How Much Does the Average Funeral Cost in the US? (2021 Update)

Updated

Because life is full and busy, sometimes people don’t think about what happens after death. Funerals can be expensive, and there are many hidden costs you may have never considered. 

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After a death, family members not only have to grapple with their grief, but they may also have to carry the financial burden of paying for a funeral service. While the cost varies depending on the type of service, the average funeral in the US costs between $6,645 and $9,135. The lower end of this spectrum is for cremation, while a burial can double the cost. 

Funerals can be an essential part of the grieving process, so it’s a good idea to plan for the expense. This will ensure you and your loved ones are prepared when the time comes. This guide has been updated to reflect 2021 average costs.

Average Funeral Costs With a Burial

First, let’s calculate the average funeral costs with a burial. Until very recently, burial was the most popular final resting place. Since ancient times, humans have buried the dead. Yet this has become an increasingly expensive practice with the rising price of caskets, burial vaults, and embalming. 

However, a recent report from Choice Mutual found that only 35% of Americans plan to choose traditional burial. Nowadays, more people are choosing cremation and other burial alternatives. Still, many people find comfort in this traditional method of laying a loved one to rest. 

The average funeral costs with a burial depend on a few different factors. For instance, whether the family chooses to have a viewing, a vault, and so on. The cost breakdown is as follow:

  • Funeral without a viewing ($6,890): A funeral without viewing is the least expensive option since there is no need to pay for embalming services. The casket may be closed or not present at all for the service. 
  • Funeral with a viewing ($7,640): Some families choose to hold a viewing at the funeral service, and this means that, by law, in most states, the body must be embalmed.
  • Funeral with vault ($9,135): Lastly, a burial vault is a metal vault that seals and secures the casket within the ground. These are costly, but they protect the casket long-term. They are required in some areas (especially locations prone to extreme weather) and by some cemeteries.  

In general, using the numbers above, a traditional burial will start at around $6,890. Depending on the casket cost, size of the service, and burial vault, Burials can easily cost over $10,000, making it the most expensive choice.

It’s important to note that in 2021, more Americans are considering eco-friendly burial alternatives like green burials. These are significantly more affordable than traditional burials. As of 2020, a reported 4% of Americans wish to have a natural burial, and this number is only expected to grow. 

Average Funeral Costs With a Cremation

As mentioned above, traditional burials are no longer the norm in 2021 in the United States. The majority of Americans (44%) plan on being cremated. This is a significant increase from the 4% of people who were open to cremation in the 1960s. Cremation is typically much more affordable than burial, but there are still costs to consider. 

While the average cremation fee is only $350 in the US, this is only one part of the process. The funeral itself is still typically the most expensive part. Plus, there are add-ons to consider, like the cost of a cremation casket and urn. Here is a breakdown of the latest average prices:

  • Funeral without a cremation casket and urn ($5,150): If you wish to keep costs low, you don’t need a cremation casket or urn at all.
  • Funeral with a cremation casket ($6,350): A cremation casket is a temporary casket used to hold the body in the crematorium. It’s typically made of wood or, in some cases, cardboard. 
  • Funeral with a cremation casket and urn ($6,645): Purchasing an urn from the funeral home or crematorium is common practice, but it comes at the highest cost. 

The average cost of cremation begins at $5,150. Though this is more affordable than a burial, it may still be a significant financial burden for families to carry. Keep in mind that many funeral homes do not have their own crematoriums, so you may have to pay a third-party provider.  

Breaking Down Average Funeral Costs in the United States

What goes into the average funeral costs? We’ve covered some of the different elements above. Still, many are surprised to learn how many extra costs go into the overall funeral service. This section will highlight the specific breakdown of the average funeral costs in the United States in 2021. 

Service

Median cost

Basic services fee

$2,195

Transfer to funeral home

$350

Embalming

$750

Other body prep

$255

Viewing facilities

$425

Funeral venue

$500

Hearse and car/van service

$490

Memorial print materials

$175

Metal casket

$2,500

Burial vault

$1,495

Headstone

$1,000

Cremation fee

$350

Cremation casket

$1,200

Urn

$295

Basic services fee ($2,195)

The basic services fee is a non-declinable fee charged by funeral homes. This fee doesn’t change regardless of the type of service or burial you choose. What does the basic services fee cover? It usually includes obtaining copies of death certificates, securing permits, securing remains, and basic arrangements. 

