Sunday, March 23, 2008

Analyzing The Cost of a Funeral


According to the most recent statistical data documented from the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of an adult funeral in 1996, excluding (outer burial container, cemetery, monument or cash advance items such as flowers or obituaries) was $4,782.

Now let’s move forward some ten years later to 2006. The average adult funeral cost was $6,195. That’s $1,413 increase amortized over ten years equates to a $141.30 per year increase in the cost of an adult funeral. That’s roughly a 3% increase per year in cost which is slightly lower than the national (CPI) Consumer Price Index also known as the cost of living increase.

To clarify what is included in the cost of the adult funeral, I have itemized the service and product items to reflect the inclusions. Non-declinable Basic Services Fee, Embalming, Other Preparation of the Body, Hearse, Removal/Transfer of Remains to Funeral Home (from place of death), Use of Facilities, Equipment and Staff for Viewing, Service Car/Van/Suburban, Use of Facilities, Equipment and Staff or Ceremony at Funeral Home, Basic Memorial Stationary Package and a Metal Casket.

In 2006, the average or median retail price charged for the casket was $2,263. The average or median retail cost of a burial vault was $1,242. Caskets and outer burial containers (vault or grave-liners) can both influence cost. Caskets may generally range in price from $600 – $10,000 and higher based on quality, material type (wood, steel, stainless-steel, copper, bronze, etc.), features, gasketed or non-gasketed, warranty etc. Outer Burial Containers may generally start at $600 for a minimum required Outer Burial Container and can go much higher based once again on material type, material thickness, concrete or steel, sealing vs. non-sealing, warranty, lined vs. unlined, etc.

Some often question the cost of funerals. In analyzing why cost varies from funeral home to home one must give consideration to several factors that influence cost. Facility, service, staff, reputation and quality of merchandise offerings (caskets, urns, vaults, etc.) type of merchandise selected, type of services selected, cash advance items included from outside businesses as well as the actual man hours involved in the entire funeral process from start to finish. These are all influencers of price.

Reviewing the cost of funerals regionally the South Atlantic Region where West Virginia is located, is ranked third in the nation boasting the lowest cost for funerals on average. West Virginia was grouped with several other states which included, DE, FL, MD, NC,, SC, and VA. The East Central Region – (KY, AL, MS, TN.) all ranked eighth in the country for higher priced funerals.

Some may suggest that price should be the primary factor to consider when selecting a funeral home. Another myth is that the service level, attention to detail, reputation, facility and product offerings are equal at every funeral home.

During life’s most critical moments, we find it necessary to seek out the services of an attorney, doctor, nursing home, etc. We want the best price with a excellent reputation and ability to perform the job well. Selecting a funeral home should be no different.

Ultimately, one must perform the due diligence and find a funeral home that meets our personal, emotional, and financial needs. Many have already established a relationship with a funeral home of choice that meets their needs.

In death there are no do-overs, we have to get it right the first time so that we have no regrets later.

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