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Navigating Cremation with Care: In-Depth Guide Covering Low-Cost Options in Arizona

Sixty percent of families today choose cremation over in lieu of a traditional funeral, according to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA). Some choose cremation because of its simplicity. Others opt for cremation for cultural reasons or because family members are unable to travel to attend a memorial service immediately. Many families also choose cremation because it is lower priced.

If you are searching for “low-cost cremation near me in Arizona,” this in-depth guide explains the different options for cremation, with the typical costs for each type, and examines free cremation options for low-income families.

What Are the Three Types of Cremations?

There are three types of cremations:

  1. Traditional or full-service cremation
  2. Cremation with memorial service
  3. Direct cremation

Each has its pros and cons, which we will examine so you can make the best decision for your loved ones.

What Is a Traditional (Full-Service) Cremation?

Traditional cremation services typically involve a funeral or memorial service before the deceased is transported to a crematorium. The casket used during this service can be rented or purchased, and it’s often made from wood, metal, or cardboard. These services allow family and friends to come together to celebrate the life of their loved one before the cremation.

However, traditional services tend to be the most expensive cremation option.

Here are answers to some of the most common questions that arise when considering a traditional cremation service or direct cremation services.

Q: Can you have a viewing with a traditional cremation service?

A: Traditional cremation services often include the option to have a viewing or open-casket visitation before the cremation takes place. This allows family and friends a chance to say goodbye.

Q: Do you need to buy a casket for traditional cremation services?

A: A casket is required for the viewing and funeral ceremony in a traditional cremation. Cremation caskets are typically simpler and have a lower cost than burial caskets. In some cases, you may be able to rent a casket for viewing.

Q: Is embalming required for a traditional cremation?

A: Embalming helps preserve the body between the time of death and cremation. It also makes the body suitable for an open-casket viewing. While embalming is not required for the cremation process, it is standard practice for a viewing at a funeral home.

Q: Are there additional costs associated with traditional cremation?

The reason a traditional cremation is more expensive than a direct cremation is that there are costs beyond the cremation, including the funeral ceremony, casket, embalming, funeral home staff and services, and memorial items such as urns or burial.

What Is a Cremation with Memorial Service?

A memorial cremation is similar to the traditional cremation, except the body is not present at the memorial service. The deceased is cremated shortly after death without a viewing or funeral.

This allows more flexibility in scheduling a memorial service later. The remains may be present in an urn. Costs are lower than traditional services since there is no embalming or casket, but there are still costs for the memorial service, such as facility rental and funeral home staff.

Some questions you may have about a memorial cremation include:

Q: What happens at a memorial cremation?

A: A memorial service is held for family and friends, without the body present, after the cremation has already taken place. The ashes may be present at the memorial.

Q: Is embalming necessary with memorial cremation?

A: Since there is no viewing or open casket, embalming is not necessary for a memorial service after cremation. It is not required by law and helps lower costs.

Q: When should you hold the memorial service?

A: The memorial service for cremation can be held anytime—even weeks or months after the death. Many families delay memorial services to allow family members and loved ones to travel and take part.

Q: Can memorial services be personalized?

A: Memorial cremation services allow for great personalization, with options like video tributes, personalized urns, symbolic releases of ashes, and more.

What Is Direct Cremation?

Direct cremation involves no funeral or viewing. The body is immediately cremated without any ceremony, and the ashes are returned to the family. This is the most affordable and flexible option but lacks the closure of a memorial service. It is important to weigh budget and emotional needs.

Here are some of the common questions about direct cremation services:

Q: What is the difference between a pure cremation and a direct cremation?

A: There is no difference. Pure cremation and direct cremation are the same thing—a simple, affordable cremation without any memorial service, viewing, or funeral.

Q: Which is cheaper, direct burial or cremation?

Direct cremation is generally cheaper than a direct burial. Cremation avoids the costs of embalming, caskets, and burial plots associated with burials.

Q: Do you get ashes back with direct cremation?

The cremated remains are returned to the family after a direct cremation, usually in a simple container or urn. Families may choose to purchase a memorial urn.

Q: Do you need a coffin for a direct cremation?

Direct cremations are done without a casket or embalming. The body is placed in an alternative container made of cardboard or particle board before it is cremated. Using an alternative container helps lower costs.

Pros and Cons of Each Type of Cremation Service

There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of cremation.

Traditional CremationAllows friends and family to have a final goodbye.

Similar to traditional funeral services without the burial.
Allows visitations, memorial services, or religious ceremonies
The need for caskets, embalming, and rental fees for visiting hours at funeral homes make this the most expensive option.

Requires planning and coordination during times of stress.
Memorial CremationConvenience of scheduling for personal preferences or priorities.   Costs less than a traditional cremation and viewing.Costs more than simple cremation services.   Does not include a viewing.   Still requires planning and coordination.
Direct CremationLowest cost and simplest option.
No restrictions for timelines for services.

