How Much Should a Headstone Really Cost?

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The cost of a headstonealso known as a gravestone or tombstone—can vary based on the overall design, lettering, artwork, and the material used. Seemingly small details like the color and finish of a headstone can raise or lower the cost significantly. 

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The average cost of a standard flat headstone is around $1,000. But more detailed, upright headstones can cost between $1,000 and $3,000, as you'll see with this granite headstone and another at a higher price point. Higher-quality individual headstones, as well as family and companion headstones, can cost as much as $10,000, like this pink granite headstone. The average price of a headstone, all told, is around $2,000. 

In times of grief, the last thing you should have to worry about is negotiating the price of a headstone for your loved one. Knowing how much a headstone should cost will help make sure you're getting a fair deal. 

Post-loss tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, the emotional and technical aspects of handling their unfinished business can be overwhelming without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.

Breaking Down the Cost of a Headstone

Text of what adds to the cost of a headstone over an image of headstones and trees

Why exactly do headstones cost so much? In this section, we'll break down the cost of a headstone so you can better understand what you're paying for. 

The actual stone

The most obvious cost associated with a headstone is the stone itself. Stone may seem like a low-cost material at first glance. However, the stone used to create headstones took thousands of years to form. It's highly durable but also a nonrenewable resource, which is what makes it so valuable. 

There are two primary stone options for headstones: granite and marble. 

The most common headstone material today is granite, in various colors. Different colors come from distant locations all around the world, so the color of granite you choose will affect the price. More exotic stone has to be shipped and taxed, which will add to the cost. 

However, granite is popular because it's durable and relatively affordable, no matter the color. The average headstone cost is around $450. 

Marble is a more expensive option, but many people prefer its more polished appearance. 

Marble headstones also weather more quickly than granite headstones. Keep in mind that you may have to invest more in upkeep to keep it looking its best. The average cost of a marble headstone is $1,500 to $1,800. 

Engraving

In addition to the actual stone material, creating a headstone requires skilled engraving. Headstone engraving can vary in cost based on how detailed an inscription you request. 

Headstone engraving costs an average of about $20 per letter for inscriptions up to 20 or 30 letters in length. Additional lettering often costs less--around $10 per character. 

If you order a standard headstone with your loved one's name, birth date, and death date, the cost will average around $500. 

You may instead choose to have an engraved plaque rather than etching on the stone directly. Headstones often incorporate engraved bronze plaques, which are durable and cost-effective. A bronze plaque can also add detail to an otherwise simple flat headstone.

Bronze and aluminum memorial plaques cost between $100 and $300, on average. Very simple plates may cost less, while more substantial or intricate plaques can cost more. 

Installation

Installing a headstone is a crucial part of the process, so most cemeteries offer headstone installation services, at a cost. 

If your cemetery doesn't offer the service, consider hiring a professional monument installation team. Installing a headstone yourself isn't generally recommended (although you may be permitted to do so, depending on the location). 

Finished headstones are heavy, and you've made a significant investment up to this point. You want to make sure that the stone sits correctly and stays in place for the long term. 

The process of installing a headstone involves precisely measuring the stone, digging a properly-sized hole where the headstone will sit, and often, placing a concrete base. Only medium- and large-sized headstones require concrete foundations. If you have a small flat headstone, this step isn't necessary. 

The average headstone installation cost is between $150 and $450. The price will depend on the amount of work required and the size of the monument. Companion headstone installation costs an average of $300 to $600. If the stone requires a concrete foundation, that will cost extra. 

Maintenance

The cost of a headstone doesn't end once it's safely in the ground. Although headstones are made of sturdy materials they still need regular maintenance. 

Of course, you can perform maintenance on your loved one's headstone yourself—check out our guide on how to clean a headstone

But professional headstone cleaners often have techniques that make the process easier and increase the longevity of the stone. Additionally, you may not always want to take on the responsibility of hands-on grave maintenance. 

Headstone maintenance companies generally charge between $40 and $170 for headstone cleaning. You can even add services like flower planting and grass watering. 

Restoration

In addition to regular maintenance, headstones need occasional restoration and repair. Wind, rain, and temperature changes all wear on the stone's finish and details. If a headstone has damage, it's best to get the restoration done sooner, rather than later. 

Headstone restoration can involve resurfacing, or even wholly reinstalling, the concrete foundation to keep the headstone upright. It can also include detailing the headstone's engraving and restoring the surface of the stone to its former luster with careful polishing. 

Headstone restoration costs vary widely based on the state of the headstone. A more damaged headstone will cost more to restore. A gravestone that's in good shape, aside from some faded lettering, won't cost very much to repair.  

Contact a professional monument company in your area to find out what they charge for the type of restoration you need. 

Other factors

We've covered the average cost of the necessary headstone materials and services, including creation and installation. But there are additional details to consider, which can increase the cost of a headstone. 

If you want to add accessories like full-color ceramic images, vases, sculptures, or statues, you'll need to take price into account. 

The average costs listed here are just a general starting point. Cemeteries and monument services charge varying rates for headstone creation, engraving, and installation. Ask the cemetery or business for a full list of their prices, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about cost. 

Buying a Headstone Online vs. In Person

Just like you would do with any other significant purchase, you’d be wise to compare buying a headstone online vs. buying one in person. But can you really buy a headstone online? Yes, you can! 

Here are some of the points to be aware of when it comes to buying a headstone online vs. buying one from a brick-and-mortar shop or a cemetery. 

Price

The first important factor is the price of the headstone. Headstones are large and heavy, which means buying one online can actually cost just as much as buying one in person. You might find a less expensive headstone online at first glance, but once you factor in shipping, the price can quickly escalate. 

