Cemetery Burial Plots Buyer’s Guide: How Much Should You Pay?

Comforting, traditional, and eternal, cemetery burial has its roots deep in our heritage and family history.

But as comforting as it is, this tradition is also an expensive one.

In this guide, I’ll go through everything you need to know about choosing a suitable burial plot.

Types of Burial Plots

Burial plots are by no means “one size fits all.”

There are several different types from which to choose.

Your choice of a burial plot depends on final wishes and on your budget.

Single Burial Plot

The most traditional and common choice, a single plot allows space enough to bury the body of one person. It is the simplest and least expensive option.

Double Companion Plots

This option allows spouses/partners to be buried close to each other, even in the same plot.

In some cases, they may choose burial alongside each other in two separate side-by-side companion plots,

Or you can choose a double-depth plot which allows one casket to be buried on top of the other. This option may be cheaper than a side-by-side burial, because it requires just one outer burial container instead of two.

Family Burial Plots

Sometimes a family purchases an area within the cemetery to use for burial of family members. This area is generally marked by a large headstone with the family name engraved on it.

Or they might simply purchase a row of plots to be reserved for their loved ones.

Cremation Ashes Plots

Most cemeteries allow you to bury an urn containing the cremated remains of a loved one in a traditional burial plot.

In some cases, you may be able to bury several urns within one burial plot since they take up less space than a casket.

A few cemeteries even have a section devoted to cremated remains. This space is often referred to as an “urn garden.”

Plots in an urn garden are smaller (and also cheaper) than a traditional burial plot, so this can be a good way to save money.

Some urn gardens are very plain. Others are elaborately landscaped, with beautiful fountains to look at and comfortable benches to sit on.

Burial Plot Costs

It’s helpful to be able to plan ahead for the cost of a burial plot.

There are several things to keep in mind as you make your budget.

Average Costs

Some things about the cost of a burial plot are influenced by factors outside your control.

For example, if you live in a city, plots will be more expensive than they are in rural or suburban areas.

Single Plot

A single plot in a private cemetery averages out from $2000-$5000, sometimes skyrocketing much higher than that in urban areas.

The same single plot in a public cemetery averages out from $200-$2000, depending on whether you live in an urban or a rural area.

Plots for the burial of infants or children generally cost less.

Sometimes the type of plot you purchase, as well as its location within the cemetery, can affect the cost.

And an individual plot will have a different price than a family one.

State By State

The cost of a burial plot varies depending on the state in which you live.

Some of the most expensive states in which to purchase a plot:

  • California ($3915)

  • Colorado ($2037)

  • Missouri ($1774)

  • Alabama ($1582)

  • Iowa ($1465).

Conversely, some of the least expensive states for purchasing a burial plot are:

  • Delaware ($1181)

  • South Carolina ($1100)

  • Indiana ($1194)

  • Mississippi ($1128)

  • Kentucky ($1121)

Costs Breakdown

There are many costs associated with a burial in addition to the cost of the plot itself.

Here is a breakdown of all the expenses associated with burial.

The plot

As we’ve discussed above, a burial plot may cost you anywhere from $200 to to several thousand. Individual research is required to find out how much to pay for a burial plot where you live.

Interment

Most cemeteries charge an interment fee.

This covers the cost of opening and closing the grave, replacing the sod and completing any required paperwork.

For a public cemetery, these costs average out to between $350 and $1000. For a private cemetery, you can expect to pay $600-$3000.

It’s important to keep in mind that these fees can really add up if you are purchasing a family plot.

Permit papers

In some towns, you may be required to get a burial permit. Often the cemetery may refuse to bury someone without this.

There is usually a small fee associated with obtaining this permit; in most cases, it is less than $20.

Your local government or funeral home director can give you more specifics about the need for a burial permit and how to get one.

The headstone

When it comes to headstones and grave markers, there is a wide variety of possible materials and designs that can be used, and these choices impact the final price.

The cost of a traditional, upright headstone averages out to $1000-$3000.

Veteran Cemeteries & Benefits

If you are a veteran, the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs will provide burial benefits to you and your family at no cost.

Here are the benefits to which you are entitled:

  • A burial flag

  • A government headstone/grave marker

  • A burial site at any of 135 national cemeteries

  • A Presidential Memorial certificate

  • Perpetual care

  • Transportation of the remains to the VA cemetery

  • Opening and closing the grave

  • A military honor guard

Veteran benefits are paid automatically to the immediate family as soon as the VA is notified of the death.

The actual amount that you receive depends on whether the death was service-related or non-service-related.

Choosing A Grave Marker

When we think about grave markers, most of us think of the traditional upright marble headstone, bearing the relevant dates and name of the deceased person.

In reality, this kind of monument is just one of many kinds from which to choose.

There is a wonderful variety of personalization available. You can choose from many different shapes, colors and materials, as well as a variety of styles for the engraving.

You can opt for a grave marker made of bronze, or for one that lies flat on the ground instead of upright.

Each kind of marker has its own aesthetic value, as well as a different impact on your budget. So it’s important to choose carefully.

Purchasing A Burial Plot

After a death, the funeral home may purchase a burial plot on your behalf.

