When a loved one dies, it can be hard to make clear-headed decisions that protect your peace as well as your wallet. When you weigh your options, you’ll typically find that cremation is a much cheaper alternative to a casket burial.
Low-Cost Cremation: What To Know Before You Decide
You may have some apprehensions about cremation, and that’s understandable. But the truth is that casket prices have surged 230% since 1986, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In this article, we’ll explore ways to save with a low-cost cremation and other things you need to know before spending any money.
- How Much Do Cremation Services Cost?
- What Is Direct Cremation?
- How To Find Cremation Providers Near You
- How To Get a Free Cremation
- How To Shop for Cremation Services
1. How Much Do Cremation Services Cost?
Cremation — disposing of a person’s remains by burning them into ashes — is a relatively affordable option. Average cremation costs start at around $600-$700, according to Cremation Resource.
The reason cremation is so cheap is that you skip many of the costly features of a traditional funeral, like transporting the body from the funeral home or chapel to the cemetery and embalming, cosmetology and hairdressing. The result is that you save quite a bit of money.
Although you can save on a casket at Costco, it’s common for funeral homes to charge up to $10,000 for one, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
When it comes to a full traditional funeral service, the added-on affairs such as viewings, visitations and wakes can drive costs up to anywhere from $6,000 to $26,000, according to U.S. Funerals Online.
One way to save on all these expenses is to opt for a direct cremation.
2. What Is Direct Cremation?
Direct cremation services are those in which the deceased is cremated immediately after death and there is no funeral service beforehand.
Direct cremation is considered the most affordable funeral service in the industry. Prices can approach around $1,100, but can be half that depending on the region and what specific services are included.
Here are some of the things you save on when choosing the option of direct cremation:
- Burial vault
- Cemetery plot
- Grave marker
After a direct cremation, it is common for many families to do a modest and dignified memorial service at a later date, but that is up to them to decide.
3. How To Find Cremation Providers Near You
To find cremation providers and funeral homes with crematoriums in your area, go to:
- Cremation.com: This Better Business Bureau-accredited business is an online resource that covers all things cremation and has a provider search portal on its homepage.
- Cremation Association of North America (CANA): This trade group comprised of funeral homes, cemeteries, industry suppliers and more has many resources pertaining to cremation, including a list of providers.
- A memorial society: Memorial societies are members-only nonprofit organizations that specialize in end-of-life planning for less. Read our guide on memorial societies.
Once you locate a provider, call them and ask if they have a crematory certificate, although some states require that providers are certified and others don’t.
How Much Should You Pay for an Urn?
A typical necessity in cremation is an urn to house the loved one’s ashes. Urn prices vary widely based on design and more, but if you let your funeral service provider pick one out, you can expect to pay more.
There’s no rule against buying an urn from a store for much cheaper. Walmart and Amazon all sell urns with prices starting from $25 to $120 or more.
4. How To Get a Free Cremation
If the deceased’s body is being donated to science, cremation can be free. There are several organizations around the country and resources available online to facilitate this, potentially saving you hundreds or thousands of dollars.
One of them is Science Care, which is the world’s largest accredited whole-body donation program. Another is Medcure.
These programs typically can send ashes of the deceased back in a matter of weeks. Check with your state for local programs, as well.
5. How To Shop for Cremation Services
When it comes to the business of death, comparison shopping is still the best way to ensure you’re getting the best price. It’s a good idea to call around to different funeral homes in your area to inquire about the prices for direct cremation.
Research the cremation providers by looking them up on these websites:
- BBB.org – Can you trust the BBB?
- Trustpilot – Is Trustpilot legit?
- Google Reviews – Many crematories have reviews on their Google Business Page that allow you to get a feel for how they do business.
Once you’ve whittled down your list of crematories, you can call them to request quotes or find a form on their websites to fill out.
Here are three things you want to pay special attention to when shopping for a cremation provider:
- Ask for a price list: You’d think this would be voluntarily given to you, but in many cases, you’re going to have to ask for it. Funeral homes are resistant to disclosing prices because they like to view each funeral as a unique case. The FTC’s Funeral Rule mandates that funeral homes must tell you their prices over the phone, if you ask.
- Know what you’re getting: Find out exactly what is included in certain packages vs. what is being advertised. Ask for an itemized list so you can clearly see the differences.
- Watch for gotcha fees: Like any other industry, some hidden fees may be laden in your agreement. Many funeral homes may bill you separately for things like a death certificate and cremation permits since these are third-party services. Others may try to up-sell certain amenities to you based on creature comforts they think every funeral service should have.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s common to have a memorial service for the deceased. But few funeral directors are going to provide use of their funeral homes for free.
In order to save money or protect your privacy it may make sense to have a memorial service at your place of worship or at the home of a relative.
Because funeral planning can be an emotional task, we here at Clark.com want you to go into the process with as clear and informed a mind as you can.
Clark says a funeral planning discussion can go a long way toward sorting out your end-of-life decisions that need to be made, including related costs.
“Please tell your kids what you want: You want burial; you want cremation; you want a fancy-dancy casket; you want to be buried in a pine box; you want to be cremated, and you don’t want any box at all. Whatever it is you want, tell them.”