In 2019, a typical funeral costs between $6,000 and $11,000. Average funeral expenses include a casket ($2,500), funeral home fees ($3,000), care for the body ($1,300), burial or cremation, and other services. Funeral expenses can vary widely depending on the location and services selected by the family.
Many people aren’t aware that there’s a federal “Funeral Rule” which protects you from overpaying for funeral costs.
The Funeral Rule is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It states that anyone making arrangements for a funeral has the right to “choose only those goods and services you want or need and to pay only for those you select.”
In other words: Funeral homes are not allowed to conceal pricing information or intentionally oversell you on their services.
“The Rule allows you to compare prices among funeral homes, and makes it possible for you to select the funeral arrangements you want at the home you use.”–Federal Trade Commission
When speaking with a funeral home, make sure you receive an itemized list of all the services it offers and how much each one costs. This is called a “general price list” (GPL), and funeral homes are required to provide it for you.
The Funeral Rule gives you the right to receive price information about all funeral home services. It also gives you the right to:
If you don’t see lower-priced items listed on the information a funeral home gives you, the FTC suggests you ask about them.
Affordable alternatives for things like caskets or vaults may not be readily on display — but if you ask, the funeral home must show you all your options.
If you’re on a tight budget, you have the right to find more affordable funeral services and use third-party sellers.
In addition, if you’re looking to lower costs, you might consider third-party sellers for certain items.
“Think about Costco as an option for caskets and other costs,” says Chris Acker, a certified life insurance underwriter and chartered financial planner. Other experts recommend Amazon or even Walmart.
“And check to find out if there are non-profit funeral options in one’s faith community,” adds Acker. “This can save a ton of money”
Just note that the Funeral Rule only applies to funeral homes. It does not extend to third-party companies like casket or monument sellers, or cemeteries without a funeral home on-site.
An “average” funeral costs $6,000-$11,000, according to 2019 data from the National Funeral Directors Association. But that number is only a benchmark.
In reality, funeral costs vary widely depending on factors like location, type of funeral, and funeral home.
This can make it hard to put together a cost-effective funeral — especially at a time of grieving.
“The most important thing someone can do to alleviate an undue burden at the time of a loved one’s death is to plan ahead,” says Randy Anderson, a spokesperson for the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA).
“Thinking about the options that are available to your family and what type of service is desired ahead of time allows you to do so when your mind is clear and not clouded by emotion.”
Knowing what affects the cost of a funeral will help facilitate those important discussions.
Many different factors affect the overall cost of a funeral.
First are the location and type of funeral a family chooses. Depending on the region of the U.S. where it takes place, a funeral with burial costs $8,400-$9,600 on average. By comparison, regional costs for a funeral with cremation are $5,800-$7,200.
Material add-ons also make a difference. A grave marker or headstone can raise funeral costs anywhere from $250 to $6,000. Caskets range from $200 to $11,000 depending on the material and design.
And there’s one other big consideration. The funeral home you choose to work with makes a huge difference in overall cost.
That’s because the biggest expense for most funerals is a non-declinable “services fee” — and depending on the funeral home, average service fees can range from $725 to more than $5,200.
Mandatory “funeral home service fees” can range from $725 to $5,300, depending on the funeral home you choose to work with.
Of course, it’s important to consider the quality of care you’ll receive as well as cost.
“The cost to operate a funeral home with a highly trained, professional staff is expensive,” explains Anderson. But, “a funeral service provider that provides a meaningful remembrance will be much more valuable than a discounter.”
Comparing prices and services from a few different homes so you can put together a meaningful ceremony at a fair cost.
Thanks to the federal Funeral Rule, you have the right to ask funeral homes which services are required and how much they’ll cost — and the funeral home must give you a straight answer.
To be better prepared for that discussion, it helps to understand each individual funeral expense.
The following list shows typical items and services purchased with a funeral. Each item is paired with its overall price range, according to NFDA’s cost survey of over 5,000 funeral homes.
There’s a wide price range for each of these items. That makes it extra important to have a plan in place ahead of time.
“Loved ones need to know as much as they can in order to plan a meaningful tribute,” reminds Anderson. To learn more about your options before speaking with a funeral home, he recommends the website RememberingALife.com.
Below are the average costs for a funeral with viewing and burial as of 2019. The biggest expenses for a funeral with burial are the casket, vault, and funeral home service fees.
Vaults are not always required, so make sure it’s necessary if you’re being asked to pay for one. In addition, prices for caskets, burial plots, grave markers, and headstones can vary hugely. So you may want to do a little extra research when choosing these items.
¹Average costs based on 2019 funeral cost survey from the National Funeral Directors Association
²Average cost of a burial plot based on data from BurialPlanning.com
Below are the average costs for a funeral with viewing and cremation as of 2019. The biggest expenses for a funeral with cremation are the casket, funeral home service fees, and embalming.
Cremation caskets have a wide price range depending on material, so make sure you ask the funeral home to show all their options. Also, embalming is often not required if there will not be a viewing or visitation prior to cremation.
¹Average costs based on 2019 funeral cost survey from the National Funeral Directors Association
Planning a funeral means setting aside funds to pay for it. There are three sound ways plan for funeral costs during life:
Each of the options for covering funeral costs has pros and cons.
