As a consumer, you have rights when it comes to planning and paying for funeral services. One of those rights gives you the advantage of total cost transparency when you work with a funeral home.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What’s a Funeral Home’s General Price List (GPL)?
- Steps for Reading a Funeral Home General Price List
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to provide full pricing information before discussing service options. That way, you know each service’s price as you go through the decision-making process with the funeral home staff. And that can help you manage the cost of the funeral and stay within your funeral budget.
The way funeral homes provide this transparency is with something called a General Price List, or General Price List. Below, we’ll go through what you should expect to see on a General Price List. And we’ll outline how to read a funeral home’s General Price List in a way that’s easy to understand.
What’s a Funeral Home’s General Price List (GPL)?
A funeral home’s General Price List (GPL) is an itemized catalog of everything the home offers and each item’s exact cost. Every funeral home in the United States is required to provide a General Price List that’s yours to keep.
Why do you need it?
A General Price List helps you make informed financial decisions during a difficult and emotional time.
It enables you to create and stick to a budget when planning a funeral, whether for yourself or a loved one. And it’s a useful resource for comparing funeral homes in your area if you know how to use it.
General Price Lists also help hold funeral homes accountable for charging reasonable, consistent prices for their products and services.
What’s on it?
A General Price List has to show the prices of everything the funeral home sells. That includes general service charges, specific services like embalming, and merchandise like urns and caskets.
The funeral home can provide a separate casket price list rather than listing each casket on the General Price List. But the price of every product and service must be made readily available to the customer.
How do you get one?
A funeral director must provide transparent pricing if you request it, even if you’re just “shopping around.” You can call the funeral home to ask the price of specific services, but it’s more useful to ask for a General Price List.
The Funeral Rule states that a General Price List must be yours to keep, take home, and consider before making any decisions. In other words, it can’t be a list of prices that exists only at the funeral home’s premises.
Some funeral homes mail their General Price Lists or post them online, but they’re not required to do so.
Tip: Read our guide on picking the best funeral home for more ideas.
Steps for Reading a Funeral Home General Price List
Once you’ve requested General Price Lists from the funeral homes in your area, you’ll need to decipher what each item on those lists means. So here are the steps for reading a funeral home’s General Price List.
1. Break it down item-by-item
Looking at a full General Price List can be overwhelming at first. But when you begin to look at each line on its own, the list becomes more manageable.
So let’s go through the items you’ll almost always see on a General Price List. (Median costs according to the National Funeral Directors Association.)
Basic service charge
Median cost: $2,195
The basic service charge is the only non-declinable service (if you choose to engage the services of that particular funeral home) on the General Price List. We’ll go into more detail about basic service charges in the next step.
Transportation to the funeral home
Median cost: $350
The funeral home picks up the deceased from their place of death and takes them into storage at their facilities.
Median cost: $750
In most states and situations, embalming isn’t required by law. It’s a decision that you make depending on your own preferences. The funeral home cannot pressure you to purchase embalming services.
However, they might require embalming in order to perform additional services, like using their facilities for an open-casket viewing.
Median cost: $425
This includes applying makeup to the deceased after embalming and styling the deceased’s hair. It also includes the purchase of funeral attire for the deceased, which some funeral homes provide as an additional purchase option.
Facility and staff for a viewing
Median cost: $425
This gives you access to the funeral home and its staff during an open-casket viewing. They’ll arrange the casket at the front of the viewing room, place any flowers you might have, and ensure printed materials are in place.
Facility and staff for a funeral ceremony
Median cost: $500
You have access to the funeral home and its staff for your full funeral ceremony. The funeral home might also have a line item for the use of its equipment and staff for a ceremony at a church or other location, which is typically the same price or slightly less.
Use of a hearse
Median cost: $340
You have access to the funeral home’s hearse to transport the deceased to a ceremony somewhere else or to the burial site.
Use of a service car
Median cost: $150
The funeral home can use its vehicles to transport flowers, materials, and sometimes guests to the funeral or burial location.
Basic memorial printing package
Median cost: $175
The funeral home will arrange for printed memorial materials to be placed at your funeral or viewing. They may also offer printed funeral invitations.
Basic metal casket
Median cost: $2,500
The General Price List might include a single, mid-range casket price. The funeral home almost always has caskets available that are less expensive (and some that are more expensive). And you can always purchase a casket from a third party, too.
