Ash Urns: What to Know, Where to Buy, and Finding the Best

Ash urns are memorial boxes or vessels that hold your loved one's cremated remains. Also known variously as cremation urns, funeral urns, or urns for ashes, you can use just about anything to hold the ashes, but most families choose a high-quality and attractive container to hold the cremation ashes in a way that shows respect to the departed loved one.

In this article, we will tell you what you need to know about ash urns, how to find the very best at reasonable prices, what your options are, and hopefully answer any questions you may have.

Ash Urns: Five Things to Know

  1. You can buy from the funeral home, but you don't have to
  2. Urns come in all shapes and sizes
  3. Most urns can be personalized with an inscription
  4. Urns are measured in cubic inches
  5. You don't have to handle the ashes

Read on for more detail on each of these points.

1. You Can Buy From the Funeral Home (But Don't Have To)

We'll talk about this in more detail below, but the gist is that you can buy from the funeral home if you want, but you don't have to. Typically the funeral home charges a little more, but they do often have some of their best ones on hand so you don't have to wait for a delivery.

Just remember that, according to the Federal Trade Commission, you have the legal right to buy an ash urn from anywhere you like and the funeral home is required by law to use it. Most funeral homes are totally above board on all this, but it's not uncommon that they just might hand you their urn catalog and expect you to buy from them. Take a look, then check out our urns.

Related resources:

2. Urns Come in All Shapes & Sizes (But Most Are Standard Sized)

From tiny urns that hold a pinch of ashes to companion urns that hold the remains of two people, urns come in all sizes. And shapes. And designs, materials, colors, themes, personalization options..... You get the idea.

Most of the time, when you see an urn it is a "standard adult" urn, with a capacity of about 200 cubic inches (see below). Just be sure to read the product description, and look for about 200 cubic inches.

Other descriptors that indicate other sizes:

  • Keepsake - this usually means "small"
  • Sharing - means that it is small, as you are meant to use it to divide and "share" the ashes among relatives
  • Companion - this is an urn for two people, two "companions" (a husband and wife, for instance)
  • Double - another term for a companion urn; a "double-sized" urn
  • Child/infant - another small urn, designed for young ones
  • Pet - As you might suspect, this is an urn designed for pets. Often, this can be the exact same urn listed elsewhere as a "keepsake" or "child" urn. We offer several urns that are listed both as a "pet" urn and also as a small "keepsake" urn

Learn more: 

3. Most Urns Can Be Personalized (With an Inscription)

Just about any wood or stone (marble, granite, onyx, etc) urn can be custom laser engraved. Some can take just a brief name and dates inscription, others can have all four sides personalized if you like.

Some ceramic urns can be personalized as well. Glass urns are more difficult to customize, and some metal urns cannot be engraved due to the finish. For these urns, we often recommend a hanging nameplate (a "necklace" to drape around vase-shaped urns) or a separate free-standing nameplate or base plate.

For more info on personalizing the ashes urn, read our Urn Personalization Guide. You can also simply contact us at 877-900-5309, we love to answer the phone (during typical weekday business hours) and answer your questions.

4. Urns Are Measured in Cubic Inches (Not the Outside "Dimensions")

Cubic inches measure the interior capacity of the urn. So, when you want to know if the size is right, look at the capacity rather than the external dimensions.

The outside dimensions are only important if you have a specific place into which you need the urn to fit. For instance, a columbarium niche or a narrow mantle or shelf in your home. Otherwise, the key factor is the capacity.

Again, the industry standard is to measure urn capacity in terms of cubic inches. This is the length times the width times the depth of the inside of the urn, in inches. The cremated ashes from most adults is less than 200 cubic inches, and the industry standard size for an adult cremation urn is 200 cubic inches. Just check the product description to make sure it's not one of those small urns mentioned above, and you'll be fine.

To learn more, see our Urn Size Calculator. There, you can calculate more precisely the size urn you'll need, and learn what factors affect the amount of ashes you'll receive from the crematorium.

More resources:

5. You Don't Have to Handle the Ashes (The Funeral Home Will)

Again, you are completely free to work with a funeral home and buy the cremation urn (and other funeral products) elsewhere. The funeral director will gladly take the urn you purchase and transfer the cremated remains from the temporary urn into it for you. Just ask!

