How Much Is the Average Funeral Cost?

Wondering about the average funeral cost? Gain insights on the pricing and learn how to manage your budget effectively. Read on.

January 8, 2024
How Much Is the Average Funeral Cost?

“Death ends a life, not a relationship,” said professor and novelist Morrie Schwartz. These are more than comforting words for families mourning the loss of a loved one –– they’re also a reminder of the importance of a thoughtful funeral or memorial service, which honors a well-lived life and the countless meaningful relationships made possible by this life. 

Given the significance of this event, it may come as no surprise that funerals can be costly affairs. But how much is the average funeral cost, exactly? While the price varies situationally, the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) quotes nearly $8,000 for a viewing and burial or roughly $1,000 less for funerals with a cremation.1 

Read on as we break down state-by-state funeral costs, methods of paying for a funeral, and some cost-saving alternatives for this celebration of life. 

Funeral Costs by State

Like groceries, gas, and many other daily expenses, funeral costs tend to be higher in places with a higher overall cost of living –– but this isn’t the only factor influencing overall funeral costs. 

Understanding the Variance

In states like California and New York, where the cost of living is high, funeral expenses often mirror this trend. Factors like expensive real estate and higher labor costs contribute to this, as does higher population density. But cultural differences, too, can heavily influence funeral costs. 

Take funeral traditions in the American South, for example. Cremation rates remain low in the South and Southeast, largely due to the cultural or religious preference toward viewings and open-casket ceremonies. Although cremation rates are rising across the country, only 21 percent of people in Mississippi are cremated compared to 75 percent in Nevada.2

A State-by-State Breakdown

When you look at several states individually, using information from the NFDA and gathered by USA Today, you see the high variation of funeral pricing in effect.

  • California Funeral Costs: Averaging around $7,200 with viewing, ceremony, and burial; $6,000 for funeral and cremation. 
  • New York Funeral Costs: Marginally higher at $8,000 and $7,500, respectively.
  • Ohio Funeral Costs: Full funerals in Ohio are more expensive than those in California –– and nearly as costly as New York –– at $7,900. Funeral and cremation is roughly $1,000 less. 
  • Missouri Funeral Costs: On average, Missouri’s funeral costs range from $7,500 for funeral and cremation to $8,500 for viewing, ceremony, and burial. 
  • Kentucky Funeral Costs: Funeral and cremation in Kentucky costs $6,300, on average, while a viewing and burial increases to $7,300. 
  • Oklahoma Funeral Costs: Similar to Kentucky, funeral costs in Oklahoma range from $6,400 to $7,300. 
  • Indiana Funeral Costs: Indiana’s range is more narrow, with average funeral and cremation costs sitting at $7,000 while viewing, ceremony, and burial averages $7,800. 
  • Pennsylvania Funeral Costs: Pennsylvania has some of the highest average funeral costs in the country at $8,100 and $7,500, respectively.3 

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What Makes Up the Cost of a Funeral?

When comparing the state-by-state averages above, cremation vs. burial seems to have the most influence on the average funeral service cost. However, there are myriad variables that go into determining cost. 

Breaking Down the Expenses

A funeral's cost is a sum of several components, each contributing to the overall expense. Chief of these include:

  • Service Fees: These fees cover the essential services of the funeral director and staff and often make up the brunt of all funeral costs. They include planning, securing permits, and preparing notices.
  • Transportation and Care of the Body: The transferral of remains after death comes at a sizable cost, as can embalming –– which is often chosen for viewings and full funerals. 
  • Funeral Products: Funeral products, like urns and caskets, can vary significantly in price. Urns typically cost only a few hundred dollars, while caskets can cost several thousand, depending on material and complexity.
  • Burial: A traditional burial has costs associated with purchasing a burial plot. Burials may also require the purchase of a burial vault and additional burial costs for a grave marker.
  • Venue and Officiating Fees: While many facilities have one fee for both the viewing and ceremony, venue and officiating fees tend to make up a sizeable portion of overall funeral expenses. 

