Estimating how much a funeral will cost can be tricky. Average funeral costs continue to rise and there are many elements to consider: services, casket, vault, embalming, gravesite, and more. To make matters worse, funeral service providers and cemeteries expect payment in full at the time of the funeral. It’s little wonder that shopping for a funeral can be overwhelming.
How much does a funeral cost?
Funeral costs vary widely depending on where you live and what components you want to be included in the funeral ceremony. Based on our research and industry studies, average funeral costs are:
- The average cost of cremation with a traditional funeral service (the casket is present and you have a visitation) is $10,000-$12,000.
- The average cost of cremation with a memorial service (takes place sometime after the cremation, the casket is not present, and does not include a visitation) is $8,000-$10,000.
- The average cost of cremation with no funeral or memorial service is $2,000.
- The average cost of burial with a traditional funeral service (visitation and the casket is present) is $15,000.
- The average cost of burial with a memorial service (no casket, no visitation) is $10,000.
Average Funeral Costs Breakdown
According to the latest Funeral Price Survey by the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of a funeral today is $8,755. But this includes only the most commonly selected items for a traditional funeral such as a casket and vault. It does not include the cost of the cemetery. When considering average funeral cost, $10,000 or more is probably closer to what a typical traditional funeral really costs since an average burial plot costs about $2,000.
Funeral Costs: The big-ticket items.
It helps to know exactly what is included in the cost of a funeral since the big-ticket items are what really drives the cost. A quality casket, for example, can be as low as $2,000 or more than $10,000. Your particular choices can cause the cost of the funeral to go way up, or way down. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Funeral costs of cremation vs burial: one of the reasons that cremation is on the rise is because it can be significantly lower than the cost of burial.
- The exact cost of a funeral will depend on the quality of the casket, burial vault and other merchandise selected.
- A direct burial (no service) or cremation can be arranged for under $1,000. We recommend that you consider holding a memorial service of some kind, even an informal one, to acknowledge the passing of your loved one.
- The best way to manage funeral costs is to preplan. To learn more, see our information on funeral planning.
- Plot/Niche ($1,000-4,500): Costs vary by the cemetery and by the location of the space within a cemetery. Carefully consider your options. (More on Cemeteries.)
- Burial Vault ($500-$5,000): Vaults do not prevent decay. A grave liner or simple concrete vault may be sufficient and will certainly be less expensive. (More on Burial Vaults.)
- Grave Marker/Headstone ($1,000-$3,000 and up): A simple stone can be less than $1,000. You can buy from the cemetery or a monument dealer. (More on Grave Markers.)
- The Casket ($2,000-$10,000 and up): You can buy from your funeral home or a casket dealer in-person or online. Rent a casket for a traditional funeral that will be followed by cremation. (More on Caskets.)
- Viewings ($500-$1,000): Each viewing session you have adds to the cost. The most economical option is to have one viewing the same day as the funeral.
- The Ceremony ($1,000-$5,000): Each element of a funeral or memorial service will add to the cost. Decide what is most important to you. (More on Ceremonies.)
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Calculating Your Funeral Costs and Final Expenses
We know it’s hard to plan when you don’t know how much money to set aside. To help you understand how much your funeral might cost and estimate your final expenses, we’ve developed 2 tools to provide you with cost estimates. You can get an instant funeral cost calculation with our free Quick Plan. The Quick Plan is the first step in our Wise Planning System.
Our Final Expense Calculator allows you to enter the amount you expect to spend for funeral expenses along with other end-of-life expenses. This will give you a good idea of how much money you will need for your end-of-life expenses.
You Can Manage How Much a Funeral Costs
The best way to avoid spending more than you need to is by pre-planning your funeral. When you plan your funeral in advance, you have time to weigh your options and decide what is right for you. You also have time to comparison shop. Here are 7 ways you can keep funeral costs under control.
7 Steps to Managing Funeral Costs
- Plan in advance! Planning ahead gives you time to review your options without the burden of a time constraint. You’ll also have the luxury of avoiding the risk of making unnecessary emotional purchases. (Learn more about our Wise Planning System.)
- Set a budget.It always helps to know how much money you can afford to spend before you start shopping. Think of planning your funeral as you would a celebration of any big life event. If you think about it, planning a funeral is a lot like planning a wedding. You sure wouldn’t plan a wedding without having an idea of how much you want to spend! Allocate most of your funeral dollars to the elements that have the most meaning to you.
