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Compare the Cost of Cremation and Burial

End-of-life planning is not easy. There are many factors to consider when making decisions for a loved one’s final arrangements or your own.

Cremation is Generally Cheaper Depending on the Services You Choose

End-of-life planning is not easy. There are many factors to consider when making decisions for a loved one’s final arrangements or your own. One major decision is the choice between burial or cremation. The difference in cost for the disposition methods can be considerable with cremation generally the less expensive selection. But both choices can be affordable or expensive depending on whether you choose a viewing, a funeral and where you select for a final resting place.

Average Costs of Burial and Cremation

In the United States, the national average cost of cremation (with funeral and viewing) was $6,970 in the 2021 survey, an increase of 11.3 % since 2016, according to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA).

The national average cost of burial (also with funeral and viewing) was $7,848, up 6.6 percent from 2016. Adding a vault, required by some cemeteries, puts the total at $9,420.

Direct Cremation and Direct Burial

An inexpensive option for those who don’t require or desire a funeral before the disposition of their loved one is a direct cremation or a direct burial. In a direct burial, the person is buried quickly after death in a less expensive casket. Because it happens “directly,” there is no need for embalming and if there is no ceremony, no flowers or other expenses.

Similarly, direct cremation is a choice for those who don’t want or need a funeral for their loved one and often choose a celebration of life to be held later. While cremated remains can be buried or placed in a cemetery, many families choose to scatter the “ashes” someplace special, or they can also store them in an urn or explore many other creative options. Read our guide on how to spot sneaky fees from low-cost cremation providers.

Traditional Arrangement Choices

For those people who prefer a traditional burial in a cemetery, there will be charges from both the chosen funeral home and the cemetery. These costs may include: embalming, preparation of the body, plot, caskets, crypts, and/or outer burial containers, visitations or viewings, graveside services, hearses and headstones or grave-markers. While the funeral home is responsible for the deceased, casket, preparations and services. Cemeteries manage the costs of burial plots, crypts, open and closing of the grave and markers. Funeral homes and cemeteries are separate, even when they are on the same grounds, and require meetings with each for making arrangements.

Non-Traditional Choices

For some people, donating a body for scientific study not only saves money, but depending on your values, can leave you feeling good about helping advance medical research and future generations, according to the Everloved website

Getting Pricing Information

Under regulations by the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Funeral Rule, pricing information for traditional funeral homes and cemeteries are always available on General Price Lists or GPLs, but finding this list while shopping around online can be extremely challenging. A call or visit to the funeral home and cemetery may be the only way to get an accurate quote.  

Consumer Advice

According to the Funeral Consumer’s Alliance, there are many ways to save money whether you choose cremation or burial. For example, you can hold a celebration of life or memorial in a “religious institution, home, park, club, or community center.” You can also buy only the services and items you want. For example, under the FTC Funeral Rule, you can buy urns or caskets online from a direct-to-consumer site like Titan Caskets or from a retailer, like Amazon or Walmart. You are not obligated to get them through the funeral home. Some families who only have a casket for the funeral (not burial) opt to rent caskets instead of buying one. The consumer group also has information on how to read a GPL

Shop Around

Contact a nearby Afterall funeral location to help you choose the right option for your family.

Though the death of a loved one can be a traumatic time, consumer advocates say shopping around is the best way to make sure you get the disposition you want at a fair price. With this FTC pricing checklist, you can determine the cost to compare your options. Sometimes a family or friend can help the immediate family with this task.

To learn more about how to save money and create a cost-effective funeral, take a look at our article: Meaningful Tributes That Won’t Break Your Budget. If you want general information on how to plan ahead of time, feel free to peruse our free resource here.