Losing someone close to you is difficult. And if you’re responsible for making the funeral arrangements, it can be hard to focus on prices and contracts.
However, a funeral is an opportunity to bring family, friends and others together to honor and share memories of the person who passed. If you need assistance planning a funeral, or help understanding funeral costs, these tips can guide you:
1. Understand the costs of a funeral
According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the average cost of a funeral with viewing and burial is $7,360.1 The total price of the funeral you’re planning could be different depending on the selections you make, but here’s a breakdown of the average funeral cost provided by the NFDA:
- Funeral home’s basic service fee - $2,100
- Transporting remains to funeral home - $325
- Embalming - $725
- Preparing the body in other ways, such as makeup and hair styling - $250
- Facilities and staff to manage a viewing - $425
- Facilities and staff to manage a funeral ceremony - $500
- Hearse - $325
- Service car - $150
- Basic memorial printed package - $160
Metal casket - $2,400
TOTAL COST - $7,360
2. Know your rights under the Funeral Rule
In 1984, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) introduced the Funeral Rule to prevent funeral homes from pressuring people into buying goods and services they didn’t need or want. The rule also protects consumers from being overcharged and applies to arrangements made before or after a death occurs.
Under the Funeral Rule, you have the right to:
- Buy only the funeral arrangements you want
- Get price information over the telephone
- Get a written, itemized price list when you visit a funeral home
- See a written casket price list before you see the actual caskets
- See a written outer burial container price list
- Receive a written statement after you decide what you want, and before you pay
- Get an explanation in the written statement from the funeral home that describes any legal cemetery or crematory mandate that requires you to buy any funeral goods or services
- Use an “alternative container” instead of a casket for cremation
- Provide the funeral home with a casket or urn you buy elsewhere
- Make funeral arrangements without embalming
3. Comparison shop
The Funeral Rule states that funeral homes must disclose the prices of their services in an itemized statement.2 When you visit one in person, you’ll likely receive a menu that lists out prices for all of their services and options. You can ask to hear those prices over a phone call as well.
To research several options at once, comparison sites like Parting.com can save you time. This particular site lets you search by zip code, and after you complete a short questionnaire, provides estimated costs for several homes in your area. The prices may not be exact, but it can help narrow down your choices in a short amount of time.
4. Mix and match goods and services
As you research your options, remember that you’re not obligated to buy a preset package of services. Some funeral homes will work with you depending on your budget and let you customize the funeral based on what you can afford.
For example, you might find more affordable flowers at a local shop but need the funeral home to create the display. Or, you could have the memorial service offsite to save money but still require a hearse and service car. The final list of goods and services should be a mutual agreement between both parties.
5. Choose low-cost funeral options
Many people struggle with the high cost of funerals. If you’re looking for more affordable options that fit your budget, these alternatives can cost thousands of dollars less than a traditional funeral:
- Direct burial – This might be the least expensive option for most funeral homes. There is no embalming or visitation.
- Direct cremation – This is the same as a direct burial except the burial is replaced with cremation.
A loving farewell
Planning a funeral can be difficult. On top of the emotions, the pressure to make financial decisions in a short period of time can be a lot to handle. We hope that this advice helps you manage your funeral expenses and make the best decisions for you and your loved one.
1. National Funeral Directors Association. “Statistics.” NFDA.org. http://www.nfda.org/news/statistics (accessed July 31, 2019).
2. Federal Trade Commission. “Funeral Costs and Pricing Checklist.” Consumer.FTC.gov. https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0301-funeral-costs-and-pricing-checklist (accessed August 5, 2019).