Funeral Costs and Expenses

Funeral Costs - a detailed price breakdown

Introduction

The quality of a funeral is not pinned to the amount of money spent. Whether the loss is sudden and unexpected or the result of a long illness, it's important to honor the life of someone who has died and to come together as a community to share grief and get support from each other. This can be accomplished by spending a few hundred dollars on a direct cremation with private memorial gathering or by spending $100,000 on an elaborate funeral. Both can be dignified and meaningful choices.

The National Funeral Directors Association states that the average cost of a “regular adult funeral” (funeral with embalming, viewing and a metal casket) is now $7,323. This sum is based on data from 2006 and does not including the cemetery plot, grave marker, flowers or obituary notices that are typically part of this type of funeral. With those added expenses and inflation the “regular adult funeral” is more realistically around at least $9,000.

There are less expensive options.

The least expensive direct cremation we’ve found is $540 offered by a crematory in Los Angeles, California. This includes only the basics – transportation of the body to the crematory, cremation procedure and placement of the ashes (cremains) into a simple container for pick-up. You can invite friends and family over for a private memorial gathering.

Prices for identical products and services can vary tremendously depending on whose selling the product and geographic location.

The price for funeral services and products is sometimes difficult to determine. Vendors often require you to contact them for the price, making comparison difficult and time consuming. However, as you'll see from our analysis, it's worth taking the time to call around to compare prices before committing to any particular funeral home, product or service.

Research your options, think about it and make the best decision for yourself and your loved ones.

Typical Funeral Costs Summary Chart

 LOWMEDIUMHIGH
Burial Clothes - men$170 to $400
Burial Clothes - women$95 to $350
Burial Shroud$195 to $1,000
Burial Vaults Costs$795 to $900$1,000 to $2,000$2,200 to $14,000
Casket – cardboard/fiberboard$50 to $100$150 to $300$300 to $500
Casket – wood or metal$345 to $800$1,000 to $3,000$3,500 to $12,000
Clergy/Celebrant$50 to $100$150 to $250$300 to $500
Death Certificate Fees (per copy) $11 to $13
Direct Burial Package$1,000 to $1,400$1,600 to $1,800$2,000 to $3,600
Direct Cremation Package$500 to $800$1,000 to $1,500$1,800 to $3,000
Embalming Fees$225 to $445$500 to $680$800 to $1,212
Flowers$100 to $200$220 to $360$400 to $600
Funeral Ceremony Fees$200 to $350$400 to $600$700 to $1,425
Funeral Homes' Basic Services$480 to $695$1,205 to $1,880$2,200 to $3,000
Grave Markers, Monuments$500 to $1,000$1,200 to $2,000$2,400 to $7,000
Grave Opening and Closing$300 to $1,000
Grave Plot$400 to $10,000
Grave Site Set Up$100 - ask
Graveside Service$200 to $300$350 to $500$550 to $1,700
Guest Register Book$25 to $80
Hearse or Funeral Coach$150 to $225$300 to $400$450 to $530
Limousine or Lead Vehicle$75 to $135$200 to $350$425 to $520
Musicianaround $150
Obituary$0 to $600
Other Preparations - cosmetology, dressing, casketing$50 to $100$125 to $215$250 to $363
Printed Materials – 100 Programs$40 to $80
Service Car or Flower Car$75 to $100$150 to $300$400 to $510
Storage and Refrigeration fees - Care of Remains$35 per day$50 per day$100 per day
Temporary Burial Markeraround $20
Traditional Burial Package$2,620 to $3,000$3,200 to $4,700$5,000 to $6,000
Transportation of the body to the Funeral Home$125 to $175$200 to $330$350 to $500
Urns$80 to $200$250 to $350$400 to $2,000
Viewing or Visitation Fees - funeral home facility and staff fee$150 to $250$300 to $450$500 to $1,175

Funeral Homes' General Price List (GPL)

The Federal Trade Commission regulates funeral homes and has established a series of rules called - The Funeral Rule. The Funeral Rule protects consumers’ right to purchase funeral goods and services separately. You do not have to accept a package that includes items you do not want. The Funeral Rule requires every funeral home to have a General Price List (GPL). The GPL is a written, itemized price list of all the items and services the funeral home offers. The General Price List will be your guide to comparing funeral costs in your area.

