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How much does a funeral cost in California?

The average price is just over $9,600, but you could pay much less. Find out how to cover those costs.

Traditional funerals come with several costs outside of just the burial — these include flowers, a private viewing at the funeral home, the casket and embalming, among others. An average burial in California comes up a couple hundred dollars short of the national average, which the latest research from puts at $6,723.92. But the average cost of a traditional funeral comes out to even more.

Average cost of a funeral in California

A traditional funeral in California averages out to about $9,650. The burial alone makes up a significant portion of that, running $6,135 on average.

Here’s a breakdown of the average costs associated with parts of a funeral in California:

Casket (wood)$2,984
Transportation (hearse)$325
Private viewing$200
Casket, transportation, private viewing, embalming and urn costs are based on national averages found in a study conducted by the National Funeral Directors Association in 2017 which showed an average price increase in funerals of around 6.4% in a span of 5 years. Remember that these are average numbers and may vary depending on which funeral home you work with.

Average cost of cremation in California

A cremation with services costs $3,216 on average in California, with the urn averaging out at another $275 on top. This is already well under half the cost of a traditional funeral.

Direct cremation can be found for even less. Without the additional services, direct cremation can cost as little as $625.


Other funeral costs

Please note that the average funeral costs listed above do not include the following items:

  • Headstones and grave markers. Since these are made-to-order items, grave markers can range anywhere between $199 for simple headstones to over $10,000 for monuments and statues depending on their style and complexity.
  • Funeral plots. While it seems odd that this is not included in the cost of the funeral, you’ll also need to account for the price of the burial plot. This can range anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 or more depending on what city it’s located in and if its a private or public cemetery.
  • Flowers. If you want to have memorial floral wreaths or casket decorations at the funeral, the cost will vary based on the type of flowers you want.

How to pay for a funeral in California

Figuring out how to pay for a funeral, be it a full ceremony or a direct cremation, can bring additional stress during an already trying time. But you have options, it’s just a matter of weighing them and finding which are right for your situation.

When considering your own arrangements, look into:

  • Life insurance. You can have peace of mind that your family won’t be stuck paying a hefty funeral cost after your death by purchasing a life insurance plan that offers funeral coverage. It can cover everything from lost income to funeral expenses and leftover debt. Though we’re unable to find direct data to support differences in life insurance costs by state, some experts suggest living in areas prone to natural disasters — such as hurricanes — may result in higher life insurance premiums.
  • Burial insurance. Meant to only cover end of life costs, burial insurance comes with lower coverage amounts than term or whole life insurance.
  • POD account. A payable on death (POD) account is a bank account that’s separate from your normal finances and only to be withdrawn from once you pass away. The idea is to build up savings specifically for your end of life costs in a stable, low-risk way.
  • Pre-need funeral insurance. While this is an option for some, it may be a necessity for others. Some senior care facilities in Florida require burial arrangements be prepaid. However, this may not be the most cost-effective or risk-free way. Learn more about pre-need funeral insurance and discover if it’s the right option for your needs.

To cover the cost of your loved one’s ceremony, consider:

  • Out of pocket. Possibly one of the first options that comes to mind is paying with cash or credit. Doing so can create undue financial strain though, and it’s worth looking into other options first. If out of pocket is your only option, consider reaching out to family members for assistance.
  • The deceased’s estate. According to a 2017 survey by Go Banking Rates, 56% of Californians have at least $1,000 saved. While it’s not a lot, any amount could help. Aside from any cash that may be available from bank accounts and investments — along with the $225 due from Social Security upon passing if qualified for — you could sell assets to make up for some or all of the cost.
  • Funeral loans. A loan comes with a lot to consider such as loan amount, repayments, rates and how it’ll impact your credit, just to name a few. If you’re considering a funeral loan to cover expenses, take the time to shop around for rates and take out only what you need.

Does California have funeral assistance programs?

Unfortunately, the state of California doesn’t have any state assistance programs. Each county, however, has its own version of assistance. But most require the deceased to have been below a certain income level to qualify.

Eight chapters of the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) are spread out across California. The FCA helps educate people on their options when it comes to funerals, and in many cases gives members access to lower-cost services.

Other assistance programs include:

  • Catholic Charities. This charity’s location in San Bernardino provides $500 in assistance to families who can’t afford burial costs. Its Ontario location provides referrals.
  • Help Hope Live. If your loved one was the recipient of an organ transplant, you may qualify for burial assistance.
  • High Desert Phoenix Foundation. Families who lost a loved one in an accident, as a victim of crime or to suicide may be able to receive food, flower arrangement or burial assistance.
  • The Unforgettables Foundation. If you’ve lost a child and don’t have the means to cover the full cost of a funeral, this foundation can help.
  • Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. This foundation offers interest-free loans to dependents of former Navy and Marine personnel.
  • Army Community Service. If you’re active duty Army, you may be able to receive an interest-free loan to help pay for funeral costs.

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Bottom line

Funeral costs in California average less than the national, but it’s still a burden during a heavy time. Reach out to assistance programs if needed, and be sure to consider all of your options carefully before settling on a funeral home or a way to pay.

For those who’re planning in advance, you can learn more about life insurance to find out if it’s the best option for you and your family.

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