Cremation Cost: A Comprehensive Guide

The cost of cremation for loved ones who've passed varies by many different factors, including who the cremation provider is, the location where it will occur, and by the services that the family decides to include with the cremation. The actual cremation and services that you can choose to include with it can be as low as a few hundred dollars (for a direct cremation) to well over ten thousand dollarsWhile the actual cremation is fairly straightforward, there are also many other factors and services to consider, all of which can quickly add to the overall cremation cost.

cremation cost

Cost of CremationDifferent Types of Cremation | Cost of Cremation by StateAverage Cost of Cremation: Burial Vs CremationWhat is Direct CremationOther Options, Funeral Home Cremation Services | Cremation Caskets | Embalming CostViewing Cost | Memorial ServiceBreakdownAdditional Costs

cost of cremation

What Are The Different Types of Cremation?

There are four different types of cremation. The cost of cremation varies depending on which extra services are chosen. The most expensive of these options is cremation with a traditional funeral service. This is where a conventional funeral is held, along with a viewing of the body but instead of a burial, the body is cremated after the services and the ashes of the remains are returned to the family in an urn or a container of their choosing. Less expensive is cremation with a memorial service. A cremation with a memorial service is where there is a service held at a funeral home, but the remains of the deceased are not present. This is a less expensive option than a cremation with a funeral service because the body does not need to be embalmed or prepared for viewing, and there is no need for a casket, whether purchased or rented for the service. The third option is direct cremation or simply cremation without a service. This is a good choice for those with a smaller budget or who plan on having a less traditional service at home or if the ashes are going to be scattered somewhere meaningful to the deceased and their surviving loved ones. The final option is a no-cost cremation, where the body is donated to scientific organizations for research, then cremated and returned to the family at no charge.

National Median Cost of an Adult Funeral with Viewing and Burial: 2019 vs. 2014

Item

2019*

2014*

Nondeclinable basic services fee

$2,195

$2,000

Removal/transfer of remains to funeral home

$350

$310

Embalming

$750

$695

Other preparation of the body

$255

$250

Use of facilities for viewing

$425

$420

Use of facilities for funeral ceremony

$500

$495

Hearse

$340

$318

Service car/van

$150

$143

Basic memorial printed package

$175

$155

Metal casket

$2,500

$2,395

Median Cost of a Funeral With Viewing and Burial

$7,640

$7,181

Vault

$1,495

$1,327

Total with vault

$9,135

$8,508

2014 prices have not been adjusted for inflation.

* Median Price – The amount at which half of the figures fall below and half are above.

Cost of Cremation With A Traditional Funeral Service

A cremation with a traditional funeral service is the most expensive of the cremation options and, according to the National Funeral Directors Association, the median cost of a conventional funeral with cremation in 2019 was a little more than $5000, in comparison to roughly $4800 in 2014. Here is a breakdown of the costs associated with cremation and a traditional funeral service. The cremation fee, estimated at $350, is only a small part of the fees associated with a traditional funeral service and cremation. The other expenses include the basic service fee at $2100, the removal or transfer of the body to the funeral home fee at $350, the embalming fee at $750, the body preparation fee, eg cosmetology, dressing, and grooming the body, at $250, the use of the facility charge for viewing at $425, the use of the facility for the funeral service fee at $500, the service car or van fee at $150, and a basic memorial printed package fee at $175. These figures don’t include the other optional expenses of a cremation casket at $1200, a rental casket at $1000, an alternative cremation container at $150, or an urn at $300.

While this is the most expensive cremation option, the value of having a traditional service may be priceless to those who are grieving and instrumental in supporting the grief and healing process. Seeing the body laid out and having a formal service to say goodbye can bring grief to the surface to be felt, and processed and may act to give the surviving loved ones some sense of closure.

Cost of Cremation With A Memorial Service

Choosing cremation with a memorial service is very similar to cremation with a funeral service, both in expense and services received, because a memorial service is similar to a funeral service but without the remains present. This allows the cremation to happen sooner and avoids the embalming fee, the body grooming, cosmetology, and dressing preparation, the cremation casket, and rental casket fees. The cost of a cremation with a memorial service is about $1200 and includes the following estimated expenses according to the National Funeral Directors Association: the cremation fee at $350, the use of the facility for the service fee at $500, use of a service van or car fee at $150, and a basic printed memorial package fee at $175.

Depending on their budget, this may be a good option for those who would find value in a formal gathering to say goodbye to their loved one. The grieving process is complex, and while it never truly ends, being together with the deceased’s beloved family and friends can aid in the grieving process, and for that reason, a memorial service could be very meaningful and healing. Remembering the beloved person who passed in a group creates space to honor them and the impact they had on the lives of those left behind.

Cost of Cremation Without A Ceremony

This type of cremation is also known as direct cremation and is one of the more simple and low costs methods. If the family or friends choose this option, the body is cremated immediately and the ashes are returned to the family. The family can provide their own container, which is the least expensive option, or the funeral home can provide the container which costs a bit more.  While prices vary from region to region, direct cremation costs between $700 and upwards of $900. If the family and friends plan on scattering the ashes at an emotionally significant location, such as a body of water where the deceased enjoyed spending time, or if they want to have a service when the ashes are scattered, they would choose this option.