Transfer to the funeral home ($350)

After a loved one dies, a funeral home is called to coordinate transportation of the body to the funeral home. This requires special equipment and a special van, and typically costs between $300 and $400. 

Embalming ($750)

Embalming has been common practice since the Civil War, and it’s still relatively common in 2021. This is the process of using chemicals and preservatives to slow down decomposition. Embalming is used for viewings, visitations, or upon the family’s request. It’s important to note that most states do not require bodies to be embalmed before burial.

Other body prep ($255)

Additionally, other preparations might need to be done to prepare the body for viewing. This is especially true if the death was traumatic, but families might also request specific hair and/or makeup. Any additional prep will be an added cost. 

Facilities or venue ($425 - $500)

The family may choose to hold a viewing or funeral at the funeral home (vs. a home, church, or other location). In that case, this runs between $425 to $500. The family typically reserves a funeral venue to hold a service, and there might be a reception afterward. It is not required to have the funeral at the funeral home. 

Hearse or car/van service ($490)

It’s common practice for families to travel to the cemetery from the funeral in a rented car or van. The family might also choose to have the body transported in a hearse. This is an optional service, and families might make their own arrangements to the cemetery. 

Memorial print materials ($175)

Memorial print materials include things like printed programs, funeral invitations, memorial keepsakes, and so on. These are optional. There are ways to keep costs low, such as designing your own creations or printing at home. Many funeral homes can also handle these arrangements for the family. 

Metal casket ($2,500)

The most common type of casket for burial is a metal casket. These are durable and relatively affordable, though there are more affordable options. Some families also choose to rent a casket for the funeral service, and use a less expensive casket for the actual burial. 

Burial vault (1,495)

A burial vault is used underground to secure caskets. Though not required in all places, it’s sometimes a good idea depending on the weather in a specific area. Additionally, they are sometimes required by cemeteries to make maintenance easier. 

Headstone ($1,000)

A headstone is a type of gravemarker that rests at the head of the grave. It lists information about the deceased, like the name, birth and death date, and an epitaph. A traditional, upright, stone headstone costs an average of $1,000, though flat, inexpensive markers are another alternative. 

Cremation fee ($350)

A cremation fee is the cost to perform a cremation. Cremains are gathered in a small bag after the cremation and given to the family. 

Cremation casket ($1,200)

Many families choose to use a cremation casket to hold the body during the cremation. These are made of cardboard, wood, or other flammable materials, and are burned with the body. Cardboard caskets are the least expensive, and sometimes are provided by the crematorium at no additional cost. Some families opt not to use a casket at all. 

Urn ($295)

In 2021, urns cost an average of $295 in the US. While costs can vary depending on the size of the urn, material, and so on, they’re an affordable alternative to caskets. An urn is not required if the family chooses to create a memorial diamond or scatter the ashes. 

How Much Does a Funeral Cost in Each US State?

While the numbers above are averages of the cost of a funeral in the US, the final price will depend on your location and choices. If you live in an area with a higher cost of living, you’ll likely need to pay a higher fee for funeral expenses. Here are average funeral costs by US state

State

Average funeral expenses

Alabama

$6,933

Alaska

$10,084

Arizona

$7,530

Arkansas

$6,746

California

$11,777

Colorado

$8,198

Connecticut

$9,914

Delaware

$8,392

Florida

$7,600

Georgia

$6,925

Hawaii

$14,975

Idaho

$7,165

Illinois

$7,336

Indiana

$6,987

Iowa

$6,995

Kansas

$6,909

Kentucky

$7,057

Louisiana

$7,290

Maine

$9,122

Maryland

$10,069

Massachusetts

$10,216

Michigan

$6,902

Minnesota

$7,887

Mississippi

$6,684

Missouri

$6,762

Montana

$8,299

Nebraska

$7,049

New Hampshire

$8,516

New Jersey

$9,712

New Mexico

$6,793

Nevada

$8,423

New York 

$10,799

North Carolina

$7,367

North Dakota

$7,670

Ohio

$7,049

Oklahoma

$6,754

Oregon

$10,418

Pennsylvania

$7,895

Rhode Island

$9,269

South Carolina

$7,445

South Dakota

$7,748

Tennessee

$6,886

Texas

$7,103

Utah

$7,639

Vermont

$8,889

Virginia

$7,818

Washington

$8,594

West Virginia

$7,072

Wisconsin

$7,554

Wyoming

$6,933

How Do People Typically Pay for Funerals?

