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Cremation Cost

Learn about cremation cost relative to the cost of burial.

Many families keep urns containing the ashes of loved ones in their homes. [© Jupiter Images, 2010]
© Jupiter Images, 2010
Many families keep urns containing the ashes of loved ones in their homes.

Cremation cost is a contributing factor in many families choosing cremation over traditional cemetery interment for their loved ones. This is partly because cremation costs can be lower than traditional burial costs. The cost of a traditional, basic burial service in 2007 averaged nearly $7,000, whereas a simple cremation was less than $1,000 in many cases. This comparatively inexpensive cremation cost may make this option a more attractive choice for many families. Cremation may also result in more simplified burial arrangements, a feature that appeals to some grieving families.

Because of diminishing space in existing cemeteries, cremations are becoming more popular. Concern for the environment and the effect that embalming chemicals have on it can also make cremation an attractive option.

What is cremation?

Cremation is the use of intense heat to reduce the body of a deceased person to bone fragments and ashes. This is done in a crematorium, which may be part of a religious chapel, a funeral home, a private business or a cemetery. The actual cremation is done by a furnace in the crematorium that is designed to incinerate human remains at very high temperatures.
After the crematorium returns the ashes, some families bury them in an urn in a cemetery plot or simply give them to a surviving family member for safekeeping. Ashes are often scattered in a special place that was designated by the deceased prior to his or her death. If desired, religious services can be performed before or after the cremation process has been completed.

Typical Cremation Cost

The average basic cremation cost in the United States can be substantially less than $1,000, but this price can vary from region to region. The cost can also be much higher if additional funeral services are included by the funeral home as part of the cremation process.

Funeral homes sometimes include a charge for a casket and an urn to hold the ashes, although neither of these is a mandatory expense in most cremation processes. According to the Funeral Rule of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), funeral providers have certain stipulated responsibilities when it comes to listing what is and is not a necessary part of a cremation service.

Before signing any cremation contract with a funeral home or provider, the family should learn as much as it can about this rule. A complete listing of the FTC's Funeral Rule is available on the Internet.

Costs and options can vary. For example, California Cremation Centers advertises simple cremations for as little as $494. In Texas, Cremation Online advertises prices starting at $725 with a simple graveside service included for a cost of $1,995. In New York City, City Funeral Service provides cremation services that can be secured for as little as $795, but a total cremation package can cost as much as a traditional cemetery interment if additional funeral services are purchased. In Florida, the American Heritage Cremation Society offers basic cremation services for $795, but if accommodations such as burial at sea from providers like Sea Services are requested, total costs can be exponentially higher. There are also Internet sites like Net Cremation that advertise nationwide prices for basic cremation services ranging from $495 to $1,295. These examples show that offers and costs associated with cremation services are variable across the U.S.

Common Sense Precautions

When confronted with the difficult choices that a grieving family must make when a loved one dies, the family is frequently at its most vulnerable and can be taken advantage of by unscrupulous individuals or businesses. As cited above, the FTC has established a Funeral Rule that requires that costs associated with a cremation or traditional interment must be prominently listed, but there are also some common sense precautions that the family can take.

If the family knows a trusted funeral home or funeral home director, this is a good place to start. Because choosing funeral arrangements is an expensive and sometimes painful experience, it is usually better to work with people the family already knows. If this is not possible, consulting a family friend who has recent, personal experience with funeral homes in the family's home region can be helpful.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a good resource when choosing a provider of cremation services. The BBB has Web sites for most regions of the country, which will assist in identifying BBB-accredited cremation providers.

There are national organizations such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) that can provide support and information about how best to choose cremation services.

Most states also have agencies that provide services to the aging, and these agencies can often provide information about the costs and local availability of cremation services.

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