4 Things You Should Know About Buying a Cremation Urn

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Buying a cremation urn can be complex and confusing, with multiple price points and options. Here, how to buy a cremation urn, what to consider when it comes to cost, and everything else you need to know—whether you’re buying for a loved one, or buying in advance for yourself.

You don’t have to use an urn

While your funeral home or crematory will likely offer cremation urns for purchase, you’re not required to buy one from either of those places—or at all. Cremated remains (also known as “cremains”) can be placed in a cardboard box after cremation. Your crematory may charge a nominal fee (like $15 or less) for this temporary urn. But any container (including a box or a vase) can constitute an urn—so you can supply one yourself as well, either as a permanent urn or a temporary one. You also may consider using a temporary cardboard box, then transferring ashes into a scattering tube—a tube that holds ashes for scattering, often $15 or up. (Related: 9 Things You Can Do With Cremation Ashes)

You can shop around

Of course, most people do end up purchasing an urn. The advantages of using an urn designed specifically for cremated remains is that the container is designed to hold all the remains where they don’t get lost or damaged in the urn structure. It’s not uncommon for people to pre-order an urn well before they die, especially as many urns double as decorative pieces of art.

Urns can be bought everywhere—including Walmart and Costco—at a variety of price points. Some independent artisans can make customized urns out of glass or ceramics, even incorporating your loved one’s ashes into the design. While some cardboard-based urns can cost around $10 and mass-produced ones have price points between $25 and $100, depending on design and craftsmanship, it’s not uncommon to spend $300 to $500 and up on an urn.

It may be less expensive to purchase an urn yourself than purchase an urn at your funeral home, so compare different options and prices before selecting your choice. By law, your funeral home cannot force you to buy an urn from their selection, and must allow you to use whichever urn you would like. (Related: Everything You Need to Know About Cremation)

You’ll need to consider size and location

If you do plan to customize your urn or buy another container to use as an urn, be aware of sizing: In general, the rule of thumb for urn sizing is one cubic inch per bodily pound. In other words, the cremated remains of a person who weighed around 150 pounds would fit into an urn of 150 cubic inches.

Before you buy an urn, it’s also important to consider where the final resting place of the ashes will be. If, for example, you’re planning to bury the urn, one option could be a $100 environmentally friendly biodegradable urn. If you’re planning to fly with the ashes, it’s important to select an urn that meets the specifications set by the TSA. Metal, stone, or ceramic urns may have trouble going through security. If you are planning to fly with ashes, check with your airline ahead of time for requirements about traveling with ashes. For example, some airlines may not allow cremains in checked baggage. Talking through your concerns with the crematorium or funeral director can help you narrow down which urn may be appropriate, even if you do not purchase an urn from the crematorium or funeral home.

You can take your time

You have plenty of time to search for the ideal cremation urn. You may feel pressure to find one right after the death of a loved one, but many people use the temporary urn provided to them by the crematorium or purchase a temporary one, and then find an urn in the months or years after a death. You may also be able to rent an urn for a funeral, and then transfer the ashes into a different urn. This might be the best option if the urn you wish to use takes time to create or ship.

If you do not wish to handle the remains to transfer them to a new cremation urn, you can often get a funeral home to assist you. If you didn’t use the funeral home for your initial memorial, you may have to pay a nominal fee (it varies from funeral home to funeral home) so call around for quotes. A funeral home can also assist in dividing ashes if you wish them to be held in multiple urns.

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