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A loved one passing away is one of the most difficult experiences anyone will go through. And this event can be made all the more worse if you have to deal with costly funeral expenses as you grieve.

It’s an uncomfortable reality of life: When a person dies, there are things to be done, and payments that must be made. Funeral arrangements. Flowers. Casket. Burial. And while these costs may be covered if a person has traditional or final expense life insurance, not everyone has a plan, and not every plan covers everything—so these costs sometimes fall to others.

Whether you call it a funeral or a celebration of life, the financial burden of these rituals is greater than many people realize.

But if there’s any silver lining to this macabre fact of life, it’s that these costs haven’t ballooned nearly so much as almost everything else has over the past few years. Inflation-proof? No. But inflation-resistant? Somewhat, yes.

Today, to help those who might need to plan for this kind of stark reality, I’m going to look at some of the most common funeral expenses. I’ll look at estimated prices, as well as how much they have risen in relation to the breakneck inflation we’ve experienced during the post-COVID run-up in costs. My hope? Having an idea of these costs already in mind can at least help you feel more financially prepared during an emotionally taxing time.

Common Funeral Costs

common funeral costs viewing chapel

The price information in this article comes from the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), which surveyed more than 5,000 NFDA-member funeral homeowners in 2023. The information includes some of the end-of-life expenses people usually pay for a loved one’s funeral, but it is not an exhaustive list.

Note that each section is about the median cost, rather than the average cost. The median is the middle value in the cost set, which helps us understand costs better than the average, which would include high and low outliers.

One particularly noteworthy finding: Funeral costs increased at a much lower rate than the overall rate of inflation during the two-year period ending in July 2023, when NFDA conducted the survey. While U.S. inflation was 13.6% during this time, the median cost of a funeral (including casket and burial) was up only 5.8%, from $7,848 to $8,300. Meanwhile, the median cost of a funeral with cremation (including alternative cremation casket and urn) grew from $5,810 to $6,280—or 8.1%.

Read on, and I’ll highlight some of the most important line items in the cost of a funeral.

1. Nondeclinable Basic Services Fee

funeral costs basic service fee urn
  • 2021 median cost: $2,300
  • 2023 median cost: $2,459
  • % change: 8.5%

The Funeral Rule, enacted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), grants consumers the right to receive a general price list from funeral providers upon request. Also, people generally have the right to choose which funeral items and services they want, though there are a few exceptions.

Among these is the nondeclinable basic services fee. Another part of the rule lets funeral providers charge this fee to compensate them for services common to all funerals, including funeral planning and sheltering the remains.

The cost of non-declinable basic services fees went up 8.5% between 2021 and 2023—a much slower clip than the 13.6% jump in U.S. inflation during the same time. Regardless, this is one of the biggest funeral expenses you’ll face; family members must be prepared to pay them.

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2. Removal/Transfer of Remains to Funeral Home

funeral costs transport service van
  • 2021 median cost: $350
  • 2023 median cost: $395
  • % change: 12.9%

One pretty necessary step in the end-of-life process is transporting the recently deceased to the funeral home.

The Funeral Rule allows for any pricing method, such as a flat fee, mileage charge, or hourly charge. For instance, the FTC says, you could “charge a flat fee with or without an additional mileage charge for distances beyond a certain specified radius.”

The median cost of $395 as of 2023 was up 12.9%—one of the highest increases in price among funeral costs, but still a lower rate than overall inflation.

3. Embalming

funeral costs surgeon embalming medicine forceps
  • 2021 median cost: $775
  • 2023 median cost: $845
  • % change: 9.0%

Families that don’t have visitations or viewings typically don’t need to embalm a body that is cremated or buried quickly after death. But it’s common for funeral homes to require embalming if the family does want a viewing or visitation.

But, importantly, the Funeral Rule states that funeral homes can’t provide embalming services without permission, falsely say embalming is required by law, or charge for unauthorized embalming unless required by state law.

Whether a family wants to have a visitation is a personal choice. For those that have one, and require embalming, that cost was $845 in 2023, up 9% from 2021.

4. Other Preparation of the Body

funeral costs makeup brushes
  • 2021 median cost: $275
  • 2023 median cost: $295
  • % change: 7.3%

The “other preparation of the body” expense category includes a number of tasks—including bathing, handling, hair styling, makeup, dressing, casketing, and even restoration—that prepares your loved one for visitations or viewing.

