What is the least expensive way to be cremated?

This is a question often asked when a family needs to find the most inexpensive disposition option.

In this article, we will guide you on how to find the cheapest cremation option you can select, help direct you to a local low-cost cremation provider, and provide tips on other options to help you save money arranging a dignified, but affordable funeral for a loved one.

So, what is the cheapest cremation option?

The least expensive cremation is a direct cremation.  This is the funeral industry term for a basic, economical cremation service.  There is no funeral ceremony provided by the funeral home or crematory.  The deceased is collected from the place of death, and the legal requirements met for obtaining the death certificate and cremation permit.  The deceased is then cremated in a simple cremation container and the cremation ashes are returned to the family in a temporary urn.

It enables the immediate disposition of a loved one in a dignified, but simple and affordable manner.

A direct cremation can be arranged in most areas for around $600 – $800.  Although, there are some areas where it is a little more expensive.

Why is direct cremation so cheap?

Direct cremation is a minimal service package from a funeral home.  This is why they can offer it at such a low price.  The funeral director will arrange the collection of the deceased, ensure all the legal documentation is completed, and schedule the cremation.

You can arrange everything over the phone or online, reducing funeral staff hours spent on family consultation.  More funeral homes are even offering low-cost direct cremation based on an online arrangement where the next of kin must submit all the forms online to further save staff time.

But, being that we are all more familiar with online processes and purchases, this should be seen as just another way families can benefit from an online arrangement service.

Conducting the cremation with a basic cardboard cremation container reduces costs.  These containers can be purchased at cost for around $20.00, and are effective for the purpose of a simple, immediate cremation with no viewing.

Similarly, the return of the cremation ashes in a temporary urn (basically a small cardboard or plastic box with a plastic bag inside containing the remains) helps keep the overall service cost down.

And, if you so choose, you can transfer the remains to a cremation urn at a later date.  Or, with more families opting for ash scattering memorials…why pay for an urn anyway?

Are there hidden costs to a low-cost direct cremation service?

There can be additional costs that are NOT included in a basic direct cremation service package. 

The most typical additional costs that you should be aware of are:

  • If the deceased passed in a residence.  This may require additional staff for the collection.
  • If the deceased weighs over 250-300 pounds.
  • If the deceased has a pace-maker that needs to be removed prior to cremation.

Typical additional charges for the above range from $50 for a pace-maker removal, $150 for a barometric surcharge, and $100 – $200 for a residential collection.

Other ‘hidden’ costs to consider are:

  • Whether any death certificates are included in the package.  Some funeral service providers include at least one death certificate, but if you require additional copies, these will be at an additional cost.
  • Some funeral homes advertise a direct cremation price without including the cremation container.  Be sure to check this.
  • Charges for the cremation permit. The local county will issue a permit to cremate. The majority of counties now charge a fee for this permit.  These fees can vary, and some providers will include the county permit (especially if it is a small fee), but others will add this to the direct cremation service package price.

Death certificate fees differ by state.  Check out our State Funeral Planning Guides for prices in your state.

Similarly, permit fees vary by county.  Typically, cremation permit fees range from $15 – $60, apart from Wisconsin that has some of the highest cremation permit fees in the country.

How do I find the best local low-cost direct cremation?

Depending on your location, you may have several low-cost cremation service providers.  Certainly, if you live in a metro area, you are likely to be a bit overwhelmed with the selection of funeral homes and cremation service providers.

I have found that in some areas there can be several cremation companies vying for advertising on Google.  And, although they may mention “cremation” and “affordable”, it can turn out that they are not the most affordable.

You should consider checking out the DFS Memorials network of low-cost direct cremation providers to give you an idea of the cost of a cheap direct cremation near you.

All providers are selected as they offer a best value direct cremation package to their local area.  And their direct cremation price is disclosed clearly on the DFS Memorials website.  Simply select your state and city to find the price and provider near you.

This can save you unnecessary time and phone calls to funeral homes to check and compare cremation prices.  DFS Memorials invested the time to find the best cremation prices.

Tips for how to save money making funeral cremation arrangements.

Here we will cover a few ideas for how to ensure you keep your funeral expenses to a minimum. 

Claim SS lump-sum death benefit:

Firstly, let’s start by mentioning the Social Security lump-sum death benefit payment.  This is a payment of $255 (for those that qualify) and the funeral director will usually help you to claim it.  As such, this is potentially $255 towards the direct cremation cost, which with a low-cost cremation could bring your final bill in at around $500.

Consider an Anatomical Gift – Donation to Science:

If you are really struggling with the cost of a cremation, consider if whole body donation is a possibility.  Some funeral homes actually work with anatomical donation organizations to help facilitate body donation for families.  This can significantly reduce your funeral bill.  A “free cremation” is usually offered as part of the donation process.  Although, you may incur some costs for the death certificate and transportation.

Handle the arrangements yourself – DIY Funeral:

In all but 10 states it is perfectly legal for a family to take care of the deceased without a funeral director. This would mean you could transport the deceased directly to the crematory for cremation, provide your own suitable cremation container, file for the death certificate, and cremation permit with your local country registrar.  You would basically eliminate the funeral home’s ‘professional service charge’.  You would still incur fees for obtaining permits and would need to pay the trade price at the crematory for a direct cremation.  But, you would probably save $250 – $300.

DO NOTE: Check here to read more about the laws for Home Funeral Care & which states do not allow it.

Would Crowdfunding help? – GoFundMe:

As a cheap direct cremation is likely to cost you under $900, you may be able to enlist friends and acquaintances of the deceased to help you meet this cost.  It is not like asking for thousands of dollars to hold an expensive funeral.  And, most people would want to help contribute to help lay someone to rest.

Even, a local community fund-raising event may help raise enough contributions to cover basic cremation costs.  And, of course, there are church funds and charity funds on a local level that when you are seeking small donations, are more likely to be able to contribute.

Hold your own memorial service

Arranging an inexpensive direct cremation can save you the expensive cost of a funeral.  And, there is no reason why you cannot conduct your own memorial service once you have the cremated remains.  You can host a memorial service at your local place of worship, at home, at a community venue, or outdoors.

There are lots of ideas for how to create your own memorial service, and even make your own memorial memorabilia.

So, the takeaway is that a simple direct cremation service is the least expensive way to be cremated.  You should expect to be able to arrange this for under $1,000 if you ensure you find a low-cost cremation provider.  Consider our tips for how you can host your own memorial, maybe even arrange the cremation directly yourself with a crematory, and ensure you can claim any social security death benefits the deceased may have been entitled to.  Bearing in mind that if the deceased was a veteran or on Medicaid there may be further discounts or contributions to the overall cremation cost.

Written by

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 15 years.