How Much Does a Funeral Cost?

“How much does a funeral cost” is a common question that usually triggers a final expense or burial insurance conversation. Inevitably, the next question is how are we going to pay for the funeral? Unfortunately, funerals, memorials, cremations and burials cost significantly more than most people think. Consequently, that means most families are not prepared to deal with burial expenses or costs associated with a loved one's death. When these expenses aren’t planned for in advance they can quite often cause a hardship for a family. There are several different services, and consequently expenses, to pay for all within a few days of a person’s death.

Depending upon the choice of service, a typical burial or cremation can range from anywhere from a few thousand dollars to over twenty thousand dollars. In fact, in 2010 a survey of the National Funeral Directors Association looked at the costs of funerals as of December 31, 2009. Compared with funerals in 2000, the costs had risen an incredible 25% in just 9 years.

There are many options which affect the price of a funeral. However, for the basic funeral, the average cost according to the National Funeral Directors Association is $7,755. This does not include the cost for head stones or grave markers, monuments, cemetery fees, obituaries or flowers. When those are accounted for, the average cost jumps up to over $9,000. In addition, purchasing higher end caskets, head stones and other upgrades can easily push the funeral costs into $14,000 to $20,000 range.

Sample Funeral Invoice
Item Cost
Professional Service Fee $1,817
Casket $2,295
Embalming $628
Other preparations of the body: $200
Funeral Service $450
Viewing Service $395
Forwarding Fees $500
Hearse and Driver - Delivery of body to cemetery $275
Transfer of Remains to funeral home $250
Burial Plot $4,000
Grave Digging $600
Grave Liner $1000
Headstone $1500
Funeral Announcement in newspaper $250
Total Funeral Cost $14,140


Average Funeral Costs - Detailed Explanation

Funeral Costs

  • Professional Service Fee: This is something that is mandatory, or “nondeclinable”, at most funeral homes. This is simply the cost to set everything up with a funeral home. It can range from $695 to $3,000 depending upon the area, funeral home itself, etc.. On average, the basic services fee is $1,817.
  • The Casket: Caskets are typically one of the most expensive items associated with a funeral. Steel caskets are differentiated by their thickness, colors & polish and decorative pieces or add ons. The thicker and nicer a casket, the more expensive they are. A common casket is 18 gauge steel and costs about $2,295 on average.
  • Embalming: If the funeral service features an open casket, then embalming is a must. This process prepares and preserves the body for viewing by funeral attendees. Typical cost is $628.
  • Other preparations of the body: When an open casket is service is held, the body must be prepared cosmetically in addition to being embalmed. This means make up, hair dressing and preparation of the deceased clothing. Typical cost is $200
  • The Funeral Service: If the funeral service is held at a funeral home, a fee will be assessed for the service itself. This fee pays for use of the memorial chapel and the staff that helps manage the service and assist attendees. Typical Funeral Service cost is $450, while the average service fee for a viewing is $395.
  • Transfer of Remains to funeral home: This is the cost to pick up a body and take it to the funeral home prior to a funeral or service, from places such as a hospital, nursing home, etc.. It averages $250.
  • Hearse and Driver: There is an additional cost to have the body removed from the funeral home and delivered to the cemetery for burial. The average fee to have a hearse and driver transport a body is $275
  • Service Van or Car: In some instances, additional vans or cars are needed when the body is transported. This costs on average $125
  • Forwarding Fees: If a person dies a long distance away from where they will be buried, forwarding fees come into play. This is the cost to transport the body from wherever it is located to the funeral home or mortuary where it will be handled and ultimately buried. The funeral home where the body is coming from, not delivered to, will charge the forwarding fees for transportation and the cost varies depending upon distance.

Burial Costs

In addition to funeral expenses, there are separate fees and expenses to actually bury someone. These costs vary depending upon the choice of burial services such as interment in a crypt, in ground burial or entombment in a mausoleum.

  • The Plot: For in ground burial, the actual piece of land, or burial plot, must be purchased. The cost varies depending upon the type of cemetery that a person is buried in. For a church or community cemetery, the cost is typically minimal. However, it can jump up into the thousands of dollars at a for-profit cemetery.
  • Grave Digging: Once the burial plot is secured, there is an additional cost to have the grave hole, in which the casket is placed, opened and closed. In other words, a separate fee applies for having the hole dug and then filled in. The fees varies again based on the type of cemetery. For profit cemeteries charge more for this service. In addition, the cost varies depending upon the day of the week and time of day. Having the burial performed on a weekday, between 9AM and 3PM, is the least expensive. Weekend or off hour grave digging is usually more expensive.
  • Vault: If in ground burial is chosen, not only is there a fee for the grave digging, but the grave site must be reinforced with a concrete vault which is a separate fee. This is also sometimes referred to as a grave liner. This protects the grave site and reinforces the walls to prevent erosion, collapse or shifting of the casket. This fee is almost always mandatory for an in ground burial. The cost varies depending upon the cemetery, but usually ranges from $800 to $2000.
  • Headstone: The headstone, or gravestone, is the single thing that family and loved ones will see on an ongoing basis when visiting their deceased at the cemetery. For those determined to memorialize their dearly departed with something lavish, this is where the money should be spent. Once a casket is placed in the grave site, nobody will see it. The grave stone, however, will be a visible reminder for eternity. The headstones or grave stones vary in price based on size, material and amount of engraving. Typically, the best prices come when dealing directly with a monument company or manufacturer. Prices range from approximately $600 up to $6,000.
  • Crypt in mausoleum: The crypt's location in a mausoleum building dramatically affects the cost. The more prominent and visible the location, the more expensive the crypt will be. However, by choosing a mausoleum crypt rather than an in ground burial plot, you avoid some ancillary fees such as; burial vault, headstone, burial plot and grave opening and closing fees.