The Funeral Rule notes that if families decline embalming, they cannot be required to pay for other preparation of the body.

The median cost for these services climbed 7.3% over the two-year period, to $295 as of 2023.

5. Use of Facilities/Staff for Viewing

funeral costs ceremony viewing chapel
  • 2021 median cost: $450
  • 2023 median cost: $475
  • % change: 5.6%

People choose to say their final goodbyes in many ways. Often, a family chooses to have both an informal viewing or memorial service and a more formal funeral service. Visitors may attend either or both.

During a viewing, people can stop by at any time and stay for however long they deem appropriate (within viewing hours).

Because a viewing requires a space and staff, funeral providers might charge an hourly or flat fee when you use their facilities for a viewing. The Funeral Rule dictates that the listed price should include both facility and staff services, rather than listing them as separate line items. However, if a funeral home provides staffing at another facility, such as a church, you wouldn’t need to charge for facilities, and thus you would be allowed to charge for staff independently.

The median cost for a viewing is $475, which is only a modest increase of 6% over the two-year period outlined in the NFDA’s survey.

6. Use of Facilities/Staff for Funeral Ceremony

funeral costs ceremony staff
  • 2021 median cost: $515
  • 2023 median cost: $550
  • % change: 6.8%

A funeral ceremony is more structured than a viewing. While the specific activities and schedules vary, they often include readings from religious scripture, music, and eulogies. Some services include photo boards or video slideshows.

Similar to viewings, a funeral ceremony charge should include both the facility and staff services, and not list those services separately. But if the funeral is held at a different facility, the funeral home may list a separate fee for just the staff.

As funeral services are more elaborate than viewings, they tend to cost a bit more. As of 2023, the median cost was $550, which is a 6.8% increase from 2021.

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7. Hearse

funeral costs hearse
  • 2021 median cost: $350
  • 2023 median cost: $375
  • % change: 7.1%

A hearse is a large vehicle that transports a coffin for a funeral. Typically if there is no burial, then no hearse is needed.

Like with the removal or transfer of remains to a funeral home, the pricing method for a hearse may be an hourly charge, mileage charge, flat fee, or combination of fees.

Between 2021 and 2023, the median cost for a hearse increased by 7.1%, well under the rate of inflation. Family members should estimate paying around $375 for this service.

8. Service Car/Van

funeral costs service van
  • 2021 median cost: $150
  • 2023 median cost: $175
  • % change: 16.7%

A service car or van is an alternative to a hearse. These vans usually have a simplistic design but specialized hardware allowing them to keep caskets and cremains secure.

Funeral homes can use these vehicles at various points between the place of death and where the funeral service is held.

The cost of service vans has increased more than any other item or service on the list. The median price jumped by 16.7% between 2021 and 2023—actually outpacing inflation during that period. Still, with a median cost of $175, they are still generally much more affordable than a hearse.

9. Basic Memorial Printed Package

funeral costs memorial print memoriam
  • 2021 median cost: $183
  • 2023 median cost: $195
  • % change: 6.8%

Memorial printed packages may include signs, funeral programs, bookmarks, thank you cards, and memorial cards. Many companies offer customizable printing packages for any materials a family needs. The complexity of printing packages is completely up to the family.

A basic memorial printed package has a median price of $195. This cost went up 6.8% during the time period discussed in the survey, meaning it rose at a much slower pace than inflation.

This is one of the most adjustable funeral costs, too. While some people might want colorful, folded memorial programs with photographs, others are happy with simple black-and-white text programs. Bookmarks, thank-you cards, and other items are not always considered funeral necessities, either.

10. Metal Burial Casket

funeral costs metal casket
  • 2021 median cost: $2,500
  • 2023 median cost: $2,500
  • % change: 0.0%

The Funeral Rule requires funeral directors to show you a list of caskets the company sells, along with prices and descriptions, prior to showing the caskets to you. Also, you aren’t required to buy a casket from a funeral home; alternatively, you can get one from a third-party seller and have it shipped. Funeral homes must let you use a casket you bought elsewhere, and they aren’t allowed to charge a fee for doing so.

Caskets can be constructed from a variety of materials, such as wood, metal, fiberboard, fiberglass, or plastic. Depending on the material used, the estimated price range varies. Also, some families that choose cremation rent a casket, rather than buy one, for a visitation.

