A direct cremation service is one of many options for funeral arrangements. Everyone has different preferences for how they want loved ones to handle their passing.
Some may prefer a traditional funeral service or a memorial service. In contrast, others simply want the most affordable option to minimize the financial burden on a loved one or other beneficiaries.
Along with direct cremation, you may consider cremation with a memorial, funeral service, or burial. Some people also choose to donate their bodies to science with no cremation or burial.
If you are preparing your final expenses, you may want to learn more about direct cremation services and how they compare to other end-of-life arrangements. The following article explains the process, costs, and advantages of choosing a direct cremation service.
What is Cremation?
Cremation is a form of final body disposition, which refers to how human remains are handled after someone passes. Body disposition methods include burial, interment, and donation, along with cremation.
With cremation, the body is incinerated in an industrial furnace. The furnace’s heat reduces the body to gasses, ashes, and mineral fragments. These remains are referred to as “cremains.”
Cremated remains are often placed in a temporary vessel or an urn and handed over to the family. People may keep the urn or arrange to have the cremains buried in a cemetery.
Cremation has gradually replaced traditional burials as the preferred choice for final body disposition. The number of cremations surpassed casketed burials in 2015 and has increased each year since. For many people, the cost is the main reason for choosing cremation.
According to the latest National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) 2021 Cremation and Burial Report Highlights, the number of cremations is expected to rise from 1.56 million in 2019 to 2.3 million by 2030, and to 2.99 million by 2040.
However, there are also different types of cremation services with varying costs.
Types of Cremation Services
Funeral homes try to cater to the needs of as many people as they can, which means offering a variety of funeral and cremation options to suit different needs. Common types of cremation services include:
- Standard cremation with a funeral service with viewing and cremation
- Cremation followed by a memorial service
- Direct cremation services
- Body donation followed by cremation
Cremation with a funeral service may also include a viewing (visitation) at the funeral home. The body is embalmed and placed in a casket rental lined with a cremation container with this option. After the viewing, a standard funeral service is held. The body is then cremated. In 2020, 27% of cremation performed were a casketed adult funeral with viewing and cremation.
Cremation with a memorial service does not typically include a viewing. Instead, the body is cremated without a rental casket. This option allows the family to plan the memorial service separately from the cremation, which may be beneficial for scheduling the service. In 2020, 35% of cremations performed were a cremation with memorial service.
Direct cremation service does not include a viewing, funeral service, or memorial service. Instead, the funeral home simply handles the cremation and returns the cremains to the family. In 2020, 38% of cremations performed were direct cremation.
Body donation followed by cremation involves donating the body to a medical program. The medical program then cremates the body and returns the cremains.
What is a Direct Cremation Service?
Cremations can include some of the same traditional services common in a burial. This may include embalming and viewing the body, where friends and family gather at the funeral home to pay their last respects to the deceased.
However, direct cremation does not include additional services. Therefore, it is considered a type of simple cremation.
So, why is it called direct cremation?
It is called a direct cremation because the body is directly cremated instead of being prepared for a funeral service. As a result, there is generally no embalming or viewing of the body. Instead, the body is taken to the crematory so that the cremation process can be performed.
Basic Features of a Direct Cremation
Direct cremation is one of the more straightforward arrangements for final body disposition. Here are some of the main features that you can expect from this type of service:
- No requirement to purchase or rent a casket
- The funeral home provides a cremation container
- You have the option to purchase an urn
- The cremains must be returned to the family
Many of these features are required under federal laws. For example, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) established the Funeral Rule to help consumers make informed decisions related to cremation and funeral services.
Under the Funeral Rule, a cremation provider must provide upfront pricing. Each item or service price must be clearly presented to the public.
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Understanding the Direct Cremation Process
While each funeral home has different practices, direct cremation services typically include the following steps:
- The body of the deceased is transferred to the crematorium
- The death certificate is filed
- The body is prepared for cremation
- The container with the body is placed in the cremation chamber
- The container and body are incinerated and reduced to ash
- The ashes are processed and transferred to a storage vessel
- The family obtains the cremains
After a person dies in a hospital or a private clinic, family members may arrange for a funeral home to receive the body. In most states, the funeral director handles the transfer of the body from the hospital or clinic to the funeral home. The funeral director may also file the death certificate.
The crematory staff then prepares the body for cremation. With direct cremation, the body is not embalmed. However, all jewelry and medical devices are removed. The body is placed in a cremation container typically made of wood or other combustible materials.
The container and body are inserted into the cremation chamber and incinerated. The ashes are then processed or pulverized. The funeral home or crematory transfers the ashes to a storage vessel, such as a temporary container or an urn. The family then takes possession of the cremains.
