Options Are Available for Cremation? 

While direct cremation may be the right choice for some families, many want services in addition to the cremation itself. Similar to burial, there are a wide range of options available. Be sure to compare costs and pay close attention (or enlist a friend or family member to pay close attention) to the various options and cost of each. Below are some of the options to consider:

Funeral Home / Funeral Director

If the decision is made to work with a funeral home, it can be extremely helpful as they can guide you and your family through the entire process. Many families may already have a relationship with a local funeral home that they have used in the past. If you don’t know a funeral home in your area, it is always a good idea to ask someone you trust for a referral. The basic fee for funeral home services can range from $1,700 to $5,000 and the basic services provided usually include:

  • handling all necessary permits and paperwork;
  • providing you with copies of the death certificate;
  • arranging and coordinate the cremation and any extras you decide upon;
  • transporting your loved one; and
  • answering any questions and guide you through the entire process.

Cremation Services

Occaisionally, and only in certain states, funeral homes also own and operate crematoriums. However, most of the time the actual cremation is performed by a third party service, and not by the funeral home. The fees charged by the cremation provider is typically included in the package offered to you by the funeral home. However, in some cases this fee is not included in the quote provided by a funeral director - make sure to ask about it and see what, if any, additional fees there are to have the actual cremation performed.

Cremation Caskets

Cremation caskets are biodegradable and disposable containers that a body is placed in for the cremation. The cost of a cremation casket averages $700 to $1,500. This is much less than a traditional casket that is used for a burial (plus you don't need a vault).

Embalming

Many families assume that embalming their loved one is included in a funeral home fees, however, in many cases it is not. The cost to embalm and prepare the body for a viewing will depend on the facility and the condition of your loved one at the time of their passing (this cost can be higher if there were significant injuries, trauma, etc.). Embalming and body preparation cost can range from $150 to over $1,000.

Renting a Casket for a Viewing or Service

If you plan on a viewing or funeral service before the cremation is performed, many people rent a casket for this and the cost to do this ranges from $500 to $1,500 (price varies by area and the type of casket being rented). This can be much less than purchasing a new casket for thousands of dollars that will only be used for the viewing or service.

Flowers

The cost of flowers varies depending on the quantity and type. A good-sized flower arrangement can range between $70 and $350. A casket spray will generally cost anywhere from $50 to $500. Many families that have a service with the urn and their loved one’s cremated ashes present choose to include a flower bouquet.

Memorial Service 

A memorial service can either be before or after a cremation. If it’s done before, the body is commonly present in a casket. If it’s done after, the cremated ashes are typically present in an urn. A member of a church can hold the ceremony, or you can choose to have a service with only family and friends present. If a visitation is included, the funeral home will typically charge additional fees. Also, with new CDC recommendations related to social distancing at funeralsit is recommended to now live stream or delay the funeral, instead of having a large crowd of friends and family present.

With the increase in families choosing cremation, there are also non-traditional memorial services or ceremonies that are becoming quite popular. Many families are seeking out unique, personal and meaningful ways to honor a loved one who has passed and has been cremated. One option that is becoming more and more popular is a tree planting ceremony where the ashes of a loved one are placed in a bio urn, such as The Living Urn, and planted with the involvement of family and friends. The tree planted in combination with the bio urn containing a loved one’s ashes will then grow and become a living tree memorial.

Another type of service includes scattering ashes of a loved one in the ocean or other body of water. There are many local organizations that can assist with providing this service, or you can perform your own service and use a scattering urn or other container to scatter your loved one’s ashes. The Eco Water Urn is a leading urn designed to be used just for this purpose. Also, Eco Scattering Urns are a beautiful choice to scatter ashes of a loved one at sea or on land as they are designed to help families scatter with control and in a graceful manner. 

The cost to have a service varies by the type of service, what is included in the service and where it is being held. 

