Consumer group survey: Funeral costs vary in Philly, but prices difficult to compare

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Posted on October 21, 2015 by

By Elana Gordon for WHYY Newsworks

Determining the costs of funeral services can be really difficult in Philadelphia, according to a new survey from the Funeral Consumers Alliance and the Consumer Federation of America.

Federal law mandates that funeral homes give price lists to consumers who walk in the door, but if you're calling around or searching for those lists online? Good luck, says Rachel Zeldin, vice president of the alliance's greater Philadelphia chapter.

The national group conducted a 10-city survey, sampling about a dozen funeral homes per city. It found that barely any offered itemized price lists online or would email them upon request. Although that's not required by law,  Zeldin said it doesn't leave many options for people.

"It is a very painful and long-winded process to call funeral home, after funeral home, after funeral home to request basic info on services and pricing," she said.

While funeral homes do have to share specific price information over the phone, Zeldin said her group fields calls every day from people who are frustrated, trying to get answers.

Jessica Koth, a spokeswoman with the National Funeral Directors Association, said posting prices online isn't required, so it's an individual business decision whether to do so.

"Because there are so many options available to families, some funeral homes might prefer to have a conversation by phone or even in person with a family to help them understand the pricing," Koth said.

The one exception is California, which has state rules regarding online price lists.

Zeldin's group, meanwhile, is in the midst of working on a price survey of the more than 100 licensed funeral homes in Philadelphia.

The national sample found that prices for similar services can vary a lot. In Philadelphia, the cost of a full-service funeral ranged from $4,135 to $7,990; a direct cremation ranged from $1,365 to $3,345; and an immediate burial ranged from $1,080 to $3,600.

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