Skip to Content (Press Enter) Skip to Footer (Press Enter)

Most Expensive Places to Die: Geographic Differences in Funeral Expenses

Explore how geography influences funeral and end-of-life costs across the U.S., including insights into the most and least expensive states for these expenses and tips on managing costs no matter where you live.

While you may know it is more expensive to live in New York, Hawaii, or California than Oklahoma, Mississippi, or Kansas, did you know that funeral and end-of-life costs like taxes and health care are higher there, too?

Identifying the Priciest States for End-of-Life Expenses

According to Business Insider, New York, Hawaii, and California are among the 17 states where the cost of a funeral and other end-of-life services may run over $20,000. The reason? Using data from GoBankingRates, the authors say these states have a higher cost of living and steeper health care costs, which create a bigger end-of-life price tag. Other factors include inheritance and estate taxes, which make death even pricier there. Those taxes vary from state to state.

Forbes offers a similar list of expensive places to die, but their top ten list also includes:

  • Alaska
  • Massachusetts
  • Washington
  • Connecticut
  • Vermont
  • New Hampshire

Forbes' ranking includes the median funeral cost, average end-of-life health care, and taxes. According to their list, funeral costs are lowest in primarily rural and Southern states:

  • Oklahoma
  • Missouri
  • Tennessee
  • Arkansas
  • Alabama
  • Kentucky

Survey Insights: The Impact of Geography on Funeral Expenses

Forbes used data from the National Funeral Directors Association and adjusted for inflation to calculate the median cost of a funeral. According to the NFDA's 2023 report, the median cost for cremation with viewing and service is $6,280, and for burial with ceremony, $8,300.

The website Parting.com offers an interactive state-by-state funeral pricing guide. They include categories for direct cremation, a cremation with a memorial, and a traditional funeral.

Another website, PolicyGenius.com, took a different tact. It looked at the best places to die, including the availability of palliative care, how accessible death at home is, and green burial. Vermont ranked No. 1 in their list, while Florida ranked 51st, behind all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Geographic differences in funeral expenses will impact your wallet, but you can also be a savvy consumer. At Afterall, we’ll have plenty of advice on saving money whether you live in Atlanta, Georgia, or Zilla, Washington.

Free Guide to Funeral Preplanning

Get the Afterall Guide to Funeral Preplanning and get help from our experts.

How Transparency Influences Price

According to the Funeral Consumers Alliance, a nonprofit consumer group aimed at helping families navigate the funeral industry, most funeral homes do not post their prices online. In a survey of 35 state capitals the group found few cities had even 20 percent of websites listing prices. The group has asked the Federal Trade Commission to change the Funeral Rule to require prices to be posted (currently, only California mandates it, and even there, some funeral providers exploit a loophole in the law). The group argues that transparency keeps prices lower, making the landscape more competitive and consumers more aware. 

Cost Comparisons: Mountain vs. New England Regions

In the latest price surveys by the National Funeral Directors Association, the least expensive region for cremation with viewing and service was the “Mountain” area, which cost about $5,500. Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, South Dakota, and Nebraska also had lower prices for an adult burial with viewing and ceremony, which cost around $7,400.

The NFDA found the New England region the most expensive for an adult funeral, with viewing and ceremony, followed by burial at nearly $9,000. The same area was also the priciest for cremation, with similar services at just over $7,000. The New England states are Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Maine.

Factors Influencing Regional Funeral Costs

Many factors explain why some areas are more expensive than others, including the overall cost of living, the amount of competition, the transparency of pricing, and consumer behavior and demands. According to the NFDA, the differences can also be attributed to a “firm’s business philosophy and the market in which it operates.”

How to Save Money on Funeral Costs Wherever You Live

No matter where you live, there are many ways to save money. When we talk about funeral expenses, we generally mean a gathering of friends and family and the “disposition” or handling of the body. You have lots of choices on both halves of that equation. The Funeral Consumer Alliance offers these top 3 recommendations for saving money:

  • Figure out how much you can afford
  • Set a solid budget
  • Shop around

Practical Tips from the Funeral Consumers Alliance

The nonprofit journalism website ProPublica offers more tips on how to compare and negotiate funeral costs. Speaking with the Funeral Consumer Alliance, the group reported that the No. 1 driver of cost is the funeral home you choose, so pick one that you can afford and don’t be afraid to negotiate with the funeral director as well as choosing items “a la carte.” A good funeral director will work with you to fit your budget. The Federal Trade Commission, which regulates the funeral business under the Funeral Rule, also has helpful tools for price comparison.

Planning Ahead for End-of-Life Expenses

Like so much that involves end-of-life care, what you choose for yourself or your loved one will have much to do with your values. Do you want to choose the most environmentally friendly version of disposition and a small, simple service? Or do you want a more traditional, perhaps religious, service with all the bells and whistles? 

Planning ahead is one of the best ways to keep costs low and ensure you get the sendoff you want. No matter where you live, prepaid funeral plans are a reliable and practical solution to the high cost of dying in your state.