With that said, if you’re purchasing a flat grave marker or a smaller headstone, you can likely find a better price online, even with shipping. 

Note: Brick-and-mortar businesses that sell headstones have their own unique price lists and fees. 

Because prices vary so much depending on the location, materials, and many other factors, we can’t provide an exact cost comparison for online headstones vs. headstones from a brick-and-mortar seller. 

To find out how much a seller in your area charges for a specific type of headstone, we recommend visiting them in person or contacting them to ask for their catalog or price list. 

The cost of a headstone from a local seller should be in the same realm as a similar headstone online. However, there are minor differences in quality and labor skill level that can make a big difference in the price of a headstone. 

Ultimately, the best practice is to shop around and keep a list of prices for comparison. 

Quality

If you buy from a reputable online headstone retailer, you can expect the same quality that you’d find at a brick-and-mortar shop. 

Here are a couple of highly rated (Trust Pilot) online headstone sellers to consider: 

You can also find customizable headstones on platforms like Amazon and Etsy. However, you’ll need to make sure you look into the specific seller and seek out reviews for their products. 

Before you buy, it’s a good idea to look at the company’s return policy, since accidents can happen during shipping.  If they don’t offer complete refunds, or they require you to purchase shipping insurance, you might choose to buy in person instead. 

Variety

A cemetery, funeral home, or in-person monument shop will almost always have fewer options than an online retailer. That’s because they can’t keep as much stock on hand. 

However, your in-person seller likely has a catalog you can look through, full of more options than they have in the shop. If requested, the retailer can often order any headstone from the catalog. 

Discounts and packages

Buying a headstone or grave marker from the cemetery or funeral home sometimes means you can benefit from a discount “package.” 

For example, the cemetery might offer a slight discount on a headstone if you buy it at the same time as you buy a grave plot. The funeral home might have packages that include a headstone, headstone installation, and a casket. 

Funeral homes and cemeteries might also partner with local monument shops to offer package discounts. 

If you buy a headstone online, you won’t be able to take advantage of this kind of discount. However, you also won’t feel pressured to buy other products and services at the same time. 

Installation process

It’s important to consider how you’ll install the headstone after you receive it. If you buy the headstone from a cemetery or funeral home, you might be offered installation for free or at a reduced cost. 

Depending on the cemetery, you may be able to install the headstone yourself or pay someone to do so. Some cemeteries require that their own staff installs the headstone, while others don’t. 

If you buy a headstone online or from any third party, you’ll need to make sure that it can be installed properly by the cemetery or someone else. This includes buying the proper hardware and understanding the installation process for the type of marker you buy. 

Cemetery rules

Speaking of cemetery rules, this is an important point to consider when you’re buying a headstone. While you can find more variety online, the cemetery may not allow every type of headstone. Make sure you ask for a list of the cemetery’s restrictions and regulations before you buy a marker from a third party.

Personalization and buying experience

There’s a certain buying experience that you can get in person that you can’t achieve online. When you’re buying a headstone, it can sometimes help to visit the monument shop or funeral home and see examples up close and personal. 

You can ask for examples of different engraving styles and lettering, and you might even be able to take some stone samples with you to show family and friends. You can also more easily request alterations to the headstone engraving than you can when you order online.

How to Save Money on a Headstone

Tip on how to save money on a headstone over an image of a cemetery

A headstone doesn't have to cost a fortune. There are several ways to save money on your headstone purchase. 

An important note! If you're trying to buy a headstone for a United States Veteran, you may be able to attain one for free. Visit the VA's National Cemetery Administration to find out how. 

Plan ahead

You can get a better deal on a headstone purchase by shopping ahead of time or making prepaid plans. You might buy your headstone to save your family undue stress in the event of your death.

Or you and your family might pick out headstones together, getting all of the stones sorted out well ahead of time. Either way, you'll be able to choose a headstone design that suits you, from a business that has reasonable prices. You can even get some of the engraving out of the way early. 

Planning these details out in advance allows you to price-shop without being rushed. When you're grieving for a loved one, you might not have the time, energy, or desire to shop around for the best prices and quality.

Shopping ahead of time will also allow you to buy stones from businesses that aren't necessarily in your immediate area, but make sure you keep shipping costs in mind.

Also, know that you don't always have to purchase the headstone from a funeral home, and you can find plenty of affordable headstones online.

Go minimal

If you're happy with a more minimal headstone design, you can save a lot of money. An upright headstone requires more finishing work, costs more to ship, and it can even require an entire concrete foundation to keep it upright. 

On the other hand, a small flat or tilted headstone can cost the bare minimum and look just as beautiful. Consider relatively low-cost additions like a bronze or aluminum plaque. 

Team up

If you want something more elaborate than a simple flat headstone, think about joining forces with your partner or family members. Buying a single companion headstone can sometimes cost less than purchasing and placing two individual headstones. 

Additionally, you could invest in a family headstone or monument. With a more elaborate family stone, you can place minimal flat headstones for each individual and still enjoy an intricate upright headstone. 

This method also has the benefit of getting everyone involved, which can reduce the average headstone cost for everyone. Additionally, a family monument and plot will serve your family for generations to come. 

Start early

Regardless of what type of headstone you decide you want, start planning early. That way you’ll be able to find the best deal without placing unnecessary stress on you or your family.

Post-planning tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, you have more than just the headstone to think about. Handling their unfinished business can be overwhelming without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.


Sources

1. ”FAQ - Monument Lettering.” Monument Letteringwww.monumentlettering.com/faq.html#targetText=Price%20depends%20upon%20the%20amount,engraving%20cost%20%247.00%20per%20character.

2. “Headstones, Markers and Medallions.” US Department of Veteran Affairs. www.cem.va.gov/cem/hmm/index.asp

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