Cremation Costs Lowest on the West Coast
The cost of cremation on the West Coast is significantly lower than other areas of the country, according to data from the National Funeral Directors Association. So if you are shopping for affordable cremation in Portland, Seattle or Los Angeles, you will face lower costs than families in Minneapolis, Fargo or Bismarck.
According to the NFDA, lowest cremation costs are in the Pacific Region (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington), while the highest prices are in the West North Central area (Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska).
What is the average price for direct cremation?
While families on the West Coast on average pay about $1,665 for direct cremation, those in the middle states can face a median cremation cost of $2,875. So a Los Angeles cremation costs about $1,200 less (on average) than a Des Moines one.
The states with the second lowest prices are also in the West in the Mountain zone (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) where families pay almost $1,900 on average.
The states with the second highest direct cremation costs are in the Middle Atlantic region (New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania).
Those higher-priced states boost the median price tag up to a total of $2,495 for the cost of direct cremation in the U.S. (Solace Cremation’s cost is a flat $895).
Comparing cremation cost to traditional burial
Of course direct cremation is much more affordable than traditional burial. According to the NFDA, the 2019 national median cost of a funeral (with viewing and burial) was $7,640. If a vault is included, the median cost is $9,135 (the cost does not include cemetery, monument or marker costs or additional cash-advance charges, such as for flowers or an obituary, the NFDA notes).
Oversaturated markets are more costly
Consumer advocates say that some areas are oversaturated with traditional funeral homes, which keeps the prices high.
Josh Slocum of the Funeral Consumer Alliance says in states like Kansas and Nebraska, there are three times as many funeral homes than really needed, and in Iowa, four times as many. This might seem antithetical to the traditional supply and demand theories you may have learned in college.
But because these businesses don’t compete like restaurants or retail stores, having more funeral homes does not equal lower prices because of competition.
Consumers pay more despite more competition
Slocum explains, “It is counter-intuitive, but easy to see it’s true when you remember that there’s a natural limit to the amount of business any funeral home can conduct, the number of deaths in the population. So unlike airline tickets or restaurant meals, each of us can only be a customer once at a funeral home.”
Slocum says consumers end up paying higher markups for direct cremation or other funeral services willingly or because they don’t know what their options are. Slocum says it is a situation that invites pricing abuse.
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood