What Are Cremation Costs?

According to the Cremation Association of North America, 73.1% of Canadians chose cremation in 2019. Cremation rates vary by province or territory. The highest cremation rate is in British Columbia (85.9%); the lowest is in Prince Edward Island (44.2%). Canada's largest and most northerly territory, Nunavut, has a cremation rate of 2.1%.

People make the choice for several reasons, and many factors go into cremation costs.

In this article you will learn:

What is cremation?

Despite the fact that cremation has been around for more than 5,000 years, it can still seem somewhat mysterious. Most people never see behind the scenes, and some feel anxious about the process. But it's not hard to understand at all.

Put simply, cremation reduces the body to its most basic elements by exposing it to open flames, heat and evaporation in a specially designed furnace called a cremation chamber. 

Cremation consists of the following steps:

  • The loved one is identified, typically by a family member, who provides authorization for cremation. This can vary by province, but usually includes paperwork with information such as who will receive the cremated remains and what type of container to use.
  • The loved one is usually bathed and dressed before identification. If the family wants a public viewing before cremation, the loved one can be embalmed. Most provinces require that the loved one be placed in a container before cremation, usually a wooden casket or rigid cardboard box.
  • The container with the body is moved to the cremation chamber, a specially designed furnace fueled by natural gas. Crematories follow strict environmental and air quality standards.
  • Only one individual is cremated at a time. There are multiple checkpoints that ensure the chain of custody, and a stainless steel ID token accompanies the body into the crematory and confirms the identity of the cremated remains when they are removed.
  • What remains after cremation, commonly referred to as ashes, are bone fragments. Once they cool, metal (from dental fillings, plates or implants, jewellery or casket nails) is removed and the remaining solid materials are ground to a coarse sand.
  • Then the loved one's cremated remains are returned to the family in a container of the family's choosing.

George Washington Cremation Niches at Wisconsin Memorial Park

Why do people choose cremation?

There are many reasons people choose cremation either for themselves or their loved ones. These reasons might range from religious considerations to personal preferences.

Here are some of the most common reasons families choose cremation:

Flexible memorial options: Cremation allows for a flexibility that traditional burial does not. When you choose cremation, you have as much time as you need to plan a funeral, memorial or celebration of life. You can hold a viewing for nearby family and friends before the cremation and then host a larger memorial or scattering service weeks or months later for friends and family who need to make travel plans and take off work. That's especially beneficial for those who live in different parts of the country or world. Cremation also enables families to focus on the immediacy of their grief and decide on the details of a service when they feel ready.

Customization: Cremation allows for nearly endless customization and creativity. Families have many special options for memorializing a loved one. Cremated remains can be placed in an ocean reef or incorporated into jewellery or art. They can be pressed into vinyl records, made into fireworks, placed in a mausoleum niche, scattered from a mountaintop, and even launched into space. The options are endless and can be as unique as the life being honoured.

Lower cost: Cremation can cost less than traditional burial. A simple cremation is the least expensive type of cremation and can cost thousands less than a traditional burial with a funeral. A cremation with a service of some kind can cost a few hundred less, as you can opt out of a casket or cemetery plot, for instance.

Environmental concerns: Many people see cremation as a more eco-friendly option than burial because it preserves land that would otherwise be used for burial. 

No religious affiliation: For many Canadians, religion has a less important role than it did 20 years ago. Since many funeral and burial traditions are rooted in religious and cultural beliefs, many people are choosing cremation as a way to create a new tradition.

How much does cremation cost in 2021?

Though cremation is relatively straightforward, a number of factors contribute to the cost. You can elect to hold a viewing before the cremation, which will usually involve embalming and a viewing casket. Or you can skip the viewing but host a celebration of life after cremation. Or you can have both.

Some families have cremated remains interred at a cemetery. Others scatter them in a personally meaningful place or opt to keep them at home in an urn. Each choice impacts the cost. Read about prepaid cremation options.


At Dignity Memorial® providers in Canada, the national average cost is around $6,721, including a service, cremation casket, crematory fee and urn.


What are cremation cost components and fees?

