The kind of burial you choose can have a massive impact on how much a funeral costs. While the median national funeral with a viewing and burial costs $7,640, average funeral costs skyrocket past $9,000 when you include a vault. A cremation, on the other hand, averages just $350, since most funeral homes can handle this in-house.
That could be why by 2025, the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) expects 63 percent of funerals to be handled via cremation instead of just the 31 percent projected for traditional burials.
There is much to consider for a funeral, and it isn’t cheap. Worse, it comes at a time when your head and your heart would often rather be anywhere else. We can help.
Funeral costs to consider
There are many fees associated with a funeral:
- Basic service fee: This is a standard service fee that is associated with a funeral. This covers the cost of planning fees, including any permit and administrative fees.
- Service and merchandise fees: These cover things like transporting, preparing and embalming the body, as well as funeral home fees for the viewing or memorial and any equipment or services required for the graveside service. You will also need to pay for a casket or burial container or the required services needed for cremation or interment.
- Cash advances: There are some services that your funeral may handle for you, such as funeral flowers, clergy and organists. You may pay an added service fee or marked-up prices to account for the funeral home’s efforts, but per the Funeral Rule, these extra fees must be disclosed to you in writing.
The average casket costs about $2,000, while other premium caskets made of mahogany, fiberglass, wood and plastic can all cost as much as $10,000.
Some buyers have found greater luck purchasing their own caskets independently to supply to the funeral home, as they are able to avoid the third-party markups. However, you will then be responsible for shipping the casket to the funeral home, and those fees can get pretty pricey.
If you choose cremation, you can avoid the cost of a new casket. Most funeral homes will rent you a casket to use if you plan on holding a viewing or for the funeral. It’s a far more cost-effective option for those who don’t plan on burying their loved one in a casket.
These are some of the average costs you may incur for a funeral, according to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA).
- Funeral service fee: $2,100
- Funeral home rental: $500
- Funeral home staff: $500
- Vault: $1,395
- Cremation casket: $1,000
- Embalming: $725
- Urn: $275
- Cosmetic services: $250
- Hearse: $325
- Transportation: $325
- Transportation for the family: $150
- Pamphlets and materials: $160
The Federal Trade Commission provides a funeral pricing checklist to help you navigate the process.
Average funeral costs by state
Every year, the NFDA publishes its General Price List Survey. These are the results of their latest 2019 report:
2019 NFDA Average Funeral Costs
No matter where you live, cremation is cheaper than a burial, although some areas are certainly cheaper than others. If you live in states like Colorado or Oklahoma, you will pay significantly less than those who live in Kansas or North Dakota.
How to prepare for funeral expenses
For many, death comes without warning, and while loved ones are mourning, they also must face the question of how to pay for such an enormous unexpected expense. That is why financial planning is so important before you die.
A life insurance policy is an easy way for you to contribute to your funeral expenses while you are still alive. Though it sounds morbid, we all die. A life insurance policy can be a way to help your loved ones after you are gone by prepaying your funeral costs through your monthly premiums.
You can use a traditional savings account, but these are typically subject to delays from probate. A payable-on-death (POD) account can be a better bet. This allows you to set up a special funeral savings account. You appoint the person you want to control the funds after you die, and that person can then access those funds simply by showing a valid death certificate.
There are other ways to pay for a funeral if there is not a life insurance policy present. Military members are eligible for special burial benefits, while others may opt for a bank loan or prepaid plan through their chosen funeral home.
Frequently asked questions
What does the average burial cost?
The average funeral costs for a burial is $7,640, but this is dependent on many factors that can easily impact the price. Funeral home fees, staff and services can all vary wildly, depending on where you live, so you should always research your options before choosing a special funeral home or service.
What does the average cremation cost?
Cremations are much more affordable than burials, averaging just $350. There may be additional services that you require, however, including funeral home staff and service fees, as well as a casket rental for the viewing.
What is the cheapest funeral?
Many funeral homes often mark up their services to account for their time and labor, accounting for a huge chunk of funeral expenses, but you can avoid these unnecessary costs if you cut out the middle man. Try to do as much as you can yourself or appoint a team of friends or family members who can help.