The median cost of buying a metal burial casket, according to the NFDA, is $2,500. That makes the casket one of the most—if not the most—expensive funeral costs. But the median price for a metal casket has managed to remain stagnant during a period of high inflation.

11. Burial Vault

funeral costs burial vault
  • 2021 median cost: $1,572
  • 2023 median cost: $1,695
  • % change: 7.8%

Burial vaults, also known as burial containers, are put in the ground before burial. During the burial, the casket is lowered into the vault. Vaults stop the ground from caving in when the casket deteriorates over time.

Rather than a vault, some people opt for a grave liner, which only covers the top and sides of caskets.

Funeral providers must offer a list of prices and descriptions before showing consumers burial containers. Like caskets, families can opt to buy a vault from a third-party provider.

Neither vaults nor liners are required by state law, so if a funeral home representative says otherwise, consider talking to a different provider. However, cemeteries often require some type of burial container.

For those who purchase a vault, the median price is around $1,695, representing a nearly 8% increase in price between 2021 and 2023.

12. Cremation Fee

funeral costs cremation fees
  • 2021 median cost: $368
  • 2023 median cost: $400
  • % change: 8.8%

The term “cremation fee” doesn’t refer to the full cost of a cremation; instead, it’s referring to what a funeral director will charge if the home uses a third-party crematory.

A cremation allows families to skip many of the costs associated with a burial, such as a casket, headstone, embalming, and more.

Currently, the median cremation fee charge is $400, up 8.8% between 2021 and 2023.

13. Alternative Cremation Container

funeral costs coffin alternative
  • 2021 median cost: $150
  • 2023 median cost: $160
  • % change: 6.7%

While people may be cremated in a coffin or casket, families can use alternative containers for direct cremations, too.

Alternative containers are designed to hold human remains. They are non-metal and are made of materials including (but not limited to), pressed wood, fiberboard, or composition materials. It should be a closed, leak-resistant container. Most crematories consider a rigid cardboard container sufficient.

The Funeral Rule requires funeral providers who provide direct cremations to offer at least one alternative container.

The median cost of alternative cremation containers has come up since 2021, but modestly. The 6.7% increase between 2021 and 2023, to $160 at the median, is well below America’s inflation rate during that time.

14. Urn

funeral costs urn
  • 2021 median cost: $295
  • 2023 median cost: $295
  • % change: 0.0%

A funeral urn is a vase that holds the ashes of a cremated person. Often, these are tall, rounded, and ornamental, but they don’t need to have those characteristics. Cremation urns can be made from a wide variety of materials.

Between 2021 and 2023, the median cost of cremation urns remained steady at $295. Just note that there are no legal requirements for what can be used as an urn, so families don’t necessarily need to buy one at all and could instead use a container they already own.

Also, some families choose to have multiple urns and split the ashes so different households can remain connected to their loved one.

15. Median Funeral Costs

funeral costs bearer casket

The overall median cost of a funeral depends on whether the person has a burial or is cremated:

  • The median cost of a funeral that includes a viewing and burial increased 5.8%, from $7,848 to $8,300, between 2021 and 2023.
  • The median cost of a funeral with a viewing and cremation rose 8.1%, from $5,810 to $6,280.

While cremation costs might have experienced a higher rate of inflation, they remain less expensive than a standard burial.

But of course, a decision about service type isn’t solely a monetary one, and is often determined by the preferences of the deceased and their families.

Other Costs to Consider

other costs tombstone funeral

Again, the list above covers many traditional funeral costs, but it’s not an exhaustive list. A few other costs you and your family might need to cover include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Cemetery monuments
  • Cemetery fees
  • Grave markers
  • Flowers
  • Obituary

Whoever organizes a funeral should expect several miscellaneous costs, too.

You can use the FTC Funeral Costs and Pricing Checklist to get started; just note that you might incur expenses not on the list.

Hannah Kowalczyk-Harper has been a professional writer since 2016 and has worked with WealthUp (formerly Young & the Invested) since 2019.

Prior to becoming a full-time writer, she was still immersed in words through previous roles as a library specialist and teacher. Her background in education helps her take complex topics and turn them into easy-to-understand text.

Hannah holds a degree in Elementary Education from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. When she isn’t writing, Hannah is usually found playing with her niece and nephew, traveling, or brewing more coffee.