Because of competition and the ease of shopping the internet, the price for most consumer goods and services doesn’t vary by more than 50%–100% max. Why then do cremation prices vary by as much as 700% and burial prices by as much as 400% depending upon the funeral home chosen? Most consumer do not price shop for funerals. As a result, cost can be all over the map. As a general rule, burial, including cemetery and funeral home costs is roughly 10 times more expensive than the cost of simple cremation. By planning ahead, you can choose the type of arrangement and funeral home that fits your family’s budget.
By law, all funeral homes must give you a copy of their price list if you set foot on the premises. They are not required to send you one by mail, however many funeral homes now post them on their websites. The complete price list should say General Price List at the top with the date it became effective. If you know exactly what you want, the funeral home can give you a price quote over the phone. Be sure to ask if the price includes everything. They should be able to give you a quote that includes everything except taxes. Better yet–get it in writing.
Since most of us are unfamiliar with funeral industry jargon and may not have experience with planning a cremation or burial, it can be confusing to compare prices–even if we have several funeral home price lists in hand. For example, The Funeral Rule which regulates such price disclosures allows a funeral home to list a cremation price that does not include any of the following:
After hours removal from place of death (chances are 3 out of 4 you’ll die after hours)
Home deaths requiring two staff people (most of us want to die at home)
Filing the death certificate (necessary before cremation or burial occurs)
Alternative container (cardboard casket standard for cremation)
Basic Plastic Urn (you have to carry the ashes home in something)
The actual cremation process (if they use an off-site crematory)
Transportation to the crematory (if they use an off-site crematory)
So while a funeral home may advertise a $599 cremation, they may legally leave out all of these items which when combined can add as much as $1,000 or more. How then can a consumer effectively shop around?
That’s why the PEOPLE’S MEMORIAL Association conducts a Statewide Survey of Funeral Home Prices in Washington State every two years. In calculating the survey prices, we add in these items that have been left out, so that consumers have a better idea of what their “out the door” price would be. We recommend the price survey as a first step in shopping around.
Once you have chosen two or three funeral homes that you want to consider, we suggest you visit each funeral home, meet the staff and get a copy of their price list. Pay attention to how comfortable or not you feel with the facility and staff. While price is an important factor for most families, quality of service, location, facilities and reputation are other factors to consider.
To help you compare prices, we have prepared worksheets for the three basic types of funerals:
The worksheets include the basic items that needed for each type of service, including cemetery costs. Once you total up all the costs, you will have a much better idea of what to expect.