Most people don’t give much thought to funerals until they have to, like after the death of a loved one. When this happens, they may feel astounded by typical funeral costs. The median funeral cost in the United States starts at a steep $7,640 and burial costs even more.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Breaking Down Funeral Costs in California
- How Much Does Cremation Cost in the State of California?
- How You Can Save Money on a Cremation or Burial in California
- Other Considerations or Alternatives Funerals in California
However, this number becomes even more complex when you break down state-by-state differences. Each state has its own average cost of living, and this can affect the overall price. Though many people now look into less expensive alternatives to burial and cremation, costs still continue to go up.
How much does a funeral cost in California? The typical funeral costs an average of $11,777 in California. In this guide, we’ll share more about the breakdown of these costs and how to prepare for them.
Breaking Down Funeral Costs in California
To begin, let’s break down funeral costs in California. Many people don’t understand all of the elements that go into average funeral costs. The more you understand about funeral pricing, the more in control you’ll feel when planning a service and final resting place for you or a loved one.
Basic services fee ($2,195)
First, every funeral home charges a basic services fee. This isn’t an optional fee, and the funeral home uses it to cover basic services. The fee pays for death certificates, consultations, the funeral director, staff, and overhead costs.
Transfer of remains ($350)
After a loved one dies, you must relocate the deceased's body to a funeral home for safekeeping. Regardless of whether you choose burial, cremation, or another option, the body must arrive safely and easily at the funeral home.
If you plan to have a viewing of the body, you may want to embalm. The funeral home applies chemicals to preserve the deceased's body and slow down natural decomposition. This is not required, and more families choose not to embalm their loved ones for a variety of reasons.
Other preparations ($255)
Depending on the family’s wishes, the body may require other preparations for viewing. This could involve the application of makeup, hair styling, and so on. Individuals who died under harsh circumstances could require more costly service.
Funeral or viewing facilities ($500)
Many families choose to hold the funeral at the funeral home. These facilities run around $500. You could choose a few more affordable opportunities. For example, you should choose a church, place of worship, park, or even a family home.
A hearse carries the casket with the body to the final resting place. You may pay for a hearse if you choose to host a graveside service. They cost over $300 in most locations. Your funeral home might offer more affordable transportation options, however.
Service car ($150)
Another tradition for graveside services involves hiring a limo or car to escort immediate loved ones to the cemetery. Doing this can help families feel connected to their deceased loved ones on this final journey.
Printed package ($175)
Next, you may want to professionally print memorial items like programs, invitations, and so on. The basic memorial printed package typically costs $175 through the funeral home, but you can also purchase these from a third party for a lower cost.
Metal casket ($2,500)
Metal caskets cost more than wooden or eco-friendly caskets, so you should feel empowered to make the right choice for your budget. Additionally, you don’t need to purchase a casket through your funeral home. There are many places to buy a casket online.
Last but not least, many cemeteries require a burial vault into which the casket is placed in the ground. It protects the ground above the grave from collapsing and it also protects the casket from extreme weather and flooding. Vaults aren't always required.
How Much Does Cremation Cost in the State of California?
Next, let’s talk about cremation. In the United States, cremation has become the more popular choice among families, more popular than burial. Note that you'll still pay a lot of fees associated with the cost of cremation.
Cremation in California costs between $1,300 and $2,300. However, you’ll still need to factor in funeral costs, typically around $5,000 to $7,000.
What costs go into the price of cremation?
- Cremation ($350): The cremation service itself doesn't usually cost the most. Crematorium costs might go into a funeral home cremation package.
- Rental casket ($995): For families who wish to have a viewing before the cremation, you can rent a casket for the funeral service for a fee.
- Cremation casket ($1,200): A cremation casket holds the body during the cremation. Typically made of wood and other flammable materials, cremation caskets can also incorporate expensive cardboard or fabric.
- Urn ($295): Many families choose an urn through the funeral home to hold their loved one’s ashes.
Cremation costs less than a burial in California, but you still need to consider a range of costs. Luckily, you can tap into more flexible choices than ever before, giving families more opportunities to save.
How You Can Save Money on a Cremation or Burial in California
Now that you know how much a funeral costs in the U.S., how can you save money? These California-specific recommendations for saving money on cremation or burial make things a little bit easier.
Tip: In addition to the possible ways of saving money listed below, you may be considering asking friends and family for help. A great way to do this is with an online memorial page and fundraiser. Visitors can leave meaningful, heartfelt tributes to the person who passed away, as well as donate money if they would like to help cover the funeral and burial expenses. Cake's online memorial pages are simple, easy to use, and completely free.
California Department of Health
For victims of crime or natural disasters, local governments in California may help. Low-income residents who need modest assistance to cover a basic funeral or cremation may qualify. Contact your local California Department of Health for assistance.
Federal government benefits might help you save money on cremation or burial. For example, you can receive assistance through the VA if your loved one was a veteran. Additionally, if your loved one receives Social Security benefits, you might be eligible for a one-time survivor benefit.
Funeral homes must disclose prices upfront. This means you can price shop around in your area for the best services. Ask for a price list from several funeral homes to ensure you won't pay more than you need to.
Lastly, burial insurance involves an additional part of any life insurance policy. In California, you can easily apply for life insurance with a burial policy without needing to take a medical exam. This type of insurance pays a specific benefit at your time of death. It covers your funeral, burial, or any other covered final wishes.
Other Considerations or Alternatives Funerals in California
You can choose from a number of new options when it comes to your final resting place. Many eco-friendly, green options cost significantly less than traditional burial or cremation.
Direct cremation or burial
Consider a direct cremation or burial as one of the most accessible, low-cost options, which means a body gets cremated or buried shortly after death. No viewing or visitation occurs, so embalming isn’t necessary. The body is cremated or buried in a simple container, making this an affordable choice.
Better Place Forests
An alternative to a traditional burial involves burying your loved one’s ashes in Better Place Forests. Better Place Forests, an eco-friendly, sustainable approach to burial, returns your loved one’s remains to nature. Two Better Place Forest locations exist in California.
Similarly, you can choose a green burial, an eco-friendly practice that returns to the basics when laying a loved one to rest.
The deceased is buried in a simple, biodegradable container that goes directly into the ground. It’s significantly cheaper than a traditional burial, and it also carries a lot of meaning. A growing number of green burial providers exist in California like Natural Grace Funerals in southern California.
Lastly, you can always donate a loved one’s body to science at no cost. Because the body goes toward medical research and study, your loved one’s body gets cremated at no cost to your family. The ashes will eventually go back to loved ones.
Understanding the Cost of Funerals in California
Luckily, a growing number of organizations help with funeral costs as well as inexpensive options.
Whether you invest in life insurance or consider a green burial alternative, it’s possible to have a thoughtful funeral on any budget. To prepare your own final wishes for when the time comes, create your free Cake plan today.
If you're a California resident and ready to start preparing your own end-of-life planning documents, Cake has Advance Care Planning forms you can download. To help ease your planning, we have all the documents you need in one place.
- “Cost of Cremation in California: Official Family Guide.” Tulip Cremation. TulipCremation.com.
- Gambhir, Nupur. “How much does a funeral cost?” Policy Genius. 4 January 2021. PolicyGenius.com.
- “Statistics.” National Funeral Directors Association. NFDA.org.