However, you can significantly reduce these expenses if you opt for a “direct burial” or “direct cremation.” A direct funeral is when you immediately cremate or bury the body with no funeral services of any kind.

On average, a direct burial costs about $2,597, while the average cost of direct cremation is $2,183.

Average Funeral Costs By State

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of a funeral is close to $10,000 when you include a vault. The cost of cremation is less, which is around $6,970.

District Of Columbia$7,881$7,069
New Hampshire$7,881$7,069
New Jersey$8,093$7,463
New Mexico$6,888$5,694
New York$8,093$7,463
North Carolina$7,800$7,070
North Dakota$8,500$7,560
Rhode Island$7,881$7,069
South Carolina$7,800$7,070
South Dakota$8,500$7,560
West Virginia$7,800$7,070


Direct Funeral Costs

The average cost of a direct funeral is $2,597, which is the cheapest funeral type, costing thousands less than a traditional funeral.

With direct burial or cremation, the body is immediately buried or cremated with no viewing or memorial services of any kind.

StateDirect BurialDirect Cremation
District Of Columbia$4,641$2,149
New Hampshire$4,123$2,176
New Jersey$4,181$2,505
New Mexico$3,553$1,940
New York$3,803$2,391
North Carolina$3,585$1,914
North Dakota$4,258$3,183
Rhode Island$4,039$2,615
South Carolina$3,711$1,937
South Dakota$3,964$2,826
West Virginia$3,706$2,257


Funeral Costs Breakdown

There are various services to consider in the overall cost of a funeral. Below are the most common ones, according to the NFDA.

  • Nondeclinable basic services fee ($2,300) — A basic services fee covers the cost of their labor and equipment.
  • Removal/transfer of remains to the funeral home ($350) — The charge for transferring the body to the mortuary.
  • Embalming ($775) — Embalming is often required for open-casket services or if the body is going to be transferred interstate.
  • Various cosmetic preparations ($275) — This fee covers the cost of applying makeup, clothing, hairdressing, and the general preparation of the body.
  • Facility usage for viewing ($450) — This cost will apply if you wish to use the funeral home’s chapel for the service.
  • Funeral home staff for service ($515) — You will only pay this if you choose to use the services of the funeral home staff to assist with the funeral ceremony.
  • Hearse ($350) — This vehicle is used to transport the coffin from the funeral home to the cemetery.
  • Service car/van ($150) — This vehicle can transport family members or may be used to transport a body instead of a hearse.
  • Printed memorial package ($183) — Funeral homes will often print pamphlets and prayer cards honoring the deceased and detailing the outline of the service.
  • Metal burial casket ($2,500) — The cost of a casket depends on what you need. $2,500 is the median price for standard metal caskets. You can also choose a wood casket (median cost of $3,000) or a “green” casket with no chemical treatments (median price of $1,500).
  • Vault ($1,572) — A vault (aka “burial container”) is a lined and sealed concrete receptacle to protect the grave from sinking. Many cemeteries require the use of a vault for landscaping purposes.
  • Cremation fee ($368) — This is the typical cost if a third-party crematory performs the cremation.
  • Cremation casket ($1,310) — These caskets differ from those used for burial and typically cost less.
  • Urn ($295) — Costs vary quite a bit depending on the size and material quality.


Other Possible Expenses To Consider

Depending on your preferences, you may need to account for the following expenses adding to the total cost:

  • Cemetery plots ($3,581 on average) — Plot costs vary wildly depending on your region of the country. Also, the specifics of the cemetery, its location, and its size all influence the cost of a burial plot. For example, some plots in Alaska cost as little as $775, while in California, they might run you over $7,000.
  • Grave markers and headstones ($2,000 average cost) — A reasonable expectation for headstone costs is $500 to $3,000. Plain, flat grave markers usually cost hundreds of dollars rather than thousands. However, custom upright monuments or statues can cost more than $10,000, depending on the project’s complexity.
  • Flowers ($50 to $80 per arrangement) — These are typical costs, but special arrangements could cost several hundred dollars.
  • White doves ($150-$600) — Some families like to opt for the release of white doves as a symbolic way to acknowledge the departed’s transition to another life.
  • Mausoleum — A mausoleum is a large free-standing building that houses the body. Some people refer to mausoleums as “burials above ground.” These can be very costly, often costing about $4,000-$5,000 for a basic one.
  • Grave liner ($900-$7000) — A grave liner supports the soil to protect the casket. Some cemeteries make these mandatory.


Cost Of Burial Vs. Cremation

It’s a common misconception that a cremation service is much less expensive than a traditional burial.

But the 2021 figures reported by the NFDA tell a different story.

With a viewing included, the average burial service (with a vault) cost is $9,420.

With a viewing, a cremation costs $6,970.

