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2021 Funeral Cost Breakdown & How To Save (No-BS Guide)

By Rikin Shah | Licensed Life & Health Insurance Agent

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.

A Breakdown Of Key Funeral 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 (By Expense Type)

The below data comes from the National Funeral Director’s Association.

Table Showing A Breakdown of Burial and Funeral Costs (By Detailed Expense)

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 discussing funeral arrangements by the funeral provider.

Funeral Cost Breakdown (By State)

StateFuneral & BurialDirect Burial
Alabama$7,426 $3,838
Alaska$7,264 $3,104
Arizona$6,655 $3,203
Arkansas$6,671 $3,269
California$6,889 $3,436
Colorado$7,066 $3,660
Connecticut$8,470 $4,802
D.C.$7,929 $4,641
Delaware$8,187 $4,452
Florida$7,295 $3,973
Georgia$7,528 $3,932
Hawaii$8,378 $3,400
Idaho$6,774 $3,407
Illinois$8,177 $4,094
Indiana$7,684 $4,004
Iowa$8,365 $4,611
Kansas$7,633 $4,152
Kentucky$7,347 $3,595
Louisiana$7,637 $3,979
Maine$7,628 $4,237
Maryland$8,063 $4,395
Massachusetts$8,528 $4,330
Michigan$7,922 $3,782
Minnesota$8,634 $4,652
Mississippi$6,979 $3,801
Missouri$7,274 $3,798
Montana$6,739 $3,875
Nebraska$7,620 $4,274
Nevada$7,510 $3,772
New Hampshire$7,765 $4,123
New Jersey$8,430 $4,177
New Mexico$6,836 $3,552
New York$7,831 $3,800
North Carolina$7,076 $3,584
North Dakota$7,868 $4,258
Ohio$6,998 $3,730
Oklahoma$6,929 $3,681
Oregon$6,452 $3,188
Pennsylvania$7,783 $4,065
Rhode Island$8,208 $4,039
South Carolina$7,191 $3,711
South Dakota$7,588 $3,964
Tennessee$7,156 $3,571
Texas$7,692 $3,981
Utah$7,028 $3,455
Vermont$7,207 $3,823
Virginia$7,262 $3,895
Washington$6,542 $3,333
West Virginia$7,032 $3,706
Wisconsin$7,967 $4,328
Wyoming$7,071 $3,854
Average$7,500 $3,900
Minimum$6,500 $3,100
Maximum$8,600 $4,800

As you can tell from the above table, the cheapest funeral costs can be found in Oregon and Washington (at $6,500). The cheapest cremation costs can be found in Alaska at just over $3,100.

Descriptions of Key Funeral Expenses

Below, you’ll find a description of the key expenses that make up total funeral costs.

Embalming & Body Preparation

A viewing or memorial service is generally unnecessary 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

Preservation Processes & Products

Oil, herbs, and special body treatments have been used to preserve the dead bodies 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.

Burial 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 send it 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 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.

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. A grave liner merely covers the top and sides of the coffin.

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 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.

Working With The Funeral Home

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.

A Price Menu Of Funeral Home Goods & Services

One of the key provisions of the Funeral Rule is that every consumer must receive a General Price List when talking about or buying funeral goods or services from a funeral provider.

Funeral homes are required, by law, to give customers a “General Price List” when talking about the purchase of good or services

Sample Funeral Home General Price List (GPL)

Sample Funeral Home General Price List

Sample Funeral Home General Price List (Page 2)
Every funeral home is required, by law, to give you a General Price List (essentially, a funeral cost menu)

How To Afford A Funeral

Average 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: average funeral costs, average cremation cost.

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

Final Expense Insurance (Burial Insurance)

Burial insurance is a whole life insurance policy that can help you afford the average cost of a funeral.

When buying a burial insurance policy or funeral plan, you may be able to choose what kind of funeral service provider you want to use. This will provide you with more flexibility when planning your loved one’s funeral. It also may give you greater control over how much money is spent on funeral arrangements. Burial financial plans often act as alternatives to funeral insurance policies or funeral funds.

A financial professional can help inform families about these options to make an informed decision about how their final wishes should be carried out after death. A financial professional can recommend which type of funeral arrangement works best depending on your budget, income, and funeral planning preferences.

