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One of the biggest complaints from consumers about the funeral industry is finding transparent price lists online. A recent study from the Funeral Consumers Alliance found that only 16% of funeral homes had their full price lists online (from a data set of 200 funeral homes from small and midsize state capitals). While around a quarter had some pricing information online, typically package prices rather than itemized cost lists. We live in an age where there is almost unlimited access to pricing information on almost all services and products, however, the discrepancy between our experience with everyday products and services and funeral costs can be both frustrating and confusing at a time when we are at our most vulnerable.
Where Can I Find Funeral Pricing Online?
Right here on Obitia.
Obitia has the most extensive funeral home search of any site. We have taken the funeral home pricing standardized it into the services listed in the Funeral Rule (see below) so that you can compare funeral homes apples-to-apples. You can choose the kind of funeral you are interested in and the price estimator will assemble the most common fees for that type of funeral and estimate the amount it will cost. This can be done for each and every funeral home in our search (over 12,000 individual funeral homes).
While we do not have exact pricing (every funeral home has their own general price list, with different terms for different services or packages and these prices may be changed or there may be discounts available) our goal was to create a system where you could compare and get an idea of how much a funeral would cost at different local funeral homes and then compare them to the average in your state (city averages coming soon).
What Costs Go Into Planning a Funeral?
Each type of funeral can, in the simplest terms, be made up of a couple of mandatory fees along with several additional fees depending on the services requested. Most funeral homes will require a “basic service fee” which will cover the cost of the funeral director and staff as well as the facility for the most basic services, such as handling the body, death certificates, et cetera. You should ask the funeral director what is specifically covered under the basic service fee. There are many additional fees that may go into a funeral, the vast majority of which are optional. You can also request an email copy of the price list and estimate if you would like to review it later or compare several funeral homes.
Below are the standardized costs we use and what they typically cover:
- Basic Funeral Services, Staff and Overhead – Mandatory base fee that funeral homes charge that generally covers the use of the facility as well as the services of the director and staff. It usually includes the required paperwork and permitting, copies of the death certificate, properly storing the remains, as well as coordinating logistical arrangements between the cemetery, crematory and other third parties.
- Viewing/Visitation Fee – The rate the funeral home charges for a visitation and/or viewing at their facility and can be calculated either at an hourly rate or as a set fee (includes services and staff).
- Funeral Ceremony Fee – The fee the funeral home charges for holding a commemorative service at their facility and generally includes services and staff.
- Memorial Service Fee – The fee for having a commemorative service at the funeral home without the body being present, and includes services and staff.
- Graveside Service Fee – The fee for having a commemorative service held graveside at a cemetery and includes services and staff.
- Transfer of the Deceased to the Funeral Home Fee – The fee funeral homes charge to transport the remains from the place of death to the funeral home.
- Hearse Rental Fee – A hearse is a traditional method for transporting the deceased from the funeral to the cemetery or to the crematory. This fee may be a flat amount based on an hourly rate or based upon mileage.
- Direct Burial Fee – A direct (or immediate) burial is the most basic, and lowest priced option available with the funeral home. There is no embalming, formal viewing or service. It involves the pickup of the body, completing the required paperwork, and burying the body in a grave, or entombed in a mausoleum crypt. The casket is typically not included and is required for the burial.
- Direct Cremation Fee – This fee includes the basic services of the funeral director and staff, pick up and transportation of remains to the crematory, necessary paperwork, and authorizations, and possibly the crematory fee. The ceremony is not included in this price, and may or may not include the cremation container in which the deceased is placed for the cremation.
- Receiving Remains from Another Funeral Home – The fee for receiving the deceased from another funeral home that has already performed part of the arrangements. The fee generally covers the temporary handling and transportation of the remains to the cemetery, and necessary services of the funeral director and staff.
- Forwarding Remains to Another Funeral Home – The fee charged by a funeral home for preparing the remains of the deceased for transport to another funeral home. The fee generally covers the removal of the remains, embalming, necessary authorizations, transportation, and necessary services of the funeral director and staff.
- Embalming Fee – Embalming is a process that slows the decomposition of the body. It is not required by law, but is usually recommended depending on whether or not there will be a viewing, as well as based upon local temperatures. The fee the funeral home will charge depends on local rates and the size and condition of the body. Direct cremation and immediate burial do not typically require embalming.
- Limousine Rental Fee – This may be a flat fee, an hourly fee, or calculated based on mileage. It is not required but is an option that many funeral homes provide, for use by the family of the deceased for transportation.
- Cosmetic Preparation of the Body Fee – The fee charged for cosmetic work, disinfecting and washing the deceased’s body (without embalming), and refrigeration of the body.
- Cremation/Crematory Fee – The fee charged by the crematory for the disposal of a deceased’s body by burning it to ashes, typically performed after a funeral ceremony. This fee may or may not be charged by the funeral home or crematory.
Note that our burial estimates do not include the cost of a casket, which is generally the single biggest expense for a funeral (Buying a Casket: What You Need to Know).
Your Rights as a Consumer Under The Funeral Rule
Before 1984 there was little federal oversight of the funeral industry, bad actors gave the whole funeral industry a bad name with aggressive tactics and creating situations in which to take advantage of grieving families. It was this situation which the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule was meant to remedy. The FTC Funeral Rule is a protection mechanism for you as the consumer. Its purpose is to give you more rights and obligates funeral homes to make pricing clearer and more straightforward for you before you have to commit to purchasing any goods or services.
It can be hard determining the price of a funeral let alone what it would cost at a specific funeral home if you only want to search online. Not everyone likes speaking in-person to a business when they know they are being sold to and under incredible emotional distress. That is why Obitia lists and allows for easy price estimating for over 12,000 funeral homes across the United States.