Cost for Burial vs Cremation: A Numbers Game

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

Cremation is becoming an increasingly popular option for funerals in the United States. This is due, in part, to the rising costs of burials.

According to the Cremation Association of North America, the cremation rate has been gradually increasing over the past few decades. In just a few years, the cremation rate in the US and Canada is expected to rise significantly. In 2021, 57.5% of people in the US were cremated, but by 2025 that number is projected to reach 64.1%. In 2020, 56.1% of Canadians were cremated, but by 2025 that number is expected to increase to 81.8%.

Clearly, many Americans have welcomed cremation with open arms as a more cost-effective option to traditional burial, 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 funeral costs of a burial vs cremation in this Senior Assistance Club guide.

What are the Differences Between a Burial and a Cremation Service?

Deciding how to honor a loved one after their death is a difficult task. Two of the most common options are burial and cremation. While both methods offer a way to pay tribute, they differ in several ways.

One key difference is cost of a burial and cremation. Cremation tends to be less expensive than burial, as it eliminates the need for a casket and plot of land. However, there are also some costs associated with cremation, such as the rental of a crematorium and the purchase of an urn.

Another difference is the amount of time required. A burial typically takes place within a few days of the death, while cremation may take place weeks or even months later. This is not always the case, however, as some families choose to have their loved one cremated right away. When it comes to memorialization, both options offer opportunities for celebration. Burials often include funerals or wakes, while cremated remains can be scattered in a meaningful location or kept in an urn as a reminder of the life lived.

Ultimately, the decision of which option to choose depends on personal preferences and values.

How Much Does A Funeral Cost?

Okay, 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 1980s. 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. This is why an insurance policy for seniors is so important. There is a certain type of policy, called a final life expense policy for seniors, that is specifically used to cover the funeral costs of a senior—whether that’s a burial or a cremation. Having this financial safety net in place gives your loved ones something less to worry about during such a tumultuous time.

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 can 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.

Now that we’ve run through the typical burial costs, let’s examine how much a cremation will set you back. Knowing the difference between a burial cost vs a cremation cost can help you make a more informed decision on how you would like to be laid to rest when the time comes.

What’s Involved In Cremation Costs?

The average cost of a cremation ranges from $1000-$8,000. The wide variations depending 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 upward.

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 is 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.
An elderly woman examines an urn in a funeral home assisted by a salesmen

Pros and Cons of a Burial vs Cremation

If you're like most people, you probably don't think about your final resting place very often. But at some point, everyone has to make this important decision whether to be buried or cremated.

There are pros and cons to both options, and the decision ultimately comes down to personal preference. Let’s take a look at some of the key factors to consider when making your decision.

Burial Pros

  • Allows friends and family to visit your grave and pay their respects
  • Can be less expensive than cremation, depending on the location of the burial site and whether you already own a plot
  • Provides a physical space for mourners to grieve and remember their loved ones

Burial Cons

  • Requires purchasing a coffin or casket, which can be expensive
  • The ground may sink over time, requiring additional maintenance fees
  • Emissions from funeral homes contribute to air pollution

Cremation Pros

  • Can be less expensive than burial, especially if you opt for a direct cremation without a viewing or service
  • Eliminates the need for purchasing a coffin or casket
  • Offers more flexibility with final resting place options - you can keep the ashes in an urn, bury them, scatter them, or even keep them in your home

Cremation Cons

  • Some family members may find it unsettling
  • Emits carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere

Still have questions on your mind about funeral costs and the difference between a burial vs cremation? We’re here to answer them!


The process of making arrangements for a loved one's final disposition can be overwhelming, especially if you're not sure what your loved one would have wanted or what the best options are. To help you navigate this difficult time, we've compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about burials and cremations.

How much does a burial or cremation cost?

The cost of a burial or cremation will vary depending on many factors, including the type of service you choose, the location of the funeral home or cemetery, and whether you choose to purchase additional services or products like a casket or headstone. Generally speaking, burials are more expensive than cremations.

How do I know if my loved one would have wanted a burial or a cremation?

If your loved one did not express a preference for their final disposition, there are a few things you can take into consideration. For example, if your loved one was very traditional, they may prefer a burial. On the other hand, if your loved one was environmentally conscious, they may prefer cremation because it is more earth-friendly.

How do I choose a cemetery?

When choosing a cemetery, it's important to consider things like proximity (you may want to be close to other family members who are buried there), visitation hours (some cemeteries have restricted hours), and the type of cemetery (public or private).

What happens during the burial service?

A typical burial service will last between 30 and 45 minutes. It will usually take place at the gravesite and will be officiated by a clergy member or civil celebrant. The service will usually include readings, prayers, and eulogies delivered by family and friends.

What happens during cremation?

Cremation involves reducing the body to bone fragments using intense heat. The process usually takes two to three hours but can take longer depending on the size of the person being cremated. Afterward, the bone fragments are crushed into fine sand-like particles called "cremains."

Can I have a memorial service if I’m cremated?

Yes! A memorial service is different from a funeral in that it does not include the body of the deceased person. It can take place at any time after death and can be held in any location, such as a church, banquet hall, or even an outdoor park.

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.