How much does a funeral cost?

Written by Rebecca Lake / December 21, 2022
Reviewed by Kara McGinley
Fact checked by Heidi Gollub

Key points

  • The median cost of a funeral with viewing and burial is $7,848.
  • Prepaying for a funeral has pros and cons.
  • Life insurance can be an effective way to plan ahead for funeral expenses.

Your financial plan might include saving for retirement, putting away money to help your kids through college or building up a rainy day fund. But there's one important end-of-life cost you might be overlooking. 

The median cost of a funeral is $7,848, according to a 2021 study conducted by the National Funeral Directors Association. That's an increase of 6.6% since 2016. 

The median cost of a funeral with cremation comes in at $6,970, an increase of 11.3% since 2016. 

Knowing what to expect with funeral planning can help you avoid leaving your loved ones facing a steep bill after you're gone. It can also help you to be prepared for any costs you might incur when planning a funeral for a parent or another loved one. 

Inside this article

  1. Breakdown of funeral expenses
  2. National median funeral costs with viewing and burial
  3. Is it a good idea to prepay for a funeral?
  4. Ways to reduce funeral costs
  5. How to pay for funeral expenses

Breakdown of funeral expenses

Funeral costs can sometimes be difficult to estimate, as they're influenced by the funeral home's fees along with any add-on services you might choose, says Randy VanderVaate, president and owner of Funeral Funds of America, an independent insurance agency that specializes in helping people find affordable options for cremation coverage, burial insurance and final expense insurance.

National median funeral costs with viewing and burial

Here's a breakdown of what the typical person might pay for a funeral, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.

ExpenseCostDescription
Casket$2,500Cost for a metal casket—casket costs may vary depending on the style selected
Basic Services Fee$2,300Covers the funeral home's overhead costs and storage of the remains
Embalming$775Some funeral homes may require you to pay for this if you plan to hold a viewing
Use of facilities and staff for the ceremony $515Covers the cost of using the funeral home's facilities and having staff assist with funeral services
Use of facilities and staff for viewing $450Covers the cost of using the funeral home's facilities and having staff assist with the viewing
Transportation of remains$350This fee covers the transportation of remains to the funeral home
Hearse$350Covers the cost of transporting the remains to the burial site
Other preparation of the body$275May include other services, such as dressing, makeup application, or hairstyling
Printed materials$183Memorial package and guest book
Service car or van$150For cars or vans used to transport family members to the burial site

Additional charges may apply if you opt to inter remains in a vault. The median cost of a vault is $1,572, which raises the total median cost of a funeral to $9,420. 

Cremation costs slightly less, as there's no need for a hearse and the cremation casket isn't as expensive. The median cost for a cremation casket is $1,310 and the median cost of an urn is $295. 

As to what drives prices for funeral services, inflation has always and continues to affect the cost, says Jeff Kleczka, vice president and funeral director at Prasser-Kleczka Funeral Home, which operates three locations in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

From November 2021 to November 2022 the Consumer Price Index (CPI), one of the main indicators of inflation in the United States, saw a 4.9% increase for funeral expenses. Kleczka notes that while firms may absorb some of the extra expense, that may not be sustainable long-term, which could lead to higher prices for consumers. 

Is it a good idea to prepay for a funeral?

Prepaying for a funeral allows you to establish a plan ahead of time while making arrangements to cover costs that arise later. However, it's not necessarily right for everyone. 

"Prepayment is an excellent idea if the state in which the person resides requires the funeral home to trust 100% of the funds," says Joe Laedtke, funeral director at Prasser-Kleczka Funeral Homes. 

A funeral trust allows you to deposit money for funeral expenses, which is then held in an interest-bearing account and managed under the direction of a trustee. Trustees are obligated to follow a fiduciary standard and act in your best interests when managing trust funds. 

Portability is another important consideration, says Laedtke. If you decide you'd like to move the service to a different funeral home, it's important to know whether you'll be able to take the funds already held in trust with you. 

VanderVaate notes that prepaying for a funeral can be risky, as you could end up locked into a plan that no longer fits your needs. There are other risks as well. For example, it's possible that you could lose the money you have on deposit if the funeral home goes bankrupt. Likewise, a move to a new city could make it difficult to get the money back if your prepaid arrangement does not include a portability clause. 

If you decide to prepay for a funeral, ask about a cost guarantee, says Laedtke. A cost or price guarantee is a promise from the funeral home that your family members won't be responsible for excess expenses if the growth of the investment vehicle that holds your prepayment funds doesn't keep pace with inflation.