A funeral pre-planning program can help you prepare financially for your funeral costs. For example, funeral financial plans are an option to consider when planning your funeral. The best funeral financial plan may vary depending on your income and individual needs. You can talk to a funeral professional about the options available to help you choose which funeral savings option is right for you.

When planning, you must discuss your wishes with your family members and legal advisers, so they know what to do once you’re gone. If not planned, you might find yourself stuck making arrangements during an emotional time or simply signing papers without knowing all of the details involved.

Pre-Need Funeral Plan

A pre-need funeral plan is a funeral arrangement where a person makes their funeral arrangements ahead of time while still alive. This allows them more time to plan funeral service arrangements, funeral goods, and funeral establishments. Funeral establishments include cemeteries, funeral homes, and crematories.

Pre-need funeral plans make it easier for your family to carry out funeral arrangements when you pass away. You can choose everything from funeral service providers and cemeteries to memorials and obituary notices. In most cases, funeral costs are much lower when a pre-need funeral plan is in place.

You pay funeral providers in advance for funeral services, funeral goods, and funeral establishments. Funeral establishments include cemeteries, funeral homes, and crematories.

Some funeral service providers offer financing plans to help with the costs of pre-need funeral arrangements; others work with an outside finance company that allows you to pay over time with no interest or credit check. When considering a plan like this, carefully read the fine print before signing any agreement, as some companies require consumers to put down 50 percent of the cost upfront.

If you purchase your funeral ahead of time through a pre-need funeral plan, make sure you keep all paperwork regarding your arrangements in one place so it’s available if needed after death occurs. It may also be a good idea to give a copy of funeral plans and funeral financial information to your family members so they won’t have to guess what funeral purchases have been made.

In some states, funeral directors must tell consumers that they lack the legal authority to change or overrule the funeral arrangements specified in the contract. Some state laws require funeral homes to give a copy of a plan to a third party to prove what was authorized at the time of death, but not all do. You should check with your funeral home before signing a contract if you want your “plan” shared with someone.

Burial Bank Account (Irrevocable Funeral Trust)

A burial bank account is a funeral savings account where you can start pre-paying funeral costs. The funds can be used to pay for funeral costs, funeral homes, and funeral establishments. Some funeral homes offer these accounts in conjunction with pre-need funeral plans, while others may require you to have one even if you aren’t organizing all of your funeral arrangements ahead of time.

A burial bank account (also known as a prepaid plan or funeral contract) is where you pay money into an account to guarantee your funeral arrangements in advance; however, if you don’t use all the money you paid when arranging your final funeral, any remaining funds can be taken by state law (in most states). They may give interest back on top of what was already paid when using up the accumulated fund.

Some states allow consumers to use the money in their burial bank accounts after death, but other states limit what can be done with any remaining funds. This information should be outlined in the contract regarding the account and how the interest accrued thereon will be handled. You’ll always receive an accounting of how much money is left after expenses have been paid for, including any interest accrued on your account.

Government Assistance With Funeral Costs

Government benefits, such as funeral assistance from the Veterans Administration or funeral expenses covered by Social Security, have strict criteria. If you think one of these benefits might apply to your funeral arrangement plans, check out the qualifications online—or ask a funeral director to help you sort through them if it’s an option that will work for your family.

This can be an excellent way for you to afford basic funeral expenses and burial expenses.

Funeral Cost FAQs

The funeral cost in the United States of America is increasing very rapidly. In 2020, the average funeral cost was around $9,000. In 2021, the cost is expected to stay between $9,500 to $12,500 (Adjusted based on inflation rate). It’s essential to account for these expenses and offer your family peace of mind.

Cremation is cheaper than burial. The average cost of a funeral today is about $6,500, including the typical $2,000-or-more cost of a casket. Add a burial vault, and the average jumps to around $7,700. A cremation, by contrast, typically costs a third of those amounts, or less.

Casket. A casket is often the most expensive item you’ll buy for a traditional funeral. Caskets vary widely in style, material, design, and price.

Conclusion & Key Takeaways

We hope you benefited from this guide to funeral costs in 2021!

If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or send us an email.  We’ll be sure to get back to you within 24 hours.

Warm Regards,
The GetSure Team

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