Why Are Funerals So Expensive?

There are certain expenses in our lives that make sense: a house, a car, braces for our kids, diapers for our babies. Although these costs are significant, it’s easy to understand what we’re paying for.

funeral insurance

But when it comes to end-of-life experiences, the high costs are kind of mind-boggling. Whatis driving the cost? What are you actually paying for?

According to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, the average funeral in New Zealand costs somewhere between $8,000-$10,000. Let’s break this down a bit and explore what that price tag really covers.

Enlisting a funeral home to provide services        

These are the folks who can guide you through the process and help facilitate all aspects of the burial and memorial service. Their fees are non-declinable and are usually part of a full package that includes basic services like obtaining copies of the death certificate, arranging burial with the local council and keeping the deceased’s remains until the funeral.

Transportingthe body to and from the funeral home

If you opt for using a funeral home’s services they will charge for transport from wherever a person has died to their facility, and then to the burial grounds. If the transport is from a long distance, there may be a forwarding fee where one funeral home passes the body to another funeral home.

Preparation of the Body

Depending on the service you’re planning, there can be significant costs for preparing the body. If you are planning on an open casket funeral and visitation, this would include embalming, hair and make-up and burial clothes. Embalming may also be required should the body have to travel a significant distance or in the case of some infectious diseases.

Cremation fees

Should cremation be chosen, fees for thisservice and an urn to house the remains would be added to the services above. You can choose to skip embalmingand preparing the body if a viewing is not needed. However, funeral homes may offer costly urns and cremation jewelry to try to re-coup some of the lost embalming fees.


There is great variation in price here which shows the range between a plain pine box and a specialty coffin. Caskets can be marked up at 300% of the wholesale price, so if you have the ability to shop around, this is where you might find some cost savings. And remember, a casket may not actually be required, a simple burial shroud may be all that’s needed in many cemeteries.

Cemetery costs

Depending on your area and personal preferences, these costs can range widely. The price of a burial plot may depend on which cemetery you choose and even where you’d like to be buried inside it. Burial fees are typically set by local councils, andincludes digging the grave, placing the casket or urn and covering it. You may also want a headstone to mark your grave, which can cost a lot if you opt for a more ornate choice.

Copies of the death certificate                                                                               

The cost of a death certificate might be included in the funeral director’s fee. However, there may be additional costs associated with getting certified copies for verifying a Will or tying up financial business, such as making a funeral insurance claim.

This list breaks down many of the big parts to a funeral, but what about the practicalities? When aloved one passes away, the family and friends left behind try to quickly plan the service, usually needing to make selectionswithin a day or two.They aren’t exactly in a position to shop around for the best prices. And because of that, funeral homes do not have to be competitive in their pricing.

Since most people don’t leave behind plans or preferences for their burial, we go to what we know—the funeral home our church uses, that we’ve been to before, or the one recommended by a social or cultural club. There is comfort in that familiarity, in that community.

But, as with any big purchase, we have to protect ourselves as well. Costs can increase when funeral homes upsell expensive extras that we might feel too bereaved to argue against. In many ways, we are at their mercy, trying to make decisions that we think our loved one would appreciate and agree with. It’s a sensitive thing, mixing sadness with commerce in what feels like a very desperate time for many people.

Having a better idea of what services you may need and what they cost could bring some clarity and insight into planning a funeral. This might inspire you to leave instructions with your loved ones before you go, giving them a guide to what you want. It might be the best gift you can leave behind for them.

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