Cremation vs Burial

Cremation vs. Burial: What are the Costs of Each?

Discussing the cost of providing a service for a loved one after their death can add stress to an already devastating experience.  Unfortunately, the cost of a burial or cremation is not as simple as it may seem—expenses can add up over time to create a much larger amount.  It may be unpleasant to think about, but it is fiscally wise for those involved to weigh out the options that are available in order to make a responsible decision that would still honor their loved one.  There is no preventing the sorrow caused by the death of a loved one, but you can relieve some of the burden by planning ahead with funeral insurance.



Traditional burials are still popular for many reasons.  Part of the reason is because they are a valued part of western tradition.  Sometimes, burials are more comfortable for family members and loved ones because viewing the dearly departed in state one last time can bring closure.  Likewise, individuals may have requested a burial for themselves because it brings comfort to know they will leave their body whole.  Alternatively, those who have strong religious beliefs may want to hold a burial service as deemed sacred by their beliefs.  Whatever your beliefs or wishes, it is vital you organize the costs of the funeral service you wish to provide for yourself or another.  A traditional burial service can cost an average of about $7,000 and can add up to over $9,000 with additional expenses.  If you decide that a burial service is right for you or a loved one, consider the following costs to determine which options are best for you.

Embalming is the process in which the coroner uses embalming fluid to preserve the body.  The average cost of embalming is between $500 and $600.

Burial Clothing
Burial clothing is the garments that the deceased will wear in his or her casket.  Sometimes, families opt to choose the person’s favorite dress or suit.  However, if you choose to buy clothes, the price can be as low or as high as you wish, sometimes up to $400.

Burial Shroud
A burial shroud refers to a long cloth that wraps around and covers the body.  The burial shroud has rich history in some religions such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism.  Depending on the material and embellishment of the shroud, it can be as inexpensive as about $200 or as costly as $1,000.

The casket is arguably one of the most expensive of burial costs.  Wood or metal caskets can cost between $3,500 to about $12,000.  The cost depends largely on the material of which the casket is made and how it is crafted.   Fiberboard caskets are another option that will keep costs down to an average of $150. Biodegradable caskets are often made of recycled paper or other organic materials that will decompose naturally into the ground.  These caskets usually cost no more than approximately $1,400.

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Viewing and Visitation
The viewing or visitation is still a popular tradition among those performing a traditional burial service.  When you pay a visitation fee, you are paying for the funeral home facility and staff who are present to oversee the viewing.  The funeral home may charge as little as $150, but the average is closer to $300, with some funeral homes charging over $500.

The hearse or funeral coach transports the body to the burial plot, and will cost approximately $400, but can cost as much as over $500.  On the other hand, the limousine or lead vehicle that transports the party to the burial site will likely cost around $200.

Flowers are a popular staple that adorn many funeral services.  The choice of blooms and quantity will make price vary widely depending on the season.  The flowers themselves can cost about $400.  If you are looking to cut costs, choose blooms that flourish in the time of year that the ceremony takes place.

The service, like all other costs, will change contingent on location and quality of the service.  While $200 is the minimum for a graveside service, costs can easily reach over $500.  There are also other additions families may include that could raise the price.  For instance, some people pay to publish an obituary, which can be priced as high as $600.  Likewise, the family may hire a third party speaker to compose and read the eulogy, which can add a few hundred dollars.  Finally, families may hire musicians to play during the ceremony, another cost that can reach into the hundreds.

Plot/ Vault
The cost of the grave plot is diverse, depending on location.  Some plots are reserved for families and can cost thousands of dollars to possess, while simpler plots can be purchased in the low hundreds.  Whether you or a loved one will be buried in a simple plot, or at a large plot with an elaborate headstone, the cost can range between as low as $400 to as high as $10,000.  If instead a vault will suit your loved one’s last wishes, know that it can cost upward of $14,000.

All of these things need to be part of your Funeral Plan Checklist. 



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Cremations have risen in popularity dramatically over the years.  Many families choose cremation over a traditional burial service because it is less expensive.  In addition, some religions have loosened their stipulation on after-death practices.  Catholics, for example, have softened their stance on burials.  Since the early 1960s, the Catholic Church has become more flexible about cremation rights, despite centuries of mandatory burials.  If you feel that your beliefs do not agree with cremation, however, then this may still not be the right choice for you.  Keep in mind that whatever your decision, the figures prove that cremation is still the cheapest service for your loved one.  The cost can be as low as less than $2,000 to about $6,000, depending on the service and additions you choose.  This is substantially less than the average funeral;the median cost is approximately $3,000—less than half the average $7000 burial.  If you are interested in cremation as an alternative, below are other considerations to keep in mind

Pick Up Fee
The provider will offer a service where they can pick up the body from the location of death.  This too happens with traditional burials, but it is important to note here, as it is not always included in the initial inexpensive cremation costs.  The pickup service can add to $200 or more.  Contact your provider to ask whether this fee is included in their service.

Pacemaker Removal
If your loved one has a pacemaker in their chest, it will have to be removed for safety purposes.  The presence of a pacemaker can cause issues during the cremation process, because the lithium battery poses a danger for the staff involved.  Trained professionals remove any other Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillators and prosthetic limbs as well.  To confirm prices, it is wise to contact the provider, as this may already be included in the purchase price. You may also need to decide what to do with the pacemaker, as there are numerous ways to recycle this important piece of health technology. Some families choose to donate the device to those in need in third world countries and veterinarians in animal hospitals, while others give the device back to a manufacturer for technology improvement.

Pacemaker Donations

Urn or Container
The container that holds the remains of the deceased can be as simple or as ornate as you choose.  A basic urn can cost $100 or less.  However, if you choose to purchase an urn with more detail, the cost can reach over $1,000.  Urns can be made of various materials such as glass, jade, marble, or stone.  Many companies also offer customized urns that can express your loved one’s personality.  For example, urns can be crafted to look like bowling balls, globes, or to feature other unique designs and paintings, but these items come at a much higher cost

Funeral Service
While cremation is a cheaper and entirely different process than that of a burial, many families will still gather to hold a service.  Costs will likely be lower because the party does not pay for a hearse, plot, viewing, or other grand service.  However, any additional fees for ceremonial flourishes still apply.

Venue prices are diverse, and offer a range of possibilities for those seeking to budget their ceremony.  If you would like a more opulent setting, a wedding venue or banquet hall may be the perfect place to celebrate the life of a loved one.  However, some venues are free—a public beach, park, or other outdoor location may suit the service best.

As mentioned above, additional costs can add up depending on the service you choose to perform.  The flora surrounding the urn or container of your loved one can still cost upward of $400.  To keep costs down, choose seasonal flowers or choose to purchase sparingly.

Protection under the FTC’s Funeral Rule

Fortunately, the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule protects the rights of the family seeking burials from many angles.  Despite all of these costs, you do have the right to choose from a clearly itemized price list of products and services that the funeral home offers, and these offers are presented on a General Price List (GPL).  You have the right to purchase goods and services separately.  This means that you are entitled to purchase products from the retailer you prefer and the funeral home must comply.  Be wary of how clear and honest the funeral home is as you communicate your needs with them.  If they are transparent and cooperate with you, then this is a company with high integrity and competence.  Choose the right provider for you so your loved one gets the service he or she deserves. is owned and operated by Future Media LLC