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What Everybody Ought To Know About Funeral Costs

Written by Anthony Martin | Last updated: March 6, 2019

funeral cost

When planning a funeral, the most popular question that comes to mind is: How much does a funeral cost?

Answering this question is pivotal if your goal is to thoroughly plan for your funeral. After all, if you don’t know how much it will cost, how can you prepare for it?

Today we’ll discuss all the costs associated with a funeral, what goes into these costs, and show you some time-tested tips to help you save on your final expenses.

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What Does The Average Funeral Cost?

First, a traditional burial will always cost much more than a cremation. Additionally, any service with a viewing will always cost a lot more compared to a funeral that has no viewing of the body.funeral cost

Here’s a national average cost for funerals in the USA.

Average Burial Cost: $7,000-$10,000

Average Cremation Cost: $1,500-$5,000

These averages are based of national statistics. Your exact cost may be lower or higher. Where you live, what precise services you select, and how elaborate the funeral is will all determine the net cost of your funeral.


What Goes Into An Average Funeral’s Costs

Whether it’s a burial or cremation, funerals have many moving parts. It’s important to understand what costs are involved, so you know what to expect as you plan for your final expenses.

Below you will see a general estimate for some of the most common components to a traditional burial or cremation service. These are merely average costs as reported by the National Funeral Directors Association. Your costs may be higher or lower depending on your choices and location.

funeral cost

Common Funeral Expenses

  • Professional service fee ($2,000): This fee covers the cost of their labor and equipment.
  • Transportation of remains to the funeral home ($310): Covers the cost to transfer the body to the funeral home.
  • Embalming ($695): Embalming is often required for open casket services or if the body is going to be transferred interstate.
  • Miscellaneous cosmetic preparations ($250): This fee covers the cost of applying makeup, clothing, and hairdressing.
  • Facility usage for viewing ($420): This cost will apply if you wish to use the funeral home’s chapel for the service.
  • Funeral home staff for service ($495): You will only pay this if you choose to utilize the services of the funeral home staff to assist with the funeral ceremony.
  • Hearse ($318): This is the quintessential vehicle used to transport the deceased from the funeral home to the cemetery.
  • Printed memorial package ($155): The cost to print pamphlets honoring the deceased, and detailing the outline of the service.
  • Metal casket ($2,395): Usually one of the costliest line items of a funeral, caskets are a big ticket item. They can get very expensive depending on the model. Make sure you ask to see a price list to ensure the funeral provider isn’t marking it up too much from their wholesale cost.
  • Vault ($1,327): This is the enclosure the coffin rests in to protect it from the weight of the earth and heavy maintenance equipment that will pass over the grave. They are frequently referred to as “grave liners”, “grave vaults”, or “burial liners”.
  • Cremation fee ($330): The basic cost to execute the cremation of the body.
  • Cremation casket ($1000): This is a fully combustible container a body is placed in that’s to be inserted into the cremation chamber.
  • Urn ($280): The container that holds the ashes of the deceased.


How to Save on Funeral Planning and Final Expenses

The funeral industry is well known for having high margins on the products they sell. Their markups on caskets, urns, and other products are how they make a bulk of their profit.funeral cost

Having said that, if you follow these simple steps, you can counter their tactics and significantly reduce the cost of your funeral expenses.

Insider Tip: All funeral homes are required by law to show you a general price list upon request. Many funeral homes will verbally inflate their prices hoping you agree to it. They are required to honor the rates 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 only purchase the services and goods that you want.


Shop Around

Call at least 4-7 funeral home to get estimates on the service you are interested in. Let market competition naturally select which funeral home is most deserving of your business.

Keep Your Budget A Secret

Never tell any funeral home how much money you are working with. If they ask you what your budget is, simply say: “I’m not sure, but it won’t’ be much. What’s the best you can do?” The general rule of thumb is, if they know your budget, they will spend it.

Consider Buying A Casket Or Urn From Someone Else

You aren’t required to buy a casket or urn directly from the funeral home. You are more than capable of buying one from another vendor. For example, Costco actually sells caskets. At the end of the day, you might be able to save quite a bit of money by purchasing this large line item from somewhere else.

