Funeral Costs: Complete Guide to Funeral Costs and Average Funeral Costs in 2021

Funeral Cost: The Complete Guide

Death can be a painful topic of discussion, but it is an inevitable part of the cycle of life. Although we dread the idea of losing the ones we love, we end up experiencing it at one point or another. Grieving the loss of a loved one is already a difficult enough experience without having to worry about the funeral. The whole process of planning for a funeral is stressful. There’s a lot to decide on, not to mention the overwhelming cost of a funeral.

With time, the average cost of a funeral continues to increase. These costs largely depend on your location, the type of service you would like, and what you choose to include. So, in as much as you would love to give your loved one a proper send-off, some factors could limit you. 

For this reason, it is better to be prepared with the knowledge about the average costs of a funeral. In this article, we discuss in-depth, how much a funeral would cost, the average funeral costs as well as the breakdown of the funeral costs. We also suggest ways in which can save on cost and prepare for a funeral, to ensure you give your loved ones a befitting goodbye. 

So, let’s get started!

How Much Does a Funeral Cost?

How Much Does a Funeral Cost
How Much Does a Funeral Cost

How much the funeral will cost is normally the first question that comes to mind when planning for a funeral. There is no definite answer to this question since the cost depends on a lot of varying factors. Today the cost can range between $500-$15,000 depending on the varying factors. Aside from the location and items you choose to include, the major factor is the type of service you would prefer.

There is normally the option of burying or cremating your loved ones’ remains, and you can also choose between a memorial service and a burial/funeral service. Cremation is more popular since its largely considered more economical as compared to burial. The choice of cremation or burial, however, not only depends on the financial factor but also familial and religious beliefs amongst others.

How Much Does Cremation Service Cost?

Cremating is cheaper because it includes fewer items for a traditional service as compared to burial. It can range from $450-$9000 depending on what you include or exclude in the service, as well as, the location you’re in. The following is the cost of different cremation services you could choose from:

  • Direct cremation (no service, casket or visitation) $450 – $4,500
  • Cremation with memorial service (no casket or visitation, service cost included) $4,000 – $6,000
  • Cremation with traditional funeral service (casket, visitation and service cost included) $7,000 – $9,000

How Much Does Burial Service Cost?

Burial costs can range from $5,000-$17,000. This is significantly higher than cremation because it involves essential items like burial plots and caskets. The cost however varies depending on what you include in the service. The following are the costs for different burial services you could have:

  • Direct burial (no embalming, visitation or service) $5,000 – $10,000
  • Burial and memorial service (no casket or visitation, service price included) $11,500 – $15,500
  • Burial and traditional funeral service (casket, visitation and service included) $12,500 – $17,500

Average Funeral Cost Breakdown

Average Funeral Cost Breakdown
Average Funeral Cost Breakdown

The average cost of a funeral is calculated based on the most commonly selected items in a funeral. According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the current average funeral cost can range between $6,000 – $7,000. This depends on whether you opt for cremation or burial. For cremation, the average funeral cost is $6,260. For a burial, on the other hand, the average funeral cost is $7,360. The average can, however, change depending on your location and choosing to include items like vaults and headstones or grave markers.

Costs that are involved with a funeral

Depending on the type of service you opt for, there are various items to choose from that can either drive up or reduce the funeral costs. According to the NFDA, the following is a funeral cost break down, whether you opt for a burial or cremation, you can choose to include or exclude the items listed:

Casket ($2,000-$10,000+) – The price of the casket will depend on the material and decorations used on the casket. The simpler the design, the cheaper the price.

Cremation casket ($1,000) – This is the casket in which the body is placed during the process of cremation.

Burial vault ($500 – $5,000) – This is the protective enclosure the casket is placed in and the price will vary based on the material.

Urn ($275) – This would be the average price of the urn for the ashes of your loved one. Purchasing a different or more decorated urn may cost more.

Burial plot ($1,000 – $4,500) – The price of the burial plot will depend on the location of the cemetery and whether it’s a public or private one.

Grave marker/headstone ($250 – $6,000) – Like the caskets, the headstones’ prices will vary based on the simplicity of the design and material used.

Cremation service fee ($350) – This is the average price that may vary depending on your location.

Funeral service fee ($2,100) – This is the average price but may vary depending on what you choose to include in the service.