If the family chooses to simply display the urn with the ashes, this is also the type of cremation they might choose if they do not want to expend the time, money, and emotional energy on a traditional funeral service or memorial service. It is understandable that while in the throes of immediate grief some might decide to forgo the hassle and expense of the conventional funeral or memorial services.

No Cost Cremation and Donating the Body to Science

There is a no-cost cremation option where the body is donated to science for research and study. According to Science Care, a leading national body donation to science organization, “Cremation is an intrinsic part of the body donation process.” Families, or those left behind, have the option of having the cremated remains returned to them, generally at no cost. This process typically takes between three to twelve weeks.

There are many benefits to choosing this option in addition to the zero cost of cremation. The body of the beloved deceased will help scientists, doctors, and medical students learn more about humanity. This is an incredible legacy to leave behind and will help the surviving family members in the future as they benefit from the results of scientific research. While there are some conditions on which bodies can be accepted for research, such as being free of infectious diseases, this process can be started by someone well before they die, close before death, and by the family after someone has passed. Most donation services will send a letter to the family describing how the body was used to advance scientific research. This is a good option for those with financial constraints or who want to create a legacy for their beloved who has passed on.

The Cost of Cremation: How a Spike in Cremation is Changing the Funeral Industry

As the rates of people choosing cremation over a traditional burial with a casket increase, the cost of cremation may be lowering, as more crematoriums are opening to meet rising consumer demand, and more funeral homes start installing crematoriums. This is good news for the average consumer, who is choosing cremation because the average cost of cremation is typically much lower than the cost of a traditional funeral and burial. According to Great Western Insurance Company, “Cremations have outpaced burials for the last three years. The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) has forecast that the national rate of cremation will reach almost 80% by 2035.” 

Religion & Cremation

"It’s not only the price of cremation swaying consumers: weakening religious ties are also behind the increase in cremation"

One reason that cremation is becoming a popular choice, in addition to the cost of cremation being lower than a regular funeral, is because overall people’s religious ties are weakening. The average cost of cremation aside, one reason people were choosing the more typical funeral and burial services was for religious reasons. Evangelical Christians, one of the largest Christian sects in the US, associate burying a body in the ground with how Jesus Christ was buried and entombed. The Catholic church believes that the bodies of its dead will rise again when Jesus Christ returns to earth, thus making the traditional burial of a body important to practicing the Catholic faith.

However, the Catholic church recognizes that the current trend of people favoring cremation as opposed a traditional funeral and burial as “unstoppable” and allows its members to be cremated with its hesitant blessing, as long as the ashes are stored in a sacred place, which means they can’t be kept at home or scattered, as is common practice and what most people do.

Cremation Plots and the Average Cost of Cremation

While the average price of cremation is still much lower than the typical cost of a traditional funeral and burial, there are still some ways that the cost of cremation can be increased. One of these ways is with a cremation burial plot. The most basic cost of cremation does not include this option, but some people may want to have the traditional experience of burying their loved ones and may choose to use what is called a cremation burial plot. Many cemeteries will have what is called an “Urn Garden”, where urns containing the ashes of the deceased are buried in a regular type burial plot. Since urns are smaller than a body, several urns can be buried in the same single plot, thus lowering the average cost of cremation with a burial option. Urn gardens used to be tucked away, out of sight and out of mind, but according to the Canadian Broadcast Company and St. Michael Cemetery in Edmonton, they’ve responded to the huge increase in people choosing Cremation by placing garden plots and a columbarium (a columbarium is a structure for the respectful and usually public storage of funerary urns, holding cremated remains of the deceased) right by their front entrance. While many people are choosing cremation over the more traditional funeral and burial because of the lower price of cremation, the option of having a cremation burial plot in a garden or placing the ashes of their beloved in a beautiful columbarium is often attractive and a way to have the usual benefits of a burial plot, such as leaving flowers and having a physical place to visit, while still enjoying the lower cost of cremation. The price of cremation aside, being able to plant flowers, have peace and solitude while enjoying the beauty of a garden that many cremation burial plots provide, or even just the traditional act of leaving a bouquet of flowers at the burial plot may be worth upping the cost of cremation for most consumers.

In Addition to the Lower Price of Cremation, Cremation Offers More Choices to Consumers

While the average consumer is mainly drawn to cremation because of the lower cost of cremation (the average cost of cremation is often hundreds if not thousands of dollars lower than that of a typical funeral service and casket burial in a traditional cemetery), there are many other reasons other than the low average price of cremation that sways people towards choosing cremation. One reason is that cremation offers people more choices about how they choose to honor and remember their loved ones that have passed away. 

