Burial Vs. Cremation: An Examination Of The Costs

Hey, none of us like to think about it, so let's make it a subject of dollars and cents. Review the true costs of funeral expenses for burials and cremations so you can make an informed plan.
A traffic sign pointing in two different directions - one reads burial and the other reads cremation
Asking The Hard Questions

With the rising costs of burials, cremations are becoming increasingly popular. But, hey, you already knew that. You’ve been getting ads, promotions, and notifications about options for funerals, burials and cremations. Let’s roll up our sleeves and look at the costs.

How Much Does A Funeral Cost?

O.K., this is going to hurt. Let’s “Do it fast!” as nurses advise in taking off a bandage.

The costs of funerals have been increasing at a steady rate since the 1980’s. It’s not unusual for funeral costs to run upwards of $15,000. The average funeral runs between $10,000-$12,000.

This is probably the last thing you want to think about. Yet, it’s up on the roster for anyone who is alive—especially after a certain age. Funerals cost money. By knowing what is coming, you and your family can prepare for expenses. This may be difficult, yet it is easier than waiting for the event—and making fast decisions during a highly emotional time.

What’s Involved In Burial Costs?

Funerals with burials are running on average, $10,000. If you’re sure you want a burial rather than a cremation, some of the typical expenses include:

  • Gravesite
  • Casket
  • Vault or coffin container
  • Grave Marker
  • Basic service fee
  • Transportation fees such as a van or hearse
  • Cost of opening the ground, placing the remains in the ground, burial
  • Flowers, Wreaths
  • Catering

Specific costs vary from one funeral home to another, seasonal variations, and regionally. The Midwest and Northeast portions of the country have the most expensive funerals. Given these variations, it pays to investigate in your area. Here is a sample of the costs for funerals with burials:

Funeral home basic fee: $2,100
Transport remains to funeral home: $325
Embalming $725
Preparing the body $250
Facilities and staff for viewing $425
Facilities and staff for ceremony $500
Hearse $325
Service Car $150
Memorial printed package $160
Metal casket $2,400
Vault $1,395
Cost with vault $8,755

When calculating costs, these are the key elements. Unfortunately, it is not the whole picture.

A traffic sign pointing in two different directions - one reads burial and the other reads cremation
Flowers and Wreaths

Most people can’t imagine a funeral without flowers. To get an elegant display, you may need to set aside $500-$700. Additionally, for many mourners, wreaths are essential. Wreaths are usually displayed around the casket, costing $100-$200 each. Casket wreaths can run $500-$700, depending on the florist, season, flowers used, and size.

Funeral Plots

In addition to the specific funeral costs, funeral plots are costly. Cemeteries are often separate from funeral homes. Costs vary widely depending on location. An average plot costs $1000 - $4,000. However, in large metropolitan areas such as Chicago and San Francisco, costs are likely to be higher.

Grave Markers

Upright headstones usually cost between $2000-$5,000. Markers, which lie flat on the ground cost around $1,000. Many families are able to save money by buying headstones or grave markers from third party retailers.


For a traditional funeral, caskets often run from $2,000-$5,000. Some may cost $10,000 or more.

More and more consumers are buying caskets from third-party retailers including Amazon, Costco, and Wal-Mart. Caskets can be shipped directly to the funeral home. By law, funeral homes are required to use the casket you provide and cannot charge additional fees to handle third-party caskets.

An elderly woman examines an urn in a funeral home assisted by a salesmen
What’s Involved In Cremation Costs?

The average cost of a cremation ranges from $1000-$8,000. The wide variations depend on the state of the country, and the services chosen. Various fees must be paid to the funeral home, which can push the cost of cremations upwards.

The National Funeral Directors Association estimates the average cost of a funeral with cremation at about $6,000.

The low end of cremation services can be from $1,000-$3,000. The higher end from $6,000-$8,000. This varies depending on states; and depending on what funeral home services are used. Cremation services are also available at a fixed-price fee from some funeral homes and cremation providers.

The NFDA reports that the rate of cremation is 53% and is projected to reach 70% by 2030. Naturally, as more consumers choose cremation, prices are likely to continue to rise.

Tips To Reduce Costs
  • Make advance decisions to help reduce the likelihood of making emotional decisions.
  • Contact several funeral homes to get a range of pricing. They are required to give you general pricing information.
  • Price shop for funeral items such as caskets or liners. You may find savings without cutting corners in your arrangements.
  • Consider using a biodegradable casket.
  • Consider saving on embalming. This is not required as a routine procedure.
  • If you choose direct burial or cremation, you may be able to skip embalming.
  • You may provide an alternative container for cremation.
  • You may choose to provide your own casket or urn.
  • Check that you really want the services being offered by the funeral home.
  • You may choose to hold memorial services at a private home to create a meaningful service at a lower cost.
  • Engage a friend or family member to help you do the pre-work necessary.
Assistance Club Summary

The big idea: Your end-of-life decisions are extremely personal and important.

Share your wishes with your loved ones. If you want a funeral with burial or cremation, make your wishes known. Preparing for these final decisions can bring a sense of peace, tranquility and harmony to you and your family.