Is Cremation Less Expensive Than Burial?

A common question is "What is the difference in cost between burial and cremation?" There is a common misconception that cremation always costs less.  The reality is that cremation services can be less, and often are, but the overall cost difference depends on your selections.

It is important to realize that cremation and burial are terms to describe a disposition,  not types of services.

The difference in cost between these two dispositions are dependent upon other selections.  It is easiest to describe these differences based on the three categories of charges.

Professional Services: 

The services listed in a funeral homes General Price List (GPL), are available to those selecting either burial or cremation.  (Some of the services are also available to those selecting donation - but more on that another time.)  With either form of disposition, you can select embalming, a funeral service and/or visitation.  And the actual cremation process or burial can take place prior to any public event or after a public event - which may affect the other required services. 

For example, some families do not want to have a time for public viewing.  In those cases, the burial or cremation could take place prior to any visitation or service time.  Other families find it important that the body is present at the visitation or funeral even if there is not going to be any public viewing.  In those cases, the casket remains closed and the burial or cremation takes place after the public events.

Yet many families still feel it is important that others have the opportunity to view the deceased.  This can be done in private or at a public event such as visitation or a funeral service.  At the conclusion of the event, the deceased is transported to either the cemetery for burial or to the crematory for cremation.  Because the professional services available for either disposition are the same, there is typically little cost difference solely dependent upon the disposition.  


The merchandise required depends on the services you select.  For burial, most families will select a casket, and almost all cemeteries require an outer burial container at the cemetery.  For those choosing cremation, the same caskets are available, but when there is no public viewing, a less expensive container is often selected to encase the body when being transported to the crematory.  Additionally, a full size outer burial container is not typically needed, although an urn or urn vault may be selected.  In general, those choosing burial will spend more on a casket and outer burial container than those who select cremation will spend on a casket, urn and urn vault.  

Cash Advances: 

The largest difference in cash advances is dependent upon the cemetery charges and your choice for the final placement of cremated remains if choosing cremation.  When cremated remains are not going to be interred at a cemetery, the purchase of a grave is not needed and so there is also no charge for the opening and closing of the grave. 

If the cremated remains are going to be buried, then the cost difference is dependent upon the cemeteries charge to open and close the grave for a complete burial verses to open and close the grave for burial of cremated remains.  At some cemeteries this can mean a thousand dollars or more, for others it is less significant. 

The two charges that are typically incurred for cremation and not for burial are the charges by the crematory and required local permits ($280 for these in Kent County in 2017).

Most other cash advance items are the same regardless of the disposition:  obituary charge, honorariums, church fee's and certified death certificates. 

Taking all of this into account, the primary cost difference between burial and cremation is NOT the funeral home's charges as the same options are available for either disposition.  Instead, the cost difference is a result of the cemetery charges, the casket and the burial vault.  

If you have questions, please contact us.