Burial vs. Cremation: A Cost Comparison Guide

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Losing a loved one is a truly tragic and miserable circumstance. For anyone reading this, our deepest condolences. But finding the arrangements for a passed family member should be the first thing to be taken care of - properly saying goodbye is opening the door to grieving. 

When faced with such hardship, there's a flurry of decisions to be made. These choices aren't easy to consider, but they do need to be sorted out. 

Deciding between burial and cremation, other than for personal and religious preferences, boils down to cost. This guide will, hopefully, help you weigh the cost of burial vs cremation. 

A Common Cremation Misconception 

A lot of people get off on the wrong foot when searching for what to do with their loved ones after their death. There's a strong misconception about cremation being wildly cheaper than burials, but it's not entirely true. 

There is a litany of variables that go into both rituals. Depending on what you choose for each is what dictates the price. 

While burials are typically more expensive than cremating a body, cremation services can quickly add up, nearly equating - and sometimes - surpassing the cost of a traditional burial. Choosing to wisely spend your money during a tragedy is invaluable. 

Breakdown of a Burial 

For burials, there's a workload of preparation involved in preserving the body. 

Nearly three million people die in the United States annually. There's not a lot of room in the morgue for everyone; and with such a limited supply and an unpleasantly large demand, vault space is expensive. 

Housing a cadaver for expended periods of time can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500. This is just for a short interim between when you can make the arrangements for a funeral. 

The mortician will then embalm and prepare the body for service. Embalming typically costs $500-800. This process is necessary to keep the body from decomposing. 

Next, the morgue will prepare the body for viewing conditions - if it's an open-casket memorial. Depending on the attire, preparing the body can cost as much as embalming: $500. 

A funeral service will take the deceased into their care. The body is usually transported to them in a hearse, which is a $300 expense. 

The memorial itself, along with facility use and staff, will be the most expensive part. If you can, look for a funeral home in advance. Shopping around is a morbid task, but it could save your family thousands of dollars if prepared in advance. 

On average, the funeral services will cost $2,500 to $3,500. This does not include the price of a casket, a plot, or a headstone. 

A premium, metal casket will be close to $2,000, but a conservative estimate would be $2,500. A well-made headstone is $1,000, and a grave plot where it'll be set will cost about the same. 

A conservative estimate for a funeral, with more premium luxuries of a burial, will cost a little over $10,000. Airing on the side of cheapness, it'll be nearly $8,000 for a frugal funeral. 

Cost of a Cremation 

Most of the costs of a cremation come in the form of a funeral viewing. 

In the same respect as burials, if you choose to have a viewing at a funeral home, anticipate paying the funeral staff and making payments for facilities. This will likely come up to roughly the same, minus transportation and vaulting costs. 

Having a viewing ceremony for a cremated loved one will typically cost $1,500 to $2,500, depending on the faculties that you've decided to employ. Again, it's best to sort this out before an incident; there's a large range of prices in between this estimate. 

The processing fee is a little cheaper than embalming. Having a body processed is about $300 -- cremating it afterward will be an additional $300-$400. 

Holding the remains at a facility is expensive, as it needs to be climate-controlled. This will be about as much as the cremation. Anticipate spending around $400 for holding fees of the ashes. 

Safely transporting the remains and delivery of the ashes, together, will cost around $700. If you choose to pick up the remains (which is the better option), $350 can be saved in transportation costs. 

The most expensive part of cremation is in the optional aspects of it. 

Buying an urn is typically the most expensive part. A simple commemorative vase for ashes will, usually, cost $100-$200. But buying a premium urn can range from $500 to $1,500. 

It might be frivolous to purchase a vase with such a high intrinsic value, but it's important to commemorate and memorialize your loved ones. It's a very popular choice to spend as much money on an urn as a casket. 

Cost of Burial vs Cremation 

The average cost of a burial in the United States is about $9,000. It's a little more than $10,000 if you spring for more premium attributes; it's $8,000 for the cheaper alternatives. 

There's a wide range of variability in costs of cremation, however. A lot of it depends on whether or not the family uses a funeral home and the cost of the urn. 

A more premium cremation will cost around $5,500 to $7,000. This includes viewing services. While a cheaper alternative would cost about half of that - $3,500. 

Some families aren't financially secure, but death discriminates against nobody, unfortunately. For those on a tight budget, there are direct cremation services. 

There's no viewing, embalming, preparation, or expensive urns. The body isn't preserved, as the cheap cremation is immediate. It typically costs $600-$800. 

However, if you have the means, bury your dead with care. 

The First Step to Grieving 

Death is an inevitable, unavoidable, and scary thing that haunts every one of us. Worst of all, it affects the ones we love dearest to our hearts. Funerals and wakes are stressful and upsetting to those left behind, especially when money is an issue.

Finding the right ceremony for your deceased family is important, but so is your financial security. The cost of burial vs cremation services has some variability in it. 

The average cost of a burial is around $9,000. But with cremation, the prices can fluctuate from as little as $600 to an excessive $7,000. Choose the right one to fit your final expense budget and to commemorate those that have passed.

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