The Costs (Hidden and Otherwise) of Cremation, Burial & Spreading

Most people know what cars generally cost. Same goes for houses in their neighborhood. But it should come as no surprise that when it comes to death and memorial options, most people have very little idea what anything costs.

This can be for a number of reasons:

1. It’s not something you would casually browse on the internet
2. People tend not to bring it up in casual conversation
3. It’s a topic that’s usually avoided until necessary 

In any case, at some point in your life there’s a good chance you will be either helping to plan the funeral and memorial for a friend, family member or yourself.

We thought it would be helpful if we broke down the cost of the most common offerings to help you wherever you are in the planning process.

The Cost of Cremation: $2,000 - $4,000 (per person)

Horizontal Urns

If you’re on this site, you’re most likely thinking about cremation like the majority of people in the US. If you do a quick Google search you’ll most likely see an advertisement or offering around $700. Keep in mind though that this is not the all-in cost of cremation.

The all-in cost of cremation is comprised of a number of services in addition to the actual cremation of the body. These services include:

  • Transportation of the body to the funeral home / crematorium
  • Certified copies of death certificate
  • Obtaining certificate releasing the body for cremation by coroner or medical examiner
  • Removal of any medical devices
  • Time and services of funeral home staff for handling (if you choose a funeral home)
  • Storage if you would like to view body before cremation
  • Cremation witnessing fee (if you would like to view the cremation)
  • Urn for storage afterwards
  • Shipping of ashes if you can’t pick them up in person

Learn About Your Memorial Options

Finish reading this article to learn 3 other key factors to consider when planning your memorial.

There are additional costs for the funeral itself that can include embalming, casket rental, makeup, funeral home staff, escort for funeral motorcade, music, flowers, and more that we can deal with in a different post.

If you’re interested in donating your body to science, the cremation will be paid and your family will receive the ashes afterwards, but keep in mind that it can take up to a year for them to receive the ashes. If this is something you’re interested in I highly suggest looking into programs like Stanford’s Willed Body Donation Program.

In any case, please budget $2,000 to $4,000 for cremation when you’re planning out your memorial.

EDIT: Our friends at the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Monterey Bay informed us that with a membership to the FCA, cremations are usually between $900 and $1,300. If you're interested in learning more please email the FCA of Monterey Bay at (Thanks Sylvia!)

Traditional Cemetery Options for Ashes: $2,000 to $25,000 (per person)


Niches with flowers in a cemetery Niches with flowers in a cemetery


Choices for burying or interring ashes in a traditional cemetery include urn burial, urn placement in a niche or columbarium, or spreading in a cemetery scattering garden. Pricing in cemeteries typically ranges from $2,000 - $25,000 per person depending on the option and where the cemetery is located.

One of the main benefits of choosing a cemetery is that the land is permanently protected. State regulations ensure that part of each sale goes into a perpetual trust fund to ensure there is always money to pay for the upkeep and maintenance of the cemetery land.

If you purchase a private place in the cemetery this ensures it will always be taken care of and protected.

Urn burials are interments where ashes are buried inside an urn in the ground. Most cemeteries require an additional outer container to protect the urn. A small marker, either flat or raised like a tombstone, is typically added to the urn burial plot.

When evaluating the costs of an urn burial you should take into account the following items:

  • Urn Burial Plot: $2,000 - $10,000+
  • Endowment: $200 - $1,000
  • Urn: $150 - $1,000+
  • Protective Container: $200 - $1,000
  • Labor & Administrative Fees: $350 - $750
  • Marker or Tombstone: Markers are usually $500 - $1,000, Tombstones are typically $1,000 - $10,000

If you are planning for an urn burial, you should budget somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,400 - $14,750+ per person.

Learn About Your Memorial Options

Niches or columbarium placements are interments where an urn is placed inside a contained space. Most niches are made of marble, granite, or concrete and can be located either inside a mausoleum or columbarium or outside in a cemetery.

When evaluating the costs of a niche entombment you should take into account the following items:

  • Niche: $1,000 - $20,000+
  • Endowment: $100 - $2,000
  • Urn: $150 - $1,000+
  • Labor & Administrative Fees: $350 - $750

If you are planning for an urn burial, you should budget somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,600 - $23,750+ per person.

Scattering or spreading gardens are communal spaces where the ashes of a family member can be spread. These gardens are not private to a single individual or family and are typically chosen by individuals who don’t want to spread or buried alongside family members.

When evaluating the costs of a scattering garden, there are typically the following costs:

  • Scattering rights: $400 - $1,500
  • Endowment: $40 - $150
  • Labor & Administrative Fees: $350 - $750

If you are planning for spreading ashes in a spreading garden, you should budget somewhere in the neighborhood of $790 - $2,400 per person.

Private Spreading Options: $300 - $3,500 (per person)


Rivers are a common place for private spreading Rivers are a common place for private spreading


Private spreading is the act of spreading ashes in a publicly accessible location. You have to refer to state and county laws to determine if there are any restrictions to pay attention to or permits to obtain before spreading.

The main benefits of private spreading options are that they are typically inexpensive or free and you can choose a location that is important to you or your family. A very common decision these days is to spread ashes in multiple locations.

Many families choose a cemetery for a portion of the ashes to ensure that there is a always a protected and private place to visit, then spread some portion of the ashes in other locations important to their loved one.

When evaluating the costs of a private spreading, please consider the following costs:

  • Urn: $300 - $1,000+
  • Travel Expenses: $0 - $2,000+
  • Spreading Permits (in State and National Parks): $50 - $500

If you are planning for spreading ashes privately in a public location, you should budget somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 - $3,500 per person.

Better Place Forests: starting at $970 (per person)


A view from our Redwood Forest in Mendocino A view from our Redwood Forest in Point Arena


We offer what we call Forest Cemeteries. Forest cemeteries are a new concept in North America. Instead of a grave and a tombstone, forest cemeteries offer a private and protected tree where a family’s ashes can be returned to the earth together.

A forest cemetery is a cross between private spreading where you ashes are returned to nature and a cemetery where your ashes are permanently protected and your family has a location to visit.

Instead of graves and tombstones, we offer trees located in a landscaped, protected forest. You can choose your tree and the number of spreading rights you would like. Unlike traditional cemeteries, we also allow pets.

Learn About Your Memorial Options

When evaluating the costs of Better Place Forests you should take into account the two main options we have: 

  • Community Tree Memorial: starting at $970 per person 
  • Dedicated Tree for Your Family: starting at $2,900, depending on type of tree, size, location, and number of spreading rights

At Better Place Forests, we offer a range of different options based on your preferences for location, size of tree, tree species, and the number of people you're planning for.

If you’re interested in learning about a memorial option that would be appropriate for your family, please fill out this short form.

A Final Word

Dealing with death is difficult for everyone, and the reality is that there are expenses and preparations that need to be made. By planning as much in advance as possible, not only will it lift a burden from your shoulders, but it will make it easier for your family when the times comes.

If you ever have any questions, even if they don’t have to do with our options, we would be happy to discuss them. Please feel free to email us at info@betterplaceforests or call us at 1-888-958-7674.

Learn About Your Memorial Options


Brad Milne

Written by Brad Milne

Brad is a co-founder of Better Place Forests and is focused on marketing, technology and day to day operations.

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