Planning your own funeral, or simply offering suggestions as to what you want, is a thoughtful gesture to help your family through a tough time. Some people even put aside money to handle all the expenses.
Most people don’t preplan cremation. They just say “I want to be cremated” and figure it’s not much of a fuss.
When you consider how drastically prices can vary when it comes to funeral and burial costs -- type of casket, purchasing a plot, the outer burial contain, a headstone, etc. -- you’d think cremation would be pretty simple and cheap. The process is the same for everyone, right?
Not exactly. According to funeral comparison website Parting.com, the reason why the average cremation costs around $2,000, and can range anywhere from $500 to a whopping $10,000, is that the Federal Trade Commission doesn’t require funeral homes to make their rates easily accessible to the general public. This, coupled with a person’s uneasiness with rigid “comparison shopping” when it comes to the treatment of a loved one’s remains during a very emotionally stressful time, creates an environment where fleecing and wild pricing differences can occur.
This is becoming a problem as cremation grows in popularity. In a different study conducted by the San Francisco direct cremation company Tulip, almost 80 percent of baby boomers (aged 55-64) say they'll opt for cremation, but have badly misjudged the cost. Two-thirds thought it would be less than $1,500. “The funeral industry has for a long time failed to keep up with the times," Tulip Cremation's founder Tom Harries said in a press release. "Pricing structures are complex and families are often drawn in by seemingly low prices, often to be hit with hidden charges and additional fees. This is particularly unforgivable at a time of such great sadness and stress."
Parting.com admits “comparing direct cremation costs is not always apples to apples. For instance, some funeral homes have their own crematorium while others use a third party, which can mean an extra fee. Still, these fees don’t explain why direct cremation at some facilities costs five times more than others.”
Funerals are still, in the end, a business. Some higher-end funeral parlors don’t want you to choose cremation -- they’d rather sell you on more expensive services and options -- so they can overprice cremation as a deterrent. There are also additional purchases you need to consider:
- Cremation Casket: If you're having a traditional funeral service before the cremation, you'll need some kind of casket. If you're going to use the casket for the cremation too, it needs to be fully combustible (no metal allowed). Another option is to rent a casket for the service and then use an alternative (i.e. much cheaper) container for the cremation. [Dive Deeper: All You Need To Know About Cremation Caskets]
- Urn: This is what holds the cremated remains. Urns come in many different options depending on whether the ashes are being buried, kept, or scattered. You don’t need to rush this. If you plan on scattering the ashes, you can most likely use the container provided by the crematorium. If you plan on keeping them on display as a memorial, you can shop around until you find the right one. [Dive Deeper: An Overview Of Choosing And Buying Urns]
While this might not be the most pleasant task to undertake, you owe it to yourself and your family to get a few quotes from different funeral homes or direct cremation providers before making a commitment. If your goal is to keep costs low, then make it clear you’re only looking for the basics. While you might think paying more will honor the deceased, remember that while the cost may vary, the cremation process is virtually the same no matter who you choose.