Printed packages ($160) – This is the average cost of printed items like pamphlets or prayer cards that may be used during a service.

Embalming ($725) – This is the average price for preserving the body until it’s time to lay your loved one to rest.

Cosmetic preparations ($250) – This is the average price of preparing the body for viewing and it includes make-up application, clothing, and hairstyling.

Viewing fee ($500-$1,000) – The price is for each viewing session, which will vary depending on the location of the viewing.

Transportation ($325) – This is the average price of using a service van to transport the body to the morgue or using a hearse to transport the body to the cemetery.

Flowers ($150+) – The price of the flowers will depend on the type, arrangement and amount used.

Average Funeral Costs Based on Location

As mentioned before, the average funeral cost not only varies based on the type of service but also largely by location. Based on burial pr cremation services, the following tables summarizes the least and most expensive average funeral costs in different locations across the US:

Traditional Funeral ServiceCremation Service
Most ExpensiveLeast ExpensiveMost ExpensiveLeast Expensive
Parsippany, New Jersey $8,480Boone, North Carolina $5,250Kalamazoo, Michigan $5,313Hillsboro, Oregon $2,373
Greenwich, Connecticut $8,525Hillsboro, Oregon $5,185Chatham, New Jersey $5,450Astoria, Oregon $2,340
Narragansett, Rhode Island$8,565Lawton, Oklahoma $5,084Stamford, Connecticut $5,540Starkville, Mississippi $2,334
Milford, Connecticut $8,578Grants Pass, Oregon $5,061Metairie, Louisiana $5,546Enid, Oklahoma $2,315
Chatham, New Jersey $8,890Kingman, Arizona $5,010Summit, New Jersey $5,595Kingman, Arizona $2,210
Summit, New Jersey$8,905Kailua, Hawaii $4,974Greenwich, Connecticut $5,600Oak Creek, Wisconsin $2,190
Stamford, Connecticut $9,121Oak Creek, Wisconsin $4,940Narragansett, Rhode Island $5,620Grants Pass, Oregon $2,178
Metairie, Louisiana $9,191Moore, Oklahoma $4,830Bernardsville, New Jersey $5,920Moore, Oklahoma $1,999
Bernardsville, New Jersey $9,265Olympia, Washington $4,702Parsippany, New Jersey $6,130Olympia, Washington $1,997
Rockville, Maryland $9,847Las Cruces, New Mexico $4,560Rockville, Maryland $6,170Las Cruces, New Mexico $1,860

You Can Manage How Much You Spend on a Funeral

You Can Manage How Much You Spend on a Funeral
You Can Manage How Much You Spend on a Funeral

Shopping for a funeral while grieving the loss of a loved one can be extremely difficult especially if it was sudden or you were unprepared. You will often find yourself bombarded with a lot of decisions that need to be made as soon as possible. That pressure coupled with the need to plan the best funeral for your loved one often leads to overspending. This, however, doesn’t have to be the case. You can manage or cut certain funeral costs where possible. The key to this is time.

Early preparation gives you the time to meet with different funeral homes and compare their prices. You also have the time to weigh your options and figure out what’s needed and what isn’t. Additionally, with enough time, you can gather as family and friends of the deceased to support each other financially and in the process of planning. 

Managing Funeral Costs

Below we have listed several steps you can follow to help manage how much you spend on a funeral:

Step 1: Have a clear idea of what you want.

As you plan for a funeral, it helps to take time and envision what type of funeral you would like. Having a clear idea helps you know exactly what you will need, so you don’t spend money on unnecessary items. It also helps the funeral director know how best to guide you in the planning process.

Step 2: Start planning.

Once you have a clear idea of the type of funeral that’s suitable for you, it helps to start planning. Planning early enough eliminates any room for making mistakes. It also relieves you of the stress of having to make decisions while grieving. You can start planning for your funeral or for the demise of a loved one who may not have a lot of time left.

Step 3: Create a budget.

During your planning process, as with any event, you need to make a budget for the funeral. The budget helps limit your spending as well as prioritize what items are more important. With a budget, you’ll have an easier time looking around for the most suitable funeral package for you.

Step 4: Weigh the most expensive items.

After making a budget, you can easily highlight the most expensive items on it. It helps to take time and consider these items. This is to help decide if the items are really necessary for the type of funeral you have in mind. If the items are necessary, then you can consider cheaper alternatives.