A few funeral homes publish their GPL online. As consumers become more informed and insist on more price transparency, more funeral homes will publish their GPL online. If you don’t see the GPL as part of the funeral home’s website call or email them as ask them to send you a copy.

This is our rough guide for how much funeral services and products typically cost. Where we can we provide the National Funeral Directors Association’s statistics.

Funeral Homes' Basic Services Fee

The basic services fee covers services that are common to all funeral homes. This fee includes services like the initial meeting to plan the funeral, preparation and filing of authorizations and permits, coordinating the arrangements with the cemetery or crematory or other third parties. Also included are overhead expenses like professional licensing, legal and accounting fees, insurance, building and utility expenses, parking lot and grounds maintenance and administrative expenses. Customers are required to pay the basic services fee in addition to whatever service they request. Unless a package or service specifically states that the basic services fee is already included in the price of that package or service, assume that the basic services fee will be added to the total bill.

As with all funeral home services there is a huge range in how much funeral homes charge for their basic services fee.

Low priced basic service fees range from $480 to $695.
Medium priced basic service fees range from $1,205 to $1,880.
High priced basic service fees range from $2,200 to $3,000.

The National Funeral Director’s Association’s 2006 survey found that the average funeral home basic service fee was $1,595.

Funeral Package Fees

Traditional Burial Package Fees
A traditional burial package generally includes removal of the body from the place of death, embalming and preparation for visitation (dressing, cosmetology and casketing), storage, a visitation or viewing, a funeral ceremony and delivery of the body to the cemetery. Remember to include the funeral home's basic services fee to the package price.

We found a great variation of what was included in the traditional burial package. The biggest variable is whether or not the casket and vault is included in the package price. The price ranges listed below do not include a casket or vault.

Low priced traditional burial packages range from $2,620 to $3,000.
Medium priced traditional burial package range from $3,200 to $4,700.
High priced traditional burial package range from $5,000 to $6,000.

Direct Burial Package Fees
A direct burial is a burial without a service or ceremony. The body is often not embalmed. If a direct burial package is available, make sure it includes the basic services fee, storage fee, the casket and delivery to the cemetery.

Of course, the funeral home package will not include the cemetery fees for the plot, grave opening and closing or the grave marker.

Low priced direct burial packages range from $1,000 to $1,400.
Medium priced direct burial packages range from $1,600 to $1,800.
High priced direct burial packages range from $2,000 to $3,600.

Direct Cremation Package Fees
It doesn't cost very much to cremate a body. Usually crematories charge between $175 to $300 for the procedure. However, there are a number of other services and products you’ll want to purchase along with the cremation procedure, such as hiring a funeral home to pick up the body from the place of death and transporting it to the crematory, hiring the crematory or funeral home to place the ashes into the urn, storing the urn until time of pick-up, and obtaining the necessary legal authorizations and permits for the cremation. You'll also need a cremation container for the body (often a fiber board or cardboard casket) and something to place the ashes in (usually an urn).

Most funeral homes offer a direct cremation package that provides the basic products and services for a cremation. Shockingly, many funeral homes will offer a cremation package that provides everything but the cost of the actual cremation! This is because the funeral home doesn’t own the crematory. The crematory’s fee for the cremation is added to the cost of the funeral homes’ cremation package.

When considering a cremation package, make sure it includes the basic services fee, removal fees, the cremation container, the cremation itself, a container for the cremated remains, and storage of the remains until time of pick-up.

You’ll notice direct cremation packages have a huge variation in price.

