Affordable Cremation – a Guide on Direct Cremation

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Affordable Cremation Urn in Black CherryThis is a guide on the most affordable cremation option – direct cremation.  I write this as a wood sculptor making high quality turned wooden urns.  Which is an adaptation of my sculpture, or urn artistry as I like to call it.  Why do I write this?  
I have written several articles on cremation and I want the public to be as educated with the least amount of effort.  Understandably, the vast majority of people know little about cremation until forced to face it.  So I hope this article serves as an easy and good source of information to help mollify current circumstances.

What is Direct or Affordable Cremation?

affordable cremation casketsThe least expensive, most affordable, or cheapest option for cremation, that is direct cremation.  There are no traditional services offered by the funeral home or crematory.  Meaning no viewings, formal funeral services, etc.   The deceased is collected from the place of death and held at the crematory facility.  In some states there may be a waiting period before cremation can be performed.  Often the appropriate paperwork is completed in that time period.  Once the cremation is conducted the remains are returned to the family.

How do you Coordinate a Direct Cremation rather than a Traditional?

There are several crematories in your area, and it’s a matter of who handles the correspondence.  The logistics, i.e. transportation of the body, completing the paperwork (death certificate/permits), etc. are handled by the crematory staff.  So, the options are contacting the crematory directly or working through a funeral home service to make the arrangements. 
Funeral homes will handle these same tasks if you choose to do a direct cremation through them.  Some funeral homes may have a crematorium on site.  Others have to contract with a third party facility.  In either case both the crematory and the funeral home will charge a fee for transport and paperwork.  A crematorium however will often charge less than a funeral home.  A funeral home may charge a basic service fee, or one that is more expensive than a crematorium .

Are there Options for an affordable cremation service?

cremation viewing roomThis is the distinction between a direct cremation and a traditional one.  By definition there is no service before the cremation process in a direct cremation.  Thus, any service that would take place is a memorial service following the cremation of the deceased.  Alternatively, there are several crematories that are set up for private viewings of the cremation, and charge accordingly.  This may no longer fall in the category of direct cremation. 

Direct Cremation Costs how much?

Prices are offered essentially at an affordable base rate and direct cremation costs range from $500 – $1800 depending on region. It is the least expensive option as several of the more costly purchases and services are avoided.  Those include a casket purchase, service for preparing the body, any funeral services, and any additional transportation of the body.  Some funeral homes, if contracted, also have more affordable rate structures for direct cremation.  Those lower basic services are generally a result of lower overhead and labor costs.

Price quotes for direct cremation include

  • Collection of deceased – possible additional fee for residential collection
  • Hold the deceased for the waiting period – a base rate for certain time period and additional costs for additional days.
  • Cremation container – vessel used to hold the body during the cremation process
  • Services required to complete required paperwork
  • Cremation process
  • Temporary vessel or cremation urn to return to the family – basic

Additional fees from a direct cremation…

  • Collection from a residential address vs hospital, morgue, nursing home, etc.
  • Barometric charges if the deceased is overweight
  • Cremation casket selection – an upgrade of the cremation container
  • Cremation urn selection
  • Private family viewing during or prior to cremation
  • Columbarium niche – optional
  • Burial plot – optional

What isn’t offered…

  • No cost for memorial service
  • Expensive casket is not required
  • No viewing – generally
  • Embalming or other prep not necessary
  • No cost for plot, grave digging, or headstone unless burial is planned

 the most affordable cremation option… Free Cremation

Free cremation is typically the result of donating a body to scientific research.  In this arrangement, the cremation charge is waived and ashes returned to family.  This however requires consent of the living person and is not possible after said person has passed.
affordable cremation - Mayo Clinic body donationEach state has appropriate paperwork so it can vary from state to state.  Once agreeing to donate your body to research, it can be waived at any time prior to death.  Alternatively, the bodies must meet certain standards for research as well.  Thus, the research institution has the right to refuse a body they deem unacceptable.  Unviable candidates are usually bodies which suffered some infectious disease or experienced significant trauma.
Its best to do a search for body donation state by state, if interested.  Usually its hospitals (e.g. the Mayo Clinic) or institutions of higher learning that have these programs.

It helps to shop…

Compare prices – call around for lowest basic service fees and compare rates overall.  Those basic rates may vary from one provider to another.  Additionally, rates also vary by local market.  A GPL – general price list – must contain.
  • The consumer’s right to select only the goods and services desired
  • Embalming
  • Alternative containers for direct cremation
  • The basic services fee
  • The Casket Price List
  • The Outer Burial Container Price List
So you can pick an choose which services you want and determine what the base rates are by company.  In this case not all apply to direct cremation.
FTC allows funeral homes to keep rates hidden until someone asks them.  Likewise, funeral homes only have to reveal the itemized price list at a face to face meeting.  Except for certain states, information given over the phone, mail, or email only requires limited details.  Prices for same services can, and do, vary region to region by as much as 2x or 3x.  Most don’t disclose prices on their websites.
Funeral homes and crematories have been consolidating into large corporations.  Thus, there are fewer independent providers so it can make price transparency more difficult.  Some theorize funeral homes don’t consider direct cremation essential to their business.  Therefor, they mark up direct cremation rates, which accounts for the extreme price ranges.

What are your rights relative to Direct Cremation?

The FTC has guidelines which all funeral providers must abide by.  In my case, I am not technically a funeral provider.  While I sell “funeral products” directly to the public, I do not offer funeral services.  If found in violation of these rules, hefty penalties may be assessed.  As much as around $42,000 per infraction.
affordable cardboard cremation casketConcerning direct cremation, there is no requirement to purchase a casket.  The funeral home and/or the crematorium must furnish a vessel for that purpose.  Also, if an urn is provided to the funeral home or crematory they must return the cremated remains in that vessel.  Otherwise the providers basic box or vessel is used to returned the cremains.