A Guide to Burial Costs & Arrangements

Information on arranging a burial and the costs involved

Last updated: 1 February 2017

Burial is an ancient process, dating back as far as 130,000 years ago, and it still remains a popular funeral planning choice today.

Be aware that the paperwork and permits involved in arranging a burial will vary from state to state. Your funeral director will be able to advise you on this.

Burial costs

The cost of a burial is usually slightly more than the cost of cremation, which will contribute to the funeral costs overall. The average cost of a burial funeral is around $7,180, according to life insurer Sun Asset.

Several different expenses contribute to this:

  • Interment rights - purchasing interment rights to a burial plot gives you the right to be buried there or have someone else buried there. The cost of a cemetery plot can vary widely depending on the location. Mausoleum crypts will also cost significantly more.
  • Opening and closing - you will need to hire a gravedigger’s services, as well ensure the necessary permits are in order. Your chosen funeral home will be able to assist you with this.
  • Maintenance fees - sometimes called perpetual care or endowment care, these are mandatory fees at a certain percentage of the price of the burial plot.
  • Headstone and installation fee - You will need to commission a headstone to be made and some cemeteries will charge an installation fee.

Types of cemetery

There are various types of cemetery where you can buy a burial plot for yourself or your loved one. These are:

  • Religious cemeteries - owned by religious organizations, usually specifically for followers of that religion only and run on a not-for-profit basis.
  • District or municipal cemeteries - non-profit cemeteries owned by a city or county.
  • National or veteran cemeteries - owned and run by the U.S. Government for veterans and their families.
  • Public cemeteries - either corporately or independently owned and run for profit.

Be aware that cemeteries do not usually have to adhere to the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule. This means that most cemeteries, unless it also operates as a funeral home, does not have to give you an itemized price list before you pay.

Burial service

If you decide on a burial for your loved one, you may wish to hold a burial or graveside service. This is usually a short service held after the main funeral service as the coffin is committed to the ground. Often the person leading the service will invite mourners to attend the burial at the end of the funeral.

The burial service may include a short prayer or reading, depending on preference and religious beliefs. Another common tradition is for the bereaved to scatter soil onto the coffin once it has been lowered. Some people also choose to throw flowers.

You may choose to hold a graveside service as the main funeral ceremony. In this case, chairs can be set up beside the grave for the closest friends and family members. However, bear in mind that graveside services are outdoors and will be subject to weather conditions.

Headstones and memorials

Before you order a headstone or memorial masonry, you must check the specific requirements of the cemetery. Some may have restrictions on size or color.

Once a headstone or a memorial has been ordered, it take several weeks or months to be completed and delivered to the cemetery. You may need to pay a specialist to install the headstone. Usually any memorial masonry cannot be placed until the ground settles, which can take around six months.

Some cemeteries will charge an installation fee, even if you buy the headstone directly from them, so check this before committing to a purchase.

Green burials

Green burials are a fairly new concept. They are more environmentally friendly than traditional burials and usually take place in woodland or meadows.

There is no gravestone or memorial for a green burial, however. The bereaved sometimes choose to mark the site of the grave with a tree, or may choose to let it become part of the surrounding natural landscape.