- Know what you want. Even if you are making arrangements for a death that has already happened, it is best to take a little time to think about what type of funeral you want before you meet with the funeral director. This can help you avoid making purchases you don’t really want or need. Our online planning tools can guide you in thinking about what items you will need to consider. That way you’ll be better prepared to answer the questions that the funeral director will ask you. (More on meeting with the Funeral Director and on making funeral arrangements.)
- Shop around. Whether it’s doing research online or stopping into local funeral homes, you can learn a lot by shopping around. In fact, you’ll probably be surprised by the wide variety of choices that are available at very affordable prices. (Try our FREE Find a Funeral Provider tool.)
- Look hard at the most expensive items. Your most significant savings can come from the big-ticket items. These items (caskets, grave markers, and urns) come in a wide range of prices. There are many beautiful options that are reasonably priced. It is not necessary to buy the most expensive style.
- Ask for help. It may help to bring a trusted friend or family member with you when you shop. Your companion can speak on your behalf if difficult negotiations are involved. The decisions to be made are extremely personal and emotional. You may be grieving and not in the best frame of mind to make big financial decisions. The person should be someone you trust and who you think has a personality that will be calming for you.
- Consider pre-funding. If you pay for funeral costs in advance, you may be able to lock in today’s prices with a guaranteed funeral contract. Like any big financial purchase, you should do your homework to make sure that the plan you select is right for you. Be sure to read all of the fine print! (Visit our page on pre-need funeral contracts for more information.)
- Know your rights. Consumers of funeral products have rights that are protected by law. The FTC’s “Funeral Rule” requires that you be provided with prices in writing and over the phone. As a buyer, knowing the basics of the Rule can help you avoid sales traps. If you feel you are being treated unfairly, contact your state Attorney General’s office or the local funeral home regulatory board.
Paying for Funeral Costs
There are many ways to pay for a funeral with new options such as crowdfunding becoming popular, especially in emergency situations. Even with these new tools, the best way to ensure that your funeral will be taken care of the way you have in mind is to turn to traditional methods such as:
- Funeral Insurance: Buying funeral insurance to cover your funeral costs can be a smart money move. Before you buy, however, you’ll need to do some research. Luckily, we’ve done a lot of the homework for you. Visit our Funeral Insurance pages for information on what to look for in a funeral insurance policy and tips on buying the best policy for your unique situation.
- Pre-Need Funeral Contracts: Pre-need contracts are arranged with a funeral service provider, a cemetery, or both. Working together, you decide what to include in the contract and the best way to pay for it. You may contract for just cemetery property and services, just funeral services or both. The important thing to remember when it comes to pre-need contracts is that you should be very sure of what you are buying and the terms of the contract. For more information, check out our article on Pre-Need Funeral Contracts.
- Pre-Paying Funeral Costs: When you enter into a pre-need contract with a funeral home or cemetery, you make specific selections. You may pay for it in advance. The key benefit to pre-payment is that you lock in today’s prices. There is some risk though since you are counting on the fact that the funeral home or cemetery will still be in business when you need them. The best way to minimize risk is to do your homework when selecting a provider.
- Direct Savings: Setting money aside in a conventional account such as a savings or money market account is a simple option for many people. The risk in this approach is that you may not be able to guarantee that the money you set aside is used for the right purpose. Your survivors will need immediate access to these funds following your death. You should talk with the bank or your financial advisor to make sure the account you open is set up so that a person you trust can withdraw the funds.
- Funeral Trusts: A funeral trust is similar to a regular savings account but the funds are legally designated to be used for funeral expenses. Any money left over can be distributed to your estate. Regulations regarding funeral trusts can vary from state-to-state so you should consult with your attorney or your banker to make sure the trust is set up properly. Many funeral providers can also help you establish a Funeral Trust. See our article on Funeral Trusts for more information.
- Public Assistance: There are federal, state, and local programs that can help defray the cost of funeral expenses. Social Security, for example, provides a one-time death benefit of $255. The Veterans Administration also provides funeral benefits to eligible individuals. Many counties have programs to help people with limited resources cover funeral expenses. For more information on ways to claim public assistance visit our Paying for a Funeral page.