Low priced direct cremation packages range from $500 to $800 and offered by crematories or funeral homes with their own crematory.
Medium priced direct cremation packages range from $1,000 to $1,500.
High priced direct cremation packages range from $1,800 to $3,000.

Descriptions and Costs of Itemized Funeral Service and Products

Casket and Shroud Costs
The cost of a casket is one of the most expensive elements of a traditional burial. Most traditional caskets are made from wood or metal. Cremation and the green funeral movement have resulted in more sales of cardboard or fiberboard caskets and burial shrouds.

Wood & Metal Caskets Costs
Wood caskets range from simple plain-pine-boxes to ornate old growth rainforest mahogany. Likewise, metal caskets vary from 18 gage steel to copper and bronze.

Low priced plain wood caskets range from $345 to $800.
Medium priced finished wood and metal caskets range from $1,000 to $3,000
High priced finished wood and metal caskets range from $3,500 to $12,000

The National Funeral Director’s Association’s 2006 survey found that the average funeral home price for a metal casket was $2,255.

Cardboard or Fiberboard Caskets Costs
A plain assemble yourself cardboard casket is your absolute least expensive option. Some families decorate the plain cardboard casket with paint, photographs or words expressing their feelings about their loved one. Some cardboard/fiberboard caskets are made to resemble wood others are personalized with pictures enlarged and wallpapered onto the casket itself.

Low priced cardboard caskets range from $50 to $100.
Medium priced cardboard caskets range from $150 to $300.
High priced cardboard caskets range from $300 to $500.

Burial Shroud Costs
Burial shrouds have been around for thousands of years. Traditionally, they are a long length of fabric that is wrapped around the body. A number of companies are creating burial shrouds that are constructed to surround the body. These shrouds will often contain a series of fabric handles for three or four people to use to move the body. Burial shrouds range in price from $195 to $1,000.

Burial Vault Costs
Most cemeteries require that caskets be buried in an outer container also known as a grave liner or burial vault. Burial vaults are big, heavy duty rectangular boxes typically made of concrete; some are made from metal (steel or bronze) and some from composite plastic. All are made to last forever. Most have at least 100 year guarantees. Burial vaults are an industrial strength casket for the casket.

The reason most cemeteries require a vault is to preserve the cemetery’s lawn and grounds. A casket buried without a vault will eventually deteriorate and collapse resulting in a ground depression at the gravesite. Sometimes this will cause the headstone to tilt. Without vaults, the cemetery’s the topography would look like pioneer cemeteries with uneven ground and tilting headstones.

Most Americans value nice even cemetery grounds. These grounds are also easier and safer for the heavy equipment like a lawn mowers and backhoes used by most cemeteries.

Low priced vaults range from $795 to $1,000.
Medium priced vaults range from $1,000 to $2,000.
High priced cardboard caskets range from $2,000 to $14,000.

The National Funeral Director’s Association’s 2006 survey found that the average funeral home price for a vault was $1,128.

Transportation of the Body to the Funeral Home Fee - “Removal” or “First Call”
This is the funeral home’s fee for picking up a body from a private residence or hospital and delivering it to the funeral home. The quoted fee is usually based on transporting the body no greater than 25 miles. Ask what the removal fee is for a particular location.

It can be more expensive to pick up a body from a private home because two staff members are necessary for this type of removal. Night and holiday removals can also be more expensive.

Low priced removal charges range from $125 to $175.
Medium priced removal charges range from $200 to $330.
High priced removal charges range from $350 to $500.

The National Funeral Director’s Association’s 2006 survey found that the average funeral home removal fee was $233.

Embalming Fees
Embalming involves draining a body of fluids and replacing them with a mix of chemicals – such as formaldehyde, methanol, ethanol and other solvents – to temporarily preserve the body for viewing.

Embalming grew popular during the Civil War, when soldiers’ bodies were transported long distances back to their families. Today the toxicity of the chemicals involved, especially formaldehyde, is cause for concern.

Routine embalming is not legally required in any state. Some states require embalming or refrigeration if the body is not buried or cremated within a number of hours of death (24 to 48 hours); some states don’t require it at all. In most cases, refrigeration is an acceptable alternative. Bodies can be preserved for around three days by refrigeration, dry ice or other cooling techniques.

It is not gross or undignified to have a viewing and visitation without embalming the body.

Embalming serves no useful purpose in preventing the transmission of communicable disease.

A funeral home, as a private business entity, has the prerogative to require embalming. Some funeral homes require embalming if the body is not buried or cremated within 24 hours of death.

Embalming may be required for transportation of bodies across state lines or the shipping of a body by airplane.

Low priced embalming fees range from $225 to $445.
Medium priced embalming fees range from $500 to $680.
High priced embalming fees range from $800 to $1,212.

The National Funeral Director’s Association’s 2006 survey found that the average embalming fee was $550.

"Other Preparations" Fee - cosmetology, dressing, casketing, hairdressing
The funeral home staff prepares the body for viewing and visitation by applying makeup, dressing the body in clothes, placing the body into the casket and styling the body’s hair. Some funeral homes offer a professional hairdressing service as a separate fee usually for around $35-65.

Low priced other preparations fees range from $50 to $100.
Medium priced other preparations fees range from $125 to $215.
High priced other preparations fees range from $250 to $363.

The National Funeral Director’s Association’s 2006 survey found that the average other preparations fee was $203.

Burial Clothes Costs
It is important to some families that their loved one’s body be dressed in new clothes for the visitation, funeral and disposition. Funeral homes offer special burial clothes designed for this unique wardrobe function. Complete outfits can be purchased including burial underwear and burial shoes.

Woman’s burial clothing outfits range from $95 to $350.
Men’s burial clothing outfits (suit, shirt and tie) range from $170 to $400.

Storage and Refrigeration Fees - “Custodial Care” or “Shelter of Remains”
Some funeral homes have a daily charge for storing the body even if it is embalmed. Some funeral homes price this fee on a per day basis others price it as a lump sum amount for a set number of days. For clarity, we’ve presented the price range as a per day fee amount.

Low priced storage fees are around $35 per day.
Medium priced storage fees are around $50 a day.
High priced storage fees are around $100 a day.

Viewing or Visitation Fees - funeral home facility and staff Fee
All funeral homes provide the family and friends the opportunity to see the body one last time before final disposition. The body may or may not be embalmed. Often the visitation is scheduled for a 3-4 hour period. The funeral home sets up the viewing and reception area with displays of floral arrangements provided by the family or friends. The funeral home supervises the viewing and reception.

Often funeral homes will charge more for viewings on the weekends – sometimes twice the weekday fee.

Sometimes the family provides refreshments for guests who attend the visitation. The funeral home coordinates the food and beverages with a caterer or the family. (Note -- Five states prohibit food and beverages in funeral homes; they are -- New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.)

Low priced visitation fees range from $150 to $250.
Medium priced visitation fees range from $300 to $450.
High priced visitation fees range from $500 to $1,175.

The National Funeral Director’s Association’s 2006 survey found that the average visitation fee for facilities and staff was $406.

Funeral Ceremony Fees
The funeral ceremony fee is the charge for coordinating and supervising the funeral arrangements and assisting with the ceremony. Most funeral homes charge the same amount for a funeral ceremony at their facility as they charge for a ceremony held elsewhere like at a church or other place of worship. Some funeral homes charge more for funerals held on a Saturday or Sunday.

Low priced funeral ceremony fees range from $200 to $350.
Medium priced funeral ceremony fees range from $400 to $600.
High priced funeral ceremony fees range from $700 to $1,425.

The National Funeral Director’s Association’s 2006 survey found that the average Funeral Ceremony facility and staff fee for facilities and staff was $463.

Funeral Printed Programs Costs
Funeral homes often can order printed programs through an outside vendor or they can use their own copier to create the programs. High quality and affordable copiers have resulted in a number of small independent funeral program companies that operate over the internet.

One hundred basic funeral programs without a picture range from around $40 to $80.

Color copies containing a picture of the deceased will cost more, around $135 to $150 for one hundred copies.

The price goes up with the quality and quantity of the printed materials.

Many funeral homes offer other printed materials such as prayer cards, book marks, acknowledgement cards, pallbearer cards and thank you cards.

The National Funeral Director’s Association’s 2006 survey found that the average basic memorial print package is $119.

Guest Register Book Costs
A guest register book is a special book for guests attending the visitation or funeral to sign their name and perhaps write a short condolence. Guest register books range in price from $25 to $80. Some extraordinary guest register books sell for as much as $225.

Flower Costs
There are two floral arrangements unique to funerals – the casket spray and the standing easel display.

A casket spray is a cascading assortment of flowers that rests on top of the casket. A standing easel display is an arrangement of flowers attached to a free standing easel. Often the easel flowers are arranged in a wreath or heart shape. The standing easel display is commonly set up next to the casket, urn or a tribute table.

Urns are sometimes decorated with a small floral wreath or garland.

When ashes are scattered on water, sympathy wreaths, loose flowers and flower petals are often tossed onto the waters surface.

The price for flowers depends on the quality and quantity of flowers. Carnations and daisies cost less than roses.

Visit the Product Gallery to see a wide variety of funeral flowers.

Low priced casket sprays and standing easel displays range in price from $100 to $200.
Medium priced casket sprays and standing easel displays range in price from $220 to $360.
High priced casket sprays and standing easel displays range in price from $400 to $600.

Clergy/Celebrant Fees
A clergy or celebrant officiates the memorial ceremony. A funeral is not a legally sanctioned ceremony and does not require any special qualifications for the officiant.

Clergy are ordained by a religious denomination whereas a celebrant might not have any religious affiliation but may have training on ceremony and how to prepare a eulogy.

To plan and prepare for the service, clergy/celebrants often meet with the family a day or two before the ceremony. Sometimes the clergy/celebrant will present a eulogy based on interviews with the family and friends.

Some funeral homes have clergy/celebrants on contract or on staff. If you purchase a funeral package, make sure and clarify whether or not the clergy/celebrant fee is in included in your package. If it is, there is no need to tip the clergy/celebrant; they are already being compensated for their work.

Low priced clergy/celebrants range from $50 to $100.
Medium priced clergy/celebrants range from $150 to $250.
High priced clergy/celebrants range from $300 to $500.

Musician Fees
Soloists such as bagpipers, vocalists, and harpists typically charge by the hour but some may price by a flat fee or by the number of songs performed. Often musicians will include a travel fee. The more impressive the musician's professional credentials the more they are likely to charge. On average musicians charge around $150 for a funeral.

Hearse or Funeral Coach Fees
The hearse is a special car used to transport the body to the cemetery and usually leads the funeral procession.

Low priced hearse fees range from $150 to $225.
Medium priced hearse fees range from $300 to $400.
High priced hearse fees range from $450 to $530.

The National Funeral Director’s Association’s 2006 survey found that the average hearse fee was $251.

Limousine or Lead Vehicle Fees
Family and close friends sometimes want to ride together from the ceremony site to the grave site in a chauffeured limousine. Limousines come in different sizes. Some hold up to 14 people.

Low priced limousine fees range from $75 to $135.
Medium priced limousine fees range from $200 to $350.
High priced limousine fees range from $425 to $520.

The National Funeral Director’s Association’s 2006 survey found that the average hearse fee was $251.

Service Car or Flower Car Fees
The service or flower car is a car or van used to transport flower displays, mementos and other things located at the funeral home to the ceremony site or grave site.

