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How to Calculate the Average Cost of Funeral Expenses So Your Family Doesn’t Foot the Bill

Posted by Pekin Insurance on Apr 27, 2016

The average cost of funeral expenses can catch people off guard. Luckily, it's not hard to figure out the costs ahead of time with your family. 

The average cost of funeral expenses usually catch people off-guard. Luckily, it's not hard to figure out the costs ahead of time with your family

Although most people don't enjoy thinking about it, there may come a time when you become responsible for the funeral expenses of a loved one. If you want to spare your family the burden of paying large portions of the bill, there are painless ways to calculate the average cost of funeral expenses. You can manage the situation and put less pressure on everyone's finances. 

It's much easier today to budget these services. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has regulated the industry with the Funeral Rule, making it possible to plan ahead. Additionally, the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) gives publicly accessible annual reports with understandable itemized costs to expect. 

How to calculate the average cost of funeral expenses: cremation vs. traditional burial 

When it comes to budgeting, the biggest difference you'll find is between the cost of cremating the remains or giving a traditional burial. The latter is generally more expensive because of the services required. Cremation, on the other hand, doesn't require the same preparation and procedures.

Besides making a decision on how to bury the remains, you also have the numerous costs of the funeral home and its essential services. Since the 1960s, the NFDA has calculated the average cost of funeral expenses with a standard list of pricing criteria. Here is an averaged look for both traditional and cremation burials (estimates from the 2014 report):

  • Nondeclinable basic services fee: $2,000
  • Removal and transfer of remains to funeral home: $310 
  • Embalming services: $695
  • Other preparation of the body: $250
  • Use of facilities and staff during viewing: $420
  • Use of facilities and staff during burial: $495 
  • Hearse vehicle: $318
  • Car or van services: $143
  • Basic memorial printed materials: $155

The baseline average cost of funeral expenses is $4,786. Now, with that baseline figure in mind, it's time to consider the expenses of cremation or traditional burials, plus a vault (if you decide to purchase a space at the cemetery). 

Using the same report, the NFDA displays these figures: 


  • Cremation fee (if using a third party): $330
  • Cremation casket: $1,000
  • Urn: $280 


  • Metal casket: $2,395 
  • Cemetery vault: $1,327

Tallying up the numbers together, with the above baseline figure, you have a drastic difference in price. Cremation is $6,078, and traditional with a vault is $8,508. 

These figures are only an average estimate. There are ways to increase this price or decrease it. For instance, if you decide to order flower services, a more expensive casket, a gravestone, or more, the pricing could increase by thousands of dollars.

Things about the Funeral Rule to keep in mind: 

  • You only have to buy the funeral arrangements you want. You can use third parties to purchase caskets or services at a lower price. 
  • Each funeral home must provide you with a General Price List. It's an itemized list of every service the home offers and the price for each one. 
  • You do not have to purchase a casket to contain cremation remains. You can purchase alternative containers from third parties to use for the burial. 
  • You can make funeral arrangements without embalming services. Some states may require embalming after a certain amount of time, but refrigeration or other methods are widely accepted.
  •  You should receive a written statement after you decide what you want. Before you make any payments, it will show exactly what you are buying and the cost of each item.

The average cost of funeral planning can be expensive, but you can prepare ahead of time 

Whether you plan on cremation or having a traditional funeral, it's relatively easy to estimate the costs. The NFDA has made that possible by publishing their reports, and the FTC's Funeral Rule allows for greater control of the expenses. The prices fluctuate depending on what services you want and the quality of certain items (casket, urn, gravestone), so plan with your funeral home directors and compare prices for each.

Speaking of planning ahead (for the much distant future, we hope), no one wants to leave their family with the burden of debt and funeral expenses. Make it easier for your family by investing in Funeral Preplanning.

Do you have any advice to share about preparing for funeral costs? Share your thoughts is the comments! 


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