What Is The Average Cost of a Funeral?

Funeral Costs

Posted on October 27, 2015 by Rachel Zeldin

Funerals are not one size fits all. They can be very simple affairs or full-service events with all the bells and whistles. The average costs of a full-service funeral in the USA is over $7,000, which does NOT include cemetery costs such as the plot, opening and closing of the grave, or a headstone or marker, nor any social gathering afterwards.

Below we have outlined the prices of 3 funeral types and the services and costs most often associated with them: Direct Cremation, Immediate Burial, and Full Service Funeral:

Direct Cremation

This is the most simple and least costly funeral type that has no ceremony. The funeral home is required by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to offer and list Direct Cremation on their general price list. The services included in the cost are:

  • basic services of the funeral director

  • transferring of the body from place of death to the funeral home

  • filing of necessary paperwork such as death certificate, social security, cremation permit, transit permit

  • returning of cremated remains (ashes) to the family

Direct cremation costs can range from $600-$4,000, all depending on which provider you choose. Those who specialize in direct cremation often are less costly than a full-service funeral home. Depending on the state, there are other costs to consider with direct cremation that may not be included in the Direct Cremation charge:

  • Alternative Container

    The alternative container is the container used for cremation and often made of cardboard. In some states it is included and in others it is not. It is important to ask the funeral home whether or not an alternative container is required and if the cost of it is included in the Direct Cremation price. You can expect to pay $25-$200 for alternative containers made of cardboard, though each funeral home can choose what to charge.

  • Cremation Process

    The cremation process, too, is sometimes included in the cost and sometimes extra. Often when the funeral home owns their own crematory the cost is included in the Direct Cremation price. However, in the case that the funeral home uses a 3rd party for the cremation, it is often treated as a Cash Advance item. You should ask if "cremation is included in cremation." If it is not, cremation costs vary by crematory but is typically between $200-$400.

  • Coroner/Medical Examiner Fee

    In some states and municipalities there is a fee for the cremation permit from the coroner or medical examiner. This is often not included in the Direct Cremation cost so be sure to inquire with the funeral director if this fee is required and included in the price of Direct Cremation.

  • Death Certificates

    Almost every state has a set fee for death certificates. These are also treated as Cash Advance items. You can order as many as you need but should be prepared to pay per copy. Fees vary greatly from state to state, but the funeral director will know the costs of a death certificate in your town or state.

Immediate Burial

Immediate burial is the simplest form of burial, and like Direct Cremation, it does not include any ceremony. Immediate Burial is also a required service to be listed on the general prices list. The services included in an Immediate Burial are:

  • basic services of the funeral director

  • transferring of the body from place of death to the funeral home

  • filing of necessary paperwork such death certificate, social security, transit permit

  • coordination of burial at the chosen cemetery

It does not include a service at the funeral home or graveside, a casket, the cost of a cemetery plot, the opening or closing of the grave, any headstone or marker, death certificates, or a newspaper obituary which are all considered 3rd party fees. You can ask the funeral director if you can arrange for a graveside service at an additional cost. You can expect a graveside service to cost from $250-$700, depending on the funeral director's price list. Immediate Burial has a wide range of prices. You can budget between $1,200-$4,000.

Full-Service Funeral

ulbsdvxjcfdb8vmndafrA full-service funeral is one that would include a visitation or viewing, embalming of the body, other preparation of the body, basic casket, a funeral service, vehicles for transportation to the cemetery and oftentimes a graveside service. The National Funeral Directors Association surveyed their member funeral homes in 2014 and found that the national average for a Full Service Funeral was: $7,181. The types and fees associated with a full-service funeral are:

  • Basic Service Fee

A non-declinable fee that the funeral home is able to charge to cover basic services of the funeral director and funeral home. Basic Service Fees range greatly but you can expect one to be around $1,000-$3,500.

  • Transfer of Remains

This is the charge for the funeral director to pick up and transport the body from the place of death to the funeral home. Typical fees for transfer of remains are $200-$400.

  • Embalming

Embalming is a method of temporary preservation by use of replacing the blood with chemicals. Fees for embalming typically range from $600-$900.

  • Refrigeration

An alternative and equally effective means of temporary preservation is refrigeration. The charges vary greatly and may be charged as a daily rate or a lump some. We have seen funeral directors charge the same amount for refrigeration as they do for embalming as a way to recuperate costs for those that choose not to embalm. We fully disagree with this tactic.

  • Other Preparation of the Body (Dressing, Casketing, Cosmetology)

Other preparation of the body often includes dressing the body, placing it in the casket, and cosmetology services. Though they can be listed as individual charges, these three services are often lumped together with fees ranging from $250-$350.

  • Viewing or Visitation

Viewings and/or Visitations are 1/2 day to 2-day affairs where the family can gather with friends and neighbors to console one another and say goodbye one last time. If you choose to have a viewing or visitation at the funeral home you should expect to pay for the use of their facility and staff for part of the day or the whole day. A viewing involves an open casket while a visitation usually has a closed casket or no casket. Scheduling a viewing or visitation on the same day as the funeral service is much less expensive than having one the evening before as well as the day of. Typical viewing or visitation costs range from $300-$800. Read here for the difference between a viewing and visitation.

  • Funeral Service

A formal funeral service at a funeral home is a separate fee that can range from $500-$800.

  • Graveside Service

A graveside service may take place after a funeral service or on its own. In some religions, this is the norm for a funeral. Graveside services can range from $400-$700.

  • Memorial Package

Memorial packages are stationery packages that may include a guest registration book, prayer cards, and/or thank you notes. The national average is $150-$250 for a memorial package.

  • Casket or Coffin

A casket or coffin is a container designed to encase the body. Caskets can be made of a variety of materials including metal, wood, or other natural materials like wicker, banana leafs, bamboo, or even cardboard. Caskets are not required by law but many people purchase one for a viewing or visitation and to be buried in the grave. Caskets can be bought from the funeral home, a 3rd party retailer like your local craftsman, Costco, Walmart, or Amazon, or you can even make one yourself. By law you are allowed to purchase one outside the funeral home and have it delivered to the funeral home without penalty from the funeral home. Casket costs are perhaps the most variable. Rarely are they less than $1,000 and they can cost more than $30,000 if made of a precious metal like bronze.

As you can see, there is a wide range of costs for funerals depending on what type of funeral you select and which funeral home or cremation provider you choose. It is for this reason that it is extremely important to not only ask questions to know what is included and what is not included, but to compare costs amongst local funeral homes. If the pricing is not listed online, as is the case most often in the USA and Canada, this can be a time-consuming process. We offer cost comparison services that help you find local funeral homes, gather price lists from them, analyze their services and costs, and then prepare the pricing information into an easy-to-read and easy-to-compare format.  Click here to see your options: Compare Funeral Prices.