Average funeral costs
Find out how much a typical funeral costs and put your mind at rest — whether you’re planning for your own, or a loved one’s service.
Knowing the cost of a funeral before it’s time to plan one can greatly reduce how stressful this unpleasant time is. Here’s an idea of what you can expect to pay for a funeral depending on the kind of service you’re interested in.
Know your rights
Regardless of the kind of service you’re interested in, you’re covered by something called the Funeral Rule. This Federal Trade Commision requirement means funeral homes are legally required to provide you with a basic cost menu before you purchase any services. The trade body carries out inspections every year to make sure funeral homes are fulfilling this. So, if you make price enquiries with a provider and they won’t share prices before making you commit, don’t be afraid to remind them of your federal rights — or perhaps choose another funeral home.
Basic funeral expenses
There are a number of basic expenses that you’ll need to cover for any type of funeral. The first is a basic service fee, which covers planning and administrative fees and the cost of any permits. If you opt for a basic service but would like selected extras, such as a certain casket, floral arrangements, an organist or preparation for an open casket service, you may have to pay additional service and merchandise fees.
It’s a requirement of many funeral homes that you pay for a vault, which is a protective container that caskets sit in. You may also find there are additional fees not covered by your funeral home, such as the cost of a burial plot, headstone and published obituary. Remember, your funeral home must share additional costs with you in writing and you must agree to pay them before they can be added to your bill.
Funeral and burial costs
Broadly, there are two levels of costs to a burial. A traditional full-service burial includes transporting the deceased to a funeral home, embalming them and getting them ready for any viewings, or an open casket service. The average cost is around $7,500 but can be as high as $20,000 or as low as around $3,800.
A full-service burial package will typically include an average metal casket, a funeral procession, a committal service and a wake before the service. You may have to pay more if you choose a premium casket or need a larger venue than average.
If you’d like to have a burial service but would like to keep costs down, an affordable (also known as direct or immediate) burial is a lot less expensive. You won’t see the body, so it won’t go through embalming or other services.
Typically, a direct burial will only cover the cost of a basic casket and transport to the place or burial. You’ll need to organize (and pay for) any venues and additional services for the burial and wake. The average cost is around $3,912 but it’s possible to organize a very simple burial for as little as $1,600.
Cremations are typically less expensive than burials, but not by much. A full-service cremation package typically includes moving the person from their place of death, a visitation before the service, a basic cremation casket and transfer to the cremation site. You can pay for extras such as an urn and a more elaborate ceremony, but will face an average bill of around $6,218.
Direct cremations typically cost around $2,185, but can be carried out for as little as a few hundred dollars. These packages don’t include visitation and will cover the basic logistics of the cremation service. It’s a great option to cover the formalities and allow you to organize your own, affordable wake or remembrance service separately.
Getting help with funeral costs
To prepare for the cost of a funeral, lots of people choose to take out a specific insurance policy. Final expense life insurance is specifically designed to pay for costs accrued at the end of your life, like burial/cremation costs and unpaid medical bills. You can typically get up to $25,000 of coverage, usually without needing a medical examination.
Alternatively, you could buy preneed insurance from a funeral home; you’ll be able to arrange your funeral as extensively as you like and can often get a payment plan to cover the costs while you or your loved one is still alive. If you’d prefer not to commit to one particular funeral home, burial insurance is another great option.
There are also non-profits out there that specifically help families with the cost of funerals. If you’re an active member of your local religious community, your place of worship may be able to help fund a funeral if you’re struggling financially. Here are some other potential sources of funding:
FEMA – If your loved one died as part of a disaster or emergency, you may be eligible for a funeral grant. Most recently, FEMA has helped fund some services of Covid-19 patients
Social Security – For people who have built up social security benefits, family members can often claim a one-time payment which can be used for funeral costs
Veterans Administration (VA) – For eligible veterans’ funerals, the VA can hand out between $300 and $2,000 in tax-free allowances
Costs may vary significantly depending on your location, so it’s sensible to gather quotes from local funeral homes too. If you’re looking for further advice, find an advisor you can trust through Unbiased.
Charlie Barton is a writer at Unbiased. He has been writing about personal finance and investing since 2017, with extensive knowledge of platforms and products. Charlie has a first-class degree from the London School of Economics.