How much do funerals cost on average?

“How much does a funeral cost?” is the first question you hear from people who are arranging funerals. Funeral costs have been on the rise since the 1980s and today the average funeral costs between $1,500 and $15,000, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. The average funeral and burial cost $7,360 and cremation $6,260. These huge costs mean that many are unable to afford even the most basic funeral expenses.

The limited time you have for arranging funerals, the on spot decision making, the emotional impact of the loss, inexperience in arranging funerals and funeral homes taking advantage of all of the above make overspending on funerals a very common practice.

To save yourself from overspending, the best thing you can do is know the average funeral costs and the costs of different services involved. This makes it easier for you to determine what you need, what you don’t and what would be a nice have to.

The purpose of this article is to discuss the different parts of a funeral, the associated costs of each part, how you can save money on arranging a funeral and the steps you can take during your life to prepare for your funeral.

Which is better, burial or cremation?

This section will be going over the differences between cremation and burial and the positives and negatives of each. The choice of burial or cremation is a very personal one. Though burial has remained the traditional practice until now, cremation has been becoming popular in the past few years.

Both burial and cremation take place after the funeral. Burial keeps the body remains intact and burying them. In contrast, cremation involves incinerating the body. The ashes of the deceased can then be buried, scattered or stay with loved ones or family.

Pros of Cremation

  • Costs less
  • Takes less time
  • The funeral service can be held either before or after cremation
  • The ashes are portable
  • Helps with the problem of overcrowded graveyards
  • Considered more environment friendly

Cons of Cremation

  • May be against the deceased’s faith
  • Permeant decision
  • May make mourning difficult

Pros of Burial

  • Gives families and loved ones a burial site to visit
  • Considered more natural
  • Gives loved ones more closure

Cons of Burial

  • Expensive
  • May be difficult for loved ones to visit grave site

Is there a breakdown of funeral expenses?

This section will familiarize you with the different steps involved in funerals and the basic costs associated with each part for burial and cremation.

Under the Funeral Rule, funeral homes and providers are to charge their customers a basic service fee. This service fee includes the cost of planning the funeral, coordinating arrangements with the cemetery and other third parties, sheltering the remains of the deceased, securing any required permits, etc. and has to be paid irrespective of other arrangements.

Funeral PartCost for BurialCost for Cremation
Basic Service Fee$2100$2100
Transfer or Remains$325$325
Embalming$725$725
Other Preparations of the Body$250$250
Use of Staff or other facilities$425$425
Hearse$500
Service Car or van$325$325
Memorial Prints$150$150
Metal Casket$2400
Cremation Fee$350
Cremation Casket$1000
Urn$275

 

These costs will differ depending on your location in the U.S.

  • Basic Service Fee: This includes the cost of the funeral company’s labor and equipment.
  • Transfer of Remains: This is the cost of transporting the body to the mortuary.
  • Embalming: The process of embalming is often necessary for open-casket services or if the body has to be transferred interstate.
  • Miscellaneous Cosmetic Preparations: This is the cost of applying makeup, clothing, and hairdressing.
  • Facility Usage for Viewing: If you decide to use the funeral home’s chapel for the service, you will pay this cost.
  • Funeral Home Staff for Service: This is the fee for the services and assistance of the funeral home staff.
  • Hearse: This vehicle is used to transport the deceased to the cemetery from the funeral home.
  • Service Car/Van: This is used to transport family members or may even be used to transport the deceased instead of a hearse.
  • Printed Memorial Package: Funeral homes often print pamphlets and prayer cards. Their purpose is to honor the deceased and gives details about the service.
  • Metal Casket: The cost of the metal casket usually ranges from $2,000 to $10,000 depending on the material. You can opt for mahogany, bronze, or copper caskets as well.
    Vault: The coffin is enclosed in a vault to protect it from the weight of the earth and heavy maintenance equipment that passes over the grave.
  • Cremation Casket: This casket is fully combustible. It is used to place the body in the cremation chamber.
  • Cremation Fee: This is the cost to complete the cremation of the body.
  • Urn: This is the container used to hold the ashes of the deceased.

Other funeral costs include:

  • Funeral Plots: Public funeral plots cost you between $1,000 and $4,000, with the average at around $2,000. This cost will vary depending on your location. Private cemeteries are much more expensive.
  • Grave Markers and Headstones: Headstones cost between $250 and $6,000. If you opt for plain, flat grave markers, they will cost you a few hundred dollars. Custom, more complex statues or monuments, on the other hand, may cost you tens of thousands of dollars depending on the complexity of the project.
  • Flowers: Flowers generally cost around $150 but this cost can easily go up depending on the type of flowers. Orchids, lilies, and roses, for example, are very expensive.

Will my location affect funeral costs?

Definitely! Your state, even your city will influence the funeral costs. With outdated disclosure laws, many funeral homes are not required to share price lists on their websites meaning you might have to go in person to ask for one.

This section will share the list of the average funeral costs for the top 15 most populated cities in the U.S., followed by a list of top 10 cities that have the most and least expensive funeral, burial and cremation costs. The data shared below was compiled using Parting.com’s data as compiled by Finder.com.

The table below gives the average funeral costs for the most populated cities in the U.S.

CityCremation CostsTraditional Funeral Costs
1) New York City$3,915$6,841
2) Los Angeles$2,882$5,639
3) Chicago$3,948$6,964
4) Houston$4,146$7,443
5) Phoenix$2,970$5,961
6) Philadelphia$3,595$6,674
7) San Antonio$3,377$6,299
8) San Diego$3,213$6,133
9) Dallas$3,882$7,121
10) San Jose$3,349$6,381
11) Austin$4,059$7,263
12) Jacksonville$3,607$6,869
13) San Francisco$3,377$6,779
14) Columbus$2,747$5,737
15) Fort Worth$3,962$7,147

 

Top 10 Cities with the most expensive traditional funerals

This section will list the top 10 cities that have the most expensive traditional funeral services with the cost.

