Average Funeral Costs For End of Life Planning

What are the average funeral costs in the United States? The cost of a funeral depends greatly on the options you or your loved one choose.

This article includes a helpful end of life planning list with average funeral costs detailed for your budgeting – including caskets, facilities and burial plots.

The only true fact of life is that death is certain. With death comes a lot of questions, and a lot of planning. It is never too soon to financially prepare for the costs of funerals. You might be wondering what options exists and what the costs are of those options.

Average Funeral Costs Summary Chart

ServiceAverage Costs
Funeral + Burial$7,640
Casket Rental$995
Cremation Casket$1,200
Cremation Container$150
Burial Plot$100’s – $10,000’s
Casket$1,000 – $2,500
Viewing Facility Rental$425
Body Preparation$255
Hearse Rental$340
HeadstonesStart at $1,000
Source: NFDA 2019

How Much Does a Funeral Cost? Here is a Detailed Breakdown

Body Options

Burial vs. Cremation & Also Body Donation

There are three options when it comes to post life care. The two most popular in the United States are burial and cremation. The other option is body donation.  Body donation is gaining popularity because of its low cost and the idea that the person is giving back to the world one final time through donating to science and medicine.

You may have an idea in your head about what your final wishes will entail, but you should still try to understand each option and their financial obligations, so you are financially prepared. It is never to early to prepare for the inevitable.

Average Cost of Cremation

Cremation isn’t free, but it is cheaper than burial. The average cost of cremation with a viewing in the United States, is $5,150, according to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA).  The bulk of the fee for cremation is the service fees charged by the funeral home. These fees cover the labor the funeral director and basic services.

Average Viewing Costs with Cremated Bodies

Average Funeral Costs for planning and budgeting

Viewing costs include the rental of the funeral home or other venue and memorial service. A viewing is a great way for family and friends to say their final goodbye to their loved one.

You can choose for the viewing to occur either before or after the cremation. Choosing to do a viewing before the cremation can result in some extra costs such as embalming and rental casket costs.

Embalming is not necessary for cremation, but many choose to include embalming if they have an open casket viewing before the cremation. The cost for embalming averaged $750 in 2019 according to NFDA.

Because a casket is not necessary for cremation, many choose to rent a nice casket for the viewing. The average rental casket cost was around $995. Flowers, and displays including photos may also increase the costs of the viewing.

Cremation Casket Rental Costs

The purchase of a casket is not necessary. However, you will be required to purchase a cremation container. A cremation casket can be purchased for around $1,200. This a traditional looking wooden casket that is burned with the remains. The alternative option would be a cremation container, which is a wooden box that isn’t lined, and typically very cheaply made. The cost of a cremation container is around $150.

When considering whether to go with a casket or a cremation container, it’s really personal preference and beliefs. Some believe there is more comfort and dignity in using a lined casket, whereas others believe the box is not the final resting place, so spending extra money on it is unnecessary.

Average Cost of an Urn

Next to consider, cremation results in the family being given back the remains. Many people decide to keep the remains in a special place, called an urn. The funeral home only has to supply a basic box for the remains.

As a result, most people choose to purchase an urn, which can cost several hundred dollars. Personalized urns that use high quality materials may even cost thousands of dollars.

Funeral & Scattering Travel Costs

In addition, if you plan on scattering ashes in a special place, you will want to consider the cost of travel.

Travel may not just be for one person either, sometimes this act is basically a small ceremony of its own and may require travel for several people. If you’re planning your own final wishes and are not wanting your loved ones to pay any costs for your funeral, you may want to consider how much it would cost for them to travel.

For example, if you want your ashes scattered in the ocean, but all of your loved ones live in the middle the United States, you will want to include the cost for them to take off work and travel so they can be there for your final wish.

Other Cremation Costs

Furthermore, funeral homes may charge other fees – including a transportation fee.