What Happens to the Cremains After Direct Cremation?
The funeral home or crematory returns the cremains to the family after the cremation process. Most funeral homes sell a variety of urns for storing the cremains.
If you do not choose an urn, the cremains are placed in a basic container similar to a cardboard box or an unfinished wood box provided by the funeral home.
There are several options for the cremains, including:
- Storing the cremains in an urn
- Burying the cremains in a cemetery plot
- Spreading the ashes in a special place
- Placing the cremains in a columbarium
Urns are typically made from ceramic, porcelain, or wood. They come in a variety of shapes and designs. Some urns are designed to hold the cremains without a liner, but most urns require the cremains to be placed in a thick plastic bag.
Family members may choose to keep the urn or transfer the cremated remains to an alternative container of their choice. Many people prefer to display the urn in a prominent spot in their houses, such as on a shelf or the mantle above a fireplace.
Another option is to store the urn in a columbarium, also referred to as a “niche.” A columbarium is a wall-like structure with individual compartments for holding urns. A columbarium may be found at a local cemetery, a church, or other religious sites.
You may also choose to have the cremains buried in a cemetery plot, such as a local or national cemetery. Some cemeteries include plots intended specifically for cremains also referred to as cremation with in-ground burial.
The plots are typically positioned closer together compared to standard burial plots. Instead of a casket, the cremains are placed in a thick metal or wood box. The plot may include a plaque or a headstone.
Instead of saving or burying the cremains, you may choose to scatter the cremains in a place that holds special meaning to the deceased. For example, family members may scatter the ashes over a beach, at sea, or on private property.
Some states do not have laws prohibiting you from scattering ashes, while others restrict you from disposing of aches in public spaces. Always review the laws in your state before making a final decision.
It is also important to remember that choosing to bring home an urn with the cremains does not keep you from later choosing another option. For example, the family members may accept the urn and store it at home for a period before choosing to have it buried in a cemetery plot or columbarium or scattering the ashes.
Do You Have a Wake for Cremation?
A wake traditionally includes the viewing of the deceased in a casket. Loved ones receive one last time to view the deceased before burial. While a wake is typically followed by a traditional funeral service with a burial, family members can also arrange a wake or a viewing before cremation.
Choosing to hold a wake for cremation includes more costs compared to direct cremation. Instead of directly cremating the body, the funeral home embalms the deceased and prepares the body for viewing in a casket.
Most funeral homes use a rental casket for cremations, including visitation services, a wake, or traditional funeral services. The rental casket resembles a normal hardwood casket. However, the body is placed in a cremation container that fits inside the casket.
After the wake, the cremation container and body are removed and cremated. The outer hardwood shell is then reused. The family may arrange to pick up the cremains or have the cremains buried (internment).
Direct Cremation vs Normal Cremation
Direct cremation and normal cremation involve many of the same steps. However, direct cremation skips the viewing of the body or memorial services. Instead of preparing the body for viewing for a funeral service, the body is directly cremated.
Normal cremation may include the following:
- Body preparation
- Casket rental
- Funeral service
- Transfer fees
- Basic printed memorial package
Due to the additional steps and services, normal cremation typically costs much more compared to direct cremation. Normal cremation with funeral service costs an average of $6,971.
The average cost of cremation with or without funeral services is between $800 and $4,000. However, the prices can rise as high as $10,000 in some states.
While prices vary drastically from state to state, direct cremation remains one of the most affordable options for planning final expenses. If you are concerned about the financial burden on your family, you may prefer the lower costs provided by direct cremation.
National Median Cost of an Adult Funeral with Viewing and Cremation - 2021 NFDA Study
|Non-declinable basic services fee||$2,300|
|Removal/transfer of remains to funeral home||$350|
|Other preparation of the body||$275|
|Use of facilities/staff for viewing||$450|
|Use of facilities/staff for funeral ceremony||$515|
|Printed materials (basic memorial package)||$183|
|Cremation fee (if firm uses a third-party)||$368|
|Median Cost of a Funeral with Viewing and Cremation||$6,970|
The above cremation cost table utilizes the 2021 NFDA General Price List Study data dated November 4, 2021. The original article can be viewed by clicking here.
Direct Cremation Costs
Direct cremation is one of the most affordable options when planning final arrangements. Choosing direct cremation requires fewer additional services. You do not need to pay for a casket, as the body is not prepared for a visitation session at a funeral home.
