Funeral and Burial Expenses

What Should I Expect to Pay for Funeral and Burial Expenses

February 26, 2016 | by the National Care Planning Council

A common goal among many aging seniors and their families is to put money aside for funeral and burial expenses. Most, however, are unsure how much to save and how prepared to be in the event of a death. It is certainly easier for one's family if arrangements through estate planning, funeral pre-planning and funeral trusts are made. We encourage this. Even then, many unforeseen details and expenses can burden the family of the deceased.

A common tendency among families in the days and weeks leading up to a death is neglecting to find an affordable funeral provider. Another challenge is finding ways to fund all of the various expenses involved with a funeral and burial. Generally, this is due to emotional stresses and a simple lack of time and preparation. Most often, families will use the same funeral services their relatives have used. Time constraints will force many to overlook important questions like, "are we paying too much for this" or "is this best for the deceased and their survivors?"

Others, who have lost a veteran or their survivor, believe the Department of Veterans Affairs will cover all the costs associated with a funeral and burial. Although there are several allowances and benefits available to veterans and their survivors for funeral and burial, these will not cover the entire cost. Read the Senior Veterans Service Alliance's article on VA Burial Allowances for rates and more information.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 6,700 people pass away in the U.S. every day. Although funeral costs can easily be upward in the 10s of thousands of dollars, the average cost nationwide in the United States for a traditional funeral (including embalming and a metal casket) in 2013 was $6,000, according to data from the National Funeral Directors Association. In 2014, the national average cost rose to $7,181. Currently, the average cost for a traditional funeral is over $10,000.

Types of Funerals

Traditional Funeral Services

Traditional funeral services usually include embalming, dressing of the body, funeral home rental, a viewing, body transportation (via a hearse) to the funeral site, casket cost, and a cemetery plot or crypt. This is the most expensive type of funeral because many types of services and additional add-ons are available.

Direct Burial

This burial is a simpler version of a traditional service. A direct burial would likely include a simple container, no viewing or visitation, and no embalming. A memorial service would still be held at the graveside if desired.


The body is cremated after death without embalming. Remains are kept as the family desires. Costs are compounded as services are added.

General Information about Service Fes

Basic Service

Basic service fees are charged by the funeral provider and prices do vary. These fees are required and cover services such as: consultations, preparation and filing of permits, coordinating arrangements and third parties, overhead expenses (e.g. legal, accounting, professional licenses, insurance, maintenance and administration). According to the National Funeral Directors Association average fees are now over $2,000.


Casket styles vary from simple cardboard all the way to metal and fine wood. Industry studies show that the average casket shopper buys one of the first three models shown, generally the middle-priced. Although there are many casket options, pine caskets are generally less expensive and funeral homes rarely display them. An average casket will cost around $2,200.

Burial Vaults

Many cemeteries require caskets be placed inside an outer container known as a grave liner or burial vault. These are rectangular boxes made of concrete, composite plastic, or metal. These vaults and liners are made to last forever and will even preserve the cemetery's lawn and grounds. A casket buried without a vault or liner will eventually deteriorate and collapse resulting in uneven ground. This in turn can tilt a head stone and dirty the interior of the casket. An average vault will cost around $1,300.

Body Removal

The pick up and transport costs for newly deceased body from a residence, hospital or other location to a funeral home can be expensive. The further away the body has to be transported the higher the costs you will incur. The cost for removal can range from $125 to $500.


The practice of embalming grew popular during the Civil War when bodies had to be transported long distances back to their families. This practice involves draining a body of fluids and replacing them with chemicals to temporarily preserve the body. This practice is growing out of favor as people are more environmentally conscious. Embalming is not legally required and many choose refrigeration as an alternative. However, if a body must be transported a long distance, embalming may be required. Embalming fees range from $225 to $1,200.

Dressing, Hair & Makeup

This is different than embalming. Preparing a body for viewing and visitation by applying makeup, styling hair, dressing the body can be a worthy expense as this is the last time many will see the deceased. The average fee for this service is $200.

Burial Clothing

Many families like the burial clothing to be new. Funeral homes offer special burial clothes designed especially for the occasion. See table below for clothing costs.

Storage and Refrigeration

Funeral homes have a daily charge for storing a body, even if it is embalmed. Other homes may charge a lump sum for a set number of days. Storage fees range from $35 to $100 per day.


The viewing is an opportunity for friends and loved ones to say their goodbyes, offer condolences, and see the body one last time, embalmed or not. Often this is an event which will last a few hours. The viewing is usually held in a church or funeral home reception area with displays of pictures, and floral arrangements. Food and beverages can also be coordinated as many have traveled long distances to attend. Funeral home fees for viewings can range from $150 to $1,200.

Funeral Ceremony Staff

This charge is for coordination and supervising the funeral arrangements and assisting with the ceremony. This fee can be competitive of facilities who also charge a fee. Funeral staff fees range from $500 to $800.