  • The transportation fee is charged for picking up the remains from the hospital or morgue and transporting it back to the funeral home.
  • The funeral home may charge you a cremation fee if it uses a third party for the cremation.
  • There may also be body preparation fees for clothing changes, make up, hair, or anything else that needs to be done to do the body in order to proceed with the visitation and cremation.

What Else Can Be Done with Cremation Remains?

Finally, cremation remains can be used in a lot of different ways. Some people may keep them in a urn, others may choose to scatter them in a special location. There are other options beyond that though.

  • You can create jewelry out of cremation remains. For example, several businesses can use remains to create lab grown diamonds.
  • You can also purchase a biodegradable urn to grow a tree out of the ashes.
  • In addition, you can have them put into fireworks or ammo.
  • Finally, there are a lot of companies that use ashes to make products, such as vinyl records, glass artwork, and stuffed animals.

Average Cost of a Burial

Burials come with the most expenses. However, planning for a burial ahead of time can save everyone a lot of stress associated with the cost of a burial.

According the NFDA the average cost of a funeral with a viewing and burial was $7,640, and this didn’t include the cost of the cemetery plot or the vault.

What is a Vault and What is it used for?

  • A vault is something that is put in the ground to keep the ground from collapsing. They are not always necessary, it just depends on the cemetery, which is why it’s important to plan now.

Average Cost of Burial Space

Not all burial spaces are equal. The cost for a plot can range from a couple of hundred in a rural area, to over $10,000 in an area with less green space to bury people.

What is a Mausoleum and What is the Average Cost?

Moreover, choosing a mausoleum as an option, will result in a much higher cost. A mausoleum is an enclosed where caskets are kept in crypts. They are an above ground burial option and typically have benches or a space for people to visit.

Average Cost of a Burial Plot

In-ground plots can be cheaper, but they can also be costly. It just depends on the location. Purchasing burial space as soon as possible can ensure you have a spot and protect you from the cost of inflation.

When choosing a burial space, the size of the space matters. Some people only purchase single plots, while others purchase double plots so they can rest next to their spouse. They may also purchase a family plot. The more space you take up, the more money it will cost.

Finally, in many states though, you can create your own family cemetery on family land, following state and local laws of course. Being buried in a family cemetery can significantly reduce the cost of a burial funeral.

Average Cost of a Casket

A metal casket cost on average $2,500. This cost can increase substantially depending on the quality and design of the casket. If you opt for a basic casket, the cost could be around $1,000.

The funeral home typically sells caskets, but you can always purchase a casket from another source to save yourself money. The Funeral home has to use the casket you provide.

You also don’t need a casket at all. It is “green” burials are becoming more popular. It is a burial that focuses on natural decomposition and limiting pollution into the Earth. The option to not use a casket exist. However, if you purchased a plot on private property, that cemetery may have its own rules. It is important to fully understand the rules for the location of the plot.

Average Viewing Costs

The Viewing portion of the funeral can incur several costs. The cost for the use of the facilities for viewing averaged $425.

The cost for body preparation averaged $255. Body preparation for a visitation includes sewing and gluing specific parts of the body to create a natural sleeping look. It also includes make-up and hair styling. The other cost will be embalming.

The Average Cost of Embalming

Embalming is not mandatory, even for burials. However, many people decide on embalming because it slows the rate of decay, allowing families to have an open casket viewing and funeral with the body looking as close to living as possible. The cost for embalming can average $750.

If you’re interested in a green burial, you may choose to forego embalming or find a funeral home and embalms using Earth friendly essential oils. The Green Burial Council can answer a lot of questions regarding green burials.

Cemetery Headstone Costs

Headstones, monuments, grave markers, whatever you call them, they are part of the price tag for burial funerals. They are commonly done in granite, but the material used does affect cost.

A small flat grave marker starts at $1,000 on monument.com, while upright headstones start at $1,200. What you decide to add to the headstone can also increase the cost. The cemetery may have rules about headstones.