“Prepaid funerals through a funeral home of choice, or funding a funeral Trust are two options,” says Mark Charnet, founder and CEO of American Prosperity group.
Prepaid funeral packages let you plan and pay for the whole funeral during life. This makes funeral planning a lot less stressful for surviving family members.
A prepaid funeral package can also keep costs low. “Like all other goods and services, funeral goods and services are likely to increase in price over time,” says Anderson of the NFDA. “Pay ahead of time, and you can guarantee the price with no future increase.”
A funeral trust is similar. It lets you deposit money with a funeral home during life, which “would pay money to the home, the cemetery, the restaurant for the repass, and for any other factors that may be needed,” explains Charnet.
But funeral trusts are a little more flexible than prepaid packages. They provide only the funds, not the exact plans. Surviving family members can decide how best to use those funds for funeral planning.
Life insurance is the most flexible of all the funeral prepayment options. It provides a lump-sum benefit that can be used for funeral costs and other end-of-life expenses — including things like estate management and paying off remaining debts.
Some people purchase life insurance early in life, and others are covered through employee plans. But seniors that didn’t buy life insurance at a young age have options, too.
Those in good health might opt for a whole life insurance policy with a small death benefit to cover funeral costs. For seniors that aren’t in the best health, “final expense” or “burial” insurance offers the same benefits. Only, there’s no health exam required to get coverage.
Funeral costs aren’t the only thing to consider. Families are often surprised by the sheer number of details involved in planning a funeral.
Charnet shared some of the most important things — aside from cost — to consider planning ahead of time:
“As a reminder, a prudent person should check their beneficiary designations every five years,” says Charnet.
“This includes every insurance policy, qualified plan (IRA/401k), Will, employer retirement plan and trust(s), if any. In addition, everyone should also have a Power of Attorney, a Health Proxy and a Living Will.”
Balancing cost and value for a funeral can be difficult. Everyone deserves a memorable service. But price is a very real consideration.
Thankfully, there are ways to keep funeral expenses in check and still receive high-quality service.
It all comes back to planning.
“In the aftermath of the death of a loved one, it is virtually impossible to negotiate a better price,” says Charnet. “But months or years in advance is a totally different scenario.”
Of course, these conversations can be difficult to navigate. TalkOfALifetime.org provides resources for families that want to begin funeral planning, but don’t know how to get started.
Direct burial or cremation is often more affordable that a funeral with a full viewing and ceremony.
Direct burial or cremation helps reduce funeral costs by eliminating some of the biggest expenses: facilities and staff for viewing and ceremony, embalming, and ornate caskets.
If funeral costs have you considering cremation or another funeral method, you are not alone. In fact, the NFDA projects that about 79% of people will choose cremation by 2040, and only 16% will choose burial.
For the 5% of people that choose neither cremation nor burial, there are a number of other funeral options. These include:
You might have questions about alternative funeral methods or which type of funeral is best. To speak with an expert about your options, try the NFDA’s “ask a funeral expert” resource. It will put you in touch with an NFDA-member funeral director who can answer your questions.
Average funeral costs range from $6,000 to $11,000. That include a casket, funeral home fees, facilities and staff, care for the body, and burial or cremation. On average, a funeral with cremation costs about 40% less than a burial. That’s because the casket, vault, burial plot, and grave marker are some of the most expensive items associated with a funeral.
Funeral expenses are not tax deductible. According to the IRS, funeral costs do not count as “qualified medical expenses,” which means they cannot be deducted. The only exception is if you paid for the funeral using funds from the deceased’s estate. But even then, the estate must be worth over $11 million for the deduction to apply.
Life insurance is a smart way to cover funeral costs. When an insured person passes away, the payout or “death benefit” can be used for all funeral expenses, up to the policy limits. For seniors who didn’t buy life insurance early on, and aren’t in the best health, funeral costs can be covered using “final expense” life insurance. These policies are available without a health exam and provide a smaller death benefit specifically for funeral costs.
Most people designate someone to handle their funeral arrangements after they pass. This person often uses funds from the estate to pay for the funeral. The estate includes property, cash reserves, and other liquid assets. If no one is designated, laws about who must cover funeral costs vary by state. Usually, the “next of kin” is required to handle funeral expenses — meaning a person’s closest living relatives.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many established programs to help families with funeral costs. Social Security will provide a small stipend, but only in certain cases. Your best option is to look to your community. Faith groups might be able to help with funeral costs, and organizations like the VA have special funeral programs for members.
You might also look into fundraising, though it can be difficult to ask friends and family for contributions. Planning ahead with a funeral fund or life insurance policy is the best way to secure funeral costs and avoid strain for your loved ones.
Some states provide assistance for funerals or burials. In others, funeral aid is provided at the county or municipality level. Either way, government financial aid is limited — between $400 and $2,000 in most cases. This will cover only a small portion of an average funeral, which costs $6,000-$11,000. You can find information about how to apply for state funeral assistance programs here.
Prices shown for each state reflect average costs by census district. Data from National Funeral Directors Association 2019 funeral cost survey