The funeral industry is in a transition period as Americans reexamine their disposition options. For a number of reasons, more Americans are opting for cremation than in years past. One of the top reasons cremation is chosen is because it can be much more cost effective compared to burial when all of the expenses are factored in.
But will that still be the case as cremation becomes more popular? New data is revealing how quickly the cremation rate is rising and the effect it could have on funeral service prices. Keep reading to dive deeper into the data as well as insights into what’s happening with the cost of cremation.
The Latest Cremation Rates and How They Compare to the Past
With each year the cremation rate is ticking upward and the burial rate declines. And it’s happening at a faster pace than originally projected by experts in the funeral industry.
Based on the current figures, in 2023 the cremation rate is expected to be around 60%. If the trends continue, by 2035 the cremation rate will likely be close to 80%. This is a stark change from just a decade ago when the cremation rate was just 45%. That’s a growth rate of 30%, which is right in line with the growth projects for the next 12 years.
Of course, the rates are regional. Right now the cremation rates vary significantly from one state to the next. And the cremation rate is growing quicker in some states compared to others, which suggests there is a ceiling for cremation services that some states are close to hitting. Experts expect that in most areas the cremation rate will cap out at around 80%. Nevada is the primary example of this. It’s the state with the highest cremation rate, however, it’s had some of the slowest growth in recent years. Now that Nevada’s cremation rate is close to 82% it isn’t expected to get much higher. The current estimate is that in 2025 the cremation rate will be 84%.
Rates for Different Types of Cremation and Cost
The overall cremation rate is the thousand foot view of what’s going on. Because there are different types of cremation, it’s important to break the rates down to get a better idea of what people are currently paying for the services and where the prices could go.
Today there are three types of cremation:
- Traditional flame cremation with funeral services
- Flame direct cremation without funeral services
- Water cremation
So, which type of cremation do people choose most often? In 2022 the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) estimated that 41% of cremations were direct cremations. Another 35% chose to have a direct cremation with a memorial afterward. Only 24% of people chose to have a traditional cremation with funeral services prior to the cremation occuring.
Water cremation, also known as aquamation or alkaline hydrolysis, is the newest type of cremation that isn’t readily available in every state. Currently, 28 states have regulated aquamation and more are in the process of doing so. Understandably, water cremation has the lowest rates at the moment, but it’s expected to increase as more states allow the practice and it becomes more mainstream.
Will More Cremations Mean Higher or Lower Prices in the Future?
Now, what could all this mean for the price of cremation services? Like most other services, the cost largely comes down to supply and demand. The more demand there is the higher prices will be if the supply is low. However, if the supply increases, in this case the number of funeral homes offering cremation services, and it meets or even exceeds demand then the prices could remain unchanged or even go down.
But again, to get a more accurate assessment of the outlook it’s important to look at each type of cremation individually.
The Future of Water Cremation Prices
Not surprisingly, today water cremation is more expensive than conventional flame-based cremation with or without funeral services included. The technology is a lot newer, which often equates to higher prices in any industry.
Currently, the cost of water cremation without funeral services is typically between $2,000-$3,000. So it’s not unreasonable to think that prices for water cremation could actually remain the same or even get a little more affordable in the coming years. This is especially true if more funeral homes start offering the service, increasing the supply and giving consumers more options. The competition could cause funeral homes to offer more competitive prices.
The Future of Traditional Cremation Prices
Water cremation can still be much less expensive than traditional cremation that includes funeral home services. The NFDA found that in 2021 the median cost for traditional cremation including viewing and funeral services was $6,970. Given the cost, it actually isn’t surprising that traditional cremation with funeral services isn’t trending upward as fast as the other types of cremation.
It’s also likely that the cost of traditional cremation will increase simply because of the funeral services. Funeral home services aren’t getting any cheaper as businesses try to maintain their profit margins, and that’s what drives the prices up much higher than direct cremation.
The Future of Direct Cremation Prices
Direct cremation has become more common because it’s the least expensive type of disposition. Typically, direct cremation will cost between $1,000 and $2,500, with the average cost being $2,300. If the family decides to have a memorial after the cremation the total cost goes up to around $3,300.
As the demand for direct cremation increases, there could be a slight increase in the price given that there are fewer funeral homes today than in years past, and only about 40% of them have a crematory. This could become more of a factor if large corporations continue acquiring smaller funeral homes, which has been the ongoing trend in the last decade.
But there are a few other factors that could offset this. One being the use of technology that allows consumers to arrange a direct cremation online. This is a cost savings for the funeral home that reduces the cost of conducting direct cremations.
The one certainty is there’s going to be growing demand for cremation in the coming years. This could help to drive down the costs, but the number of funeral homes offering cremation services could play a significant role in whether the prices go up or down in some areas.
In terms of environmental cost, cremation can go either way. Green funeral services like water cremation and our proprietary clean flame cremation are much less costly than traditional cremation services that often include embalming. We keep the cost of eco-friendly cremation low by leveraging technology and streamlining our services. If you’d like to know more, give our funeral home a call, text or email any hour of the day.