In addition, you will want to make sure the headstone you purchase follows the cemetery’s rules because if it doesn’t, you might be liable for the costs associated with getting a stone that is in regulation.

Hearse Costs

The use of the funeral home’s hearse is not free. You will be charged for the hearse to transport the casket from the funeral home to the location of the funeral and then to the cemetery. The average cost for the use of a hearse in 2019 was $340.

If you use the service car or van for the funeral service, it could also cost you money. The average cost for the use of the funeral home’s service vehicle was $150 in 2019.

Open and Closing of Plot Fees

The other fee you will incur with a burial is the opening and closing of the plot. Digging up the plot and then refilling it usually requires the use of specific machinery, such as an excavator.

This cost could be included in your plot purchase, but it could also be separate fee due upon opening/closing of the plot.

Likewise, opting for a crypt in a mausoleum doesn’t get rid of this cost either. Opening the crypt can cost money as well. When searching for a cemetery be sure to ask them of the costs that will come up when it is time to use the plot.

Non-Traditional Burials

Traditionally, in the United States, burials occur with the body in a casket, in a cemetery. This is not the only form of burial though.

  • Green Burials in which the body is placed naturally in the earth to allow for natural decomposition is becoming more popular.
  • There is also the option for an ocean burial. Burials at sea are legal, and must follow certain guidelines, such as the burial must take place more than 3 nautical miles from a shore. More information on the legality of ocean burials can be found on the Environmental Protection Agency website.

Body Donation

A Non-Traditional, But Helpful, Low Cost Option.

Body donation is typically low cost or completely free of costs. There maybe stipulations on whether a body is accepted. You can reach to several programs in your area to find one that best fits your needs and beliefs. Typically these programs are ran by universities, but there may also be private organizations in your area.

Body Farms

Body Farms are often ran by Anthropology departments at universities. You can research your local or closest university to see if they have a Body Farm.

In these cases, the cost of body donation is completely free. They may charge a travel fee if they have to pick up the remains from a specific distance. You may still need to contact a funeral home to pick up the remains until the organization that runs the Body Farm can make arrangements to transfer the remains to their land.

What exactly happens on a Body Farm?

Well, they put the body in different environments to study the decay process and develop new ways to make identifications on bodies. It can seem like a less than peaceful ending, but the scientific advancements made because of Body Farms is incredible! It is a great way to keep helping science move forward after death.

Whole Body Donation

Medical schools use donated bodies to help students study medicine and perfect techniques they need to become incredible doctors.

Body donation to these programs is free of cost. If you live near a medical school, you can contact the university to find out if they have a body donation program, and whether there are any costs associated with the program.

Typically, it is a cost-free option, but occasionally you may need to cover the cost of transportation. However, the program usually covers cremation of the remains after the body has been used to it’s fullest extent.

There are other programs as well, such as Medcure, which services 45 states and is a cost free option. Medcure covers transportation costs, the cost of the death certificate, and the cost of cremation. The program you choose may also offer confirmation on how the body was used. This can give families a sense of pride knowing their loved one was part of research that is helping people.

How to Pay for Funeral Costs

Here are the most used ways of paying for funeral costs:

  1. Final Expense Insurance – Also known as funeral insurance or burial insurance. This is a whole life insurance plan that gives you a lump-sum of cash when you pass to help you pay for your end of life expenses.
  2. Prepaid Plans – Plans made with service providers before you pass that cover the costs at a specific facility or with a specific company.
  3. Savings / Retirement Funds – Paying with cash.

NOTE: Long Term Care Insurance – Unless you have a special rider on your long-term care insurance, it will not pay for your final expenses.

Average Funeral Costs Summary

As you can see, the average funeral costs in the United States vary significantly depending on the options you choose. Having a plan and a budget set in place early will help you to save money in the long run.

Final Expense Insurance will help you with making sure these costs are covered for your loved ones after you are gone.

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