How Much Does A Cremation Cost? [Actual 2022 Costs]
If you’re wondering how much the average cremation costs, you’re not alone. While cremation used to be a mystery to Americans, its popularity in the U.S. has increased dramatically over the past couple of decades. While only 32% of Americans were cremated in 2005, the cremation rate increased to 56% in 2020. Currently, 42 states have cremation rates over 50%.
Not only is cremation an environmentally friendly process, but it is also significantly more affordable than a traditional funeral and burial. (Average funeral costs now exceed $11,000!)
This article will explore the different types of cremation services, cremation prices, and what you need to know before making your final decision.
What Is Cremation?
While many people think of cremation as an Eastern practice, cremation has become increasingly popular in the United States over the past two decades. At this point, you can arrange a cremation service at the majority of funeral homes in the U.S.
The Cremation Process
Cremation is the process of reducing a body to ashes using high temperatures and flame.
The modern cremation process takes around two hours, depending on the size and composition of the body. The cremated remains are primarily bone fragments, which are then pulverized into ash.
Incinerators must maintain temperatures between 1,400 and 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit at all times to ensure complete burning. After the cremation is complete, any metal such as dental work or prosthetics will be removed from the skeletal remains and will not be included with the ashes.
The Popularity of Cremation
Cremation has increased dramatically in popularity over the past two decades. According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA):
In just 15 years, the national cremation rate in the U.S. has increased from 32% (2005) to 56% (2020).
This trend is not expected to slow down. The NFDA projects that, by 2030 and 2040, 69% and 78% of Americans will be cremated, respectively.
Cremation Popularity Has Gone Global
Cremation has been the prevailing practice in Eastern religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, for centuries. Therefore, it is not surprising to see high cremation rates in countries like Japan, Hong Kong, South Kora, Singapore, Thailand, and India.
But cremation has not been the norm in Abrahamic religious traditions. So what explains the high cremation rates in Western countries? According to the Cremation Society of Great Britain:
Cremation rates in Western urban centers often exceed 70% due to high population density and decreasing burial space.
Types of Cremation
There are three basic types of cremation:
- Direct cremation
- Direct cremation with a committal service
- Indirect cremation (cremation with a funeral ceremony and viewing)
Of total 2020 U.S. cremations, 38% were direct cremations, 35% were direct cremations with a short cremation service, and the remaining 27% were cremations with a traditional funeral service and viewing.
Direct cremation, also known as basic cremation (or simple cremation), is the simplest and least expensive option.
Direct cremation does not include embalming, a method used to preserve the body from decomposition. Therefore, direct cremation occurs only with a coffin over the body.
Direct cremation costs significantly less than other methods because it bypasses the funeral home altogether.
In other words, direct cremation typically involves transporting the deceased directly to a crematory (cremation provider). Note that nearly all funeral homes can arrange transportation from the place of death to the crematory, if needed.
Direct Cremation With Commital Service
A “direct cremation with committal service” combines the convenience of immediate cremation with the comfort of a memorial service.
A committal service is not required for cremation, but many families find a memorial service essential to the grieving process. This service can be held in a funeral home or at the place of death, and it provides time for family members to say goodbye to their loved one.
Direct cremations must be performed within 72 hours of death.
If the family needs longer than 72 hours to make final arrangements, the body must be preserved (embalmed). Indirect cremations delay the cremation process (from several days to multiple weeks) by embalming and placing the body in a refrigerated unit.
This allows family members to plan memorial services, viewings, and visitations before the body is cremated.
Why Choose Cremation
People choose cremation for many reasons, including convenience and the associated environmental benefits. However, the biggest reason is the dramatically lower cost of a cremation.
Reason #1: Affordability
According to the NFDA’s 2021 survey of funeral homes, the national median cost of adult funeral services (including burial) now exceeds $11,000. This figure includes roughly $2,000 for the cost of the burial plot. On the other hand:
Direct cremation can cost as little as $1,500 (10% of the cost of a traditional funeral).
While families often prefer the traditional American funeral service followed by burial, unless the deceased or their family has $10,000+ in cash to spare, this option is usually too expensive.
Reason #2: Convenience
Cremated remains are much easier and less expensive to transport than a full body.
This provides families with more options for their loved one’s final resting place. That is, they can choose to scatter the deceased’s ashes wherever they choose, and they can even choose to store these ashes in an urn.
This is especially helpful in today’s age when families regularly make big geographic moves to pursue job opportunities. With cremation, families can move across the country, and at the same time, easily move their loved one’s final resting place with them.
Reason #3: Environmental Benefits
Besides being a cost-effective option for many families, cremations also have several environmental benefits. First of all, it is considered an eco-friendly form of final disposition.
When you choose to cremate your deceased loved one, there are no toxic chemicals or hazardous materials left over. Cemeteries are very resource-heavy to maintain, and they increase methane production in the soil, another form of pollution that cremation eliminates.
Average Cremation Costs in the U.S.
According to the NFDA, the average cost of direct cremation was $2,598 in 2021 (and only $1,438 when using an alternative container instead of a cremation casket).
The table below shows a breakdown of this average cremation cost into its component expenses. For a direct cremation, these expenses include:
- Transfer of the remains
- Preparation of the body
- Cremation casket (or alternative container)
- Cremation fee
- Urn (for the cremated remains)
The cost of the cremation container is the largest of these expenses, by far. Therefore, we have shown two prices for direct cremation: one in which a cremation casket is used ($1,310) and one in which an alternative container is used ($150). Choosing the latter would save you $1,160 alone, allowing for a very low cost cremation.
Table: Breakdown of Direct Cremation Costs
If you want to have a service, the NFDA reports that the average cost of a cremation with a traditional funeral ceremony and viewing was $6,971 in 2021.
Cremation Expense Details
See below for more qualitative detail on the expenses that make up the total cost of cremation.
A cremation casket is a box that contains your loved one’s body during the actual cremation. Cremation caskets are usually constructed of wood, although some people opt to use composite or cardboard materials.
Families who choose to have a traditional funeral service before the cremation often rent a traditional casket for the viewing and then exchange this for a cremation casket for the actual cremation.
A cremation urn is a vessel that holds your loved one’s ashes after the cremation process.
Urns vary considerably in size and style and are typically constructed from wood, marble, or metal. Some people choose to store their loved one’s ashes in multiple urns instead of one large vessel.
Finally, while not an additional expense item, location has a major role in influencing total cremation costs. Funeral homes often have different rates for urban areas and rural areas, depending on the demand for their services and the cost of labor, among other factors.
The Funeral Rule
When shopping at a funeral home, the funeral director should give you a “general price list” (GPL) immediately. In fact, funeral homes are required by law to provide consumers with a GPL before discussing any products or services.
On this document, you’ll find cremation packages and basic memorial packages that will aggregate all of the products and services typically purchased for cremations.
Choosing cremation over a traditional funeral service is a very personal choice. Every family should make this decision thoughtfully and take into account their beliefs, religion, and finances.
If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be sure to get back to you within 24 hours.
The GetSure Team
National Funeral Directors Association.
2021 NFDA General Price List Study Shows Funeral Costs Not Rising as Fast as Rate of Inflation.