Funeral Costs Breakdown

What is the cost of a funeral on average?

“How much does a funeral cost?” is the first question you hear from people planning for funerals. Most funerals in the United States vary between $1,500 and $15,000 with the average burial and funeral cost at $7,360 and cremation at $6,260, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. The cost of funerals has been rising since the 1980s. Today even the most basic funeral expenses can be difficult to afford.

It is very common for families to over spend on funerals. Some of the reasons for this include:

  • The emotional impact of the loss clouds judgement
  • Time constraints
  • On spot decisions
  • Lack of experience in handling funerals
  • Funeral homes taking advantage of the situation

One of the best ways to save money here is by knowing the average funeral cost and the cost of each funeral item. This way it will be easier for you decide what you need, what you don’t need and what would be nice to have.

Burial vs. Cremation

The choice to go for burial or cremation is a very personal decision. With cremation gaining popularity over the past few years, it can be difficult to decide.

This section will be going over the difference between the two and the pros and cons for each.

Cremation or burial take place after the funeral. With burial, the body remains intact. In the case of cremation, the body is incinerated and the ashes can be buried, scattered or stay with the family.

Pros of Cremation

  • Less costly
  • Quick
  • You can have the funeral service before or after cremation
  • The ashes are portable
  • Helps with the problem of overcrowded cemeteries
  • Considered more environment friendly

Cons of Cremation

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

Pros of Burial

  • Gives 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

What is the breakdown of funeral expenses?

A funeral has many parts. You can either go for a burial or cremation. This section will go through the basic costs involved for each part for burial and cremation.

The Funeral Rule requires that funeral homes and providers charge customers a basic service fee. This fee has to be paid regardless of other arrangements. This fee includes the cost of funeral planning, coordinating arrangements with the cemetery, sheltering the remains, securing the required permits, etc.

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 vary depending on where you are 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 for 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 for 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. The purpose of these 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: The cost for public funeral plots range between $1,000 and $4,000, with the average at around $2,000, depending on the location. Private cemeteries are more expensive.
  • Grave Markers and Headstones: Headstones usually cost between $250 and $6,000. Plain, flat grave markers mostly cost hundreds of dollars. If you opt for custom, more complex statues or monuments, they will cost you tens of thousands of dollars depending on the projects complexity.
  • Flowers (~$150): Flowers usually cost around $150 but this cost can easily go up depending on the type of flowers. Orchids, roses and lilies, for example, are very expensive.

Will funeral costs vary depending on my state?

Absolutely! Your state, even your city will affect the funeral costs. Due to outdated disclosure laws, most funeral homes do not have to share a price list on their website, so you might have to ask for them in person.

This section will cover the average funeral costs for the top 15 most populated American cities, 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?

Always compare rates within your city and double check for changes. Remember that funeral homes cannot force you to purchase services you don’t need. You can use this guide to get an idea of the basic funeral costs but keep in mind that they will vary depending on where you are. You can also use the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Costs and Pricing Checklist to get an idea of what services will be involved and use it when comparing costs. If funeral homes have costs that are not on that 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 unexpected event. It can be very hard to collect the huge amount needed for a funeral while you are still grieving the loss of your loved one. With average funerals cost at around $15,000, it is important that you understand where that money goes. Opting for unnecessary services can lead to a lot of debt.

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

Ask for price lists

You have the right to ask funeral homes for a general price list. This list will contain a list of entries, each for a separate service or goods. You can purchase the services you want and the funeral homes cannot pressurize you into buying services you don’t need.

Compare

Call as many funeral homes as you can in your city to get an idea of the average funeral cost and the services you are interested in.

Don’t tell funeral homes your budget

Even if you have decided on a budget, don’t tell funeral homes. Ask them for the best they can do.

Buy a casket or urn separately

You don’t have to buy flowers, prayer cards, caskets or urns directly from the funeral home. You can purchase them separately, this will reduce you funeral expenses substantially.

Go for a refrigeration

Unless the body is not buried within a certain time, embalming isn’t necessary or legally required. Opt for refrigeration instead, it will save you a lot in the funeral expenses. Under the Funeral Rule, funeral homes cannot provide embalming services without permission.

Opt for a direct burial or cremation

A direct burial or cremation means no funeral service or ceremony. This can save you thousands of dollars in funeral expenses. You could host an at-home funeral service. But this may be a difficult decision as not everyone is willing to host funeral services by themselves.

How do I save up for my funeral?

As you have probably figured out yourself, funerals are very expensive. The mere thought of leaving your family and loved ones to deal with it alone can be terrifying. Here are some steps you can take during your life to prepare for funeral expenses.

Purchase burial insurance

Burial insurance is a type of whole life insurance that is designed specifically to take care of your end of life expenses. It has the advantage of small face values, lenient underwriting, quick approvals and portability.

Burial insurance policies are affordable and people under 85 can easily qualify for them. If you are above 85, you can still qualify for a policy, though you will have fewer options.

Set cash aside

Start setting aside cash specifically for your funeral. Do not use it for any other emergencies. Also remember to name someone other than yourself as the account holder. You can also opt for funeral trusts. This way, it will be ensured that the money is only to be used for the funeral.

Pre-pay your funeral home

Funeral homes allow a pre-need policy. This is basically a contract that uses a life insurance policy with the funeral home as a beneficiary of the policy. This is a good option if you aim to pay the funeral expenses over a period of time.

Sell assets after death

If you have no other options, pay off the funeral expenses by having your assets sold. This should be a last resort because assets have to go through the probate process before they are accessible, so it will take some time.

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