Median cost: $350
Most funeral homes contract with a local cremation facility, and they charge you a fee to complete the cremation process. You’ll also need to purchase an “alternative container,” which is the casket used for cremation.
Median cost: $1,495
If you choose burial in a cemetery, the cemetery often determines whether a vault is necessary. It depends on the land conditions, as well as the property owner’s preferences.
Once you choose a cemetery, the funeral home can let you know whether a vault is optional or required. A common alternative to a vault is a grave liner.
2. Consider the basic service charge
The first item on a general price list is usually something called a “basic service charge.” The funeral home might also list it as a “basic service fee” or a “basic service charge for funeral director and staff.”
And it ensures that the funeral home staff is paid for their work, even if you don’t purchase any additional products or services.
The Basic Service Charge covers the services that are common for all funerals, such as:
- Obtaining copies of the death certificate.
- Securing the necessary permits.
- Storing the body.
- Consulting with and counseling the family.
- Coordinating with outside agencies (cemeteries, crematories, etc.)
It does not include services like embalming or products like urns and caskets.
3. Translate funeral home jargon
In addition to the “basic service charge,” there are some other terms on a General Price List that might be confusing at first. Here are some helpful translations.
- Casketing. Placing the body in the casket.
- Cash advance items. Items like flowers, officiant fees, and obituary costs that must be paid to third parties in advance.
- Direct burial or immediate burial. The deceased is buried shortly after death, without a funeral service beforehand.
- Direct cremation. The deceased is cremated shortly after death, without a funeral service beforehand.
- Forwarding of remains. A fee paid to the original funeral home when it transfers the deceased to another funeral home.
- Outer burial container. The grave liner or vault.
- Sanitary care. Washing and preparing the body.
- Sheltering remains. Storing the deceased.
4. Interpret wide price ranges and packages
One issue people have with the General Price List rule is that it permits funeral homes to list their prices as a range. And that can leave a lot of room for interpretation and misunderstanding. It also makes comparing funeral homes based on their General Price Lists a lot more difficult.
If you come across a price range you don’t understand, referring back to the national median prices listed above can be useful. You can also ask the funeral home to explain which factors impact the cost and make it higher or lower.
In addition to being a requirement, a General Price List is also a marketing tool for most funeral homes. They often present their most profitable funeral “packages” at the top and their itemized list farther down. Make sure you understand exactly what’s in each package to avoid purchasing services or products you don’t need.
5. Ask for supplemental price lists
As mentioned, a funeral home is required to give you their General Price List to keep. This might be on paper, on their website, or via email. But the home may have additional price lists--like a casket price list, an urn price list, or vault price list--that don’t fall under this rule.
If the funeral home has a supplemental price list, the Funeral Rule only requires them to show you the list. They don’t have to provide you with a copy that’s yours to keep.
But funeral homes are often willing to provide a copy of their supplemental price lists, anyway, if it helps them secure your business and sell additional products.
If you choose burial, you’ll also need to acquire pricing from the cemetery for plots and headstones. Keep in mind that cemeteries aren’t required by the Funeral Rule to provide General Price Lists, but they should still offer pricing information.
Budgeting for a Funeral
If you’re just delving into funeral planning for the first time, the cost for services can be overwhelming. But it’s important to remember there are many ways to pay for a funeral on a budget.
You could choose a money-saving option like direct burial, or a less costly form of final disposition like cremation. And many of the services offered by a funeral home are actually things you can do yourself. For example, you could hold a memorial or funeral at home or purchase a less expensive casket from a third-party.
You always have options when it comes to funeral planning, and you should never feel backed into a corner or pressured to spend. That’s what the Funeral Rule, and the General Price List requirement, is all about.
- “Funeral costs and pricing checklist.” Federal Trade Commission. www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0301-funeral-costs-and-pricing-checklist
- “The FTC Funeral Rule.” Federal Trade Commission. www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0300-ftc-funeral-rule#:~:text=The%20Funeral%20Rule%2C%20enforced%20by,death%20occurs%20or%20in%20advance.
- “How much does a funeral cost?” LHLIC. www.lhlic.com/consumer-resources/average-funeral-cost/#:~:text=On%20Funeral%20Costs-,Funeral%20Home,fees%20average%20around%20%242%2C000%20%E2%80%93%20%242%2C500.
- “Statistics.” National Funeral Directors Associaton. nfda.org/news/statistics