Printed Programs

Printed Programs are a great way for family and friends to take something from the funeral to remember the deceased by. These can be very basic to full color programs with pictures. Price varies depending on quality. Other printed material such as prayer cards and acknowledgement cards can also be arranged.

Guest Register

A Guest Register is a special book for attending guests to sign and/or write short condolences. See table below for guest register costs.


Two distinctive flower arrangements are available for funerals, the casket spray and a standing easel display. Urns can also be decorated with a flower wreath or garland.

Clergy or Celebrant Fees

Clergy are ordained leaders by a religious denomination and celebrants may or may not have any religious affiliation but may have ceremonial training on how to perform a eulogy. Some funeral homes have these people on staff.


Soloists and groups usually charge by the hour, others may donate their time. The more professional the musician(s), the more the musician(s) will likely charge. See table below for musician's fees.

Hearse or Funeral Coach

At the head of the funeral procession, hearses or coaches typically carry the casket and body to the cemetery. Average hearse or funeral coach fees are $300.

Other vehicles

Limousines, service cars, and flower cars all vary in sizes and costs. The average fee for a vehicle is $300.

Grave Plots

Real estate pricing varies by location and whether the plot is in a private or public cemetery. See table below for grave plots fees.

Grave Opening and Closing

This expense can be significant and may cost as much as the plot itself. Weekend and holiday rates can double or even triple. See table below for grave opening and closing fees.

Graveside Service

A graveside service is a brief ceremony at the cemetery next to the place of burial. The funeral home can coordinate the delivery of the casket and the ceremony. Additional fees may be incurred for items such as tents, chairs, flooring, decoration, etc.

Temporary Burial Marker

This marks the location of the grave pending a permanent marker or headstone. See table below for temporary burial marker.


Newspaper obituary vary in costs by number of lines. Smaller newspapers or online publications may cost less or even be free. Death notices, which have a limited number of lines and no biographical information, are inexpensive or free.


Cremated remains are not considered biohazard and do not require any special container. Most people choose to purchase an urn. Engraving is optional but can be a great way to personalize a loved ones remains. See table below for urn fees.

Grave Markers, Monuments and Headstones

Many of these can be purchased locally or online. Along with the actually marker, monument or headstone, fees may include engraving, delivery, foundation and installation. See table below for total cost.

Death Certificate

Always a good idea to obtain a few copies as insurance companies, government agencies, and creditors may need an original. See table below for death certificate fees.

The Federal Trade Commission, Funerals & Your Rights

The Federal Trade Commission has created sets of rules that funeral providers must follow. These rules do not cover cemeteries and mausoleums unless they sell both the funeral goods and services. The rules include:

Regarding embalming:

  • may not provide embalming services without permission.
  • may not falsely state that embalming is required by law.
  • must disclose in writing that embalming is not required by law, except in certain special cases.
  • may not charge a fee for unauthorized embalming unless embalming is required by state law.
  • must disclose in writing that you usually have the right to choose a disposition, like direct cremation or immediate burial, that does not require embalming if you do not want this service.
  • must disclose in writing that some funeral arrangements, such as a funeral with viewing, may make embalming a practical necessity and, if so, a required purchase.
  • may not claim that embalming will preserve the body of the deceased for an unlimited time.

Regarding Cremations:

  • may not tell you that state or local law requires a casket for direct cremations, because none do;
  • must disclose in writing your right to buy an unfinished wood box or an alternative container for a direct cremation; and
  • must make an unfinished wood box or other alternative container available for direct cremations.


  • Federal and state laws do not require a vault or liner, however some cemeteries may require some type of outer burial container to prevent the grave from sinking in the future.
  • funeral provider is required to give you a list of prices and descriptions

Caskets and Urns:

  • requires the funeral director to show you a list of caskets the company sells, with descriptions and prices before showing you the casket.
  • funeral provider cannot limit your use of a casket or urn you bought elsewhere and doesn't allow them to charge you a few for using it.
  • may not claim that a particular type of casket will preserve the body of the deceased for an unlimited time.


  • do not have to accept a package that includes services you do not want.


  • general price lists must be available for all the items and services the funeral home offers. (These can be requested over the phone as well as in person)

True Costs of Funerals

Most of these costs will be dependent on what is available and your location, the table below is a range of what it can cost.

Major Services

Name of Service



Burial Vault



Casket (lower end cardboard, higher end metal)






Death Certificate Fees



Embalming Fees



Funeral Homes' Basic Services (Required)



Grave Plot



Grave Site Set Up

$100 +

Graveside Service



Hearse or Funeral Coach



Storage and Refrigeration Fees - Care of Remains

$35 per day

$100 per day

Transportation of the body to the Funeral Home






Viewing or Visitation Fees – Funeral Home Facility and Staff Fee



Lesser Services

Name of Service



Burial Clothing



Burial Shroud



Clergy or Celebrant






Funeral Ceremony Fees



Grave Markers, Monuments



Grave Opening and Closing



Guest Register Book



Limousine or Lead Vehicle









Cosmetology, Dressing, Casketing



Programs (per 100)



Service Car or Flower Car



Temporary Burial Marker



Save Money on Funerals


You don't have to purchase services you don't want and/or cannot afford. So if packages are not exactly what you want, you can add and remove services.