Direct cremation often includes the following:
- Death certificate filing fees
- Essential services of funeral home and staff
- Body transport fees
- An urn or a temporary container
- The act of cremation, including crematory fee, container, temporary urn, and cremation permit
You may need to pay fees for multiple death certificates if required and the transfer of the body. Each state has different fees. You may pay between $20 and $34. However, the most significant portion of the cost is the cremation itself.
Funeral homes and crematories may charge between $800 and $1,200 for the cremation process, not including the urn and additional fees. The average cost of an urn is between $75 and $350.
If cost is a significant factor, you may want to consider obtaining a whole life insurance policy. Many insurance companies market this type of life insurance as final expense insurance or burial insurance. As a result, you can obtain enough coverage to completely cover the costs of direct cremation or any other funeral arrangements at a relatively affordable cost.
According to the NFDA General Price List, the average cost of a direct cremation in the United States is $2,495
- Direct cremation (container provided by family): $2,395
- Direct cremation (container provided by funeral home): $2,495
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What is the Cheapest Cremation?
Donating a body to science is the cheapest cremation option. In most cases, body donation comes with no costs.
The company that handles the donation process typically covers all related costs, including filing the death certificate and transferring the body to a medical school. However, some medical programs only cover the cost of cremation and require the family to pay for the transfer of the body and death certificate.
After the use of a donated body in a medical program, the body is cremated, and the cremains are returned to the family.
How Much Does Cremation Cost Without Services?
According to the latest statistics, the national average cost of cremation without services is about $1,650. However, the cost of direct cremation varies significantly across the country.
Some funeral homes may charge as little as a few hundred dollars for a direct cremation while others can charge over $2,000. Potential factors that influence the cost of direct cremation include:
- The local cost of energy to fuel the cremation chamber
- The percentage of deaths that result in cremation instead of burial
- The number of funeral homes offering cremation services
As with most services, the prices vary based on supply and demand. In areas with a wide selection of funeral homes that offer cremation services, the cost is likely to be lower. The market forces funeral homes to offer competitive prices.
States with high energy costs may also have higher cremation costs. Hawaii, Massachusetts, and California are some of the states with the highest energy costs. Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Idaho have some of the lowest energy costs, which can result in lower cremation fees.
How to Choose a Cremation Service
Here are a few of the details to consider when choosing a cremation service:
- Available services
- Religious or spiritual beliefs
As mentioned, the cost of cremation can vary radically from one state or funeral home to the next. If you are worried about the cost of cremation, you should take the time to compare options from multiple funeral homes. Funeral homes must disclose their prices, which gives you the freedom to compare prices from several locations.
The type of cremation service you choose may also depend on the timeframe and convenience of the services. For example, if you wish to have the body cremated quickly, a direct cremation may suit your preferences.
Yet, you may also want to include other services, such as a visitation at the funeral home, where the body is presented in a casket. In this case, you would opt for a normal cremation and work with a funeral home to arrange the visitation or other services.
Your religious or spiritual beliefs may also factor into your decision. Certain religions prohibit cremation. Visitations or wakes are also customary for certain religions.
How to Find Funeral Homes That Do Direct Cremation
The easiest way to find funeral homes that offer direct cremation is to perform a basic web search. For example, search for “direct cremation near me” and review the options that appear in the search results. In addition, many funeral homes list their available services on their websites and prices for their services.
Try to compare prices from several different funeral homes before contacting them to receive a quote. This will give you a better idea of the average price in your area.
How to Arrange a Direct Cremation
A direct cremation requires arrangements with a qualified funeral home or crematory. Many families prefer to work with a funeral home instead of a crematory, as funeral directors are experienced at helping the grieving navigate the cremation process.
For example, a funeral director can assist with obtaining the death certificate and transferring the body to the funeral home. If you work with a crematory, you may need to obtain the necessary information and file the death certificate yourself.
After filing the death certificate, you or the funeral director arrange to have the body transferred. Funeral homes sometimes include the transfer fee in their direct cremation services.
As part of the cremation arrangements, you need to sign a cremation authorization form. The form gives the funeral home or crematory authorization to cremate. Additional considerations include the selection of a casket, urn, and additional services, such as a visitation where the body is displayed in a casket or a memorial service without the body present.
A direct cremation service is a type of low-cost cremation where the deceased is cremated immediately. Unlike normal cremation, no additional services are included. The body is transferred from a hospital or clinic and directly cremated.
Direct cremation does not include funeral services, visitations, memorials, or the selection of a casket. If your loved ones wish to have a final moment to say goodbye, they may prefer a normal cremation.
In the end, direct cremation is the least expensive choice other than donating the body to science. However, it can still cost over $1,000 in most states. Obtaining a cremation insurance policy can help you cover these costs and avoid placing an additional financial burden on your family.