Which Is Cheaper: Cremation or Burial?

Posted by: Erin Ward in Funeral Advice | July 9, 2021

According to the CDC, 2.7 million people died in the United States last year. And of those 2.7 million people, it’s estimated that only about 21% had pre-planned their funeral. This means about 2.1 million families were left to plan a burial or cremation service for their loved one.


With two main options to choose from, the cost will be the deciding factor for most families.


In most cases, cremation is cheaper than burial. In fact, cremations are typically about a third of the cost of a burial service. It’s important to keep in mind though, both types of services carry additional expenses that can affect the overall costs. For instance, a direct cremation service may only cost $1200, but when you add on the cost of an urn as well as a celebration of life, the price is much greater.


At the same time, a funeral and burial service could cost $7700 dollars but a direct burial is much less. Before your family decides how they want to honor your loved one, you should first establish how much you’re willing to spend.


Establishing A Budget


In years past, the majority of these families would contact their local funeral home and begin arrangements to have their loved one buried. But times are changing and cremation rates are now exceeding 50% of all services. In fact, the last 20 years has seen the popularity of cremation rise faster than any other funeral trend across North America. Families now not only have to contend with making arrangements but first selecting the type of the arrangement.


It’s understandable that arranging a loved one’s service can be stressful for some. But now having to come to an agreement with family members about the “right way” to care for a loved one can make the experience even more difficult.


That’s why it’s important to have the talk of a lifetime with loved ones before they’re gone. Doing so can help make these decisions easier when you have been given guidance from your loved one.


For most families, ultimately the decision comes down to cost. It’s recommended that before making arrangements, families establish a budget to follow. By doing so, you can ensure you give your loved one a meaningful goodbye without breaking the bank. For advice about saving on funeral costs, check out our post: Seven Ways to Save On Funeral Costs.


Cremation Costs


Depending on the type of service you plan to have and the products you purchase, the cost of cremation can vary. Before you decide upon the service you want, make sure to ask for a copy of the funeral home’s general price list. This is an itemized list outlining the different costs of the funeral home’s services. Funeral homes are mandated by the FTC to have a general price list available so make sure that is what you consult and not a brochure promoting packages.


The cost of cremation can range anywhere from $1000 on the low end to more than $10,000. It all comes down to the type of service. For instance, if you would like to hold a funeral service before the cremation, you’ll need to purchase a casket or at the very least, rent one. You’ll also have additional costs from the funeral home to prepare and utilize their space as well as the funeral director’s time.


One way to save on cremation costs is arranging a direct cremation and organizing your own celebration of life service at home. While this will have expenses for things like decorations, food and drinks, your savings could be far greater.


Burial Costs


Much like a cremation, the type of service and products you select will affect the cost of a burial service. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of a burial service with a funeral is $7360. There are ways to bring this price down though. For instance, if you choose to forego a visitation, you will not need to pay for embalming. Additionally, if you hold a green burial, you won’t need to purchase a casket vault that many cemeteries require.


Another route is to forego a funeral service and instead elect for a direct burial. Much like with cremation, once the remains have been cared for, you can hold a celebration of life service. This will allow for friends and family to say a meaningful goodbye without spending thousands of dollars on additional expenses.


Different Ways to Save On Burial and Cremation Costs


Just like any type of service you pay for, the cost of a cremation or burial will vary depending on who you go to. If the funeral home quotes a price you think is too expensive, don’t be afraid to shop around and visit other funeral homes in the area. By doing so, you may be able to save yourself thousands of dollars or find a firm that can offer you more value for the price.


The products you purchase is another area you can save on costs. If your loved one is going to be cremated, it doesn’t make sense to purchase a casket strictly for the funeral service. Instead, inquire about renting a casket from the funeral home. Rather than spending thousands, most funeral homes will rent caskets for around $400-$600. You just have to ask.


If you are planning to hold an ash scattering ceremony, you don’t need to purchase an urn. Unless you want to purchase a special ash scattering urn, you don’t need one if you are planning to spread the ashes. When the remains are returned from the crematory, they will place them in a temporary urn. This can be used to hold the remains before spreading the ashes at a later date.


A final way to save on burial or cremation costs is to use crowdfunding. A Helping Hand is one such platform and the first in the funeral industry to partner with GoFundMe. A Helping Hand works directly with the funeral home to help cover final expenses for your loved one. If there are any additional funds remaining, they can be used to donate to charity, establish a scholarship fund, or help the deceased’s family.

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