Burial Vaults

Finding a cemetery that doesn't require burial vaults can save you lots of money.


It's cheaper to refrigerate then to embalm, so if possible, skip embalming.

Gasket Casket

This protective layer may prevent the elements from getting into a casket for a little while but not forever. The gasket costs the funeral home around $10 and can raise the price of a casket by $800, according to the Funeral Consumers Alliance.


Finding a small print wholesale company locally or online can save you some money, or skip the programs all together.


Providing burial clothing can easily save some money.


Opt for an alternative container like pressboard, cardboard or canvas.

Consider a Home Funeral or Community Center or Church

If the newly deceased was part of a community, it may be worth it to have the funeral somewhere where the deceased would be surrounded by people they know. Consider a home funeral as well for the same benefits.

Skip the Clergy

Since a funeral is not a legally sanctioned ceremony, a clergyman for a fee or anyone with qualification is not necessary.


Having a funeral during the week before 3pm will get you the lowest costs. After 3pm, costs can double or triple, especially on the weekend.

Caskets and Urns

Considering shopping online or at a wholesale club, this can save you a significant amount of money. In fact, caskets and urns can be purchased through Costco or Walmart's website. Delivery can be made directly to the funeral home or crematorium. Rental caskets can also be available from the funeral home. Based on rentals costs we have seen, caskets rentals are more expensive then purchasing from Costco or Walmart.

Costco Funeral: Urns starting at $90 & Caskets at $950

Walmart Funeral: Caskets starting at $900

Cardboard Caskets

These can be decorated to be personalized, including painted or have pictures attached. Try

Turn Cremated Remains into a Plant or Tree




Skipping fancy funeral flowers and going for simple arrangements can be not only easier to transport but also can be easier on the checkbook. You may also spring for less expensive flowers, such as carnations rather than roses. The funeral home may be able to get flowers at cost or with a fee if you don't want to worry about the hassle. Many people send flowers for condolences, so you may not even have to pay for flowers as they may be provided by loved ones and friends.


Musicians can be pricey. Consider a mix tape or a homemade picture video of the deceased favorite songs instead.

Other Ways to Save / Pay for a Funeral

Donate Your Body to Science/Medical Schools

Yes, this is a real thing. You can donate your body and in return, certain services are taking care of. This will help save your family time and money. It will also make a lot of the process easier. The State of Florida College of Medicine has compiled a list of programs in most states that offer the donation:

Health Savings Accounts (HSA)

Many under-insured have health savings accounts. These accounts are a great way to save and pay for many medical needs and expenses. The downside is you cannot pay for funeral expenses. HSA funds will become part of the deceased estate and dealt with in that way.


Join our Council

Join the NCPCSeniors and caregivers search online everyday for eldercare services and frequently find Each month, we provide online resources to over 40,000 unique visitors. Our site also offers a place for professionals to offer assistance to the public.

Senior Services
from our Members

Long Term CareThe NCPC is dedicated to helping families deal with issues and challenges seniors face. We offer free help locating eldercare and senior services in your area. Some of these services include Care Management, Elder Law, Estate Planning, Funeral Planning, Home Care, Medicaid Planning, Placement, Reverse Mortgage, and Veterans Benefits.

BOOK: "How to Apply for VA Benefits for Recent and Senior Veterans and Their Survivors"

How to Apply for Department of Veterans Affairs Benefits for Veterans and Their SurvivorsThis 2024 edition is a tremendous resource for veterans, their families, and those who assist veterans. There is no other book available that incorporates VA's newest claims procedures with detailed instructions on submitting applications for 25 different types of disability claims including Pension, Aid & Attendance, DIC, Compensation, Burial Benefits, and more.

BOOK: "How to Deal with 21 Critical Issues Facing Aging Seniors"

How to Deal with 21 Critical Issues Facing Aging SeniorsAging seniors and their families are often confounded by the complexity of issues they face (including declining income, increased debt, poor investment returns, declining health, medical crises, complex insurance programs, long term care challenges, etc...). This book (published in 2014) takes a comprehensive approach to address these challenges and provide solutions.

BOOK: "How to Protect Your Family's Assets from Devastating Nursing Home Costs: Medicaid Secrets"

How to Protect Your Family's Assets from Devastating Nursing Home Costs: Medicaid SecretsThis book, written by attorney Gabriel Heiser in 2024, is a financial and legal guide to the ins and outs of the only government program that will pay for the long term nursing home care of your family member: MEDICAID.

National Care Planning Council