Cremation Urns

Most funeral homes and crematoriums will return a loved one’s cremation ashes in a basic container which is generally included in the cost of the cremation. Many families choose not to keep this basic urn, and instead, purchase another urn that’s more representative of their loved one. The cost of a cremation urn ranges from $50 to well over $2,000 and, according to a recent price study performed by the National Funeral Director's Association (NFDA), the average cost of a cremation urn is $295.

Below are some examples of the available urn types:

  • Traditional Urns - these are typically made from metal, stone, ceramic, or other material and do not biodegrade. With a quick internet search you can find hundreds of traditional urns to choose from, many with their own unique appearance.
  • Biodegradable Urns - this includes urns that are made from bamboo, paper, cardboard, wood and other materials. The biodegradable urns for ashes come in all different shapes and sizes and can be urns that grow trees, urns for scattering ashes, or designed to be used as burial urns and as water urns. As more people are eco-conscious, these environmentally friendly urns are becoming extremely popular and are considered by many to be affordable urns. The cost of a biodegradable urn ranges from $60 to $400. Below we higlight a few of the more popular biodegradable urns.

The Living Urn

 

Eco Scattering Urn

Eco Water Urn

  • Wooden Urns - these are a nice option for families who want their urn to have a natural look to be kept in a home or another place of their choosing. The cost of wooden urns ranges from $80 to over $500.
  • Companion Urns - companion urns are large enough so they can hold the cremated ashes of multiple people. These are commonly used for a parent and child or a husband and wife so they can share a single urn and be memorialized together in a special way.

Breakdown of the Costs of Cremation

There are many additional costs associated with cremation. Below we highlight these.

cost of cremation

Comparison: Burial vs. Cremation Costs

Many people don't realize the key cost differences between cremation and burial. Below we highlight these, by region.

burial cost map

cremation cost map

funeral cost comparison map

  New England  Middle Atlantic South Atlantic East South Central West South Central  East North Central  West North Central  Mountain  Pacific 
  CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT  NY, NJ, PA  FL, GA, DE, MD, NC, SC, WV, VA AL, KY, MS, TN AR, LA, OK, TX IL, IN, MI, OH, WI IA, MN, KS, MO, ND, SD, NE AZ, CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, UT, WY CA, OR, WA, AK, HI
                   
National Median Cost of a Funeral with Viewing and Ceremony Followed by Burial
  $7,612 $7,849 $7,461 $7,353 $6,933 $7,855 $8,123 $6,907 $7,290
                   
National Median Cost of a Funeral with Viewing and Ceremony Followed by Cremation
  $5,447 $5,364 $5,021 $4,928 $4,688 $5,305 $5,673 $4,517 $4,808
                   
Difference $2,165 $2,485 $2,440 $2,425 $2,245 $2,550 $2,450 $2,390 $2,482
                   
Average Cost of Other Merchandise
Metal Burial Casket $2,145 $2,435 $2,500 $2,500 $2,295 $2,500 $2,600 $2,450 $2,600
Wood Burial Casket $2,500 $2,800 $3,195 $3,495 $2,898 $3,000 $3,000 $2,956 $2,995
Cremation Casket $1,120 $1,395 $1,140 $1,200 $895 $1,225 $1,295 $1,000 $995
Cremation Container $186 $175 $100 $150 $180 $125 $150 $140 $115
Rental Casket $1,000 $1,120 $950 $995 $895 $1,150 $1,000 $890 $995
Urn $300 $295 $295 $250 $250 $280 $295 $295 $288
Vault $1,450 $1,595 $1,500 $1,495 $1,386 $1,450 $1,595 $1,200 $1,295
Source:  NFDA Member General Price List Study

Additional Costs Associated with Cremation

Additional costs associated with cremation can include musicians, pallbearers, food and beverage, programs, notices and other printed material. Funeral homes will have options and costs available for all of these additional services for you to consider. It is recommended that you understand these costs up-front so there aren’t any last minute surprises.