The price of a burial plot cannot be guaranteed, as prices often change.

Pre-Purchasing a Plot

To lock in prices and to reduce the financial burden on your loved ones, it is a good idea to pre-purchase a burial plot.

This also allows you to personalize the way in which you will be remembered.

How To Choose a Plot

There are many different kinds of burial plots. What you choose depends upon your loved one’s final wishes and your budget.

Do you want a traditional burial below ground? Or would you prefer an above ground option, such as a private or public mausoleum?

If you have concerns about the impact the burial will have on the environment, you may want to look into plots which allow green burial.

Finally, if your loved one was cremated, you might consider burying the ashes at sea or scattering them in a scattering garden.

Questions To Ask a Cemetery

There are a number of questions you should ask in the process of choosing a cemetery from which to purchase a burial plot. Here they are.

What types of options are available for plots?

Is the attractiveness of the plot important to you? What size do you need? Remember that the burial of a cremation urn requires considerably less space than the burial of a casket.

In addition, you will need to decide whether you want a small area in the cemetery or a larger one which the whole family can use.

Are maintenance fees annual or one time only?

You may notice a maintenance fee as part of the proposed package. Be sure to ask whether this is a one-time-only fee, or whether it must be paid every year. This will make a big difference to your budget.

Do you need to provide a grave liner and/or a vault?

A vault or a grave liner forms a protective barrier around the casket, ensuring that the ground will not cave in as it begins to deteriorate.

Many cemeteries require these because they help keep the cemetery looking nice.

If you do need to provide this, it will be yet another thing to factor into your budget.

What types of markers are allowed?

It’s a good idea to find out any restrictions that the cemetery has on gravestones before you begin shopping for one.

In some cases, the cemetery may require that only flat markers be used. Others have equally specific rules governing the size, colors and materials of the headstone.

How much does the burial plot cost?

You’ve undoubtedly figured out by now that the cost of the burial site itself will differ from one cemetery to the next. But there are other potential costs which must also be factored in.

Sometimes the price may seem absurdly high; yet it really isn’t if everything (including opening and closing the grave and the perpetual care of it) is included within that price.

If the price seems low, you may want to ask about additional fees for things like maintenance.

How much does it cost to open and close the grave?

Yes, this deserves it’s own separate question.

That’s because opening and closing a grave is a lot of work, and this work must be paid for.

Some cemeteries will include this cost in the package, while others will charge it as a separate fee. In either case, it’s important that you know what the cost is.

Are there restrictions on the type of casket?

The FTC stipulates that you must be allowed to use the burial container of your choice.

But individual cemeteries may have their own rules about the kinds of caskets that are allowed.

“Green” cemeteries may only allow biodegradable caskets or shrouds. And some cemeteries will require the use of a vault or grave liner.

It’s important to research these restrictions so you are not surprised by them.

Transferring Funds

There are a number of different ways that you can transfer funds to use in the purchase of a burial plot.

If you have burial insurance, this can help cover the cost. Other options are a Payable-On-Death account (in which funds become immediately available to your beneficiaries) or through a savings account.

Right of Refusal

If you find that your circumstances change and you no longer want or need a pre-purchased burial plot, the cemetery gets the first right of refusal.

This means that you must offer to sell the plot back to the cemetery before offering it to anyone else.

Selling a Burial Plot

Plans change. After pre-purchasing, you may decide that you want to sell your burial plot.

Here are the steps to do so.

Check State Laws

Some states have comptrollers that regulate burial plot brokerage.

You may be required to offer your burial plot back to the cemetery before selling it to someone else.

Check your state’s laws online.

Check Cemetery Contract

Look carefully at your perpetual contract. Does the cemetery allow the private sale of plots?

If your cemetery is owned by a church, they may be free from state laws requiring that you offer it back to the cemetery.

Make sure that you confirm with the cemetery that they will honor a private sale of the plot.

Check Current Market Value

Like any kind of real estate, the value of burial plots fluctuates.

The value of your burial plot depends on the residential and commercial values of real estate in your area.

Speak With the Cemetery About Possible “Buy Back”

Contact the cemetery manager and speak with him or her about buyback.

If they allow this, they will work with you to determine a fair price.

Advertise With a Plot Broker

Do some research on brokers. Also check to see how long it takes for burial plots to sell in your area.

Common Questions

How Long Do You Own a Cemetery Plot?

Usually, forever. But check into cemetery regulations. In some cases, ownership reverts back to the cemetery after a long period of inactivity (usually 50 years or so).

What’s the Average Size of a Burial Plot?

Most graves measure 2.5 feet wide by 8 feet long. This makes allowance for the size of the casket as well as the headstone.

What Is Included In the Purchase of a Burial Plot?

Usually, the purchase only includes the space in which the deceased person will be buried.

In some cases, maintenance and/or perpetual care may also be included.

How Many People Can Be Buried In One Grave?

Only one person may be buried in a single burial plot.

For two people, a double-depth or side-by-side plot can be purchased.

Do You Own Land When a Plot Is Purchased?

When purchasing a burial plot, you are simply buying the right to have a burial. It is not the same as purchasing land.

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