There are several aspects to consider when you need to estimate, “How much does the average funeral service cost?” Initially, you may hear numbers for the national median cost of funeral expenses within the seven to eight thousand dollar range from the National Funeral Directors Association. Still, that number typically only includes fees directly paid to the funeral director, who can perform various tasks for the funeral ceremony.
Hence, funeral director fees can range from $1,500 for basic services up to $6,500, the latter being the number you most often hear quoted.
However, that figure doesn’t account for the bulk of cemetery and burial expenses. You can expect to cover fees for the following:
- Funeral Director
- Funeral Home
- Preparation of Loved One
- Casket Selection
- Memorial Services
- Graveside Services
Knowing how much each of these elements costs when making funeral arrangements is essential. Therefore, we will explore some of the highest costs and impacts of funeral planning.
Breaking Down How Much a Funeral Costs
Funeral Director Expenses
A funeral director can lend a helping hand in this time of need. These professionals can plan several aspects of a funeral for you, including the less pleasant tasks of handling the deceased’s remains and preparing them for burial and viewing. Expect to pay $1500 for the most basic services fees and upwards of $6000 if you allow the funeral director to take care of these details.
Preparation of Loved One
Many assume that cremation services cost significantly less. However, that is not the case. Many times cremation only saves a small percentage of overall costs. The national median for direct cremation with no funeral ceremony or memorial service is $775. However, many choose to spend more on services to honor their loved one’s life.
If you are holding a traditional funeral with viewing, you may be required to embalm the body, which on average costs $1000. Those who opt for a direct burial can save by eliminating the embalming cost.
Casket selection is a very personal decision, as this will be where your loved one will rest eternally. Casket prices range from $1500 to “the sky’s the limit.” You can purchase this item locally or look online for great deals, as caskets can be pricey when bought from the funeral home.
An excellent way to save on caskets is to compare prices between funeral homes and online. Online retailers offer a myriad of caskets for a traditional funeral. Options include metal caskets, wood caskets, cremation caskets, and fully customizable caskets.
You will also need to consider transportation to the site if you plan to have graveside services. These fees can average $2000 to 3000 and typically aren’t included in estimated funeral expenses.
Some funeral homes include the cost of memorial services in their funeral director expenses. If not, expect to pay fees for the viewing service and body preparation, about $1200. In addition, staff can hand out memorial printings, direct guests, and dispense tissues, which can add another $500 to 600.
Cemetery and Burial Expenses
Depending on the burial site, you may need to purchase a burial plot and pay for the digging and burial process. The median cost for a burial plot varies depending on where you live. Some burial plots exist for as low as $250, and some as high as $50,000. Locations with high land costs will, on average, have higher burial costs
An outer burial container is also an expense to consider. Some states require a burial vault that can add between $2000 and $3000 more. A burial vault seals and protects the casket from outside elements.
Alternatively, you may be able to opt for a grave liner instead of a burial vault. The average cost of a grave liner is typically between $700 and $1000.
Flowers and Wreaths
Flowers and wreaths range in price from $500 to 700. The total cost of floral arrangements can vary depending on the number of arrangements. Local florists might offer deals for packages. You can also ask that family members send flowers in place of a gift.
Headstone or Grave Marker
You will also need to consider headstone options. A traditional headstone protrudes from the ground and sits on the grave. These headstones can cost anywhere between $2000 to $5000.
Gravemarkers are flat plaques laid directly into the ground and cost around $1000.
You do not have to accept a headstone or grave marker from the funeral home and can shop for different prices.
Ways to Pay for a Funeral
Life Insurance / Final Expense Insurance
Life insurance policies are a common way to cover funeral expenses. The death benefit received after the passing of a loved one can be used to cover costs as long as the monthly premium is paid. In addition, the death benefit can be used for outstanding debts and other expenses, including end-of-life arrangements.
Many life insurance companies will also offer final expense insurance, also known as burial insurance or burial insurance. These policies exist for paying out a death benefit, which can range between $10-25,000.
A traditional savings account can be set up to hold the funds dedicated to funeral costs. Savings accounts can accrue minimal interest over time. However, they may be held in probate after death.
Payable-on-Death (POD) Account
A payable-on-death (POD) account is similar to a savings account, except it exists with the express purpose of being used to pay out end-of-life expenses. One person will be appointed to receive the funds upon passing. These funds are received by presenting the death certificate. The beneficiary will only have access to this account upon passing.
How to Keep Funeral Costs Down
Shop Around Funeral Homes
According to the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule, consumers have the right to request and view a general price list from the funeral provider. Additionally, consumers are not obligated to accept parts of the package they don’t want.
Understanding your rights as a consumer will help alleviate the financial burden of end-of-life expenses. It is your right to obtain and compare price lists between funeral homes and online retailers.
Check for Government Benefits
You may be eligible for compensation from the government depending on the circumstances of your loved one’s passing. A few of the government benefit programs you may be able to utilize are listed below.
- Social Security Benefits – Qualifying family members can receive $225 toward the cost of funeral expenses.
- Military Benefits – The end-of-life-expense-related benefits for active or veteran military service members vary. They may sometimes pay a few thousand or even all the costs. Check with your local office of Veterans Affairs for specifics.
- FEMA Assistance – Those who had a loved one pass away due to the COVID-19 pandemic may be eligible for FEMA funeral assistance.
There are many components of a funeral that you can purchase online. From headstones to caskets to memorial cards, it’s important to look online before accepting a package deal from a funeral home.
All said and done, those who need to know how much the average funeral cost can expect to spend between nine and ten thousand dollars, although this figure can reach much higher depending on the plans and amenities you request. You can save money if time allows by searching out the best deals; however, most families opt to leave most of the details up to funeral directors, particularly in situations where no burial plans were pre-arranged by the deceased.