Step 5: Look around and compare prices.

When you’re unprepared, you don’t have the time to look around and weigh your options. You normally end up going for whatever’s available, even if it’s expensive. As you plan, you have the time to compare prices from different funeral homes. This way, you can find a funeral home that offers the services you need within the budget you have. 

Step 6: Ask for help if needed.

Sometimes the planning process can be confusing. It may be difficult to decide what items to have or leave out. In such cases, always ask for guidance and help. You could tag along a trusted family member or friend to help you in the decision-making and difficult negotiations. You could also ask for professional assistance from experts in the area. 

Step 7: Consider paying in advance.

Once everything is set and you have settled on a contract, it helps to pay in advance. This is primarily because the funeral costs keep rising over time. Paying in advance means you could save money in the future. It also relieves you from worrying about finances if you make the payments when the money is available.

Step 8: Be aware of your rights.

As with all businesses, funeral homes are looking for profit, so you may be taken advantage of if you’re not aware of your rights. According to the Funeral Rule by the FTC, you are entitled to receive prices both in writing and over the phone. If ever you feel cheated or unfairly treated, contact the local funeral home regulatory board or Attorney General’s office.

How to Save On Funeral Costs

How to Save On Funeral Costs
How to Save On Funeral Costs

As you plan a funeral there are ways to ensure that you cut the funeral costs and spend less than your budget. Here are several things you can do to help save on funeral costs:

  1. Start by asking for a general price list. By law, all funeral homes should provide you with their general price lists upon request. By asking for the general price list first, you can know their true prices, as opposed to the hiked prices they verbally give.
  2. Compare several funeral homes. Not every home has the same price list. You may find one that cheaper and within your budget. So, do not rush into settling for the first funeral home.
  3. Don’t disclose your budget. Keeping your budget a secret will prevent the funeral home directors from taking advantage of you. You also can end up spending less than what you initially planned, if they aren’t aware of it.
  4. Opt-out of Viewing sessions if possible. There is normally no need for embalming or cosmetic preparations unless the body won’t be buried for a long time. So, if possible, consider burying the body as soon as possible to avoid the cost of viewing.
  5. Buy some items separately. Items like caskets, urns, or flowers can be bought from separate vendors. Normally the prices of such items are hiked by funeral homes, so purchasing them separately from a cheaper vendor could save on funeral costs.
  6. Consider having a direct burial or cremation instead. These options are the most economical since you won’t require items like burial plots or embalming. 
  7. Use alternative ways to pay for the funeral. When there is no money to cover the cost of the funeral, there are some alternate ways to pay for a funeral in 2021. Some of them include Totten trust funds or getting benefits from employers or unions.

Steps You Can Take to Financially Prepare for A Funeral

Steps You Can Take to Financially Prepare for A Funeral
Steps You Can Take to Financially Prepare for A Funeral

As mentioned, planning for a funeral in advance alleviates the stress and burden of the funeral costs. By financially preparing yourself, you ensure that you or your loved ones will not be left with a debt to pay after the funeral. The following are steps you should take to financially prepare for a funeral:

Get life insurance. A life insurance policy normally pays the beneficiaries after the death of the policyholder. The tax-free payment gotten from the policy can go a long way in offsetting funeral costs. The earlier in life you get the policy, the cheaper you pay for it and the more you get out of it.

Buy burial insurance. Unlike life insurance, burial insurance is a specific life policy taken out to cover the burial costs upon a person’s demise. Seniors up to the age of 85 years are eligible for such policies.

Take a pre-need policy. This type of contract can be taken directly at a funeral home of your choice. It covers all the funeral costs and you can make pre-payments over time to pay off the funeral costs. It’s normally a special type of life insurance policy taken out with the funeral home as the beneficiary.

Set aside cash. Putting aside money when it’s readily available is a great way of preparing for a funeral. This way, even with unexpected death, you will not have to stress over the burden of the funeral costs.

Liquidate assets upon death. Selling off assets after the death of the owner frees up the required money needed to cover funeral costs. That way you do not need to take up loans and acquire debts.

How Much Will Your Funeral Cost? Find Out.

Once you have a clear idea of what you want, it’s easier to list down the items that will be needed for the funeral. Having this list makes it easier to know how much your funeral will cost so you can start planning, or set aside the cash. To help in determining the cost of your funeral, you can use this calculator to help you estimate.