According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the average funeral in the U.S. cost $4783 in 1997. Upon review, this figure DOES NOT INCLUDE the cost of a gravesite ($500.00-UP), fees for opening and closing the grave ($500.00-UP), the cost of a burial vault ($300.00-$10,000.00), a monument ($1200.00 national average), nor any of the numerous other costs that have become associated with funerals, largely at the behest of the funeral industry. Hence the $7000 - 8500 figure revealed by a recent consumer study sponsored by the AARP.
In dealing with families of the nation's Alzheimer's victims (some 4-5,000,000 in the U.S. alone) we constantly found ourselves fielding questions about funeral expenses and, like most of you out there, knew little about the industry beyond personal experiences. Hence the study which was conducted by the A.R.F., Inc. during the years 1994-1997. To insure maximum cooperation the study was conducted under a strict non-attribution policy to protect those who cooperated fullest from recriminations of their peers and suppliers. Thus the raw data will not be released, merely the compiled averages.
We contacted 3,700+ funeral directors (and ex-employees), casket manufacturers, cemetery associations, crematories, memorial societies, and monument companies in compiling this information. What we found is appalling; this giant industry -- BILLION$ in sales each year -- tends to prey upon our reluctance to learn their business. This natural reluctance is compounded by the secrecy inherent in the funeral industry, their refusal to make public their actual costs.
This is not to say there aren't thousands of caring, family-owned funeral homes, there are. Unfortunately, you can't tell which funeral home is family-owned and which belongs to one of the huge corporations, and they won't volunteer this information. The same is true of casket wholesale prices; the closest guarded secret in American business. A question I put to all these funeral-related businesses was, "If you have nothing to hide, why do you go to such lengths to hide it?" I'm still waiting for an answer. Caveat emptor.
Though initially intended for Alzheimer's families, The Funeral HELP! Program, our book, shareware program, and consulting services are available to all. Our intention is to offer practical considerations and options at each major step in the arrangement process and to make you familiar with common sales ploys/scams used to get deeper into your pocket. While death is a certainty for us all, we have been paying too dear a price for our ignorance of the industries connected with it. We hope this will help.
Phone direct at 757-427-0220 (FAX also, 8 am-10 pm EST, please).
We can also help you locate funeral wares (caskets, vaults, some services) at excellent prices anywhere in the U. S. [currently averaging prices at least 50% less than retail]. Call BEFORE the body is moved for maximum savings.