Average Funeral Cost: How Much Is It?

Unexpected expenses can ruin your day – or much longer if they’re large enough. Pre-planning for events you know will occur can help take some of the pain out of those expenses for yourself and your family – including funeral expenses.

If you’ve ever helped arrange a funeral, you know even the most basic funeral expenses can be difficult to afford. If you went into the process with a budget in mind, the add-ons alone can send the cost of a funeral spiraling out of control.

One of the best ways to control these costs is to plan ahead by knowing the average cost of a burial and what each of the items costs. Once you know the costs, you can decide which items are must-haves, what would be nice to have, and what you can do without.

This article will help you discover the actual average funeral cost and how price shopping can help you keep the cost of a funeral under control.


Average funeral cost

The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) conducted a survey to calculate the median cost of a funeral. In 2014, the median cost was $7,181 without a vault; including the vault increased the cost to $8,508. This does not include the burial plot, headstone, flowers or an obituary.

Here is the funeral cost checklist included in the median funeral expenses in 2014, according to the NFDA:

  • Funeral home’s basic service fee (non-declinable): $2,000
  • Transporting remains to funeral home: $310
  • Embalming: $695
  • Preparing the body in other ways, such as makeup and hair styling: $250
  • Facilities and staff to manage a viewing: $420
  • Hearse: $318
  • Service care: $143
  • Basic memorial printed package: $155
  • Metal casket: $2,395
  • Median cost of funeral with viewing and burial: $7,181
  • Vault: $1,327
  • Cost with the Vault: $8,508

Many cemeteries require a burial vault or concrete grave box to ensure the ground will not buckle over the casket. A vault is reinforced to preserve the remains from groundwater and insect activity. When calculating funeral costs, you may have to include the cost of a vault or grave box.


Cemetery costs

The figures above do not factor in an important expense – the grave site and the actual cost of burial. Depending on where the gravesite will be located, the cost can range from $400 to $10,000; expect metropolitan areas, such as areas of Los Angeles and Chicago, to have the highest price tag.

If you or a loved one is a veteran, check with the Veteran’s Administration (VA) regarding burial allowances. The VA reimburses the burial costs of any living spouse, child or parent of an honorably discharged veteran, including costs related to transporting the remains. The cost of a burial plot in a VA-certified cemetery may be much less than a traditional burial plot. Families are usually required to cover additional funeral costs, like flowers, obituary notices, and family transportation.

In addition to the plot, there are costs associated with opening the ground, placing the casket, and covering the plot. These services usually add several hundred dollars or more, depending on the cemetery.

When purchasing the gravesite, ask how the cemetery will maintain the gravesite. The maintenance fee may be included in the overall funeral expenses, or it could be a monthly or annual service fee.


How you can save on funeral expenses

Funerals today can easily exceed $10,000. Fortunately, there are ways to save.

Price shopping funeral items and services can uncover savings and allow you to still have a beautiful and memorable funeral. Call around to local funeral homes for a price list and decide who your best provider will be. Planning ahead allows you to start a funeral checklist so you can be prepared when the time is right.

If you are certain you want a burial rather than a cremation, typical expenses include:

  • Gravesite
  • Casket
  • Vault or coffin container
  • Basic service fee
  • Transportation fee(s), including hearse or van use
  • Cost of opening the ground, placing the remains in the ground, and burial

Keep in mind you don’t have to purchase a casket or liner at the funeral home. You may be able to find them cheaper through a third-party such as Costco, Walmart, or even Amazon.

Another way to save on funeral costs is the embalming process. The Federal Trade Commission says there are no states that require routine embalming for every death, but there are regulations related to preserving remains prior to burial or cremation, which is more about the length of time between death and disposal to prevent the breakdown of the body.

If you choose direct burial or cremation, you may be able to eliminate embalming altogether.

Even if you engage a funeral home for burial, you don’t have to take advantage of their visitation and memorial services, unless this is something that is important to the family or deceased. Also, memorials can be held at a private home or a place that held special meaning for the deceased which can create a meaningful service at a much lower cost.

Next steps

Understanding what the average funeral cost is can go a long way in reducing the stress of preparing for a funeral when the time comes.

If you’re concerned about overspending on funeral costs, we have six tips that can help you. Read the article below to learn more.

Funeral Costs: 6 Tips That Can Keep You from Overspending