Consider A Direct Cremation

A direct cremation is a bare bones cremation without a funeral service of any kind. You are essentially just paying for the cremation of the body along with a very simple container to hold the ashes.

Direct cremations often cost anywhere from $500-$1,000 depending on your area.

Consider A Direct Burial

A direct burial is a burial service that does not include any sort of service or funeral ceremony. Basically, you are paying for just the cost of the labor to process the body and bury it in a plain box rather than a casket.

Direct burials usually cost $3,000-$5,000 depending on your area.


Steps You Can Take To Financially Prepare For a Funeral

Without question, the financial aspect of a funeral is the most important element to prepare for. Unpaid funeral costs can constitute a massive financial burden for the surviving loved ones who must remedy these unexpected bills.

Thankfully, there are multiple ways to prepare for final expenses. As the saying goes, different strokes for different folks, so choose which one suits you and your family best.

Regardless of which method you choose, you must do something. Not planning ahead is a surefire plan to sully your family with the burden of unpaid funeral costs, and nobody wants that.

funeral cost

Set Aside Cash

Put cash aside specifically to cover end of life costs. It’s vital this money is never to be used for emergencies or any other life event. If you use it, it won’t be there to pay your funeral cost. Also, make sure the deceased is not the only person named as the account holder where the funds are being held. This would subject the funds to the probate process. You can even establish a funeral trust to hold the money. That will ensure the money is accessible to pay for funeral expenses.

Burial Insurance

Purchase burial life insurance specifically to cover final expenses. These are small face value whole life policies designed specifically to cover funeral costs. Burial insurance rates are affordable, they are available for seniors up to age 85, and they have very lenient underwriting. Some policies actually have no underwriting which means everyone is guaranteed to be approved.

Pre-pay At A Funeral Home

You can take out a pre-need policy directly at a funeral home. This is a contract at the funeral home of your choice that utilizes a life insurance policy to fund the funeral where the funeral home is named as the beneficiary of the policy. These are a great option if your goal is to pay off the funeral over a period of time. They also allow you to document all your final wishes, so both the funding and planning of the funeral is complete.

Sell Off Assets After Death

Liquidate postmodern assets to acquire the funds to pay off the funeral bills. This really should be a last resort because assets (property, 401k, 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 the departed to 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.


Choice Mutual is an independent agency licensed in all 50 states including DC. We work with over 20 highly rated final expense life insurance companies, so that we can compare offers from all of them to find you the best deal.

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Michael Robinson

I appreciate the information that you listed here on how much a funeral would actually cost. Just like you said, an average cremation service is a lot cheaper than a burial according to the national statistics. I know that my grandmother is getting older, and I think that it would be a good idea for her to plan everything out so that she can save as much money as possible. Thanks again!

January 2, 2018 at 11:23 am
    Choice Mutual

    Hey Michael,

    Thanks for commenting.

    You are right about pre planning. End of life services should definitely be planned for!

    Glad we could help in some way.

    Take care and happy new year!

    January 2, 2018 at 11:39 am

Funerals can be really expensive! Based on your breakdown of funeral expenses, it looks like caskets are the most expensive part of a funeral. I’m sure you can save money on this though by finding a casket that costs less. I agree that you should look at a list of different caskets to choose from so you can pick something that is within your budget. I’m sure there are a lot of different options.

April 12, 2018 at 6:20 am

Great post! The biggest concern we see with people as they come to our Neil Bardal Funeral Centre is the cost behind each aspect of a funeral.

May 8, 2018 at 12:53 am
    Choice Mutual

    Hey John,

    Thanks for your comment, and you are right. The cost of a funeral regularly comes as a shock to most people. Most folks out there have absolutely no clue what a funeral costs. It’s usually only when a loved one passes that they realize how truly expensive and burdensome it can be financially.

    May 8, 2018 at 6:06 am
Monica Chavez

My friend’s father died unexpectedly two days ago, and now my friend and her family are trying to gather the necessary funds to pay for a nice funeral. I like your idea to shop around and visit at least four to seven different funeral homes to find out about expenses. It would be nice if they could find a reliable funeral home that could help them manage the costs and the ceremony.

