How much should an average funeral cost?
Dear Savvy Senior,
How much does a typical funeral and body burial cost today? My wife and I are interested in prearranging our funerals but would like to have a cost idea before going in so we can plan and budget appropriately.
It definitely pays to know what charges to expect when pre-planning a funeral. Most people don’t have a clue, and can often be upsold thousands of dollars’ worth of extra services they may not want or need.
Here’s an overview of what to expect.
Funeral costs vary
Costs will vary considerably depending on your geographic location, the funeral home you choose and the funeral choices you make.
With that said, here’s a breakdown of what an average funeral costs nationwide, according to the most recent data from the National Funeral Directors Association.
Professional services fee: This is a basic non-declinable fee that covers the funeral provider’s time, expertise and overhead: $2,300.
Transfer of the remains: This is for picking up the body and taking it to the funeral home: $350.
Embalming and body preparation: Embalming is usually mandatory for open-casket viewing; otherwise it’s not
required unless the body is going to be transported across state lines. Embalming costs $775. Other body preparations, which include hairdressing and cosmetics, run about $275.
Funeral viewing and ceremony: If the viewing and funeral ceremony are at the funeral home, you’ll be charged for use of the chapel and any necessary staff. Costs: $450 for viewing, and $515 for funeral ceremony.
Metal casket: This is a big money maker for funeral homes, with markups of up to 300 percent over the wholesale price: $2,500.
Funeral transportation: Use of hearse and driver: $325 to transport the body to the cemetery. Use of a service car/van: $150.
Memorial printed package: This includes printed programs and guest book: $183.
In addition to these costs, there are a number of cemetery costs like the plot or mausoleum fee, the vault or grave liner that most cemeteries require, and the opening and closing of the grave, all of which can run between $2,000 and $3,000; and the gravestone, which typically runs between $1,000 and $3,000.
You’ll also need to budget for related expenses like flowers for the funeral ($200 to $400), the newspaper obituary fee ($100 to $800 or more), the clergy honorarium ($200 to $300) and extra copies of the death certificate ($5 to $35 per copy, depending on the state).
All told, the average total cost of a U.S. funeral today with viewing and cemetery burial is around $12,000.
Ways to save
It’s wise to shop around, as prices vary significantly by funeral provider. There are websites you can turn to like Parting.com that let you easily compare prices online based on what you want.
When evaluating funeral providers, be sure you get an itemized price list of services and products so you can accurately compare and choose what you want.
The most significant way to save is to request a “direct burial” or “direct cremation.” With these options you and your wife would be buried or cremated shortly after death, which skips the embalming and viewing. If you want a memorial service, you can have it at the graveside or at your place of worship without the body. These services usually run between $1,000 and $4,000, not counting cemetery charges.