The digital age has transformed every corner of our lives, including the solemn act of planning a funeral.

Navigating the Online World of Urns and Cremation Services

The digital age has transformed every corner of our lives, including the solemn act of planning a funeral. As consumers turn to the internet to compare prices and options, the funeral industry sees a pressing need for transparency, especially when it comes to pricing. 

Demand for Clarity: Transparency in Funeral Pricing

The rising costs of funeral services are pushing families to be more cautious about their spending. The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) reveals that an average American funeral is priced around $7,640. These costs cover the casket, services of the funeral home, transportation, and other related expenses. But prices can differ. For instance, while one funeral home might levy extra charges for embalming, another might include it in their standard package.

The same can be said for the cost of cremation. According to surveys, the average cost of cremation and funeral service across all fifty states is $6.970. The cost goes down drastically if you choose direct cremation which means there is no memorial service or viewing of the body. That cost comes down to $2,183.

To further complicate matters, when a family has to choose an urn, the cost of the urn can vary from as low as $70. to as high as $2.250. Some online urn retailers like Eternal Alaska Urns, have periodic sales where an urn can be as low as $54.99. 

The wide variance in prices is pushing families to shop around, especially online. Families are looking for the best deals on funeral services and urns, with many specifically searching for a suitable companion urn. But here's the hiccup: many funeral homes don't display their prices online, making comparisons and informed decisions a challenge for grieving families.

The Need for Regulation

States have noted the lack of transparency in online funeral pricing and are making moves to rectify it. Several U.S. states now mandate funeral homes to make their prices accessible online, ensuring families get a fair deal. California led the way in 2018, with others like Colorado and Arizona following suit.

However, it's not uniform. Some states remain without such mandates, and certain funeral homes resist the move towards transparent online pricing.

The Debate on Accuracy

Opponents of online pricing highlight two primary concerns. First, they argue that without understanding a family's specific requirements, accurate pricing is hard to pin down. For instance, choices like a larger casket or additional services, such as floral arrangements, can significantly alter costs.

Secondly, there's the claim that online pricing can confuse families more than it can help. Funeral homes might advertise a low starting price but later add costs for other essential services. Such practices can obstruct the family's quest to compare and find the best value for their money.

Towards Self-Regulation and Beyond

State mandates aside, industry bodies are stepping up to ensure ethical practices. The NFDA’s voluntary certification is one such step. Funeral homes under this program are committed to being clear and honest about their prices. The Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA), a non-profit, also champions for rights within the funeral industry, providing essential resources on funeral planning and emphasizing transparency.

A Global Perspective

The quest for transparent funeral pricing isn't confined to the U.S. The UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) spotlighted the need for clear pricing in the funeral sector, recommending online price postings for funeral directors. The global rise of online funeral planning services further underscores the demand for transparent pricing.

Six Ways Families Can Save on Funeral Costs:

  1. Compare Prices Online: Take advantage of online platforms to compare costs of different funeral homes. This method helps in finding the best deal on funeral services and urns.
  2. Direct Cremation: Choosing direct cremation without a viewing or ceremony can significantly reduce expenses.
  3. Rent a Casket: For services with a viewing or ceremony followed by cremation, consider renting a casket instead of buying.
  4. DIY Memorials: Hold a memorial service at home or another meaningful location, cutting costs associated with funeral home venues.
  5. Skip Embalming: Unless it's a cultural or religious necessity, you can opt out of embalming, especially if the burial or cremation is immediate.
  6. Choose Urns Wisely: Explore online options for urns. With a wider selection, families can find urns that fit their budget and preferences.

Embracing the Future: A Changing Landscape

The realm of funeral services, including the selection of urns and cremation options, is evolving. Transparency in pricing, whether driven by state regulations, industry initiatives, or family demand, is the future. As consumers lean more on online solutions to make informed decisions, the industry needs to adapt, ensuring families find solace not just in memories of their loved ones, but also in the choices they make to honor them.

If you have any questions about selecting an urn or scattering cremated ashes in your loved one’s favorite place, feel free to reach out. Eternal Alaska has been leading the industry as an Ash Administrator since 2020. We want to help make this difficult time a little easier for you to handle.

Stan Reese is President and founder of Eternal Alaska and

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