Updated August 6, 2019

Average Funeral Cost

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Grieving isn't the only thing you'll do when a loved one passes away; you'll also be opening your pocketbook in a rather eye-opening manner. Funerals can cost as much as $10,000 or more, depending on the choices you make.

An Overview of the Cost of a Funeral

Planning for the future can require you to think of unpleasant things, such a planning a funeral. While no one wants to think of when our loved ones are gone, it's a good idea to prepare yourself financially for such an event.

The cost of a funeral can vary drastically based on your location, needs, and your loved one's final wishes. Preparing yourself now, whether by saving money or taking out an insurance policy, can help prevent financial destruction in addition to emotional turmoil down the road.

The Average Cost of a Funeral With Burial

The median cost of a funeral with a viewing and burial is $7,360 without a vault for the casket and $8,755 with a vault. The median cost means half of the funerals cost more than $7,360 and half cost less than this amount.

This median cost includes the cost of the funeral home, transportation of the body, preparing the body for the funeral, a basic casket, viewing, and funeral ceremony. It doesn't include the cost of the flowers or obituary. It also doesn't include the cost of the plot or headstone.

Are funerals for babies or children less expensive?
Funerals for babies or children cost approximately the same as they do for adults. The only difference may be in the cost of the casket, as it's typically smaller. You can make the funeral just as elaborate, aka expensive, as you could an adult's funeral.

The Average Cost of a Burial Plot

While the average costs above are for funeral and burial costs, they only pertain to the costs the funeral home requires. You must pay for the burial plot, headstone, and any cemetery services separate from the funeral home's charges.

Each cemetery has its own costs, as many of them are for-profit businesses today. On average, expect to pay between $1,000 and $4,000 for the plot itself. You should also plan to pay an average of $1,000 to $2,000. Just like funeral services, though, you can find extravagant headstones that cost as much as $10,000.

Make sure to ask about miscellaneous cemetery fees
Don't assume that all fees are included in the plot and burial services. Some cemeteries charge separate fees to open a gravesite, especially if you pre-purchased the plot for yourself. They may also charge to cover the plot and maintain it once you use the plot.

The Average Cost of a Funeral With Cremation

You might think that a funeral with cremation would save you a lot of money since there isn't a body to view, but that's not the case. On average, you'll save $1,100 if you choose a funeral with cremation. Of course, you typically go according to the person's final wishes, so it's not always about the money, but honoring your loved one's desires.

This median cost includes transportation of the body, preparation of the body, funeral ceremony personnel, cremation services, cremation urn, and printed materials for the memorial. It doesn't include any further protection you purchase for the urn, such as a vault or cemetery/burial costs.

You can get cremation services without the memorial service
If you choose to cremate a loved one, you don't have to pay for a memorial service at the funeral home. You can purchase the cremation services a la carte, for an average of $350 for the cremation services alone. You'll still have to purchase an urn and/or casket for the remains, though.

You can rent a casket for cremation
If you will have a viewing of the body before cremation, ask the funeral home about the option to rent a casket. Since you won't use it for more than the viewing, it doesn't make sense to pay a few thousand dollars for just a few hours' use.

The Breakdown of Funeral Costs

Now that we've discussed the average cost of a funeral, let's break down the cost of each service. You always have the right to ask about eliminating or adding certain services to ensure that the funeral services are to your standards.

  • Transportation of the body to the funeral home $325
  • Embalming and grooming the body for viewing $975
  • Hearse and service car for funeral procession $475
  • Basic casket $2,400
  • Printed material for service, such as mass cards and programs $160
  • Staff for the wake/viewing and funeral services $925

Is embalming required?
Generally, if you have a viewing, you need the body embalmed, but it's not legally required. If there won't be a viewing or you chose cremation, you can skip this service, which can save you around $725.

You can negotiate or even eliminate some of the above fees to suit your needs for the funeral. However, one fee that you can't negotiate is the basic service fee that each funeral home charges. On average, this costs $2,100.

The basic services fee includes:

  • Planning the funeral
  • Obtaining any permits, if necessary
  • Obtaining official copies of the death certificate
  • Keeping the remains
  • Making arrangements with other services, including the church and cemetery

Should you consider burial insurance?
You've likely heard of life insurance, but what about funeral or burial insurance? This policy helps pay for the final expenses of the covered person, assuming the beneficiary uses the proceeds appropriately. While it can be a nice touch to help your loved ones cover your funeral expenses, you may be better off setting money aside yourself for your final expenses and dictating the use of the funds in your will or trust. The costly premiums and low coverage amounts typically don't make it worth it.

