How Much Does A Funeral Cost?

One of the more difficult life considerations is planning funeral arrangements, but most of us avoid this topic. We prepare for everything in our lives, but few people investigate final burial details. So, I decided to research the cost of a funeral.

How Much Does A Funeral Cost? Per the NFDA the medium funeral cost is $8,755 and a typical funeral will range between $5,000 to $11,000. However, this number can change drastically depending on decisions made related to funeral planning choices.


National Median Cost - Itemized
Burial vs. Cremation
Funeral Planning Choices
Selecting a Casket
Planning a Funeral Reception
What Are The VA Burial Benefits
What Are The Social Security Death Benefits
Hoe to Determine the Exact Cost of a Funeral
What is the FTC Funeral Rule

National Median Cost of an Adult Funeral with Viewing and Burial

Burial vs. Cremation

The time after a loved one has passed away is always difficult and filled with conflicting emotions. There are urgent and important decisions to be made that can be exceptional stressful. Planning the funeral service is probably the most important and the most confusing.

If your loved one has left his or her wishes in a will, then the difficult decision will have been made slightly easier for you. If this decision has been left up to you, you have option of two of the most common types of funerals - Cremation or Burial.

Both offer pros and cons and not least of all, both have a great variance in costs. Although specifics may affect the end cost of a funeral, in general, cremation works out to about one third the cost of a burial service. For families who are struggling financially, this is a key consideration.

The lower costs of a cremation are accounted for by a number of issues:

  1. A cremation does not require a casket. The cost of a casket can run into thousands of dollars. In a cremation service, there is no need for a casket, saving you this cost.

  2. You do not need a burial vault. Depending on the type of burial vault you choose and the venue, you could end up spending thousands of dollars. For a cremation, you will choose a simple urn, costing a fraction of the price. You can keep it in your home, in a sentimental place or even scatter the ashes in a natural setting that was meaningful to the deceased.

  3. There is no grave plot. With a traditional funeral, you have the cost of a grave plot which can vary from venue to venue. A cremation does not incur this expense.

  4. Grave opening and closing fees. Depending on the venue, the cost of opening and closing fees for a grave will vary, but can run into thousands of dollars. Cremations do not carry this cost, helping to reduce the financial burden.

  5. Headstones can be costly. Depending on the family’s decisions, headstones can vary from a simple block to an elaborate statue. The costs of these marble structures are significant. Cremations generally do not require a headstone. If you choose to place your urn at a cemetery with a section for urns, you require only a small headstone to mark your spot.

Unfortunately in life, funerals are usually planned in a time of huge sadness and emotional stress. Try to keep a focus on what your loved one would have wanted, and do not put yourself or the family into undue financial stress.

Funeral Planning Choices:

  1. Traditional Funeral. Most traditional funerals are held in a Church or Place of Worship frequented by the deceased. This type of service requires a hearse to transport the body to the venue. A religious service will then be held with prayer readings and possibly speeches made by loved ones and friends. After this, the body is driven to a burial site where it is lowered into a grave. The grave is usually marked by a headstone that can be simple or elaborate depending on the family.

  2. Cremation. A cremation is a simpler service, held in a Chapel or room in the Crematorium. Readings, religious or non-religious can be decided on by the family. After the ceremony, the ashes can be taken away in an Urn to keep in a sentimental place or can be scattered over a Natural venue that was loved by the deceased.

  3. Green Funerals. Many people today are striving towards living eco-friendly lives and burial is a part of this process. Green funerals are gaining popularity and are held in natural settings, set aside for this purpose. The choice of casket would be biodegradable. These funerals are embellished with wonderful flowers and creations of nature. Traditional headstones are not allowed, in their place, rocks, stones, plants or trees can be used as grave markers.

  4. Memorial Services. Some families may opt for a private burial with only close loved ones present. These services may or may not involve religion. A simple reading could be made - perhaps a poem or a special tribute written by a friend. The family would then arrange a memorial service at a later stage for friends and colleagues to attend.

  5. Specific Religious and Cultural Services. Certain religions call for a very specific type of funeral with traditions that have come down through the ages. Jewish, Hindu, Islamic, African and Sikh are some of these. Guests would probably be advised to find out about the protocols before attending, especially if you are not familiar with these religions and cultures.

Selecting a Casket

The time after a loved one or friend has passed away is difficult and emotional. You are faced with a myriad of choices when it comes to burial caskets. In stressful times, this can be overwhelming, especially when time is of the essence.

The type of casket, material, design and shape is an overriding factor that will guide your decision. Cost is often a huge issue for many families with limited funds.

Here are some issues to consider when choosing a casket.

  1. Decide on a budget. Caskets can vary from a few thousand to tens of thousands of Dollars. Set a budget and ask the funeral home to advise you on coffins that fit into your range.