  1. Rockville, Maryland ($9,847)
  2. Bernardsville, New Jersey ($9,265)
  3. Metairie, Louisiana ($9,191)
  4. Stamford, Connecticut ($9,121)
  5. Summit, New Jersey ($8,905)
  6. Chatham, New Jersey ($8,890)
  7. Milford, Connecticut ($8,578)
  8. Narragansett, Rhode Island ($8,565)
  9. Greenwich, Connecticut ($8,525)
  10. Parsippany, New Jersey ($8,480)

Top 10 cities with the least expensive traditional funerals

This section will list the top 10 cities that have the least expensive traditional funeral services with the cost.

  1. Las Cruces, New Mexico ($4,560)
  2. Olympia, Washington ($4,702)
  3. Moore, Oklahoma ($4,830)
  4. Oak Creek, Wisconsin ($4,940)
  5. Kailua, Hawaii ($4,974)
  6. Kingman, Arizona ($5,010)
  7. Grants Pass, Oregon ($5,061)
  8. Lawton, Oklahoma ($5,084)
  9. Hillsboro, Oregon ($5,185)
  10. Boone, North Carolina ($5,250)

Top 10 Cities with the most expensive cremation services

This section will list the top 10 cities that have the most expensive cremation services with the cost.

  1. Rockville, Maryland ($6,170)
  2. Parsippany, New Jersey ($6,130)
  3. Bernardsville, New Jersey ($5,920)
  4. Narragansett, Rhode Island ($5,620)
  5. Greenwich, Connecticut ($5,600)
  6. Summit, New Jersey ($5,595)
  7. Metairie, Louisiana ($5,546)
  8. Stamford, Connecticut ($5,540)
  9. Chatham, New Jersey ($5,450)
  10. Kalamazoo, Michigan ($5,313)

Top 10 Cities with the least expensive cremation services

This section will list the top 10 cities that have the least expensive cremation services with the cost.

  1. Las Cruces, New Mexico ($1,860)
  2. Olympia, Washington ($1,997)
  3. Moore, Oklahoma ($1,999)
  4. Grants Pass, Oregon ($2,178)
  5. Oak Creek, Wisconsin ($2,190)
  6. Kingman, Arizona ($2,210)
  7. Enid, Oklahoma ($2,315)
  8. Starkville, Mississippi ($2,334)
  9. Astoria, Oregon ($2,340)
  10. Hillsboro, Oregon ($2,373)

Am I paying too much for the funeral?

As mentioned above, manipulation by funeral providers is very common. To save yourself you must do some research so have an idea of the rates within your city.

You can always use this guide to get a general idea of the basic funeral costs. But do keep in mind these rate will change depending on where you are. You can also use the Funeral Costs and Pricing Checklist by the Federal Trade Commission. This list will help you get an idea of what services are involved and you can use it to compare costs. If a funeral home has costs that are not mentioned on this checklist, ask them about it. You can find the list at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov.

How do I save money on funeral expenses?

Death is almost always an unpredicted event. With the average funerals cost as high as $15,000 in the United States, it is very difficult to afford funerals. It is therefore important that you know where this money goes. Purchasing unnecessary services will only lead to debt.

Here are a few things you need to keep in mind when purchasing for funerals.

Ask for price lists

Price lists contain the services funeral homes offer and their costs. You have the right to ask funeral providers for a general price list. Based on your needs, you can purchase the services you want. Remember, funeral homes cannot force you to buy services you don’t need.

Compare

To get an idea of the average funeral cost, contact as many funeral homes and providers as you can in your area and compare the services and costs.

Don’t tell funeral homes your budget

Never inform funeral homes of your budget, always ask them for the best they can do.

Buy a casket or urn separately

You can buy flowers, prayer cards, caskets or urns from outside. If you purchase them directly from the funeral home your funeral expenses will substantially go up.

Go for a refrigeration

Embalming is not legally required or necessary if the body is to be buried shortly after death. Under Funeral rule, funeral homes need permission before they can start the embalming process. If the burial will take place soon after death, opt for refrigeration, it will save you a lot in the funeral expenses.

Opt for a direct burial or cremation

Direct burial or cremation involves no funeral services or ceremonies. Instead, families host at-home funeral services. This practice can save you thousands of dollars in funeral expenses. But this may be a difficult decision as not everyone is keen on hosting funeral services by themselves.

How do I save up for my funeral?

As you have probably realized by now, funerals are not cheap. Having your loved ones and family arrange such a huge amount on their own is such a terrifying thought. This section will share some steps you can take during your life to save for funeral expenses.

Purchase burial insurance

Burial insurance is a category of whole life insurance that is intended to cover your end of life expenses. It offers the advantages of small face values, relaxed underwriting, fast approvals and, portability.

Burial insurance policies are usually affordable. It is very easy for people under 85 to qualify for them. If you are above 85, you can still qualify for a policy, but you will not have as many options.

Set cash aside

Start saving cash now! Don’t use if for any other payments. Don’t forget to name someone else as the account holder as well so they can access the funds after you pass away. You also have the option of a funeral trust. This ensures that the money is only to be used for your funeral.

Pre-pay your funeral home

Funeral homes offer the option of pre-need policies. These policies are really life insurance policies that have the funeral home as the beneficiary. If your aim is to pay the funeral expenses over a period of time, this may be the best option for you.

Sell assets after death

Selling your assets to pay for your funeral expenses, is another option. This is a lengthy process as your assets have to go through the probate process before they are accessible.

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