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Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

Average Funeral Costs

My spouse and I are interested in prearranging our funerals and would like to have a cost idea to plan and budget appropriately. What are the general costs for funeral arrangements?

It pays to know what charges to expect when pre-planning a funeral. Most people do not have a general idea of typical costs and can often be upsold thousands of dollars in extra services. Here is what you can expect.

Funeral Prices

Funeral costs will vary considerably depending on your geographic location, the funeral home you choose and the funeral choices you make. With that said, here is a breakdown of what an average funeral costs nationwide according to the most recent data from the National Funeral Directors Association. The average costs are as follows:

Professional services fee: This service fee is required and covers the funeral provider's time, expertise and overhead. On average this service costs around $2,300.

Transportation to funeral home: This fee is about $350 and includes the pickup and transfer of the deceased to the funeral home.

Embalming and preparation: The fee for embalming is usually mandatory for open-casket viewing, otherwise it is not required unless the deceased is going to be transported across state lines. Embalming costs average $775. Additional preparations, which include hairdressing and cosmetics run around $275.

Funeral viewing and ceremony: If the viewing and funeral ceremony is at the funeral home, you will be charged for use of the chapel and any necessary staff. Costs average $450 for viewing, and $515 for the funeral ceremony.

Metal casket: The metal casket charge is a big money maker for funeral homes, with markups of up to 300% over the wholesale price of $2,500.

Transportation to cemetery: Use of a hearse and driver to transport the deceased to the cemetery will run about $325. Use of a service car for the loved ones will average $150.

Memorial printed package: Printed materials including programs and a memorial guest book will average around $183.

In addition to these costs, there are other charges made by the cemetery for things such as the funeral plot, the mausoleum fee, the vault, the grave liner and the opening and closing of the grave, all of which can run between $2,000 and $3,000. The gravestone will also typically average between $1,000 and $3,000.

You will also need to budget for related expenses like $200 to $400 for flowers, $100 to $800 or more in the newspaper obituary fee, $200 to $300 for the clergy honorarium and $5 to $35 in extra copies of the death certificate, depending on the state.

In total, the average cost of a U.S. funeral with viewing and cemetery burial is around $9,500 but this number can easily be above $12,000 with some of the additional expenses mentioned above.

Ways to Save

If this is more than you are willing or able to pay, there are several ways to save. Prices can vary significantly by funeral provider, so it is wise to shop around to see what cost friendly options are available. If you need assistance finding funeral providers, use your preferred online search engine to research and compare prices in your area.

When evaluating funeral providers, be sure you get an itemized price list of services and products to accurately compare and choose what you want.

The most significant way to save is to request a "direct burial" or "direct cremation." Under these options, you and your spouse would be buried or cremated shortly after death, which skips the embalming and viewing. You could also request a memorial service at the graveside or at your choice of venue without the deceased. A memorial service usually runs between $1,000 and $3,000, not including the cemetery charges.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published October 21, 2022
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