Assuming you opt for a burial vault (which most people do), the average cremation is only $2,450 cheaper than a burial service.

However, if you opt for direct cremation, you can save considerable money.

chart showing the cost difference between burial and cremation

With direct cremation, the body is collected, cremated, and returned to the family in an urn.

Unlike a traditional funeral, there is no service, viewing, or other memorial services.

Funeralocity, a funeral cost comparison website, reports that the average cost of direct cremation is $2,183.


The Funeral Rule- Know Your Rights

In 1984, the Federal Trade Commission established “The Funeral Rule.”

This law grants you the following rights when dealing with a funeral provider:

  • Buy only what you select rather than having to accept the packages they offer you.
  • Obtain price information over the phone.
  • See a General Price List (GPL) that outlines the cost of all the various services and products the funeral home offers.
  • See casket prices before physically seeing them.
  • See a burial container (vault) price list if it’s not included in the GPL.
  • Receive an itemized price list of your selections prior to paying.
  • Get an explanation that describes any requirement imposed by a cemetery or crematory.
  • You can use alternate containers (other than caskets) for cremation.
  • You can buy a casket or urn from third parties.
  • Embalming is not required.

The FTC created the funeral rule to ensure predatory providers don’t take advantage of grieving families.

Be sure to remember these rights if you find yourself making funeral arrangements.


Tips For Saving On Funeral Costs

Funerals are expensive, but there are ways to reduce the cost.

Here are some simple steps to significantly reduce funeral expenses:

  • Ask for the general price list — All funeral homes must show you a General Price List upon request. Many funeral homes will verbally inflate their prices, hoping you agree to them. However, they are required to honor the funeral pricing shown on their general price list regardless of what they state verbally. Every price list will have a separate line entry for each item. It is your right to purchase only the services and goods you want.
  • Shop around — Call four to seven funeral homes to get estimates on the services that interest you. Funeral homes are compelled (via the FTC’s Funeral Rule) to give you prices over the telephone.
  • Keep your budget a secret — Don’t tell the funeral homes how much money you can spend. If they ask you about your budget, simply say, “I’m not sure, but it won’t be much. What’s the best you can do?”
  • Consider buying a casket/urn separately — You aren’t required to purchase a casket, urn, prayer cards, or flowers directly from the funeral home. All those items are typically up-charged by the funeral home, and alternatives can be much cheaper. For example, Costco sells caskets and urns.
  • Don’t insist on a viewing — Embalming and body preparation are often not required unless the body is not buried within a specific time. If the funeral needs to be delayed, refrigeration is usually an acceptable storage option instead of embalming.
  • Consider a direct cremation/burial — With direct cremation, the cremation process is executed immediately without a funeral service of any kind. Similarly, direct burials are burials without a service or funeral ceremony. Either option will reduce the cost by thousands of dollars.
  • Have the memorial at home — You can opt to have the wake (viewing) at a private residence. That will alleviate the costs funeral homes charge for hosting the viewing at their facility.
  • Consider an eco-friendly green burial — A green burial (aka “natural burial) is the internment of the body in such a way that decomposition is not inhibited. The goal is for the body to be naturally recycled. There is no embalming, vault, liners, or anything else that is not fully biodegradable. The cost of a green burial is much less than a traditional one. While a typical burial can cost upwards of $10,000, green burials can cost as little as $2,000.
  • Hold a graveside service – Conduct the memorial service at the graveside instead of paying an additional cost to the funeral home to host the service in their facility.

Organizations like the Funeral Consumers Alliance also offer tips and resources for minimizing the costs of funerals, burial expenses, and cremations.

See the FCA’s detailed overview of your legal rights after a loved one dies to get more savings tips.

The FCA’s four-step funeral planning guide also gives you an easy-to-follow game plan for funerals and burials that don’t break the bank.

When dealing with funeral homes, always ask for the general price list and double-check for changes.

Know that a funeral home cannot force you to make unnecessary purchases, like caskets with “sealer” or gilded memorial prints.

Use the numbers in this article or a funeral cost calculator to help you create a baseline and budget.

But remember that prices will vary greatly depending on your location.

You can also print this official FTC checklist for funeral expenses and use it as you price shop or compare your options.

If a funeral home includes a fee not listed on the official FTC checklist, never be shy to ask what it is and why it’s there.


How To Pay For A Funeral

Various ways to pay for a funeral

Proper funeral planning can help alleviate the massive financial burden for surviving loved ones who face these unexpected expenses.