While many people choose to display their urns in their homes, this is not required by any means. For some, display at home might be the best way to honor their loved one who has passed away, but by choosing cremation there are almost unlimited options for how people choose to pay their respects. One popular option is the Living Urn. The Living Urn is a beautiful urn that gives people the opportunity to display the urn for as long as they want, and then to plant a beautiful tree, using the ashes as nourishment for the roots of the tree. If the customer does not want to place the ashes in the urn themselves, they can ask their funeral home or crematorium to do that for them. The Living Urn comes with a proprietary RootProtect soil additive to help ensure the growth of a healthy tree and includes topsoil and wood chips. Customers can order a healthy, two-foot to four-foot tree from Living Urn’s award-winning nursery, which is carefully selected to make sure the tree will grow in their neighborhood’s specific climate. Customers can also choose just the Living Urn if they would prefer to buy their own special tree from their local garden store or nursery. 

While making sure the chosen tree will grow well in the specific climate and space it is being planted, trees can be chosen based on their symbolic meaning. The stately Oak tree, with its lush canopy of green leaves, represents power and courage. This tree could be perfect for a powerful father or grandfather who has passed on. 

For those in warmer or more tropical climates, the palm tree might be a good choice. Palm trees, with their flexible trunks that sway without breaking in the wind, represent peace. (Smaller palm trees could be planted in pots and kept next to an urn on display, whether it is a Living Urn waiting to be planted or a traditional display urn.) 

Traditionally found on college campuses, Elm trees represent intuition and inner strength making them a good choice for the wise and strong person who has passed on. They also grow for a long time, representing the time it takes to acquire both wisdom and strength. 

Cherry trees produce incredibly beautiful flowers once a year and are considered to be good fortune when in bloom. Cherry trees symbolize love and romance and could be a good choice for a beloved spouse who has passed away to memorialize the good fortune of having been in love with that person. The brief time the Cherry tree blooms could represent the fleeting nature of life in general, and the incredible beauty of living and loving in the brief time available to us humans. 

Beautiful year-round, the Birch tree represents new beginnings and could be good for those who are religious or who believe in an afterlife. The birch tree can also be an affirmation of the new beginning’s mourners' experience as their grief wanes, even if it never truly fades.  

One other option that choosing cremation gives is that instead of keeping the ashes in an urn for display or burial, the ashes can be scattered at a significant location that was important to the person who passed and their friends and family. Water is a popular choice given that it symbolizes both death and rebirth, and the choices are almost limitless. From the ocean to a family swimming pool, ashes can be scattered at any number of watery locations. Perhaps the swimming hole or creek where the deceased played as a child or the ocean or lake where they spent hours fishing or simply sunning themselves are good choices, but all that matters is the location’s personal significance. The Living Urn offers the popular Eco Water Urn which allows for ease and grace when scattering ashes on a body of water. The Eco Water urn floats for several minutes while the bottom of the urn dissolves, releasing the ashes into the water without any risk of being blown away by the wind, and then after a few minutes, the top of the biodegradable urn will sink down into the water. 

Another popular option for honoring a loved one’s ashes is to turn the ashes into a precious gemstone. These gemstones can be set into any kind of jewelry making them priceless family heirlooms to be passed down for generations. There are many different gemstone types and sizes available for those who choose this option.

Breakdown by State: The Average Cost of Cremation

 

Top 10 States Ranked By Percent of Cremations
Rank State % Cremations Cremations (Rank)
1 Nevada 80.7% 21,350 (25)
2 Oregon 78.9% 29,525 (19)
3 Washington 78.7% 45,889 (10)
4 Maine 78.2% 11,776 (34)
5 New Hampshire 76.9% 9,543 (36)
6 Montana 76.5% 7,984 (42)
7 Hawaii  73.9% 8,674 (41)
8 Vermont 72.9% 4,343 (46)
9 Colorado 72.7% 29,154 (21)
10 Wyoming 72.0% 3,386 (49)
Bottom 5 Stats Ranked By Percent of Cremations
Rank State % Cremations Cremations (Rank)
1 Mississippi 27.9% 8,937 (40)
2 Alabama 32.6% 17,341 (28)
3 Kentucky 35.1% 17,096 (30)
4 Louisiana 37.1% 17,114 (29)
5 Utah 40.2% 7,806 (43)

Source: Cremation Association of North America 2021 Annual Statistics Report

Average Cremation Cost in the US

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.

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

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

Occasionally, 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 Cost

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 cremation 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, you can work with a professional scattering service such as Ecorial Ash Scattering Services, 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 highlight 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 By Region (US)

  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.

Cost of Cremation Conclusion

The loss of a loved one is a devastating and challenging experience. There is no right or wrong way to choose which type of cremation is best suited to a family or individual’s needs - this is a personal decision and should be made with each family’s specific wants and needs, and the wishes of the deceased taken into consideration. Do not make this difficult experience any harder by adding on external pressure of what is traditionally done or what “should” be done. The right decision is always what is best for the people involved. In addition to budgetary concerns, the emotional needs of the family, friends, and those close to the deceased need to be the priority. What kind of service, if any, will help those left behind to heal? What would the deceased have wanted to honor their memory? Did they leave behind instructions and the means to enact them? What is the individual family capable of doing? All of the questions will have different answers depending on individual circumstances, so there is no one size fits all answer to what kind of cremation is best, other than the only right answer is what is best for each unique situation.