July 2, 2018 at 2:29 pm
    Choice Mutual

    Hi Monica,

    First, sorry to hear about the loss of your friend’s father. We’ll pray for her and the rest of her family.

    We’re glad you found some of our tips on reducing the cost helpful. Hopefully they can come up with the necessary funds without having to go into debt.

    Take care.

    July 3, 2018 at 6:00 am

I just lost my father and never had to do this before and it’s crazy the money they want to do a funeral so please to any one that has loved one plan it ahead of time do what ever you can to be prepared

December 10, 2018 at 7:50 am
    Choice Mutual

    Hey John,

    We’re sorry to hear about the loss of your father. You’re right; funerals are quite expensive. Your advice to everyone is needed. Planning ahead can save everyone a lot of heartache and money.

    Your family will be in our prayers.

    Take care,

    December 10, 2018 at 11:35 am
Kate Welling

I was surprised to read the list of everything needed for a funeral. You mentioned that a metal casket is one of the costliest items of a funeral, which is interesting to read. I would love to find a funeral home in my area to pre-plan my funeral, so I will keep all of these pointers in mind. I would love to find a funeral home who offers packages so I could save some money.

December 18, 2018 at 4:55 pm
    Choice Mutual

    Hi Kate,

    Indeed a metal casket can be one of the most expensive items in a funeral. One could save a lot by forgoing the metal option.

    Nevertheless, pre planning is a great idea. Contact some funeral homes in your area to see what kind of pre planning options are available for you.

    Good luck on your search!

    December 18, 2018 at 5:06 pm

This is some really good information about planning a funeral on a budget. It is good to know that you should shop around and look at a few different funeral homes. My grandmother isn’t doing too well at the moment and we are thinking about planning her funeral soon.

March 14, 2019 at 8:58 pm
    Choice Mutual

    Hey Penelope,

    Glad you found the article helpful. We’re very sorry to hear about your grandmother’s health.

    You guys will be in our prayers!

    March 15, 2019 at 6:00 am
Kairi Gainsborough

I’ve always heard that funerals are expensive, but I didn’t realize a burial could cost as much as $7,000 to $10,000! I only spend $5,000 on my wedding, so it doesn’t seem like I would be able to afford a funeral if I needed to plan one in the near future. Maybe I could find a way to take donations online to help pay for the funeral.

April 5, 2019 at 2:52 pm
    Choice Mutual

    You’re right a funeral is quite costly. It’s best to pre plan now because nobody knows how long they have on this earth.

    April 7, 2019 at 7:57 am
Colleen McWilliams

The information you are providing is absolutely wonderful.
Do you know what the cost is to have your body flown back to where you grew up.
I live in South Carolina and only here for my children and grandchildren but I am from NY.
Thank you.

June 14, 2019 at 5:40 pm
    Anthony Martin

    Hi Colleen,

    To have someone transported across that many states will likely cost between $2,000-$4,000.

    Hope this helps!

    June 15, 2019 at 6:23 am
Penelope Smith

This is some really good information on funeral costs. It is good to know an average funeral will cost somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 dollars. It seems like a good thing to do a lot of research before picking one.

June 17, 2019 at 3:24 pm
    Anthony Martin

    Researching ahead of time definitely helps. Glad we could assist you in some way.

    June 18, 2019 at 5:56 am
Callum Palmer

My grandma is getting to the age where she might go at any given moment. It is good to see itemized expenses for common things for a funeral. I’ll see about taking your advice and shop around to get some estimates and then go from there.

June 17, 2019 at 7:43 pm
    Anthony Martin

    Hi Callum,

    Shopping around will really help you reduce the cost. Let the free market work for you!

    June 18, 2019 at 5:55 am
Sarah Packer

As my mom gets older, she wants to make preparations if she passed suddenly. I didn’t know the average burial cost was $7,000-$10,000. That’s good to know in case we need to budget for a sudden funeral and if we hire a burial planning company, we know what we’re getting into and the type of service we should expect.

June 20, 2019 at 12:08 pm
    Anthony Martin

    Hey Sarah,

    Glad the article was able to help you in some way. Few people realize just how costly funerals can be.

    June 20, 2019 at 12:15 pm
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