It's only very rarely that you will find a funeral director or funeral home that is super pushy and weird about accepting urns from outside sources.

You may want (or need) to transfer the ashes yourself. It's fairly simple, and some people find it therapeutic. Others prefer to let the funeral home handle it. Ultimately, it's up to you.

Learn more:

How to Find the Best Urns (Affordably)

We're more than a little biased, because we sell urns online. But if you research it out, you'll find this is true: You can find the best urns at the best prices online.

However, you may have to do a little digging.

High End, Low End

On the high end, you can easily find great urns at your local funeral home. They might even stock some, although for many they have a catalog which you can order from their distributor. Many of these urns are nice, but the price tag is often much higher than you'll find online.

Most funeral homes charge a hefty markup for urns and caskets. But in some cases this is changing. We've dealt with many funeral homes that will order from us and simply charge their customer our price, without any markup. So it depends on the pricing, policies, and packages offered by the funeral home. Still, you'll typically save quite a bit by shopping online.

On the low end, if you go with some of the biggest retail reseller brands (Amazon, WalMart, and several of the large cremation urn companies) you will find shockingly cheap prices. As you might guess, the quality of those urns is also cheap. Whereas most standard adult urns cost $300 or more at the funeral home, you can find some similar-looking imported ones (made in India or China, etc) on major resellers for, say, $79. The only downside is that you're truly getting a $79 urn for your loved one.

Finding the Best

If you're looking for something of high quality that also isn't way overpriced, just dig a little further. Here at Urns Northwest, since our inception in 2000 we've always focused on high-quality urns, made in the USA. We encourage you to browse our collection of ash urns to discover the one that's right for your loved one.

Read more:

Ash Urns: Where to Buy

Here's where you can buy urns, locally and online.

  • Your local funeral home - If you're working with a funeral home, or even a crematorium with direct cremation, they will typically have a selection of urns. As mentioned above, these will often be at a higher markup.
  • Another local funeral home - Remember, you don't have to buy everything from the funeral home. You have the legal right to shop around. Not only can you shop online, but you can also check out other local funeral homes.
  • Amazon - You won't be surprised to learn that the world's largest retailer sells cremation urns. We sell a few of our urns there, but most of what you'll find is imported and cheaply made urns at low price points. If you're ok with that, you'll probably be happy with what you find on there.
  • WalMart - No, you won't be able to find ash urns in stores. Just online. Their online marketplace is much the same as Amazons, with many of the same products (and even the same sellers) as Amazon.
  • Hobby Lobby - For some reason, people often ask if Hobby Lobby sells cremation urns. No, they don't. But they (as well as other similar craft stores such as Craft Warehouse, JoAnns, Michaels, etc) sell things you might be able to use to make your own if you want to go the DIY route.
  • Etsy - This is a great online marketplace that sells handcrafted or personalized items. There are many sellers, shops, manufacturers, and artists on there who make unique cremation urns. Some are excellent, others may not be. Pay attention to reviews, read the descriptions carefully, and you may find something incredible there.
  • Local artists - There may be artists in your community who make (or would be willing to make) a cremation urn for you. Stop in at local museums and art studios, check craigslist and Facebook Marketplace listings, Google for local artists, and ask around.
  • Online sellers and manufacturers - There are many online sites, like us, that make, sell, or distribute cremation urns. The selection, styles, options, prices, and customer service will vary at each one according to their focus. For instance, several of the top search results tend to offer imported items (with a selection, price range, and ability to talk to an actual person similar to Amazon) that perhaps can be custom engraved and often ship fairly quickly. For niche, unique, handcrafted urns made in the USA, you might have to dig a little deeper.
  • Urns Northwest - That's us! We strive to set ourselves apart by offering 1) the best quality urns at 2) competitive, affordable prices, with 3) the very best customer service. We answer the phone during weekday business hours (if you get our voicemail, it's probably because we're already talking to someone) and we respond to emails very, very quickly. We do try to take weekends off to focus on our families, but ultimately we aim to serve our customers to the very best of our abilities. We stand behind our products and service, and look forward to serving you.

So if you're ready to begin shopping for urns, here are a few places to begin: