Know Your Funeral Costs - The Most Comprehensive Guide on Funeral Spending in the US
Funeral Information

Know Your Funeral Costs - The Most Comprehensive Guide on Funeral Spending in the US

Typically, funeral costs range between $7,000 and $12,000. Fundamental service fees, viewing, and burial, casket, embalming, transportation of the human remains to a funeral home, and other services are included in this price.

$6,000 to $7,000 is the standard price for cremation, but this figure doesn't include the monument, cemetery, marker, and other funerary items such as flowers.

Ever since the 80s, funeral spending has been on the rise. Paying up to $9,000 for a funeral today, no matter if the body is cremated or buried, is no surprise. Both material and style affect the cost of urns and caskets, and you may pay thousands of dollars for any of them.

If you ever had to be involved in a funeral, you know that even the most basic services may feel much when you’re financially struggling. Also, even if you're planning every single detail, some last minute add-ons may end up being included, sending the final funeral expenses through the roof.

The more you know about what to expect at a funeral and what you pay for, the easier it is going to be to control the "financial damage." The following guide will help you prepare for the most minute detail so that funeral costs don't come to you as a shock.

Why do people tend to empty their wallet on a funeral?

The loss of someone we love is a challenging time for us. People are emotionally shaken, so the risk of not making the right decision is really high. There are a thousand things to take care of, and most of them are very new to us, especially if it's the first time we're dealing with a funeral.

There are a couple of main reasons for which people tend to overspend on a funeral:

  • Most decisions have to be made against time; you physically don't have the time to go when making decisions slowly.
  • Losing someone affects you on an emotional level so that clear judgment will be affected
  • The majority of families go through a funeral for the first time.
  • There are many decisions to be made on-the-spot.
  • Even though it’s not mandatory, there’s always the category of funeral homes and cemeteries that take advantage and charge you more than they should.

Who has the lawful responsibility for covering the funeral expenses?

When the estate plan or will don’t exist, the executor has to take care of the funeral and every spending related to it. If, by any chance, there is no executor either, the next of kin will take responsibility.

It’s not uncommon for the person responsible not to be able to take care of the funeral expenses, in which case he/she will need to sign a release, turning the body to the coroner’s office for future disposal.

Can Social Security reduce your funeral spending somehow?

It's not expected for Social Security to cover the funeral costs. Some family members will be eligible, though, to obtain a lump sum payment when someone in the family dies. Additional benefits may be included, but specific requirements have to be completed.

How much do we pay at a funeral nowadays?

Spending for a funeral is entirely different than spending on anything else in life. For instance, when you're looking for a new car, the chances are that you're going to search high and low for the best option for you.

Think about it: when you're looking for a new car, you go to several car dealers, ask around, and check the details online. We're going to spend a lot of time and patience in finding the best model for our needs and budget.

Large appliances, computers, or anything else around the house that is rather expensive doesn't make an exception. We're going to check at least a couple of models, especially if we have the time.

Should you do some price shopping when it comes to funerals?

For many people, the funeral is one of the most precious moments in their life. Regardless, many of us just go with the "sticker price" and take for granted every funeral spending that comes along.

Shopping for the funeral items and services is doable, but it's not common for people to do it. The majority of consumers don't even think about funeral costs before they need to, so they just pay for everything when the time has come.

Do customers have funeral rights when purchasing funeral items and services?

It's when we get older that we start thinking about the final arrangements, and funeral costs are a big chunk of it.

Any customer should be aware of the “Funeral Rule” created by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) since 1984. It's a body of regulations that reduces the risk of a funeral home to make you buy services and goods that you don't really need.

The Funeral Rule was developed to protect the consumers and be overcharged for anything they purchase.

What makes the Funeral Rule protective of the consumer?

The Funeral Rule is really comprehensive, and it regulates the activity of funeral homes and crematories for customer’s protection.

Here’s how the Funeral Rule protects customers:

  • The funeral home has to provide you pricing information by phone.
  • You may buy only the goods and services you wish to buy
  • The funeral home has to offer an itemized statement for every service and goods that it provides.
  • A list of casket prices may be provided to you without asking.
  • You are allowed to buy the casket from a third party; moreover, the funeral home is obligated to accept and manage the container bought elsewhere
  • The funeral home/crematory has to provide you a container for cremation.
  • It's allowed to refuse embalming before a funeral. However, embalming becomes mandatory if a certain amount of time since the death has passed.

What’s the typical price for a conventional funeral with burial?

$8,500 is the amount of money expected to be spent on a conventional funeral with burial, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.  Do not put this figure down as final expense, as it doesn’t include the expenses for burial plots or additional costs such as flowers or transportation. The funeral home and funeral products you choose will affect the final spending. It's the main reason for which you should do some price shopping, even if you're pressured by time.

It makes perfect sense for people not to have the time or the emotional strength to check the market carefully before buying. More often than not, people don't even have the time to review the alternatives. Dealing with the death of someone they love and the numerous options related to a funeral is really challenging. Even the most experienced shopper will have a difficult time when shopping for a funeral.

As long as you're planning however, you should be able to keep some of the spendings under control. Many people are making funeral plans to help their families when the time comes. Preparing everything for the funeral is a great way to ease out the stress and pressure that the family goes through.

What funeral expenses should you expect?

The price list for the funeral can vary from one person to another, but you can still make an idea of how much you will pay by check the median spending on a funeral.

Back in 2017, you would pay $7,369 for a funeral without a vault, whereas for one with a vault, you would have to pay $8,755. However, products such as flowers, obituary, headstone, or burial plot weren't included in the price.

Where you live in the US will also affect your funeral spending, but here are the numbers to expect, regularly:

  • Fee for the professional services, with labor and equipment included- $2,000
  • Embalming - $725. Open casket services or interstate transporting of the body will require embalming. Remember that embalming isn't always needed, and it depends a lot on whether the body will be cremated or buried. How fast the service will take place after death also counts.

Refrigeration is an alternative to embalming, but it can also cost a couple of hundred dollars.

  • Any cosmetic preparation- $250. Clothing, makeup and hairdressing will be also included for this price.
  • Transportation of the human remain to the funeral home- $325. It's a fee you need to pay for transferring the body to the mortuary.

If the shipping of the body is necessary, expect to pay around $2,000 for it. When someone dies overseas while on business or traveling, the shipping costs can get even higher. It may be cheaper to have the body cremated to the place of death and send the cremated remains afterward.

  • In the case of viewing, the fee for the facility is $425, give or take. You only pay the price if you're using the chapel of the funeral home.
  • Services for the funeral home- $500. You pay it when using the funeral staff members for handling the funeral ceremony.
  • Some people choose to use a hearse when moving the body from the funeral home to the place of final disposal of remains. You will pay around $325 for renting a hearse.
  • Casket - Anything from $200 to $10,000. It's all about the material, type, and style of casket you're buying. You should expect to pay less when buying from online retailers. You may also buy it from the funeral home, but it's typically more expensive. For most, the casket is the most significant purchase within the funeral.
  • Cremation casket - $1,000. It’s a container that is entirely combustible and contains the body throughout the cremation.
  • Cremation fee - $350. It's the necessary fee to pay for cremating the body.
  • Urn - $275. You may pay more than $300 for the urn containing the ashes of the deceased.
  • Vault - $1,395. It’s not mandatory by the Funeral Home to get a vault, but the cemeteries may have strict rules on using a vault (for cosmetic and maintenance reasons). The vault has a protective role, and doesn’t allow the earth to damage the casket.
  • Service car/van - $150. Should the location of funeral is far away, some may choose to rent a service car/van for transporting the family members. You can also use it for transporting the deceased.
  • Printed memorial set - $150. It’s common for a funeral home to print prayer cards or pamphlets, honoring the deceased. The printed material also includes the services that will take place.
  • Funeral plots - $2,000. The kind of plot you’re choosing and the location will affect the spending, but prices can go anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 for a public plot. Expect to pay more for a plot in a private cemetery.

People often forget that funeral homes aren’t the same thing as cemeteries, which carry their particular spending.

Not only that, you have to pay for the funeral plot, but you also have to pay for opening and closing the grave, which adds another $1,000 to your funeral spending. Don't forget to ask the cemetery representative about the maintenance fee for the grave site. It can be included in the final funeral cost, or you may have to pay monthly/annually for the maintenance of the grave site.

Veteran's rights

If the deceased was a veteran, you need to see the burial allowances provided by the Veteran’s Administration. It’s expected to pay less for a burial plot in a VA cemetery, as opposed to a plot in a regular cemetery. Families will have to pay for additional funeral products and services such as obituary notices, flowers, or family transportation.

The VA will support the burial expenses for the living spouse, parent, or child of military honorably discharged veteran. The costs for transporting the remains will also be covered.

Other expenses to expect

There are many other aspects to take care of and to pay for when it comes to a funeral. It depends a lot on what you want to have, so here are some examples:

  • Flowers-$150 to $700. Flowers are a great way to cut down from the funeral spending, as many families accept them as a way to show respect for the deceased.

People like to send flowers at a funeral, and it's also common for a family to purchase a wreath or a casket spray. Funeral homes typically work together with a local florist, so they have better deals for the flower packages. Once again, the type of flowers you choose gives the final price, with lilies, roses, and orchids as the more expensive flowers.

  • Wreaths

You will pay anywhere from $100 to $200 for every wreath displayed around the casket. Wreaths come in a great variety of sizes, so it’s all about the money you’re willing to pay for it.

It depends on the florist, size, and flowers used, but you should expect to pay up to $700 for a decent-sized casket wreath.

  • Grave markers and headstones- $250 to $6,000. Keep in mind that you want to wait until buying and installing the grave markers or the headstones. A basic and flat grave marker will be a couple of hundreds of dollars. However, if you're interested in having personalized monuments or statues, you should expect to pay more than $10,000. It's all about the simplicity/complexity of your project.

Typical funeral expenses vary from state to state

The market is continually changing, and the costs for cremations and funerals range widely within the USA.

Just to make an idea, back in 2017, the National Funeral Directors Association revealed that prices for funerals with burial were higher in the north-central area of the country. Kansas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, and Nebraska is where you will pay more for a traditional funeral with burial.

When it comes to cremation services, it seems that you would pay more in Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire - the northeast area of the country.

What’s the spending when choosing a funeral with cremation?

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, you will pay around $6,000 for a funeral with cremation.

When we take a look at the low end, we notice that cremation may cost anything from $1,000 to $3,000. On the higher end, cremation can go as high as $6,000 to $8,000. It depends on what kind of services and products you’re choosing.

We know that people are switching to cremation for some time now, and it’s expected that 70% of consumers chose it by 2030. Even so, prices are still going high, but it’s still less than for a traditional funeral with burial.

What does low-cost cremation mean?

A direct cremation is the most affordable way to have a low-cost cremation. With direct cremation, you don’t ask for anything else but the cremation. No funeral or memorial services will be included with direct cremation. The body will be cremated right away, with the funeral home offering the ashes after cremation.

A direct cremation is the cheapest option for a funeral, and you should pay anything from $2,000 to $5,000. It depends on the funeral home's fee and where you live in the US. in some places, it's possible to hire the crematory without hiring a funeral home so that the spending will be lower. Even if you go with direct cremation, you can still have a memorial service when it's convenient for you.

Here are your rights when choosing direct cremation:

  • You don't have to buy the urn from the funeral home.
  • It's not mandatory to buy the casket from the funeral home.
  • The crematory or the funeral home has to provide you the alternative containers.

As for the prices, here are some numbers:

  • A direct cremation with a container from the family – $2,515
  • Direction cremation with container bought from the funeral home- $2,618
  • A direct cremation with the casket from the funeral home- $2,675.

Cremation vs. burial - which one is less expensive?

The funeral home of your choice, where you live in the US, the services you want, and the type of funeral you want will affect the final spending. You may pay as low as $800 for direct cremation in some areas (New York, Washington or Houston- less than $800), but also more than $1,000 in other states (Providence or Nashville).

It's expected to pay anything from $7,000 to $12,000 for a conventional funeral. On the other hand, cremation with a full burial can be as expensive as $10,000.

How expensive are cremation caskets?

Just because the body is cremated, it doesn't mean that a casket will not be used. Typically, you will pay anything from $800 to $15600 for a casket for cremation.

Cremation caskets aren't regular caskets, as they are made without any metal elements such as handle or hinges. They're made with reinforced cardboard, wood, and have no other finishes. A cremation casket is mainly a pine box that will decompose quickly throughout cremation.

Some people also wish to have visitation or viewing before cremation. Should that be the case for you, you can always rent a traditional casket from the funeral home for $800 to $1600. The funeral home reuses the casket but utilizes a specific sheet for lining the casket for sanitary reasons.

What are the prices for cremation urns?

The cremated remains will be stored in the cremation urn. You can get a primary container for $50 from the funeral home. However, you may also purchase more sophisticated models from the funeral home or a third-party business, for as high as $1,000. Online retailers like Walmart, or Costco wholesale are also sell the funeral products, but there is some cons. The material used for the urn, the engraving, the style, and the sizes will also impact the price.

Here are the most common models used for cremation urns:

Earth-friendly urns

Customers interested in protecting the environment can buy earth-friendly urns for anything from $70 to $300. There are water urns that disintegrate into the water, and models made of natural materials that decompose naturally into the ground.

Companion urns

They're larger and cost anything from $150 to $500. These urns work as a double urn as they hold the remains of two people.

Cremation boxes

With prices ranging from $50 to $300, the cremation boxes are decorative boxes made of wood. They will store the cremated remains for a long time and replace the traditional vase urns.

Keepsakes, mementos, and jewelry

Plenty of new businesses take a part of the ashes and turn it into jewelry, such as a ring or a necklace. The options are numerous and unique, so take your time before making a choice.

Can cremation be free in any way?

In the US, it's possible to cremate the body for no spending. Donating the body to science will let the researchers use it, and the body will be cremated, and the remains returned to the family for free.

Becoming an organ donor will also eliminate the fee for cremation services. Your body will be cremated, and the remains will be returned to the family.

If you’re thinking about donating the body to science, you need to check the regulations first. People with edema, HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis, or decomposed/traumatized bodies will not be accepted for donations.

Is it expensive to work with a funeral home?

The majority of funeral homes will charge you a “basic services fee" which range from $2,000 to $2,500. It's a service fee for the essential services, no matter the particularities of your arrangements.

The required services fees will include services like obtaining copies of the death certificate, sheltering the remains, acquiring the permits needed or synchronizing the arrangements. Any additional services or products such as caskets aren't included in the basic service fee.

Make sure you understand your choices when signing with a funeral home. If you have time, you should ask around and have at least three funeral homes to choose from. Don't forget that the Funeral Law requires funeral homes to offer you general pricing information even over the phone.

How much will you pay for other kinds of funerals?

Race, culture, religious beliefs, and financial possibilities may affect the type of funeral you're choosing. Here's a brief look at some of the alternatives:

Low cost/low-income funerals

The cheapest funeral is the direct burial, which means that no embalming or visitation is included. You may pay anything from $1,200 to $1,600, depending on the area you live in.

The direct cremation mentioned previously is similar to direct burial, but the body is cremated and not buried. In Seattle, you may pay as low as $495 for direct cremation.

Horse & carriage funeral

It’s going to cost you more than $2,000 for a horse&carriage funeral. It’s common for provided to include both black and white horses, along with decorations in desired colors.

The horse&carriage funerals have an elegance and style that modern people forget about. With horse and carriage being charged per hour, it makes sense that it’s going to cost you quite a bit.

Green burial

More and more people are interested in eco-friendly funerals. With prices ranging from $2,000 to $3,000, green burials are becoming more and more popular as we speak. The prices include the burial plots, interment fees, and even the environmentally friendly casket or shroud. Plots can cost from $1,500 to $3,000, but anything biodegradable is accepted for containing the body. Naked bodies can even be approved for natural burials. It makes sense that concrete vaults aren't permitted for a natural burial. 

There are plenty of options for containers, from biodegradable shrouds to caskets made of bamboo, willow. Urns made of Himalayan rock-salts and recyclable tubes for spreading the ashes after cremation are also accepted.

Alkaline hydrolysis

An alkaline hydrolysis is a new option for handling the remains of the deceased. It's also known as resomation, bio-cremation, green cremation, aquamation, water cremation, and even flameless cremation.

Expect to pay $2,400 for alkaline hydrolysis in Minnesota, and keep in mind that the process is only available in 18 states at the moment. Every year, more states are looking into regulating technology.

The equipment used for turning the body into liquids and bones is more expensive than the conventional cremation machinery. It's the main reason for which alkaline hydrolysis is still a rather costly and new alternative for a traditional funeral.

Military funeral

Military veterans have the possibility of a free burial in a national cemetery and a grave marker, even if some requirements still have to be accomplished. Military funerals will cost a couple of thousands of dollars, but you need to contact the local VA office to find out the benefits and discounts. 

Plot and markers in national cemeteries are also available for spouses and children of veterans. There would be several benefits for the surviving family of the veteran, no matter if he/she were retired or active. Check the regulations within your state and area for the details.

Are funerals for children and babies cheaper?

The prices for baby and children funerals don’t differ from the ones for adults.  The funeral products and services don’t differ much from those used for adults. Just because the casket is smaller, doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a lot cheaper.

What other financial aspects you need to consider on a funeral?

The IRS regulations revealed that the majority of people don't match the requirement for asking for a tax deduction for funeral spending. Even if some of the funeral expenses can be deducted, you still need to contact your tax professional for the details.

How high can the funeral insurance spending be?

It’s rather common for people to underestimate the costs for a funeral or cremation service. Even if you’re keeping an eye on the budget, you may still pay around $9,000 for a funeral, and cremation services will not be a lot cheaper either.

The funeral insurance will pay a death benefit between $10,000 to $25,000, and money has to be used only for covering the expenses related to the funeral.

It's challenging to put money aside for the funeral, in which case life insurance can become very handy.  Give your family some help and consider a funeral insurance policy. It's also known as final expense insurance or burial insurance, helping you with funeral spending and end-of-life spending.

Funeral spending, travel costs for family members, medical expenses, or unpaid bills can be covered with the funeral insurance.

Numerous final expense insurance companies will include a free final expense life insurance quote so that you may decide which insurance works for you the most. More often than not, the policies aren’t impressive in terms of death benefits. However, the final expense insurance doesn’t require a physical or medical exam, which is appealing to many. Answering some questions about health on the application form will be enough.  

The burial insurance for seniors is affordable and requires a straightforward application process as well.

Is pre-paying for the funeral something to consider?

Plenty of funeral homes will provide you the possibility to pre-pay for your funeral expenses. The best part about this plan is that you get to cover the spending while you live, so you don't leave any financial burden to your surviving family at the time of death. Moreover, when you're pre-paying for the funeral, you lock in the spending, eliminating the risk of prices increasing caused by inflation.

There are some downsides to consider with pre-paying, though. For instance, you may use the money to invest in something else. If you're in your 40s and plan to pay $10,000 for your funeral, you may have four decades ahead of you before using it per se. However, if you're using the ten grand in a brokerage account instead, you may obtain as much as $100,000. The profit is for a 6% annual rate of return and the power of compound interest.

Pre-paying isn't a great idea if you plan to relocate at some point in your life. The risk for the funeral home to go out of business is never null, and it's another downside to consider before pre-paying for the funeral. The last thing you want is to pre-pay for the funeral and make your family still cover the funeral spending as the funeral home went out of business at the moment of the death.

Is it possible for the life insurance to be enough for funeral spending?

In theory, any life insurance policy may cover the funeral expenses. As a matter of fact, life insurance is a beneficial and reliable method for covering funeral spending. And it's mostly the final expense insurance that will cover the end-of-life expenses such as burial expenses or medical bills.

The final expense insurance, or the burial insurance, is top-rated amongst the seniors because it protects the surviving family from financial challenges associated with a funeral.

We cannot talk about a one-size-fits-all policy for the final expense insurance. Every family has its own needs and values, so to each their own.

What can you do to save money for covering the funeral expenses?

Apart from the financial solutions we've mentioned, some tips are useful for reducing funeral spending as well:

Contact more than one funeral home.

Don’t hesitate to contact a couple of funeral homes in your region to get an idea about the prices for products and funeral services. Funeral homes have to provide you the general price list for the products and services.

Even if you hire a funeral home for burial, no laws require you to use the memorial and visitation services. You may always have the memorials at a private residence or a place that was meaningful for the deceased. It’s going to mean a lot more and even save you a couple of hundreds of dollars.

Go online

There are numerous funeral items that you may purchase online. Caskets and liners are the most frequent, and the online retailers attract clients with a wide variety of models and prices that cover budgets of all sizes.

Reconsider embalming

The Federal Trade Commission notes that the embalming isn't required in no state, not for all deaths anyway. It doesn't mean that there are no rules on preserving the remains before cremation or burial takes place. However, the regulations depend on the amount of time passed between the death and disposal of the body. The risk of the body decomposing is also a factor to consider.

Keep in mind that embalming will not be required if you choose to have a direct burial or direct cremation, saving you plenty of bucks.

GoFundMe & other ways to raise money

Sadly, the number of people who cannot afford a funeral is high. Should that be the case for the person you've recently lost, you may always develop fundraising accounts such as GoFundMe. Church offerings, car washes, and even bake sales can give you an extra buck for the funeral spending.

Does the Covid-19 pandemic affect the prices for funerals?

Due to the increase in the number of deaths, many funeral homes and casket retailers have been selling more caskets than anticipated.

However, it's the rituals and ceremonies that are affected the most by the pandemic crisis in our country.

 Blog Author: Tim 

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