Cost of Cremation vs Burial

The cost of cremation vs burial is a major consideration when planning a funeral for yourself or in the event that prior arrangements have not been made. This article will explain the preparations and processes involved that influence the total costs of cremation and burial.

Graveyard with View of Sea in Gerringong Australia


Costs associated with both burial and cremation

Embalm and prepare body: You can still have a viewing and/or open casket funeral with a cremation afterwards. The body will be disinfected and embalmed before a stylist with specialized techniques and cosmetics will prepare the body. Embalming ranges between $225-$700, and the styling falls between $50-$250.

Casket/Coffin: The terms casket and coffin are used interchangeably, but they refer to the difference in construction. A coffin is constructed with 6 sides, and is broader at the top, while a casket is made with 4 sides and is a rectangular shape. These days caskets are more often used. The average cost of a casket is $2,000-$4,000. Depending on the types of materials and customization, the cost can climb as high as $10,000.

Funeral homes cannot oblige you to buy from them, so it can be much cheaper to buy elsewhere and have your casket delivered to them.  See more about funeral rules in the USA here.  Elsewhere, check your local regulations online or from your funeral director.  

You can find some very affordable caskets here.

You will need a casket/coffin for a burial. However, it is optional for a cremation. While a casket is not required for cremation, crematories will request that the body be in a combustible container. Federal regulations require that inexpensive cremation containers be made available for this purpose. 


Miscellaneous: Plan for around $400-$600 for things such as; the burial certificate, permits, obituary, hearse, etc. Some of these are usually included in other services of a funeral home, so be sure to ask.

Burial Costs

Total burial costs are wide ranging because of the many choices involved in the type of burial, but the average is $10,000. Many funeral homes will offer packages to help simplify the decisions and can do customization as needed.

Plot:  Depending on the funeral home and the location of the plot the total cost is $400-$10,000 and usually includes on-going maintenance fees.

Grave marker or Headstone: As the wide price range of $500-$2,300 suggests, what is spent on the marker or headstone will depend on the type chosen and materials used. A grave marker is flat with the ground and has the basic information of name(s) and dates. A headstone is the most common option and stands erect over the grave. They’re usually made of granite and in addition to name(s) and dates, can include a picture, quote, or any other information desired.

Grave opening and closing: Staff will be used to open the grave site before burial and will close it after. Their services cost between $300-$1,000.

Cremation Costs

Cremation tends to be more economical than burial with the total cost falling between $1,000-$3,000. Depending on the funeral home and options chosen, these are factors that will influence the total price:


Urn: This is the container for the ashes and cost can vary depending on how simple or elaborate the urn is with the average being between $100-$350. A scattering urn can be purchased for around $50 or less to contain the ashes until they are spread. You don't have to buy from the funeral home.  You can find a lot more choice online and may get better prices. 

Learn how to choose a cremation urn here

Some beautiful quality memorial urns to buy online

Save the planet with biodegradable cremation containers

Niche: If the urn isn’t being kept at home, or buried in a plot, then a niche is another option. A niche is a place at the cemetery where the urn can be placed and marked. The cost ranges from $350-$2,500 and includes services such as placing the urn, maintenance, and record keeping.

These prices are in USD and were based on research done in January 2016. 

Click here for more information on Funeral Arrangements

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