I’m not going to lie to you, funerals are expensive.
I found this out recently when planning a funeral for my father.
But I also found out (Almost the hard way) that prices can vary a lot!
With a bit of research and running around, I managed to save quite a lot doing some basic planning.
And you can too.
This article will give you an idea on what you should expect to pay and my advice for saving a lot of money.
Breakdown of Average Funeral Costs
There are a number of choices available to you, depending on your budget, traditions, and wishes of the departed.
The costs vary considerably depending on what kind of services you want.
Cremation With a Traditional Funeral Service
This includes a casket and a viewing, but eliminates burial costs such as headstones and the purchase of a cemetery plot
Average Cost: $10,000-$12,000
Cremation With a Basic Memorial Service
Instead of a funeral with a viewing, you can opt to have a memorial service after the cremation. This option eliminates the cost of a casket.
Average Cost: $8000-$10,000
This is the most inexpensive cremation option, in which the remains are cremated and there is no formal memorial service or funeral. Of course, you can always have an informal get-together with family and friends.
Average Cost: $2000
Burial With a Traditional Service
The most traditional option is a viewing followed by burial in a cemetery plot. This is also the most expensive option, but may be worth the added measure of comfort it brings.
Average Cost: $15,000
Burial With a Memorial Service
You can have a memorial service without a viewing or having a casket present.
Average Cost: $10,000
So why exactly are these services so expensive? What are you really paying for?
Breakdown of Funeral Home Costs
Here are some of the costs that you might expect to see with a typical funeral.
Basic Services Fee
All funeral homes have a basic cost regardless of what products or services you choose.
This fee includes services like funeral planning, housing the remains, and making arrangements with the cemetery.
While this cost can vary depending on where you live and the funeral home that you use, the average cost is about $2000.
A cash advance is often required for the funeral home to make purchases from outside vendors. This extra fee will be disclosed in writing, although the amount of the funeral home markup may not be clear.
Services and Merchandise
These are the various products, services and merchandise which may be needed for your loved one’s funeral or memorial service. These costs include things like transport of the body, embalming and services for a graveside burial.
Caskets can be constructed from a variety of materials, including wood, plastic or metal.
Be aware that most funeral homes will place the expensive options at the top of their list and display them prominently.
No matter what kind of casket you purchase, remember that its purpose is mainly for dignity and aesthetic appeal during transport and viewing.
No matter how pricey it is, no casket will indefinitely protect your loved one’s remains from decay, so don’t fall prey to anyone who tries to sell you on this.
Average Cost: $2300
Embalming and Preparation of the Body
This expense may be necessary if you want to have a visitation or a viewing.
But you can dispense with this cost if your loved one is going to be buried or cremated immediately. In some cases, you may opt for refrigeration instead of embalming.
Average Cost: $600
Breakdown of Burial Costs
If you choose burial for your loved one, be aware that there are many costs and fees which can add up to a big expense.
The purchase of a cemetery plot represents a separate expense from what you pay the funeral home.
If your loved one was a veteran, you can save money by purchasing a plot in a VA-certified cemetery. Don’t forget to inquire as to whether maintenance of the grave site is included in the purchase.
Average Cost: $1000-$4000
A vault or a grave liner serves as an underground container for the casket to prevent it from caving in due to the weight of the earth around it.
A grave liner surrounds only the top and the sides of the casket, while a burial vault encases the entire casket in concrete or an equally strong material.
You are not required by law to use a grave liner or vault. However, some individual cemeteries do require them to keep the ground from sinking around the grave.
While a good grave liner or vault will protect your loved one’s remains from the elements to some degree, it cannot stop the body from decomposing. So be wary of anyone who tries to tell you that it can.
Average Cost: $1395
You can choose either a traditional upright headstone, or the more affordable option of a flat grave marker. Headstones and grave markers can be purchased directly from the funeral home or from a third-party seller.
Average Cost: $1500
Breakdown of Ceremony Costs
Whether you opt for a traditional funeral or an informal memorial service, there are going to be costs associated with it.
Viewing & Visitation
There is a charge for the use of the facility and the services of staff during a viewing. If you have more than one viewing ceremony, this will add to the cost.
The most economic way to handle a viewing is to have it the same day and in the same place as the funeral.
Average Cost: $450
There is a lot of choice in terms of what you want for a ceremony, and a wide range of possible prices.
Discuss these choices with your funeral home director and officiant to determine what would be most meaningful and also fits your budget.
Average Cost: $500
Your loved one’s remains must be transported to the funeral or crematorium. The price for this service can vary.
Average Cost: $325
You will want to have an attractive floral display for the funeral or memorial service. Sometimes, it’s possible to save on this by asking guests to contribute flower arrangements.
Your funeral home may have a partnership with a local florist whose services can be included in the bill.
Average Cost: $500-$700
10 Golden Rules to Save Money On a Funeral
- Have a fixed budget in mind first. This can help you make choices that are economical as well as meaningful.
- Speak to a few funeral homes. Just as you wouldn’t purchase a car or a home without doing plenty of comparison shopping, don’t spend your money at the first place you find. Instead, get several different quotes for the same services.
- Get an itemized quote. Find out exactly how much you are being charged for each service so that you can make an accurate comparison.
- Don’t have an open casket ceremony. This way, you can skip embalming, saving hundreds off your bill.
- Go with an independent funeral provider. This cuts out the “middleman,” so that the cost of services and products they offer will be cheaper.
- Consider direct cremation. This is by far the most budget-friendly route, cutting out a myriad of end-of-life costs, including a memorial service, a grave marker, and embalming.
- Buy the most basic casket. Don’t automatically choose the pricey mahogany casket that’s on display. Ask to see a full range of options and make the most economical choice.
- If cremating, rent a casket or buy a simple container. If you’re planning to have a viewing, rent a casket instead of buying one. Or you can display the remains in an attractive but economical box or urn.
- Plan a private memorial service. An informal gathering of friends and family saves you the cost of a traditional memorial service, and is every bit as memorable.
- Don’t be upsold on big items. Big-ticket items like caskets, cremation urns, and headstones can be purchased from third-party sellers at lower prices than the funeral home offers.
Common Questions About Funeral Costs
Who is responsible for funeral costs?
If there is a will or a funeral plan, the legal responsibility for planning and paying for a funeral fall to the executor of the estate.
In the absence of an executor, it falls to the next of kin.
How much will social security pay for funeral Costs?
Typically, family members receive a lump sum payment of $255 at a loved one’s death. Although this is not for the specific purpose of a funeral, it can be used to help with the cost. There may be other benefits available to survivors.
Does Medicare pay for funeral costs?
A funeral is not a medical expense, and therefore cannot be covered by Medicare.
What happens when a family can’t afford a funeral?
Talk to your loved one’s life insurance agent to find out what costs might be covered. You may be surprised at how much is actually available to you.
If necessary, consider taking out a loan or asking other family members for help. Look into low-cost options, like cremation or shopping online for a casket.
In the worst case scenario, you can release your loved one’s remains to the county coroner’s office. They will take care of burial or cremation. In this case, you may be able to pay a fee to claim your loved one’s ashes.