  2. Wooden Caskets come in a choice of expensive, highly polished Cherry finishes, Mahogany, Walnut and natural satin-finished Oak. These beautiful woods are known for their aesthetic appeal and are often chosen for high-end funerals. On the lower cost scale, you will find Pine, Poplar and veneer caskets that are significantly cheaper. They come in a choice of wood stains, ranging from light to dark.

  3. Metal Caskets also offer a cost range from highly expensive to less expensive. Bronze and Copper are considered to be the highest quality available in metal caskets. Stainless Steel caskets are less expensive and you also have a choice of standard steel at the lower end of the range.

  4. Casket Interiors vary in price and luxuriousness. The most popular materials are satin, velvet or crepe. Casket interiors are designed to blend in with the exterior finish and there are a wide variety of color choices available.

  5. Casket Lids come in a choice of two styles, Half couch and full couch. The first offers a split lid that allows viewing of the top section of the body. The latter opens fully and allows a full view of the body. Half couch lids are the more popular option.

  6. Special Features can be included in some caskets, depending on your budget. Memory drawers are an excellent feature that allows you to add a sentimental memento or ornament that was special to the deceased. Casket corners can also be customized to reflect the life of the deceased and can be engraved with an emblem like a golf club, soccer ball or firefighting badge.

Unfortunately, funerals are usually planned in times of sadness and emotional stress. Strive to focus on what your loved one would have wanted and avoid incurring costs that the family cannot afford.

Planning a Funeral Reception

Deciding to have a Reception after a funeral or memorial service will depend on the wishes of your loved one or very often, on the costs involved. Receptions are customary but not required, and it is usually left up to the family or close friends to decide on what is best during this very emotional and stressful time.

Receptions offer people a time to mourn, remember, share, talk and also celebrate the life of the deceased. They are usually held in a less formal setting like a family home, in the Church, a hall or a garden setting. Whatever you decide, costs are always a factor and can range from a few hundred Dollars to thousands of Dollars for a high-end affair for hundreds of guests.

Here are some considerations for planning a reception.

  1. Your budget is the first consideration. If money is not an option, you can choose to appoint a high-end company to arrange the entire affair from the venue to the food and décor. If money is limited, a group of friends or even the Church volunteer group can work together to set up a small reception.

  2. The number of guests. If you are planning on having a large number of guests, consider hiring a venue for your reception. For a smaller affair, the Church foyer, patio or garden can be used. Close friends can meet at the family home or home of a friend. Open parks and public places are free of charge and will accommodate a small group.

  3. Food is a requirement and can vary from an expensive restaurant-style buffet or sit down meal, to informal plates of food. If costs are an issue, ask friends and family to bring along a plate of finger food or a cake – they will be well received.

  4. Music always enhances a gathering but is not a requirement. For an up-market event, the family will guide the planners as to what type of music the deceased enjoyed. For a smaller affair, you can choose to play a few tracks that were special to your loved one.

  5. Decorations are not a requirement. Up-market affairs can be decorated with themes that reflect the lifestyle of the deceased. For more informal gatherings, flowers are a lovely choice but are not a requirement.

  6. Keepsakes can be offered at the end of the reception. Time pressure and money always is a consideration. You can provide your guests with a keepsake that will remind them of the deceased, or you can choose not to. A simple option is to allow people to tell stories that are heartfelt, meaningful and will make others smile!

Whatever reception you decide on, try to ensure that it reflects the lifestyle of the deceased and avoid incurring costs that will burden the family in a time of stress.

Related Questions:

What are the VA Burial Benefits? - Currently, the VA will pay up to $2,000 toward burial expenses and all of the cost of transporting the deceased if the Veteran is buried in a VA national cemetery. Contact the Veterans Benefits Administration for current benefits, eligibility requirements, and online burial benefits application.

What is the Social Security Death Benefit? Social Security pays a lump-sum death benefit of $255 and the spouse may be eligible for ongoing Monthly Social Security Death Benefits.  Visit your Local Social Security Office or call 800-325-0778 to determine exact benefits and eligibility.

How to determine the exact cost of a funeral? The best resource I found on Calculating the Actual Cost of a Funeral is FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION Consumer Information. Print this form and take it to several funeral directors.

What is the FTC Funeral Rule? The Funeral Rule requires you to give consumers accurate, itemized price information and various other
disclosures about funeral goods and services. In addition, the Rule prohibits Funeral Directors from:

  • Misrepresenting legal, crematory, and cemetery requirements;
  • Embalming for a fee without permission;
  • Requiring the purchase of a casket for direct cremation;
  • Requiring consumers to buy certain funeral goods or services as a condition for furnishing other
    funeral goods or services; and
  • Engaging in other deceptive or unfair practices.

If the funeral director violates the Funeral Rule, they may be subject to penalties of up to $41,484 per violation.

Link to the Federal Trade Commission - 2018 Funeral Rule PDF Document