Additional Costs

In addition to the expected costs of funerals, there are other expenses that can surprise some families:  

  • Flowers and Decorations: Like a casket, the cost of flowers and funeral decorations can fluctuate vastly depending on complexity. You can expect an average range of $500–$1,000. 
  • Obituary Notices and Printed Materials: Depending on the publication –– and whether you opt for a printed or digital notice –– obituary notices can cost as much as $500. Pricing will also depend on length, as some publications charge by line. 

7 Ways to Pay for a Funeral

Given the various costs impacting the average funeral cost, many families may wonder how to pay for a funeral –– and older adults may wonder how to ensure their loved ones won't be left with a large sum of funeral costs. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to pay for a funeral.  

  1. Life Insurance: After a policyholder’s death, life insurance companies will issue a disbursement to any beneficiaries. The funds from this disbursement can help cover some or all of the funeral costs, easing the financial pressure placed on surviving family members. 
  1. Prepaid Funeral Plans: Not to be confused with pre-need insurance, a product in which the monthly premiums generally outweigh the benefits, these plans allow individuals to pay for a funeral ahead of time. And because this plan generally enables participants to accrue interest, prepaying for a funeral can be a lower-cost option. 
  1. Savings and Investments: In addition to a retirement fund, emergency fund, and rainy day fund, many people set aside specific savings to be used to cover future funeral expenses. Some people set aside specific savings or investment funds to cover their future funeral expenses. This is a great way to ensure you and your family are prepared for the costs of a funeral arrangement, however, if you choose to pursue this route, you’ll want to be sure your chosen savings account is accessible upon your death. This way, your family can apply these funds toward their intended purpose. 
  1. Veterans Benefits: For families exploring ways to pay for a loved one’s funeral, their veteran status can make a huge difference. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides a number of burial benefits for eligible veterans, ranging from a free headstone in a national cemetery to a burial allowance under select conditions.4
  1. Crowdfunding: When looking for help paying for a funeral, many families have harnessed the power of the internet –– and the kindness of friends and strangers –– to ease the financial pressure. Online platforms like GoFundMe allow users to crowdfund for any number of causes, with funeral expenses being a leading use. Planning and paying for a funeral can be challenging, but the support of an empathetic and generous online community can be a genuine bright spot. 
  1. Pay Outright: There are government programs, prepayment plans, and online tools out there to help pay for the cost of a funeral, but for some, the simplest avenue may be paying with cash, a credit card, or a check. If a lump-sum payment stretches you too thin, you may want to see if the funeral provider offers payment plans or will allow you to pay in multiple installments. 
  1. Sale-Leaseback: Lastly, you can leverage a sale-leaseback to free up your home equity, which can be applied toward creating a memorable memorial service for your loved one. Unlike a traditional sale, a sale-leaseback allows you to access your home equity while remaining in your home as a renter –– so you won’t have to navigate the stress of a move while coping with the loss of a loved one. Plus, you can use your newly accessed equity to help cover some of the costs associated with the funeral. 

How to Reduce Funeral Costs

Despite state-by-state averages approaching $10,000, funerals can still be impactful, respectful, and memorable on a budget. Here are some ways to keep costs low while properly memorializing your loved one. 

  • Consider Cremation: Many of the most costly elements of a traditional funeral involve preparing the body for viewing, reserving a venue, and purchasing a casket. Therefore, cremation is a much more inexpensive option than a traditional burial. It’s important to note that in some cultures and traditions, a burial is the preferred path –– and if your loved one specifically requested to be buried, it’s important to honor their wishes. 

Should you pursue cremation, however, remember that you can still pay tribute to your loved one by gathering family in a cherished home or destination and sharing some of your favorite memories in a cremation service. Some families even find a meaningful place to spread some of the ashes of their passed loved one. You may even find that, besides reducing costs, this approach to a memorial is a better fit than a traditional service. 

