Understanding the Costs of Cremation vs. Burial

Five years ago, cremation rates and burial rates were neck-in-neck. Now, the projected numbers for 2020 look a little different. Burials are projected to be at a rate of 37.5%, whereas cremations are projected to be at a rate of 56.4%. Not only that, but according to their 2018 report, “the cremation rate in the United States is expected to increase from 52.0% in 2017 to 79.1% in 2035”. And it makes sense that the rate of cremations is increasing; for example, there are places like Japan where cremation is the only option as land and space run low.

Nevertheless, the choice between cremation or burial is often a hard decision for many. So why do people choose cremations over burials? 

The Benefits of a Cremation

First of all, cremations are known to be much more cost-effective as there are no gravesite fees, caskets, cemetery fees, or headstones involved. 

Second of all, cremations are better for the environment as there is no land needed and no space required.

There are some misconceptions that cremations lead to non-conventional funerals, which many may feel a slight to the loved ones they’re trying to honor. However, this could not be further from the truth. 

Choosing cremation is not exclusive to having a “traditional” funeral. There can be a post-cremation burial for the urn containing the ashes, and the only notable difference from a traditional burial is the size of the vessel being buried. You can also have an open-casket viewing, but a couple of days will be required for the cremation to occur between the viewing and the burial.

Average Costs of Cremation

When comparing the method of cremation to the method of a traditional funeral burial, typically, cremation is less than 1/3 of the cost of a funeral burial. This may explain why cremations among Americans have increased in popularity over the last few years, as they provide an economically efficient alternative to the traditional funeral burial. 

Typical Cremation Costs

If cremations are handled through a funeral home the prices typically range from $2,000 to $3,000. Conversely, if they’re being handled directly through a crematory, the prices are a little bit cheaper, ranging from $1,500 to $3,000. 

Prices also vary depending on the state that you are from. These prices can be altered even more depending on whether you want to engage in a traditional funeral ceremony with an open casket viewing, as well as a post-cremation burial. 

Then, there’s the price of urns. Urns generally vary quite a bit, from the cheaper ones being as little as $10 to the more expensive urns ranging in the thousands. 

Burial Costs for Veterans

In the case of veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs will sometimes cover the burial costs depending on whether the person has died due to service-related causes. If the individual passed due to a service-related injury or medical condition after September 11th, 2001, the Department of Veterans Affairs will typically contribute $2,000 to the funeral burial service. 

By contrast, if the individual has passed due to a medical condition or injury prior to September 11th, 2001, the VA will still contribute $1,500 to the burial service. 

If the individual has passed during an active line of duty, they will cover most of the costs including cremation, transportation of the remains, the burial service, the urn/casket, and more. 

Burial insurance for Seniors

Burial insurance — also known as “end of life insurance” — is primarily used by senior citizens to help ease the burden of funeral expenses on family members. 

The monthly cost of burial insurance for seniors varies depending on how much money is to be set aside for the funeral. These prices can range from $18 to $256 per month and are based on the individual’s age, sex, state of health, and how much coverage is desired.

What Is Typically Included in a Cremation + Ceremony

Although the process of cremation is generally much cheaper than a burial, having a traditional cremation ceremony can range from $7,000 to $8,000 and includes many of the typical aspects that a traditional burial service would include, such as readings, songs, viewings, and an urn burial service. 

Alternatively, a traditional burial service can range from $10,000 to $12,000 which is much more expensive — the only difference is the size of the container that the individual is buried in.

What Is Typically Included in a Direct Cremation

A direct cremation is the cheapest option of all, ranging from $700 to $3,500. However, it is also important to note that a direct cremation does not include the traditional ceremony aspect, such as the open casket viewing and post-cremation burial. 

That being said, each funeral home is different in the way that ceremonies are conducted, so be sure to read up on what’s included in the pricing.

Surprising Costs in Cremation

Despite cremation being a cheaper alternative to burial services, it can still be quite expensive. This is due in part to the extensive cremation process.

  1. The first step is identifying and cleansing the body. 
    1. All jewelry is stripped from the body, as well as all medical devices such as prosthetics, pins, or screws in the joints to prevent an adverse reaction in the cremation chamber. 
  2. Next, the body is placed inside a cremation chamber. 
    1. This process can be expensive due to the high electrical demand cremations incur, the large amount of space required, as well as fire-resistant bricks, to withstand temperatures as high as 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. 
    2. The cremation process must also adhere to strict environmental and air regulations. 
  3. After the incineration, all that is left are bones which are then put through a grinder when cooled. 

All in all, it is important to make your decision based on personal preference and affordability. When comparing cremation to burial, cremation is usually much cheaper and better for the environment, albeit slightly less traditional than your average burial method. But at the end of the day, both are valid ways to honor your loved one.