Cremation continues to be increasingly popular with U.S. consumers for various reasons. Price certainly plays a role, but families choose cremation due to distance, environmental concerns and other practical considerations. Cremations are not one size fits all, and the cost of a cremation is dependent upon many things.
For example, a direct cremation can cost as little as $695 in certain areas although adding on items like a viewing, cremation service, and burial of ashes can increase the total cost of a cremation up to $5,000 or more.
With so many families choosing cremation for their loved one, funeral homes and cremation providers are offering competitive pricing and customized services to appeal to the cremation consumer. According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), 50.2% of Americans chose cremation in 2016 and future projections put this number at over 70% by 2030.
Understanding what is included in the total cost of a cremation can help individuals and families decide what works best for them when planning a cremation ceremony.
A direct cremation is a simple process where the body is cremated immediately after death without a viewing or any formal funeral service. Direct cremation is the least expensive option because only basic services are included in the final price and there is no embalming or body preparation fee. The main costs of a direct cremation include:
- Body transportation costs – from place of death to crematory location.
- Cremation fee
- Casket or alternative container cost
- Urn or box for storage of cremated ashes
- Miscellaneous paperwork and filing charges – death certificate, cremation permit, etc.
A full-service cremation consists of services such as visitation/wake, funeral/memorial service, witness ceremony, and final disposition of cremated ashes.
Most funeral homes bundle cremation services into packages so families can customize items as they see fit. The total cost of a full-service cremation will depend on the services selected by the individual or family during the pre-planning stage or at-need stage (when death has occurred).
The median cost of an adult funeral with viewing and cremation is $6,260. Here’s a breakdown of the services that make up this amount:
Funeral Director Services: $2,100
These are the basic services provided by the funeral director which are non-declinable. They include filing the death certificate, procuring permits, arranging the funeral service, ensuring safe handling of remains during transportation, and general overhead expenses.
Removal of Remains: $325
Costs of transferring the body from place of death to funeral home.
Strongly recommended if there is a viewing or a wake.
Body Preparation: $250
This includes services such as washing the body, clothing, makeup, and hair styling.
Viewing/Visitation Service: $425
This fee includes facility use charges for the funeral home venue plus staff labor costs for the viewing/visitation.
Cremation Ceremony/Service: $500
This fee includes facility use charges for the funeral home venue plus staff labor costs for the cremation service/memorial.
Charges for a limousine and/or other service vehicle.
Memorial Print Package: $160
Cost of cremation service programs, memorial cards, printed keepsakes, etc.
Cremation Fee: $350
This fee is charged if the funeral home uses a third-party crematory when they don’t have an in-house crematory.
Cremation Casket: $1,000
This is the median cost – a cremation casket can be a simple cardboard box which costs under $100 or a top-of-the line gold casket with a $10,000 price tag. Some funeral homes also offer rental caskets for the viewing and ceremony services.
What about cremated ashes?
Not every family will want to keep their loved one’s ashes in an urn. There are several creative options for handling cremated ashes and prices will vary based on the choice of final disposition.
Scattering is one of the more popular methods for handling ashes. Families can pick a meaningful site to scatter their loved one’s ashes, and there are numerous location that allow legal spreading of cremated remains on site, e.g. cemetery scatter gardens, some national parks, etc. There are strict regulations against scattering on public land and/or private property so families should always research the location and get permission beforehand.
Cremated ashes can also be buried in a grave and some cemeteries even allow for multiple urns to be buried in the same plot. The cost of a cremation where the ashes are buried can be expensive as the cemetery plot will need to be purchased and there are also interment charges for opening and closing the grave.
There are also several innovative alternatives for final disposition of ashes. Some families transform their loved one’s ashes in cremation diamonds, launch the ashes into space, or convert the ashes into environmentally-friendly marine reefs.