Here are some of the best ways to prepare for final expenses:

  • Put cash in a savings account — Put cash aside specifically to cover end-of-life costs. It’s vital that this money is never used for emergencies or any other life event. If you use it, it won’t be there to pay your funeral costs. Also, make sure the deceased is not the only person named as the account holder where the funds are being held. That would subject the funds to the probate.
  • Get burial insurance — Purchase burial insurance (aka “final expense insurance” or “funeral insurance”) specifically to cover final expenses. These small face-value whole life insurance policies are explicitly designed to cover funeral costs. Final expense insurance premiums are affordable and are available for seniors, even those above 85. Despite pre-existing health issues, seniors can still qualify due to the lenient underwriting. Some life insurance companies offer these plans with guaranteed approval. That means eligibility is assured regardless of prior health issues.
  • Pre-pay at a funeral home — A pre-paid funeral is a contract set up directly at a funeral home. It outlines all of your funeral preferences, including the net cost. The contract usually includes a “pre-need” policy as a funeral funding mechanism. It’s essentially a life insurance policy where the funeral home is the policy’s beneficiary. With a pre-paid plan, you cannot name your own beneficiaries. You can opt to pay the total cost of the contract in one lump sum. They’ll allow you to make payments if you don’t have the cash on hand to pay it outright. The installment periods are generally 1, 3, 5, or 10 years. Like paying off a financial loan over time, your total payments will surely exceed the total cost of the funeral if you opt to make monthly payments. Pre-paid funerals are a great way to document and pay for your final wishes if you can afford it.
  • Sell off assets after death — Liquidate assets to acquire the funds to pay off the funeral bills. This option really should be a last resort because assets (property, 401(k), investments) must go through the probate process before they are accessible. For that reason, there will be a substantial amount of time between the date of death and when you’ll have the cash in hand to pay for the funeral. However, if all other options are unavailable, this might very well be the only way to pay off the final expenses.
  • Set up a POD account — POD stands for “payable on demand account” (aka “Totten Trust”). It’s a unique type of bank account where the funds will automatically transfer to your chosen beneficiaries after you die. So you can put your funeral funds in this account as a burial allowance. Then when you die, your beneficiaries can access the money to pay for your funeral.
  • Use existing life insurance — All forms of life insurance (term life insurance, whole, universal & final expense) pay out a tax-free cash death benefit to whomever you name as the beneficiary. The payout can be spent on anything, including burial costs.

The key is to think ahead about how much your funeral will cost. Get specific in your will about your wishes, and create a plan to pay for it.

Also, pre-paying can be for some of the more expensive items, like the cost of the burial plot. Regardless of your preferences, make sure your family knows about your plans ahead of time.


Getting Financial Assistance If You Cannot Afford A Funeral

If you’re struggling with funeral expenses, you’re not alone.

Many grieving families get hit with a substantial financial burden after a loved one passes away. Thankfully, qualifying families can often get financial help from:

  • State and local funding — Some state and local governments offer assistance to low-income residents who cannot afford a funeral. For example, Nevada County in California will pay for a low-cost direct cremation for qualifying residents. Every locality is different, so check what’s available in your state or local jurisdiction.
  • Medicaid — Low-income families are often eligible for assistance from state-run Medicaid funeral assistance programs. Since individual states operate their own programs, you’ll need to see what’s available in your resident state. For instance, Michigan’s Medicaid program provides $475 for funeral services, $145 for a cemetery, and $100 to offset the vault cost. Rhode Island, similarly, pays up to $900 for funeral expenses via its Medicaid program.
  • Department of Veterans Affairs — If your loved one was a veteran, you should be eligible for VA benefits. The current maximum VA burial allowance is $2,000.
  • Social Security — Surviving spouses or eligible children can receive a one-time death payment of $255. Depending on your situation, you may qualify for survivor benefits from the Social Security Administration.
  • FEMA COVID-19 funeral assistance — Following the passage of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, FEMA has begun paying funeral expenses for individuals who succumb to COVID-19. If your loved one passed away due to COVID-19 after January 20, 2020, you must present a death certificate stating the cause of death. Presently, FEMA COVID-19 aid recipients can receive a maximum of $9,000 per deceased person. The application maximum is $35,500. The money can be used to cover burial expenses, internment or cremation fees, caskets, transportation of the deceased, or other funeral expenses.


Frequently Asked Questions

The median cost of a burial is $9,420, which includes a viewing and vault. The median price of a cremation is $6,970, which includes a viewing.

In most cases, the least expensive funeral option is a direct cremation which typically costs $2,183. You avoid the costs of funeral home services, a casket, a vault, and cemetery fees. You’ll likely save thousands this way, but it can be a difficult choice because most families want a service to honor their loved ones.

A casket is the most expensive part of a funeral. Depending on the material of the casket, they can cost $900-$10,000.

Direct cremation is the least expensive option for most families. Your state may offer funds to offset end-of-life expenses if your family qualifies for Medicaid. You may also be eligible for assistance from FEMA, the VA, Social Security, or other state and local programs.