Grieving the loss of a loved one is difficult, but funerals make the process easier. It’s our way of not only honoring the memory of our loved one, but of helping each other begin the healing process. But postmortem services can be shockingly expensive. The cost of arranging a full funeral and burial service in California can range anywhere between $2,000 to $10,000 or more. Even the cost of cremation, when arranged through a traditional funeral home, tends to be upward of a thousand dollars.

This can put bereaved families in a difficult position. On the one hand, you want the best for your loved one just as you did when they were alive. But on the other hand, you have your own financial needs to consider, and perhaps dependents to provide for as well. No one should have to go bankrupt to ensure their loved one gets a proper goodbye.

That’s why, when choosing a cremation provider, it’s important to know what exactly you’re paying for and how much you’ll actually be paying, including any additional fees and potential extra expenses.

Cremation and burial costs to consider in California

What a cremation service includes will vary depending on the provider you choose, as well as the type of service you opt for.

  • A traditional cremation involves preparing your loved one for a viewing or memorial service before they are cremated. This can be prohibitively expensive.
  • Direct cremation, on the other hand, is a simplified and cost-effective service which foregoes embalming in favor of immediate cremation.

Here’s how your burial and cremation options in California compare on average (according to surveys by the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Southern California and the Consumer Federation of America):

Service type

Average cost in California

Traditional Burial (with ceremony) $4,255
Direct Burial (no ceremony) $1,700
Traditional Cremation (with ceremony) $2,300
Direct Cremation (no ceremony) $1,300

Whether you or your loved one choose cremation for reasons of finance, spiritual beliefs, or another reason, it’s important to note that direct cremation is by far the most affordable option. With direct cremation, you’re paying only for what you need, no strings attached.

In addition to the cremation service itself, there may be other costs you’ll need to consider when budgeting for your loved one’s memorial in California.

Coroner fees

There are various reasons why a coroner’s services may be needed after your loved one’s passing. If this is the case, it’s possible you will need to pay a coroner fee. Coroner fees vary by county and include transportation as well as storage of your loved one during the examination process. Some counties limit the maximum amount a coroner can charge; in Los Angeles, for example, coroner’s fees can legally total no more than $400. The fee will be collected by your chosen cremation provider.

Death certificates

In California, a certified copy of a death certificate costs about $21. Some counties may charge a small processing fee for certain methods of payment, such as paying online versus paying in person at the county records office. Some cremation providers can assist you in procuring death certificates.

Permits

Acquiring certain permits may be necessary depending on how you plan to memorialize your loved one after their cremation. Some counties, such as LA County, require a burial permit (or a permit of disposition) whether you plan to inter your loved one’s ashes or scatter them. A burial permit in California costs $12, but some cremation providers also include this in their packages. Scattering ashes at certain institutions such as public parks may also involve additional costs, including parking fees, admission cost, rental fees (if you choose to rent a space for your loved ones to gather at before or after the memorial service), et cetera.

Interment

If you plan to inter your loved one’s ashes in a cemetery or columbarium, you’ll need to include interment fees in your budget. Burying ashes in California typically costs around $1,000; niches in columbariums can cost as little as $400 or as much as $2,000. Some institutions may charge upkeep or paperwork fees separately.

Boat or plane charters

If you plan to conduct a scattering ceremony at sea or by airplane, you’ll most likely need to hire the help of a boat or aircraft memorial service. Average prices for both tend to hover around $300 to $400 in California, with potential added costs for large groups or long distances.

Choosing the right California cremation service for your family

Of course, your choice of cremation service provider will have a big impact on how much you’ll be able to budget for memorial costs. When choosing a provider, be sure to ask yourself:

Is this cremation service affordable for me?

No two families are alike, and no two budgets look exactly the same. With the cost of living in California continually rising, it’s more important than ever to explore your options before making a final decision. For each provider you’re considering, be sure to dig deeper than just the base price to estimate how much the total cost will be. For example, special circumstances—such as pacemaker removal or transportation of a person weighing over 300 pounds—may involve extra fees that you’ll need to take into account when deciding whether a provider is right for you and your budget. Your cremation provider should be open and honest about these additional charges.

How transparent is this provider about the services they offer?

Funeral homes and other cremation providers are required by federal law to provide a General Price List (GPL) detailing the cost of every step in their cremation process. This list should be available either on their website or upon request. However, a few still manage to slip hidden fees into their fine print, and some providers may make their GPL more difficult to find than others. A good rule of thumb is to look for a provider that is upfront about all of their offerings and prices and presents their GPL without hassle or hesitation. For more information on what to look for when reviewing a provider’s price list, the California Cemetery & Funeral Bureau offers a detailed overview of GPL requirements in their Consumer Guide.

Does the quality of their service justify their price?

High prices do not necessarily guarantee a high-quality service, and low cost does not always equate to low quality. Some of the most expensive corporate cremation providers in California charge several thousands of dollars for services which might not be as personal as those of smaller companies offering similar services. When comparing providers, be sure to take a look at their customer feedback, including what’s listed on their website as well as third-party review sites. Keep an eye out for low ratings and repeated complaints. Regardless of cost, a good cremation provider should always put the families they serve first, and that should be reflected in their customer service rating and reviews.

An overview of California’s top cremation service providers

More and more Californians are choosing cremation over traditional burial services every year—and more and more local cremation providers set up shop each year in response. With so many options to choose from, it can be difficult to narrow your choice down to one provider. This table compares the offerings of just a few of the top cremation service providers in California.

Pricing*
Transparency
Service Quality**
Service Features
Tulip
Cremation
$
  • Direct cremation only
  • Preplanning services
All California
Cremation
$$
  • Direct cremation only
  • Preplanning services
Best
Cremation Care
$$
  • Direct cremation only
California Cremation
& Burial
$$$
  • Direct and traditional cremation
  • Preplanning services
Neptune
Society
$$$
  • Direct and traditional cremation
    with funeral services
  • Preplanning services

*Based on pricing information listed on providers’ websites and GPLs, which may be subject to change.
**Based on Yelp and Google reviews as of this writing.

Weighing the cost of cremation in California

When comparing the costs of cremation service providers in California, keep in mind that the best provider will offer services which are not only high-quality but affordable. Why? Because only the best providers will prioritize the care and comfort of your family and your loved one over their own profit margins. A good cremation provider knows that the most important part of any cremation service isn’t a fancy urn or an elaborate ceremony—it’s how well they serve the families who come to them for help during a difficult time.

Tulip Cremation provides a transparent, low-cost direct cremation service that includes transportation, preparation, and cremation. Your loved one’s ashes will then be returned to you in a simple container that can be shipped via USPS Priority Mail Express to any US postal address. Call our Family Care Team at (844) 942-4909 to learn more or arrange cremation online.