  • Shop Around for Services: You can still save money on funeral costs even if you choose to have a full service –– you’ll just have to do your research. Costs can vary widely between different funeral homes, as some homes have more upscale service offerings, so it pays to compare prices and services. As you browse, however, be sure to read reviews from verified patrons to ensure you’re not just getting the best deal but also sending your loved one off in a way they would appreciate. 
  • Pre-Planning: One effective way of reducing costs is by funeral planning –– whether you’re making sure your own funeral is covered or preparing for a loved one’s funeral. Making arrangements in advance can provide an opportunity to negotiate costs and plan a funeral to meet a given budget rather than creating openings for emotional decision-making. This also allows ample time to research different funeral service providers, keeping stress and costs low. 
  • Bundled Services: The individual components of a funeral can be costly, but you may find that these costs can be reduced when bundled together. Many funeral homes offer funeral packages or bundled services that can be customized to meet individual needs. These can vary from traditional burial services to cremation packages, all of which offer different degrees of cost savings.

What to Do If You Can’t Afford a Funeral

While there are many cost-saving approaches to paying for a funeral, the cost may still be too great for some. If you’ve found yourself in this position, remember this: the challenge of paying for a funeral has nothing to do with your love or appreciation for the person you’re memorializing. Keeping this in mind, let’s explore some ways you can get help paying for a funeral, as well as an alternative method of memorializing. 

Assistance Is Out There

If you’re having difficulty paying for a funeral, you’re not alone –– and there are multiple ways to get the help you need. 

  • Government Programs: From veterans benefits to social security, there are various federal, state, and local programs designed to provide financial assistance for funeral costs, particularly in cases of unexpected death or for low-income families. If you conduct enough research, there's a good chance you'll find a program that applies to your situation. 
  • Community Support: Charities, nonprofits, and religious institutions, too, often offer financial support or low-cost service options to support those struggling to pay for a funeral. But while you can reach out to national organizations for support, you may want to also reach out to those in your area. You may be overwhelmed by the support and compassion you receive. 

Make Your Own Tradition

Aside from seeking support, you may also want to explore an alternative to a “traditional” funeral. After all, traditions are only what we make them. During the pandemic, many families simply could not come together for a funeral –– either due to illness, travel restrictions, financial hardships, or a combination of the three. Once the pandemic ended, some of these families reconvened for celebrations of life where precious memories could be shared and a cherished life could be honored. 

Should you choose to save money on a funeral by opting for a cremation, a celebration of life at a family home, local restaurant, or public park can allow you and your family, friends, and community to remember someone so special in your lives.  

Cover Funeral Costs with Your Home Equity

Funerals are important rituals. They can be therapeutic; a way to express your love after someone is gone; a time to get together and celebrate a loved one with the people who knew them best. But a funeral service is not the only way to express your appreciation and grieve the loss of a family member or loved one. Further, planning years ahead or taking out a life insurance policy aren’t the only ways of paying for a funeral –– and your own home equity may be the key to a memorable, meaningful sendoff. 

Learn more about how you can use a sale-leaseback to cover major life expenses and pay off debts with your home equity.


1. Bankrate. Average funeral cost. 

2. Smithsonian Magazine. Cremation Rates Reach All-Time High in the U.S. 

3. USA Today. How much does a funeral cost in 2024? 

4. Veterans burial and survivor benefits. 

Nicolas Cepeda headshot
Written by
Nicolas Cepeda
Financial Analyst at Truehold - A Specialist in Real Estate Finance
Nicolas Cepeda specializes in financial analysis and strategic portfolio management, with a keen focus on innovative residential real estate solutions. He leverages this expertise to cover pertinent topics in the real estate and financial sectors.
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Truehold's blog is committed to delivering timely and pertinent insights in real estate and finance, purely for educational and informational purposes. Crafted by experts, our content is thoroughly reviewed to guarantee its accuracy and dependability. Although designed to enlighten and engage, our articles are not intended as financial advice and should not be the sole basis for financial decisions. Our stringent editorial practices ensure the integrity of our content, empowering our readers with valuable knowledge.

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