Posted April 23rd, 2019 by Jason Metz
The national median cost for a funeral with a viewing is $7,360, according to the most recent data from the National Funeral Directors Association. This price doesn't include a vault, which may be required by the cemetery. If a vault is included, the median cost rises to $8,755.
The national median cost for a funeral with a viewing and cremation is $6,260.
Note that these prices do not include common expenses such as a monument or markers, flowers or an obituary.
How much do caskets cost?
The median cost for a metal casket is $2,400, according to the National Funeral Directors Association, although caskets vary by size and style. Your costs will depend on what style and materials you choose. For example, bronze, copper and mahogany caskets can cost as much as $10,000, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The price of caskets increased 230% between December 1986 to September 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Why are caskets so expensive?
Caskets can be expensive because of retail markup. It’s a good idea to compare costs before you buy. Caskets are traditionally sold by funeral homes that often do not display lower-priced models. Ask the funeral home to see a written casket price list. The FTC’s funeral rule requires a funeral home to show you these prices.
You may be able to save money by buying a casket elsewhere, such as Amazon, Costco or Walmart. The funeral rule prohibits a funeral director from refusing to handle a casket or urn bought elsewhere or charge you a fee to use it.
How much does a burial plot cost?
The cost of a burial plot varies by location and the cemetery’s requirements, such as grave liners and maintenance. A burial plot in a city typically costs more than one in a rural area. A liner or a vault is placed in the ground before burial and helps prevent the ground from caving in over time. While state laws do not require liners or vaults, a cemetery might require one. Burial vaults are typically more expensive than grave liners. A cemetery could charge a fee to open a grave and fill it, as well as a fee to maintain it.
If you or your loved one is a veteran, there is no charge for a burial and grave marker in a national cemetery. Spouses and children of veterans may also be entitled to a lot and marker in a national cemetery. Contact the Department of Veteran Affairs for more information.
Your state might also have veteran cemeteries, and eligibility and requirements will vary by state.
What happens if you can’t afford a funeral?
If you can’t afford a funeral and need help with funeral costs, you may qualify for government assistance. Some states offer funeral and burial assistance at the county and municipal level. Funeralwise has a list of programs by state.
How can life insurance pay for a funeral?
If you’re worried about having money for a funeral, you could consider funeral insurance, which is also referred to as “burial insurance,” “end of life insurance” and “final expense insurance.”
Funeral insurance is a whole life insurance policy that generally has a death benefit between $5,000 and $25,000. Note that your beneficiary isn’t obligated to use the death benefit to pay for burial costs and could use the money to pay off debt or other expenses.
Another option is pre-need life insurance. This is a policy that allows you to lock in prices for specific funeral arrangements at a funeral home, such as the type of service, casket, burial plot and headstone. A “pre-need” life insurance payment will go directly to the funeral home.
But any type of life insurance payout can be used by your beneficiaries to pay funeral costs, including term life insurance.
Tips to save on funeral costs
Shopping around can save money. Funeral costs can vary significantly in the same town, by as much as $2,580 to $13,800, according to a 2015 study by the Funeral Consumers Alliance and the Consumer Federation of America. They found that only 25% of funeral homes fully disclose prices on their websites.
While a casket is often the single most expensive item for a funeral, other items can add up. Funeral costs increased by 227% between December 1986 to September 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Here are some additional tips to help you save:
- Get price information over the phone. Under the FTC’s funeral rule, funeral directors must give you the price information over the telephone if you ask for it. You do not need to give them your name, number or address. Here's a funeral costs and pricing checklist from the FTC.
- Compare funeral costs. Funeral homes are often not forthcoming in their costs. Prices for similar services can vary significantly among funeral homes. A 2017 investigation by NPR found a funeral home that charged nearly twice the amount of another funeral home for a cremation done at the same offsite facility.
- Only buy the funeral arrangements you want. Under the federal funeral rule, you have the right to buy goods and services separately, such as a casket, embalming and memorial service. You don't have to accept a package that has services you don't want or need.
- You may not have to purchase a casket. If you're planning on having a cremation or want to use a less expensive casket for the burial, but would like a fancier casket for a viewing, you may be able to rent a casket from the funeral home. Some people also prefer this option as a more environmentally friendly approach to a traditional casket, which is used only once.
- Ask a friend or family member to help negotiate price. A trusted ally may be able to speak and negotiate on your behalf during a difficult and time-sensitive situation.
Breakdown of average funeral costs
|Type of cost
|Based on the median price for a metal casket; costs with other materials will vary.
|Non-declinable basic services fee
|Covers the funeral home’s time, expertise and overhead.
|A fully combustible container; it cannot have any metal parts.
|Rarely required by law, but may be mandatory at a funeral home.
|Use of facilities/staff for funeral ceremony
|If the ceremony takes place at the funeral home, expect to pay this.
|Use of facilities/staff for viewing
|If the viewing takes place at the funeral home, expect to pay this.
|If the funeral home uses a third-party crematory.
|Transfer of remains
|Removal/transfer of remains to the funeral home.
|Funeral transportation: Hearse, service car, van
|Transportation from the funeral home to the burial site.
|Container to hold cremated remains.
|Other preparation of the body
|May include cosmetology, dressing and grooming.
|Memorial printed package
|Printed and memorial guest books.
|Source: National Funeral Directors Association, 2017 median costs
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