Low priced service car fees range from $75 to $100.
Medium priced service car fees range from $150 to $300.
High priced service car fees range from $400 to $510.

The National Funeral Director’s Association’s 2006 survey found that the average use of service car/van fee was $120.

Grave Plot Costs
There is a huge range in prices for grave plots. Like all real estate the key to price is location, location, location. Often public cemeteries owned by a city or county are a little less expensive than private cemeteries, but it depends. The least expensive single grave plot we’ve been able to locate was $400. The most expensive single grave plot we found was $10,000.

Grave Opening and Closing Fees
This unexpected expense can be significant and often will cost nearly as much as the grave plot itself. We found prices range from $300 to $1,000.

Weekend and holiday rates can double or even triple the grave open and closing fee.

County or city cemeteries often charge significantly more to open and close a grave for a non-resident’s burial.

Grave Site Set Up Fees
Cemeteries and sometime funeral homes charge a fee for preparing the grave site with Astro Turf, folding chairs and other accessories for a gravesite service. Ask about this fee so you’re not surprised by an unexpected bill for several hundred dollars.

Graveside Service Fees
A graveside service is a brief ceremony at the cemetery next to the place of burial. The funeral home coordinates the delivery of the casket to the cemetery and oversees the ceremony at the cemetery. The funeral home’s basic services fee is added to the cost of the graveside service. Additional fees may be incurred for a tent, chairs, Astroturf around the grave site and any other extras such as release of doves, musicians or a clergy/celebrant.

Low priced graveside services range from $200 to $300.
Medium priced graveside services range from $350 to $500.
High priced graveside services range from $550 to $1,700.

Temporary Burial Marker Costs
Temporary burial markers mark the location of the grave pending a permanent marker or headstone. Temporary markers cost around $20.

Obituary Costs
Newspaper obituaries range in price from free to over $600. The average price we found was $298 for 20 lines and a picture.

Some smaller local newspapers publish obituaries for free. Larger newspapers usually require a significant fee to publish an obituary or death notice. Most newspapers charge by length of the obituary and charge extra for a picture.

Online obituaries are available from a number of websites. All of the major papers are affiliated with the Legacy.com web service.

Most papers will publish newsworthy obituaries (deaths of public figures, prominent locals and celebrities) for free.

Some newspapers publish death notices for free. Death notices are a limited number of lines and briefly announce the person’s birth and death dates, no biographical information or picture are included.

Urns
Cremains (ashes) are not a biohazard and don't require any special container. Most people choose to purchase a special container for the ashes called an urn. There are countless urns available to purchase online. Basic wood and metal urns start at around $100.

Engraving is an option, to personalize the urn with a name, a date, a phrase of your choice, but this will be an additional charge.

Visit the Product Gallery Urns to see thousands of urns organized into around 40 easy to view categories

Low priced urns range from $80 to $200.
Medium priced urns range from $250 to $350.
High priced urns range from $400 to $2,000.

Grave Markers, Monuments and Headstones
Three names are used to describe the stone or metal sign used to indicate who is buried in a grave - grave markers, monument and headstones. There is inconsistancy in what names describe what type of sign. Typically, grave markers lie flat on the ground to and are made from granite or bronze. Typically, monuments are upright off the ground granite or marble statues often rectangle in shape.

Cemeteries often sell markers, but you can also buy them online.

Granite markers are often a little less expensive than bronze markers. The least expensive granite individual marker we found sold for $659.

There are additional fees associated with each marker -- the engraving fee, delivery fee, foundation fee and installation fee. By the time the monument is in place you will likely have spent several thousands of dollars.

Low priced grave markers range from $500 to $1,000.
Medium priced urns range from $1,250 to $2,000.
High priced urns range from $2,400 to $12,000.

Death Certificate Fees
Death Certificates usually cost around $11-13 for each copy.