Funeral Cost Breakdown & How To Save (No-BS Guide)

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    Funeral Cost Breakdown

    It’s not cheap to die these days. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average American funeral in 2021 costs over $8,000.

    That’s a lot of money for anyone to spend, and it doesn’t include the burial plot or casket. If you’re planning your own funeral or memorial service, paying attention to each of the major funeral expenses can help you save money on burial costs and funeral services.

    This article will give you an idea of the most common funeral expenses that come up and how to ensure you save some cash so that your loved ones don’t have to worry about this after you’re gone.

    Part I

    A Breakdown Of Key Funeral Expenses

    A breakdown of average funeral costs, followed by deep-dives into the most significant expenses

    Funeral costs include a basic services fee for the funeral director and staff, charges for other services and merchandise, and cash advances. Use it when you shop with several funeral homes to compare costs.

    Funeral Cost Breakdown

    Average Cost % Of Total
    Casket
    Burial Vault
    Service Fee

    Breakdown Of Average Funeral Costs

    When you plan your funeral, the provider must offer you an itemized breakdown of the overall cost of the funerary goods and services you picked. If the funeral provider does not know the price of any “cash advance” products at that time, they are required to give you a written “good faith estimate.” This statement should also include any regulatory cemetery or crematory requirements for purchasing specific funeral goods or services.

    The Funeral Rule does not stipulate a specific layout for the information. This information may be included in any document given to you after your discussion about funeral arrangements by the funeral provider.

    Products & Services

    Embalming

    A viewing or memorial service is generally not necessary if the body is buried or cremated soon after death. If you’re planning a viewing or visitation, expect to pay for embalming. Embalming is sometimes necessary if the body is kept for long periods before burial or cremation.

    • 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 exceptional 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

    Caskets

    For a “traditional” full-service funeral:

    If you want a “traditional” full-service funeral, the most costly item you’ll buy is often a casket. Caskets are available in many styles and prices and are primarily purchased for their aesthetic appeal. Metal, wood, fiberboard, fiberglass, or plastic is used to construct them. Despite the fact that an average coffin costs

    Before showing you the caskets, a funeral director or showroom must provide you with a list of coffins available from the firm, including descriptions and costs. The typical casket shopper purchases one of the first three models shown, usually the middle-priced option.

    So it’s in the seller’s best interest to start with showing you high-end versions. If you haven’t seen any of the lower-cost models on the price list, request them — but don’t be shocked if they’re not readily accessible, or if they aren’t on exhibit at all.

    Traditionally, only funeral homes have sold caskets. However, because more and more “third-party” dealers are selling coffins directly through showrooms and websites, this is no longer the case. You may purchase a casket from one of these businesses and have it sent to the cemetery right away. Funeral residences must accept any casket, regardless of where you bought it, and cannot charge you a fee, per the Funeral Rule.

    The goal of a coffin is to provide a respectable means of transporting the body before burial or cremation. A casket, regardless of its quality or price, cannot protect a body from decay forever.

    Caskets made of metal are frequently referred to as “gasketed,” “protective” or “sealer” caskets. These phrases indicate that the casket has a rubber gasket or some other mechanism that is intended to keep water from entering it quickly and causing rust. Because they don’t aid in the preservation of the remains

    Metal caskets are generally made from rolled steel of various gauges, with the thinnest gauges being the thickest. Some metal coffins come with a warranty for longevity. Traditional wooden coffins are not gasketed and do not have a guarantee for longevity. They can be constructed of hardwood such as mahogany.

    For Cremation

    Families that choose to have their loved ones cremated frequently rent a casket from the funeral home for the visitation and burial, saving money on a coffin.

    If you choose visitation and cremation, inquire about the rental option. The funeral company must provide an inexpensive unfinished wood box or other container, a non-metal enclosure — pressboard, cardboard, or canvas — that is cremated with the body for those who select direct cremation without a viewing or other ceremony where the body is present.

    Under the Funeral Rule, funeral directors who offer direct cremations:

    • Because no state or local law requires a casket for direct cremations, some funeral homes may not advise you that such a requirement exists.
    • Funeral homes also need to notify you in writing of your right to buy an unfinished wood box or an alternative container for a direct cremation
    • For direct cremations, funerals must provide an unfinished wood box or other suitable alternatives.

    Burial Vaults or Grave Liners

    Burial vaults or grave liners, also known as burial containers, are increasingly utilized in “traditional” full-service funerals. Before burial, the vault or liner is placed in the ground, and the coffin is lowered into it.

    The intent is to keep the ground from collapsing as the casket decomposes. A reinforced concrete grave liner will meet any cemetery specification. The top and sides of the coffin are merely covered by a grave liner.

    A burial vault is more substantial and costly than a grave liner. It surrounds the coffin in concrete or another substance, with an assurance of protective strength, and may be purchased as a package deal.

