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. 

Breaking Down the Cost of a Headstone

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 upon 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 it’s 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. 

» MORE: How do you host a virtual funeral? Start here

 

How to Save Money on a Headstone

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.


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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