There are options for paying for funerals, and some families use a combination of the following:

  • Savings: Many families simply pay for funerals from their own savings. This money might come from the estate, next-of-kin, or pooling from different family members. 
  • Prepayment: It’s also possible to pre-pay for your own funeral, typically through a funeral home. This locks in a rate and plan in advance, making it simpler for family members in the future. 
  • Life insurance: Life insurance benefits are commonly used to pay for funerals, burial costs, and so on. Many people have life insurance on their own or through an employer. 
  • Burial insurance: Burial insurance is included within a life insurance policy, and specifically covers burial and funeral costs.
  • Charities: For those who can’t afford to cover the full costs of a funeral, there are often groups, organizations, and charities that can help. 
  • Veterans benefits: The VA will pay up to $796 towards burial and funeral costs for those who served. There are also extra benefits, like burials in a national cemetery or special funeral ceremonies offered for free. 

How Can You Get Help Paying for a Funeral Service?

If you’re in a situation where you’re unsure how you’ll afford a funeral for a loved one, you have options. 

Religious groups

In many cases, the easiest way to access help is through a religious organization. If you’re a member of a specific church or place of worship, you can request to hold your funeral in the religious space for free or at a reduced cost. While a donation is usually recommended, there are always exceptions. Additionally, many church and religious groups provide community aid. 

Funeral fundraiser

Though it might feel uncomfortable to ask for money to help cover the cost of a funeral, this is common practice in today’s world. Many families create GoFundMe pages to help with funeral costs, and it might surprise you just how much help is out there for those in need. 

Social Security

If the deceased was receiving Social Security benefits, they might be eligible for a one-time death benefit of $255. Your funeral home can arrange this on your behalf through the Social Security Administration. These funds can be put towards the funeral. 

FEMA disaster relief

Though less common, if the death was a result of a natural disaster or event, FEMA often helps cover funeral costs. This was true for deaths that occurred due to the COVID19 pandemic. The COVID19 Funeral Relief Package provides families up to $9,000 in funds to pay for funeral costs. 

Life insurance

Lastly, talk to your loved ones about whether or not they currently have a life insurance policy. Life insurance can be used to cover the cost of a funeral. Having a good life insurance policy is a smart way to invest in your loved ones’ futures after you're gone.

How Can You Save Money on a Funeral Service?

Ultimately, a bit of planning goes a long way towards saving money on a funeral service. Everyone deserves a final sendoff with their loved ones, but this doesn’t have to come at a premium. Consider these tips if you’re worried about budget:

  • Shop around: Funeral homes are legally required to disclose a complete price list. This means it’s perfectly acceptable (and encouraged) to shop around to find the best price in your area. 
  • Third-party providers: You don’t have to purchase an urn, casket, or headstone through your funeral home. Often, you can find more affordable options online from a third-party provider. 
  • Alternatives: Eco-friendly alternatives are better for the environment and your wallet. From donating a loved one’s body to science to green burials, these are a peaceful way to lay your loved one to rest without the high cost. 
  • Smaller funeral: There’s no reason to feel pressured to hold a large, expensive funeral. A small, intimate function can be just as meaningful, if not more so. These can be held at home, in a park, or at the cemetery. 
  • Support: Don’t be afraid to reach out to your community and loved ones for support both emotionally and financially. 

Understanding Funeral Costs in 2021

Funeral costs can seem like a huge financial burden. The sooner you plan, the less the burden. Plus, as consumers learn about the costs of funerals, more eco-friendly and affordable options are becoming increasingly popular. 

Do you know your end-of-life wishes? Take a few moments to create your free plan. It’s easy to share your wishes with your family, and this ensures they know exactly what you want when the time does come.


Sources:
  1. “Burial Benefits.” US Department of Veterans Affairs. VA.gov
  2. Martin, Anthony. “From Traditional to Bizarre: How America Wants to Be Buried in 2020.” Choice Mutual. 2020. ChoiceMutual.com
  3. Olya, Gabrielle. “Can You Afford to Die in Your State?” Go Banking Rates. 2 March 2021. GoBankingRates.com

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