    Although a vault or liner is not required by law, funeral providers may not inform you differently. However, keep in mind that many cemeteries utilize some sort of outer burial container to prevent the grave from sinking in the future.

    Grave liners and burial vaults are not intended to keep dead bodies from decaying. If a vault does not keep water, dirt, or other debris from entering the coffin if that isn’t true, it is against the law for funeral companies to promise this.

    A funeral provider must provide you with a pricing list and descriptions before showing you any outer burial containers. Buying an outer burial container from a third-party merchant may be less expensive than purchasing one from a funeral home or cemetery. Before choosing a design, compare prices from several vendors to see whether the deal is right for you.

    Preservation Processes & Products

    Oil, herbs, and special body treatments have been used to preserve the bodies of the dead since as far back as the ancient Egyptians. No technique or goods have been developed to keep a corpse in its tomb indefinitely, though.

    Funeral providers are not allowed to tell you that anything may be done at your loved one’s funeral. Funeral providers, for example, may not assert that embalming or a specific type of coffin will keep the deceased intact indefinitely.

    Part II

    Working With The Funeral Home

    A breakdown of average funeral costs, followed by deep-dives into the most significant expenses

    Funeral Fees & The Funeral Rule

    The Funeral Rule permits funeral businesses to charge a basic services fee that consumers are required to pay. The basic services fee covers services provided in all funerals, regardless of the form they take.

    The following are examples of funeral details to complete: arranging for a burial plot, obtaining the required permissions and death certificates, preparing notifications, providing shelter for the remains, and coordinating the arrangements with the cemetery, crematory, or other third parties. The cost does not include charges for optional services or goods.

    Charges for other services and merchandise include costs for optional goods and services such as:

    • Transporting the remains
    • Embalming and other preparation
    • Use of the funeral home for the viewing, ceremony, or memorial service
    • Use of equipment and staff for graveside service
    • Use of a hearse or limousine
    • A casket
    • Outer burial container (burial vault)

    The funeral home subtracts from the total amount due for goods and services it obtains on your behalf, such as flowers, obituary notices, pallbearers, officiating clergy, organists, and soloists.

    Some funeral businesses charge you the price of the goods they buy on your behalf. Others tack on a service fee to the overall cost. Although the Funeral Rule does not require suppliers to disclose their markups, it does require them to inform you if any cash advance item is refundable, discounted, or rebated by the supplier.

    Sample General Price List

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    Sample Funeral Home General Price List
    Sample Funeral Home General Price List
    Sample Funeral Home General Price List (Page 2)

    Part III

    Average Funeral Costs By State

    A breakdown of average funeral costs, followed by deep-dives into the most significant expenses

    Sample General Price List

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    Sample Funeral Home General Price List
    Sample Funeral Home General Price List
    Sample Funeral Home General Price List (Page 2)

    Casket Options & Costs

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    Casket Types & Costs

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    How To Save On Casket Costs

    Burial Vault Options & Costs

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    How To Save On Burial Vault Costs

    Headstone Options & Costs

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    How To Save On Headstone Costs

    Part II

    How To Afford A Funeral

    A look at several options that can help you afford funeral costs

    Funeral costs have gone through the roof and few Americans have $10,000 of spare cash to spend on a family member’s funeral.

    If you want to take that burden off your loved ones, we’ve laid out some options that will help make a traditional funeral more affordable:

    1. Burial Insurance
    2. Pre-Need Funeral Plan
    3. Burial Bank Account (Irrevocable Funeral Trust)
    4. Government Assistance?

    Burial Insurance

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    Pre-Need Funeral Plan

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    Burial Bank Account (Irrevocable Funeral Trust)

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    Government Assistance With Funeral Costs?

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    Part III

    Funeral Cost FAQs

    Quick answers to common questions about funeral costs

    As of August 2021, these are the most Googled questions about paying for a funeral.

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    If the deceased dies without the funds to pay for a funeral and without family members who can meet these costs, the hospital or local government can arrange a Public Health Funeral (a pauper’s funeral).  This is typically direct cremation with a simple service.

    The arranging party will set a date and location for the funeral, and loved ones are welcome to attend.

    Conclusion

    Funerals are a difficult time for anyone. The cost of the funeral can be challenging as well, but it doesn’t need to break your bank if you know where and what expenses to look at first.

    There are concrete ways to save on an upcoming funeral, and if you plan ahead, you can remove this financial burden entirely from your loved ones.

    If you have any additional questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or send us an email.

    Warm Regards,
    The GetSure Team

    Rikin Shah

    Rikin Shah

    Rikin is the Founder & Head of Content at GetSure. He is a licensed life, accident & health insurance agent, with over 10 years of experience in the financial services industry. He holds a B.S. in Applied Mathematics from Columbia University and an MBA from The Stanford Graduate School of Business.

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