How Cost and Convenience is Changing our Funeral Plans



Cheap Cremation…..How Cost and Convenience is Changing our Funeral Plans

What can you expect to pay for a funeral or cremation?

A funeral is an expenditure that most of us do not give any thought to, until faced with the role of making arrangements for a lost loved one.  However, it is usually the third largest one-time purchase we will make, following a home and a vehicle.  The average cost of an adult funeral in 2012 was $7,755 (NFDA survey 2012) with the average cost of a funeral increasing year-on-year with a rise of over 74% since 1985.

This cost does not take into account the additional cemetery costs and many ancillary services, which means this bill can exceed $10,000 when burial plots, vaults, limousines and obituaries are all added to the bottom line.  According to the Cremation Association of North America (CANA), the price tag for a simple cremation costs an average of $1,650, and this includes a simple memorial service.  If no memorial service is included and a simple direct cremation is performed, the average price is $725.

The cost to inter a cremation urn is also significantly less than the cost for a burial plot for a casket.  Burial plots can range anywhere between $1,650 and $5,000, whereas a cremation burial space averages about $995.

Cremation rate on the Increase

The cremation rate has steadily been on the increase in the United States since the 1960s.  The ruling by the Vatican in 1963 to allow cremation for catholic funerals marked a shift-change in traditional burials and funerals. 

In 1980 about one in ten people who died in the U.S. were cremated, by 2012 this has reached 41% and by 2018 it is expected that at least half of all deaths will be followed by a cremation.

This is reflected by a decline in the casket industry and casket wholesalers report a slight decrease in their casket sales year-on-year.  Mark Allen, of the Casket and Funeral Supply Association of America, claims that they “theorize that more families chose cremation due to the economic conditions.” 

The era of price comparison: searching for funeral and cremation prices online 

Certainly here at US Funerals Online we continue to see an increase in our visitors searching with cost in mind.  The volume of visitors searching with the terms “cost” and “affordable” has increased by 22%, and we find an increase in visitors to the web site who are seeking to compare costs online.  We average about 100 searches a day for people who want to compare the costs between a burial and a cremation.  We can only come to the conclusion that cost is now an important concern to many American families as they feel the pinch of the recession.

The convenience of cremation has for some time contributed to its increase in popularity.  The United States is a huge continent, with a huge migrant population, people have moved around and yet many still require returning to their state of origin at death.  In fact California, Arizona and Florida, the warmer states that house the greatest retirement populations, have the highest cremation rates.  Transporting cremated remains back cross the United States is far easier, and less costly, than transporting a body. 

The Death of the Traditional Funeral

Anthony Cassieri of Brooklyn Funeral Home, NY said that they deal more and more today with families who are making funeral arrangements with their budgets in mind.  His father, Bob, who has been in the funeral industry in New York since 1957 has witnessed significant changes in how Americans have dealt with their dead over the past half a century.  Both acknowledge how cremation now accounts for over 50% of the funerals they conduct, with direct cremations now accounting for around 33%.

The family still need the funeral ritual, it is an important part of the mourning process, but it seems quite clear that these days many families will attempt to honor the final wishes of their deceased loved one, whilst simultaneously balancing their budget.   A cremation may offer savings to the family that they can spend on other aspects of a funeral service, such as flowers or a permanent memorial tribute.

Gary Heller, of Marker & Heller Funeral Homes in Ohio, says that “people economize on certain things, they may not buy an as-expensive urn, and they may shorten their visitation time or do everything in one day”.   This can either be to reduce costs, or just out of convenience he claims. 

Death is an inevitability that we all face, and the funeral director’s role is to help families deal with the ritual of death, whilst enabling the family to remain firmly in control of their choices. 

Direct cremation offers new alternative for budget family farewells

If keeping funeral costs to a minimum is essential, then seeking a direct cremation will facilitate this.  Many Cremation Societies offer discounted cremations, and DFS Memorials is a nationwide network of independent, low-cost funeral providers who offer simple, affordable cremation or burial options.  As the cremation rate continues to climb, the market is becoming more price-competitive, meaning that the price for a direct cremation is coming down.  In some metro areas in the states mentioned with a high cremation rate it is actually possible to arrange a direct cremation for as little as $400.

Arranging a direct cremation does not mean you care any less about your departed loved one, that you are going to provide them with any less a dignified send-off.  It can put you in control of the whole death care ritual instead of engaging a funeral home to deliver services that the family can provide for themselves.  To learn more about DIY funerals and how to conduct a dignified, personalized and inexpensive home funeral, read our guide to family-directed funerals. 

Expert Author: Sara J. Marsden

Sara is the Editor in Chief for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death care industry in the US for the last 5 years.

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Last Revised 11/22/2012

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