No need for viewing or visitation ceremonies.
Families will not be able to see their loved ones before cremation.

How Much Does the Most Basic Cremation Cost?

The most basic cremation—direct cremation—in Arizona costs between $700 and $1,500, depending on your location, which is typically less than the national average.  If you choose more expensive options, your costs could add up to considerably more.

Here is how the costs break down:

Average Cost of Full-Service Cremation

  • National Average: $6,223
  • Arizona: $5,253

While this is the most expensive option for cremation, it is still considerably less expensive than a traditional full-service funeral and burial, which averages $8,426—not including a burial plot, vault, or gravestone marker.

Average Cost of Direct Cremation

  • National Average: $2,897
  • Arizona: $1,433

The lowest-priced direct cremation runs about $700, although the price varies depending on location and services. Here is a comparison chart for various areas throughout Arizona.

 Average Cremation CostsLow-Cost Direct Cremation
Phoenix $1,430$795
Tucson $1,279$785
Lake Havasu / NW AZ$1,433$795

Average Cost of Memorial Cremation

A memorial cremation is a middle ground between full-service cremations and direct cremations, so you can expect the cost to range between $2,000 and $5,000, depending on the funeral service you choose.

There is a wide price range depending on the options you choose.  For example, holding a memorial service at a funeral home generally requires the rental of the space, funeral home staff, and fees for conducting the service.

The Funeral Rule

When inquiring about costs, you should be aware of the federal Funeral Rule. This rule requires funeral homes to provide a general price list (GPL) upon request, including phone inquiries. Some facilities will post pricing on their website.

The rule requires prices to be itemized and empowers consumers to choose only the service they want rather than just a package price. The law makes it illegal for funeral homes to require consumers to buy certain funeral services as a condition for furnishing other services. For example, funeral homes cannot require embalming for direct cremation and charge a fee without permission.

You are not required to purchase a casket, pay for embalming, hold a memorial service, or buy an urn for a direct cremation.

Free Cremation for Low Income

Some programs will provide free cremation for low-income families, but most are limited to those considered indigent or in extreme poverty.

Indigent Families

While it is the legal and financial responsibility of the next of kin to provide final disposition, according to state law in Arizona, government agencies recognize that some families do not have the resources to pay for such arrangements. In these cases, local counties will arrange for the final disposition at no cost.

Requirements may vary by country, but here is what Maricopa County requires when applying for a no-cost cremation or burial:

  • Current bank statements
  • Current pay stubs (past 30 days)
  • DD214 statement (if deceased served in the military)
  • Disclosure of any financial assistance such as SSI or public assistance
  • Any will or instructions left by the deceased about their final arrangements.


While the Veterans Administration does not pay directly for the cost of cremation, they do provide an allowance that may cover the cost of services under certain conditions. Typically, this is in the form of a reimbursement, which means families will need to pay for the cost upfront and submit receipts for reimbursement.

Charitable Organizations

Some local charitable organizations, churches, and religious groups provide financial assistance for those in need. You can check with your county’s Department of Human Services or Department of Health for referrals.

Free Cremation Through Whole Body Donation

Another option for Arizona residents is whole body donation. United Tissue Network (UTN) is the only nonprofit organization in Arizona that assists families with making whole-body donations. UTN pays for 100% of the costs associated with transportation, storage, and placement of the body with an ethical scientific or medical research program. UTN also pays for the cost of direct cremation after research has been concluded and for returning the ashes to the family.

Since 2009, more than 12,000 families have donated their loved one’s remains, taking comfort in knowing that their loved one’s passing can help future generations. Whole-body donations have led to significant breakthroughs in treating chronic ailments like cancer, liver disease, diabetes, HIV, and more. Whole body donations provide human tissue for science-based programs, such as medical education and research and development of new drug therapies and medical devices.

This is different from organ donation. When you donate your organs, doctors remove the organs and use them for urgent, life-saving transplants. You can be an organ donor and a whole body donor, but you have to register separately. You can register to donate a body to science by completing an online registration form or talking to one of UTN’s Donor Service Coordinators. You can also get help from most funeral homes or hospice centers in coordinating the donation. UTN reimburses funeral homes for the storage and transportation costs.

Eligibility for Whole Body Donations

UTN accepts registered donors who are 18 or older, and there is no upper age limit. Most medical conditions are acceptable, including cancer, dementia, and other chronic illnesses. Those with communicable diseases such as HIV or hepatitis are not eligible.

UTN reviews each case before acceptance, although about 97% of donations are accepted into the program. Cause of death rarely disqualified a donation. Accidental death, infections, or organ failure helps research study specific conditions.

Learn more about whole-body donation by calling the compassionate professionals at United Tissue Network at 877-738-6111. Caring and knowledgeable Donor Service Coordinators are on call 24/7, 365 days a year, to answer your questions.

Ready to register a loved one?

Click the link below to get started:

Register someone who is passing/passed