Your rights when shopping for a casket
The FTC has a Funeral Rule that requires funeral directors to show you the list of the caskets and their prices before showing you the caskets themselves. This helps to eliminate the risk of an impulse purchase or buying more than you can afford out of sheer emotion.

Who does the law hold legally responsible for funeral costs?
The executor of the estate is responsible for overseeing the funeral arrangements and handling payment. This doesn't mean the executor pays out of his own pocket, though. The funds come from the estate. If there isn't an executor, the law requires the next of kin to arrange and pay for the funeral. If no such person exists or that person doesn't want the responsibility, the person taking charge can sign a release form to allow the coroner's office to dispose of the remains.

Other Funeral Costs You May Not Think Of

The above costs are the costs that the funeral home charges. You may still need to consider some or all of the following costs:

  • Flowers
  • Obituary
  • Stationary for thank-you cards
  • Church services
  • Burial clothes
  • Luncheon after the burial or funeral services

You'll also want to factor estate planning into your costs. Keep in mind that can entail multiple aspects of a person's life, including their online presence. This article from Everplans breaks down the digital estate planning laws in your state.

Reasons Loved Ones Overspend on a Funeral

If you've ever heard about a friend or relative spending much more than $10,000 on a funeral, you aren't alone. Loved ones can easily get overwhelmed and find themselves overspending on funeral arrangements because they think it's the right thing to do. The most common reasons they overspend include:

  • Emotions: Grieving and making decisions don't go hand-in-hand very well. It's easy to make rash decisions either to get the process over with or to give your loved one a great send-off.

  • Pressure: Once a loved one passes, the funeral or cremation service typically happen fairly quickly. Many people feel pressured to make decisions right away rather than weighing their options or shopping around for a better deal.

  • Lack of knowledge: Unless you take the time to do your research before a loved one passes, you may just take the options available to you immediately because they require less work and/or emotion.

Can you use life insurance to pay for a funeral?
Technically, you can use life insurance proceeds to pay for a funeral, but only if everything is in proper order. For example, if the beneficiaries aren't up to date, it could cause a delay in releasing the funds. If the premiums aren't current, there may not be proceeds to pay or if someone contests the validity of the insurance, there would be an even further delay. While relying on life insurance funds is a novel idea, it's important to make sure your loved ones are up-to-date on their insurance to ensure that this is possible.

Ways to Avoid Overspending on a Funeral

Feelings of despair, stress, and confusion can easily cause you to overspend on a funeral. Use these simple tips to avoid it from happening to you.

Shop around for funeral homes
It may be the last thing you want to do as you grieve the loss of your loved one, but shopping around can save you thousands of dollars. If you aren't up to the task, assign a trusted loved one to do it for you. Even if you just call around to get general prices, it can give you a good idea where to start.

Shop around for necessary items
You don't have to buy everything, including the casket and flowers, at the funeral home. There are numerous options out there, including shopping online, that can help you save money. It's your right to shop around and bring in your own items. Again, enlisting the help of a trusted family member or friend can make this task easier.

Obtain an itemized list of what you agreed to buy
Before you sign on the dotted line, ask for a breakdown of what you agreed to while planning the funeral and burial services. It's easy to get overwhelmed when making decisions. Look at a breakdown with a trusted loved one may help you cut down on some of the costs.

Write down your wishes ahead of time
Again, because emotions can get the best of you, it's best to come into the funeral home with a list of your wishes or those of your loved one. This way, you don't have to think—you can just reference what you wrote and only obtain those services and/or items.

Set a budget
While you don't want to put a limit on the send-off you give your loved one, you have to be realistic too. Going into the process with a budget in mind can help you make more rational decisions as you plan your loved one's funeral.

Places to Get Help With Funeral Planning and Keeping Expenses in Check
If you don't have the support of family members or friends when planning a funeral, don't think you have to do it alone. The Funeral Consumers Alliance and National Funeral Directors Association are both great resources to help you through the process.

Bottom Line

Funerals are a part of life. How you prepare and the support you get while planning one can help make the funeral for your loved ones affordable yet pleasant enough to give you closure.

Write to Kim P at feedback@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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