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How cost plays a role in cremation decisions

While cremation rates are hitting an all-time high, there are many factors at play for choosing cremation: the shift away from religious ceremony, the flexibility in timeline for families to plan funerals and decide on interment, the perceived ease of cremation over embalming and traditional burial and ultimately, the lower cost in cremation compared to traditional burial.

We get asked often, particularly by smaller communities, how cremation can possibly be less expensive than traditional burial when many cemeteries sell plots at significantly reduced prices, some just $100-$200. Columbarium niches, which would be the above-ground equivalent of a plot, can run in the thousands of dollars, depending on the area.

InMemory is a Canadian organization that has researched the cost of traditional funerals vs cremation funerals based on funeral home pricing across Western Canada and Ontario. Last updated in 2019, it doesn’t take into consideration any fluctuations due to COVID-19 and does illustrate a clear difference between the two.

Often, when people think of inground burial, they think only of the cost of the plot, which InMemory found to cost an average of $2,800 (there is a very large range on this scale from just a few hundred dollars to several thousands of dollars, depending on the region). There are also opening and closing fees, casket costs (again, this can vary greatly as well), a traditional service which includes the embalming, visitation and funeral, the headstone (also varies greatly in cost), the clergy and flowers. InMemory found an average traditional funeral in Western Canada and Ontario costs $12,952.

If we take a similar funeral with cremation, the numbers are surprising. While they don’t name columbarium niches specifically, the average cemetery plot for cremation is listed as $1,100. The opening and closing fees are less, urn costs are considerably less expensive than caskets, generally there is no embalming or visitation, though there are exceptions, headstone or niche lettering, clergy for the service and flowers; a total averaging just $8,188, almost $5,000 less than a traditional funeral and burial.

If families choose direct cremation, with their own celebration of life and no services provided by a funeral home, it’s even a fraction of the amount above, averaging $5,552 with a burial in the cemetery.

Of course, there are extremes on either end of the spectrum but on average, the lower cost of cremation as opposed to traditional burial can definitely be a deciding factor for many families.

Statistics in this article can be found at inmemory.ca/resources/funeral-costs

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