Ways to reduce funeral costs

If the thought of spending $7,000 to $10,000 on a funeral seems overwhelming, it's helpful to consider how you might be able to reduce the expense. Some of the ways you might be able to save on funeral costs include:

  • Opting for a funeral without a viewing or embalming

  • Holding funeral services at home, rather than at the funeral home's facility

  • Picking out a simple casket

  • Sticking with simple flower arrangements

  • Selecting a direct burial, without a funeral ceremony

  • Creating memorial pages through social media or free obituary websites, in place of a print advertisement

Choosing direct cremation over a traditional funeral is another cost-saving move. With direct cremation, there is no memorial service, which can eliminate a number of costs. The average cost of direct cremation performed at a funeral home ranges from $1,600 to $3,000, according to Parting.com. The cost drops to between $1,000 and $2,200 when performed at a crematory.

Kleczka says an uptick in the number of people opting for cremation over burial reflects a trend toward more cost-conscious funerals. The National Funeral Directors Association found that the typical cremation rate in 2021 was 57.5%, versus 36.6% for a funeral with burial. 

Getting pricing information up front can make it easier to decide what services or add-ons you'd like to include when planning a funeral, either for yourself or someone else. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires funeral homes to disclose pricing over the phone. You could also visit the funeral home or ask for a price list through the mail to complete your price comparison. 

How to pay for funeral expenses

There are a number of options for paying for funeral expenses and life insurance is often at the top of the list. 

You could purchase a traditional term life insurance or permanent life insurance policy, which would pay out a death benefit to your named beneficiaries when you pass away. They could then decide if they’d like to use part of the policy proceeds to cover funeral costs. 

Alternatively, you could opt for burial insurance, also known as funeral insurance or final expense insurance. 

Burial insurance allows for flexibility, says VanderVaate, since you're not obligated to use a specific funeral home for services. Policy beneficiaries also have flexibility, as they can use the death benefit to pay expenses other than burial and funeral costs if necessary. The size of the policy you purchase determines how large of a death benefit they're able to access after you're gone, though coverage is typically in the $5,000 to $25,000 range. 

Purchasing a burial insurance policy may be less expensive than getting traditional life insurance coverage. However, it's important to consider the bigger picture. If you think your loved ones may also need additional funds to pay off a mortgage, cover education costs for your children or simply cover basic living expenses, then it might make more sense to opt for term life or whole life insurance coverage instead. 

Along with life insurance, some of the other options for paying for funeral costs include:

  • Funeral trusts. Prepaid funeral trusts allow you to deposit money for final expenses and name a trustee to manage them. You could establish a funeral trust independent of a prepaid funeral plan. 

  • Payable on death (POD) account. A POD account transfers to a named beneficiary when the original account owner passes away. You might set aside money in a POD account specifically for funeral costs and name a trusted person to serve as beneficiary.

  • Savings accounts. Savings accounts are a less complicated option for setting aside funeral funds. However, funds in your savings account may get held up in probate after you die. 

  • Personal loans. Taking out a loan to pay for a funeral may not be ideal, but there are lenders that offer funeral loans for that exact purpose. Funeral loans are typically unsecured, meaning there's no collateral required, but they may carry high interest rates.

  • Crowdfunding. If you're unable to come up with the funds to cover funeral expenses for a loved one, you may turn to the crowd to raise the money. Sites like GoFundMe allow you to create a campaign and collect donations for a number of causes, including final expenses. 

Beyond those options, you may be able to take advantage of government programs that help with paying funeral expenses. Veterans, for instance, can be buried in national cemeteries at no cost. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides financial assistance for deaths stemming from a federally declared disaster or emergency, including Covid-19. You may also be able to get help through state government assistance programs or programs that provide financial relief to cover funeral costs for victims of violent crime.

About the Authors

Rebecca Lake

Rebecca Lake

Rebecca has been writing about personal finance online since 2012. As a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF), she enjoys helping others learn how to master their money. Her work has been published on Forbes Advisor, SmartAsset, Bankrate and more.

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 Kara McGinley

Kara McGinley

I am the deputy editor of insurance and an experienced journalist and editor. My work and insights have been featured in MSN, Lifehacker, Kiplinger, Propertycasualty360 and more.

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Heidi Gollub

Heidi Gollub

Heidi Gollub is the lead editor of insurance. She was previously the assistant managing editor over insurance for U.S. News & World Report.

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