Many factors determine the price of a cremation, including:

  • Attention to detail, such as chain of custody and level of personal care that goes into the cremation
  • Whether the crematory is owned by the cremation provider
  • Location of the cremation provider
  • Distance traveled to pick up and transport your loved one
  • Local regulatory requirements
  • Planning time for a visitation or memorial service
  • Facilities for a visitation or memorial service
  • Containers used for the visitation and service (if desired)

The cost breakdown for cremation in 2020 was as follows:

Basic services of the funeral director and staff $902
Removal/transfer of loved one to funeral home $352
Embalming $415
Other preparation of the loved one $282
Facilities/staff for viewing $362
Facilities/staff for funeral ceremony $303
Service car/van $184
Printed materials (basic memorial package) $351
Crematory (cremation) fee $544
Cremation casket $977
Urn $318

What Affects Funeral and Cremation Costs?

There are hundreds of decisions that must be made when planning a funeral, cremation or memorial service, and making funeral arrangements can often seem confusing or overwhelming. Because there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to planning a funeral or memorial service, there are different costs and expenses to consider. Learn what to expect and get your free Guide to Understanding Funeral and Cremation Costs today.

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Do you need a casket for cremation?

Though you don't need a casket for a cremation, most provincial laws require a loved one to be placed in a container for the cremation process. This is often a rigid cardboard or plywood container, though many families choose to honour their loved ones with a solid wood cremation casket.

There are three types of containers that can be involved in a cremation. You can purchase any of them from a funeral home or other retailer.

  • A casket for a viewing. If you choose to have a service before cremation, you can choose from a variety of caskets to rent or buy for this purpose.
  • A container for cremation. This can be a simple cardboard box, though many families choose something nicer for their loved ones.
  • A container for cremated remains. Your plans for your loved one's ashes dictate this choice. To give Grandmother a permanent resting place in a mausoleum niche, you may want to purchase a pretty urn. To host a scattering service for Dad at his favorite fishing hole, you may want to receive his ashes in a special scattering urn or a simple container. Urns and containers range from biodegradable urns to hand-carved wooden boxes to decorative ceramic, porcelain or metal urns.

In addition, you might also choose cremation jewellery or small urns that can hold ashes and be given to multiple family members to cherish as special keepsakes.

photo gallery of cremation keepsakes

What's the cheapest way to be cremated?

The least expensive cremation option is simple cremation, sometimes known as direct cremation. People choose this option for themselves or their loved ones to keep costs at a bare minimum. And though it's sometimes called cremation without a ceremony, that doesn't have to be the case. If you choose simple cremation, you can still host an informal gathering at home or at a scattering site without adding to the cost. What matters is being with friends and family to remember, reflect and heal.


The cost of a simple cremation typically starts at $1,000. It does not include a viewing or memorial service.


The cost of a cremation is influenced by where it takes place. As with real estate, automobiles, food and pretty much everything else, how much you pay for goods and services varies according to where you are.

What's the difference between cremation and simple cremation?

When you opt for simple cremation you skip the ceremonial services, such as a viewing or memorial. Rather, the loved one is cremated shortly after death, without embalming. Though less expensive, this option can leave family and friends feeling like they didn't have a chance to say a final goodbye, which can be an important part of grieving and healing after a loss. Because of this, more and more families are choosing to have some kind of service in conjunction with cremation to commemorate the end of life, honour their loved one and provide closure for the people left behind.

If you're interested in learning more about cremation for yourself or your loved one, one of our compassionate planners can walk you through every step of the process, including the care and preparation of a loved one (which can depend on religious requirements and the type of service chosen), creating a unique funeral or memorial that reflects your or your loved one's special life, choosing an option for permanent placement, and selecting family keepsakes.

 

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For every family we serve, regardless of disposition or service choice, Dignity Memorial offers the following and much more:

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If you wish to transfer your plan to another location at least 100 kilometres from where your original arrangements were made, your prearranged funeral services are transferable and will be honoured at any of the qualifying 1,900 Dignity Memorial providers throughout North America.

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Should you pass away before your purchased cemetery property is paid for, to help relieve your family's financial burden, our Family Protection Plan assists with the balance due to the cemetery.

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