Most people don’t likely give much thought to how much it costs to get buried in the United States. In reality, it’s not always easy to plan an affordable funeral, let alone an affordable burial.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Total Cost of a Burial (Not Including the Funeral Service)
- Breaking Down the Full Cost of a Burial
- Quick Tips for Saving Money on a Burial
There are many factors that affect the overall cost, and this doesn’t even include how much it costs to host a funeral or memorial service. With things like embalming, finding a casket, transportation, and the burial itself, how do you budget around the full cost?
Burial costs, like anything else, vary depending on several factors. However, we can compile the average cost based on statistics, averages, and ongoing research in the United States. With that in mind, how much does it usually cost to bury someone in the US?
Total Cost of a Burial (Not Including the Funeral Service)
A lot of people are surprised by simply how much goes into the burial itself. Compared to the cremation process, burial is a complicated affair. It involves any number of things including (but not limited to) the following:
- Application of makeup, clothing, or other body preservation
- Burial plot
- Grave liner or vault
- Cemetery maintenance fee
While it’s possible to skip some of these costs or find ways to lower them, it’s undeniable that a burial is expensive. Luckily, many of these costs are bundled through your funeral home or your cemetery. You might need fewer or more things for your burial based on your state or city as well. Ultimately, you can expect to pay anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 for the burial.
The important thing to recognize is that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires funeral homes and cemeteries to be fully transparent in their pricing. They have to share upfront costs and fee breakdowns with anyone who requests them, so it’s easy to stay fully aware of what you’re paying for.
Breaking Down the Full Cost of a Burial
Now let’s take a closer look at the full cost of a burial in the United States. While these vary depending on your specific location, it’s important to know the general prices so you can ensure you’re getting a fair deal. These things below are just related to the burial, not the funeral service.
Embalming is when the body is preserved after death using a variety of chemicals. These can give the body a more “lifelike” appearance, though they don’t actually stop decomposition. Embalming is particularly common for open casket ceremonies.
To have a funeral home embalm a body, this costs around $500 - $700. It’s typically included in a funeral package, and it shouldn’t cost over $1,000. This might include extras like makeup application or other body preservation.
It’s important to note that embalming is not medically necessary in most cases. If the service takes place quickly after death, there’s no reason to embalm other than the personal preferences and beliefs of the family.
Internment is the process of closing and sealing the casket and ensuring it rests safely within the ground or in a mausoleum. This can cost around $1,000 depending on the type of casket and the specific cemetery’s rules.
Casket, urn, or another burial vessel
The casket or burial vessel is often the most expensive part of the burial process. The good news is there is a lot of flexibility in price depending on these factors below:
- Decorations or style elements
- Interior material
- Sealed vs. unsealed
The casket can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500+ depending on these things above. Recently, there’s been a push for more natural materials like cardboard, hemp, or even just a fabric shroud. These are more affordable.
Headstone and burial plot
If you’re wondering how much a burial plot costs, you might be surprised to learn this can run upwards of $2,000. Cemeteries are separate from funeral homes, and they have their own fees and costs. A grave plot can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000. The cost goes up in more in-demand areas like cities where space is at a premium.
Some states, cities, and cemeteries also require what’s known as a grave vault or grave liner. This is an extra layer of protection against the casket and the elements, but it involves more work and materials from the cemetery. It costs around $1,000.
Similarly, you’ll also need to know how much a headstone costs. Aside from the casket, this can also be one of the most expensive purchases. A headstone is a form of legacy, so it’s common to choose something expensive and built to last. A traditional headstone or gravemarker will cost around $1000 and will also need to be installed for an additional fee of up to $500.
The cemetery also usually charges what’s known as a maintenance fee. This covers the cost of upkeep for the cemetery, including cleaning the grave, lawn care, and so on. Some cemeteries charge this as a one-time fee upfront, or it might be a yearly or monthly fee. It’s usually around $200.
The body also needs to be transported to the cemetery. This is something arranged by the funeral home typically, and it might be part of the funeral if the casket is included in the service.
Transportation usually happens in a hearse, but a limo or other car might also be rented to take the family to the cemetery. Transporting the body costs around $500.
Quick Tips for Saving Money on a Burial
Though these fees and costs above are understandably intimidating, that doesn’t mean you have to pay this much or mee. As mentioned previously, there are many ways to keep the costs down, and prices vary depending on where you live.
Here are some of our favorite quick tips for saving money on a burial. Everyone deserves a respectful burial, but this doesn’t have to come at a high premium.
Purchase funeral insurance
While this doesn’t help much after someone dies, it’s an important way to prepare for the future. Because it’s easy to underestimate just how much a funeral and burial costs, funeral insurance helps cover these costs, so they don’t fall to the family.
Also known as burial insurance or final expense insurance, funeral insurance allows you to purchase a policy that helps cover the cost of your funeral and burial. You can choose a plan that fits your budget and burial wishes.
Another way to lower the cost of a funeral is to skip embalming altogether. This can cost up to $750 or more depending on any extras, and it doesn’t serve any medical or protective purpose. While it does slow down the decomposition process, it’s also highly invasive and unnecessary.
If you’re not planning on holding an open casket funeral, it might be a good idea to skip embalming altogether. While this is a personal decision, consider opting out to save this money.
Shop around for the best price
The FTC requires funeral homes and cemeteries to be upfront about all costs and fees. This makes it possible to shop around to make sure you’re not overpaying for your area.
If you live in a busy metropolitan city, you might be able to find a better deal on a burial outside of the city. In addition, you can shop online for things like caskets and headstones to keep costs down.
Consider a green burial
Last but not least, there are more options than ever when it comes to customizing your burial. Many are opting out of “traditional” burials in normal cemeteries for something more eco-friendly known as a green burial.
A green burial is what it sounds like. It’s a natural burial without the typical embalming, heavy-duty casket, or extras. It’s a back-to-basics approach to burials that costs significantly less without compromising on meaning.
Create a memorial fundraiser
It may not lower the cost of a burial, but a memorial fundraiser can help you cover the cost with help from family and friends. Cake's online memorial pages are an easy way to pay tribute to your loved one and raise money for final expenses like burial.
Burial Cost Breakdown Explained
Because most people don’t plan burials very often (if at all), there are understandably a lot of questions about costs and how they work. This burial cost breakdown shares the averages you’ll find across the United States. While costs vary depending on specific locations and personalized factors, there are a lot of expenses that go into each burial.
Educating yourself about costs and fees is the best way to ensure you’re not paying for more than you need to. The better equipped you are with knowledge about burials, the more informed you’ll be when it comes time to make your own decisions.
Most importantly, let these decisions serve as a reminder to keep lines of conversations open with your own friends and family. By speaking openly about your own end-of-life and burial wishes, you ensure everyone is on the same page when the time comes. Burials are a highly personal thing. Make yours count.
If you're looking for more burial planning resources, read our guides on burial urns and burial vaults.
- Gambhir, Nupur. “How much does a funeral cost?” Policy Genius: Life Insurance. PolicyGenius.com.