How much does a funeral cost?

Funeral Planning
Funeral Planning

Most funerals in the United States typically cost between $7,000 and $9,000. Many factors will impact how expensive a funeral will be because there are usually many choices that need to be made, and each influences the cost. Funeral homes will often set a fee that encompasses costs for transport, preparation, viewings and a memorial service, but there may be additional charges to consider.

Organizing a funeral

Being responsible for arranging a funeral can feel like a daunting task. When a person you love passes away, some decisions need to be made about what will happen and what kind of memorial service or funeral is required. The Federal Trade Commission has published information about standard fees that can be charged for funerals and related services. Their website also includes a funeral pricing checklist , which will help you calculate the costs while helping ensure you don’t forget any of the crucial elements. 

How much does a funeral cost?

The amount you can expect to pay for a funeral will be dependent on a number of factors and the choices that you make about how you wish to honor the deceased person. In 2021, the average cost for a funeral with a burial was $7,848, while the average cost of funerals with cremation was slightly less, at $6,970. Many people also choose to pre-plan and pre-pay for their funerals, which helps them to be sure that their funeral will occur in accordance with their own preferences and wishes.

Funeral expenses

There is usually a basic cost set as a standard charge by funeral homes, which is the minimum you can expect to pay for a funeral. This basic fee includes the costs of planning the funeral, plus associated permits and administrative fees.

In 2021, the nationwide average for a basic funeral service fee in the US was $2,300. On top of this fee, there are other optional inclusions and charges. These other expenses can include the use of service cars or a hearse, cemetery costs, monuments, flowers or printed funeral materials. There may be charges for funeral home rental, and for the staffing costs associated with a funeral service.

Burial costs

Many funeral homes do not include cemetery and burial costs in their quotations. You should always check if cemetery costs are included in the price proposed by a funeral home. In 2021, the average cost for a vault was $1,572, taking the overall national average cost of a funeral with burial to $9,420.

Cemetery plots can be expensive, especially in big cities. It is worth clarifying if perpetual care of a cemetery plot is included in a purchase price, or if there will be ongoing maintenance charges.

Casket costs

One of the most expensive parts of a funeral is often the cost of the casket. The average` casket is estimated to cost around $2,000 in the US.

Casket costs will vary depending on the material selected. Caskets made of more expensive, less common materials such as metal or specific timber will cost more than those made out of standard materials. A mahogany casket can cost as much as $10,000. Many providers now have “green” burial caskets which are considered to be a more environmentally friendly option, and may be less costly. 

Cremation costs

Many funeral homes have their own crematory and include the cremation cost in their overall fee. However, it's estimated that around 60% of funeral homes do not conduct cremations on-site and will use a third-party provider for the service. The cost is usually around $350. The average cost for a cremation casket is around $1300, while a cremation urn will usually cost close to $300.

Note that you may be able to rent a casket for use at a viewing and then select a cheaper alternative to be used for the cremation itself, to reduce costs overall.

Funeral costs by state

One of the most significant contributing cost factors relates to the state in which the funeral will occur. Each year the National Funeral Directors Association publishes the results of its General Price List survey, which lists average funeral costs by state.

The average cost for funerals varies around the country, with the average costs in Hawaii, California, New York, Oregon, Massachusetts, Alaska and Maryland all anticipated to be more than $10,000 in 2022. The states with the lowest average funeral costs included Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.

Cost protection for funerals

In 1984, the Federal Trade Commission introduced the "Funeral Rule" with the intent to give you the choice of funeral services you require. This means that you have the right to be told funeral costs over the telephone and to be charged for only the funeral services you select. Under the rule, you are also entitled to purchase a casket or urn online, or at a local casket store.

A funeral home cannot insist that you purchase a casket or urn from them, nor can they charge you a fee for receiving delivery of these items to the funeral home. 

How to manage funeral costs

There are plenty of ways that you can keep funeral expenses as low as possible. If you are on a tight budget, many funeral homes will be willing to work with you to cut costs. It makes sense to inquire with more than one provider and clarify their costs and pricing structure before deciding which you will use.

Note, too, that members of the military are entitled to special burial benefits, so when a deceased person has served, it is worth applying for these entitlements as well.

Personalizing a funeral service

Ultimately, a funeral is a way of celebrating, remembering and honoring your loved one. There are no rules about which elements of a service you must include.

When planning a funeral, it is essential to think about what best suits the person and the occasion. There may also be ways that friends and family can chip in to help cut down costs associated with a funeral. For example, you could find someone to prepare flowers for you, or have help in creating your own funeral programs and online memorial.

Online memorials

To reduce the costs of printing resources for a funeral, it can be worth considering an online memorial to honor your loved one.

With Memories you can create a permanent online tribute for your loved one, which can be accessed by friends and family right around the world (depending on your privacy settings). Images, videos and messages can be shared and are securely held in a private online tribute that can be added to before, during and after the funeral or memorial service itself.

While there is a fee for this service, it's small compared with the other costs you'll pay to farewell a loved one. And best of all, the memorial stays online in perpetuity, so family and friends can continue to visit and add to the memorial, and remember and celebrate the person, for years to come.

In conclusion

As we've seen in this guide, the average funeral cost in the US depends on your location and the choices you make about the service, but for a typical service you can expect to pay at least $7,000 to $9,000. To keep costs low, shop around, consider all your options and ask loved ones for help with preparations.