Trying to estimate the cost of a funeral ahead of time can be a challenge. Average funeral costs are increasing and there are many things to consider. This includes if it’s going to be a cremation or burial, the urn or casket/vault and type, services that will be performed, whether or not the body will be embalmed, and more. In addition, funeral homes, cremation providers, and cemeteries all expect payment of the full amount before or at the time of the funeral. With so much to consider and the high costs of many of the services families prefer, it can be an overwhelming time. Below we’ve outlined some facts about funerals and their costs that may be helpful.
What does a funeral cost?
The cost of a funeral varies depending on where it is being held and what is included. Below we’ve outlined the average funeral costs based on industry research.
- Cremation with a traditional funeral service (a casket is present and there is a visitation, and the body is embalmed) ranges, on average, from $10,000-$12,000.
- Cremation with a memorial service (this occurs after the cremation is performed and therefore, the casket is not present, it does not include a visitation, and there is no embalming) ranges, on average, from $8,000-$10,000.
- Cremation with no funeral or memorial service ranges, on average, from $700-$2,500
- Burial with a traditional funeral service (a casket is present, there is a visitation, and the body has been embalmed) averages $15,000.
- Burial with a memorial service (no casket, no visitation, no embalming) ranges, on average, from $10,000-$12,000.
Breakdown of the Average Funeral Cost
The National Funeral Directors’ Association’s (NFDA) recent Funeral Price Survey states that the average funeral cost today is $8,755. However, it is important to note that this figure only includes the most commonly selected things in a funeral with a burial (including a casket and vault) and doesn’t include cemetery costs. When including the average burial plot cost of $2,000, the average funeral cost today exceeds $10,000.
The Most Significant Costs of a Funeral
It’s helpful to breakdown the most expensive things related to a funeral since these drive the cost. For example, the casket alone can range from $2,000 to well over $10,000. The decisions you make related to a funeral can significantly change the overall costs. Below are a few important things to keep in mind:
- On average, the cost of cremation is much lower than a burial.
- If you are burying a loved one, the amount spent on the casket and burial vault has a major impact.
- Both, a direct burial and a direct cremation (no service) can be arranged for under $1,000. You can always hold an informal memorial service with family and friends present at no cost.
- Plot or Niche ($1,000-$5,000): The cost for a plot or niche varies by the cemetery or memorial park and by the location of the space.
- Burial Vault ($500-$5,000): It’s important to know that vaults do not prevent decay. A simple concrete vault or grave liner may be a sufficient alternatively to an expensive vault.
- Marker/Headstone ($80-$4,000 or more): A simple marker or stone can be less than $100, however, many cost over $1,000 to well over $4,000.
- Casket ($2,000-$10,000 or more): There are many types of caskets available made from different materials, including metal and wood. You can also rent a casket for a few hundred dollars for a traditional funeral viewing that will be followed by cremation.
- Viewing ($500-$1,000): Each time you have a viewing it adds to the cost. The most economical option is to have a single viewing the day of or day before the funeral.
- Ceremony ($1,000-$5,000): Every part of a funeral or memorial service will add to the amount it costs. Include family in the decision making process and include what is important to everybody.
How to Manage Funeral Costs Ahead of Time
To help avoid spending more than you can afford on a funeral is by pre-planning. When you plan your own personal funeral in advance, you have the necessary time to consider all of your options and decide what is right for you and your family. Below we’ve highlighted 6 ways to help keep your funeral costs under control.
Steps to Funeral Cost Management
- Plan Ahead of Time. Planning in advance provides you with the necessary time to review all of your options without the burden of making a quick decision. By planning ahead, you also avoid making unnecessary purchases that are driven by emotion and it helps you avoid over spending. Planning a funeral is a lot like planning a wedding or other life event. You wouldn’t plan a wedding or other life event without starting with a budget! It’s a good idea to figure out the elements of a funeral that are most important to you and allocate most of your budget for those items.
- Research before meeting a funeral director. Even if the funeral is for a death that just occurred, it is always best to take some time to think about the type of funeral that you and your family want prior to meeting with a funeral director. By doing this, you can avoid making unnecessary purchases that your don’t really need or want.
- Shop around with multiple providers. Whether you do some research online or by visiting a few different funeral homes, you can learn a lot. You will notice there’s a wide range of costs for similar services. Go with your gut and, if needed, enlist a friend or family member to help with the decision making process.
- Get help. It can be helpful to enlist a trusted family member or friend to help you make funeral decisions, especially since they can be extremely personal and emotional. You may be grieving during this process and may not be in the best frame of mind to make large financial decisions. The person you enlist to help needs to be somebody who you trust.
- Consider pre-funding. If you are planning a funeral in advance, it may be a good idea to lock in the prices now with a contract with the funeral home or other provider. If you decide to lock-in pricing in advance, be sure you read the contract carefully and make sure you understand what you’re getting!
- Understand your rights. You have rights as a consumer of funeral services. The Federal Trade Commission requires that the funeral provider gives pricing in writing and also over the phone. Knowing this, it can help you avoid sales traps. If you get a sense that you are are being treated unfairly, move on and do not select that provider. You can also take further action against anybody who is acting unfairly by contacting the Attorney General’s office for your state or by contacting the local funeral home regulatory board.
How do you pay for funeral costs?
There are many ways to cover the cost of a funeral including traditional options such as insurance or savings, and new options such as crowdfunding. Below we highlight some of the most common ways people pay for funerals.
- Insurance: Having a funeral insurance plan in place ahead of time can be a great way to cover expenses of a funeral, when needed. In addition many families will use a loved one’s life insurance policy to cover funeral expenses. If you’re concerned the money from a life insurance policy won’t arrive in time, there are many companies that will front you the money ahead of time then get paid out of the life insurance policy.
- Pre-Need Contracts: Pre-need contracts are becoming more and more popular and are typically arranged with a funeral service provider. These contracts involve paying for funeral services in advance and locking in today’s prices. Make sure you fully understand your contract and what you are buying before signing.
- Savings Account: Another option for families is to simply set money aside in a savings or money market account to cover funeral costs. If it’s for your own funeral, let other family members know about it and make sure they can get immediate access to the funds after you pass.
- Funeral Trust: A funeral trust is like a savings account, however, it is legally designated to be used to cover the costs of a funeral. If there’s money left over after covering funeral expenses, it can be distributed to your estate. Funeral trust regulations differ from state-to-state so it is recommended to discuss with an attorney or financial advisor to make sure it is set up correctly. In most states, funeral directors can also help set up funeral trusts.
- Crowdfunding: Crowdfunding is becoming more and more popular as a way to help cover funeral expenses, especially when the death is sudden or unexpected. A quick internet search can provide you with multiple websites where you can create a crowdfunding page. This can be shared with family, friends and others who can easily donate.
- Government Assistance: There are government programs that can sometimes help cover some of your funeral expenses. For example, Social Security provides a death benefit of a few hundred dollars. The VA also provides funeral benefits to eligible people. In addition, some states and counties have special programs to help families cover funeral expenses.