Last Updated on November 20, 2020
You need to find a good funeral home. If you’ve just experienced the loss of a loved one, you probably need to find a funeral home right now.
Even if you’re taking your time and planning weeks, months, or even years ahead, it’s still a good idea to figure out how to choose a funeral home.
A good funeral home needs to have:
- Friendly staff
- Attractive facilities
- A good location
- Services that are priced right and a good fit for your family’s needs
And of course you want to make sure that it’s not some shady outfit that will rip you off.
So how do you find the best funeral home? Let’s talk about questions you should ask and warning flags you should avoid.
What Makes a Great Funeral Home?
There are several things you need to look for in a funeral home.
- Location. Must be relatively convenient; in other words, close enough that you and your family can meet there several times in the coming weeks. Also consider visits to you loved one’s final resting place, if you choose burial or internment there.
- Price. A good funeral home will have clear, transparent pricing. They will be up front about your costs and will readily provide you with a price list (as they are required to by law). Don’t ever feel bad for factoring costs into your decision. This is where unscrupulous types can guilt you into paying way more for stuff you don’t need. Also, you can save quite a bit (or get much better services and facilities at a higher price tag) by your choice of a particular funeral home.
- Friendly, helpful customer service. From the person answering the phone to the funeral director you’ll be working with to the groundskeeper, your experience dealing with the staff should be marked by professionalism, respect, and excellence.
- Attractive, well-kept facilities. Whether you’re looking for the very best or a more frugal option, you will want to make sure that the facilities are maintained properly. Interior should be clean, comfortable, and attractive, and the grounds should not be overgrown or deteriorating. Avoid those locations.
- Accommodation. Every family is different, and a good funeral home will readily accommodate your religious beliefs, personal convictions, physical or other disabilities, and cultural heritage. They will also work with you when you choose outside products and services – such as purchasing a cremation urn online.
- Reputation. The best funeral homes will always have a good reputation. You’ll see this reflected in online reviews, on their social media pages, and in their community involvement. Ask people you know if they’ve had a good or bad experience.
How to Choose a Funeral Home
Here are seven tips to help you find and choose a funeral home that’s right for you and your loved one.
1. Decide what you want from the funeral home
This is really the main thing. You may want only the best for your loved one. Or you may value having a connection with the funeral director and feeling “right” about the place. Maybe you’re on a tight budget, have specific religious convictions, or just want to throw a “celebration of life” party.
Some funeral homes are better than others for each of these emphases. So think through what you want for your loved one first, along with what your loved one wanted (if you know).
2. Narrow your search by location and reviews
This is a fairly simple step. Avoid locations that are further away than you would want to regularly drive to visit your loved one’s grave site. Keep it close to your home, church, family, and/or community.
Then check the reviews online and on social media. A simple search for “[Funeral Home Name] reviews” should do the trick. You might also consider asking friends and family members for recommendations.
3. Call around and ask questions
Contact the funeral home by phone. If they are rude or don’t call back, scratch that one off the list and move on. But most of the time you’ll encounter helpful, compassionate staff who are ready to answer your questions.
But what should you ask? Don’t worry, we’ve prepared a list of specific questions you can ask below.
4. Note what is included with their service fees and packages
Each funeral home will offer a variety of packages. Some are simple, others more complicated. You can ask for a price list, in writing, and they will provide you with one.
Be careful to note what is included in their basic services fee (the minimum charge) and see what value their packages provide. Then compare what you think you will want from each funeral home. You may find that the prices are very similar, or you may find one that is way higher or lower than the rest.
Learn more: What do I need to buy from the funeral home?
5. Factor in transportation costs
Each time the decedent’s body is moved, there is typically a fee. Here are some possibilities to consider – transporting the body to the:
- Funeral home
- Location of wake/viewing (rarely; this is typically done at the funeral home)
- Funeral service location (e.g., a church)
- Long-distance transportation (if your loved one passed while out of the region)
6. Visit the funeral home
Before making your final decision, visit the funeral home. Meet the staff, tour the facilities. Check out their chapel, reception area, visitation/viewing areas, and cemetery grounds or mausoleum.
Be sure to ask for a detailed quote, in writing, along with the contract “so that I can review it at home.” This will allow you to make a decision without any pressure.
7. Put your final arrangements in writing
If you’re planning ahead for yourself, then make sure you put your wishes in writing. Then tell your loved ones! Making all your funeral plans doesn’t do anyone any good if they don’t know about it, so make sure your spouse, children, or other loved ones know about your final wishes and where to find a written copy.
Questions to Ask When Choosing a Funeral Home
First, questions for you and your family. Next, questions to ask the funeral home.
Questions for yourself & loved ones
Discuss with your family – or decide for yourself – the following questions to help determine what you want from the funeral home and from the funeral service itself.
- What is the budget for the funeral? Review insurance to see if anything is covered, and also check for pre-paid or pre-planning arrangements.
- How important is the funeral home’s location? Do you want it close to you, close to your church, or in a specific area?
- Will you have the funeral service at the funeral home? Or will it be another location, such as church, home, or an event center?
- Will your loved one be buried, or cremated?
- If buried, do you want a funeral home that has an on-site cemetery? (You can work with one funeral home and use a completely different cemetery – it’s up to you.)
- If cremated, will you be keeping the urn at home or scattering, or will you want a funeral home with columbarium niches?
- Also, if cremated, will you want to watch the cremation?
- Do you have specific personal, cultural, or religious preferences?
- Will you have a viewing, wake, or visitation?
- Do you want (or expect) a large service, or a small and more intimate one?
- Will this be a big production with musicians, video, a big reception, etc? Or a simple funeral?
- Will you need sound equipment, video screens or projectors, and/or live stream?
Once you have at least a general idea of what you’re looking for, start calling funeral homes and comparing prices and services. Use the questions in the next section.
Questions to ask the funeral home
You can call each funeral home on your shortlist and ask these questions to narrow your search. Once you have the answers to at least some of these questions, you’ll be ready to actually visit 1-3 locations before making your final decision.
- What is your basic services fee, and what is included?
- What packages do you offer?
- Which services do you handle in-house, and which ones do you outsource?
- Do you require any cash advances? (These pay for purchases from outside vendors.) If so, how much, and what is included?
- Is embalming required before burial? (Embalming may be necessary in certain circumstances, but as a general rule it is not required.)
- Do you accept caskets, urns, and vaults purchased elsewhere? (They are required to by law.)
- For burial: Do you have a cemetery? If so, do you provide discounts when using your cemetery? What are your burial, casket, and headstone requirements?
- For cremation: Do you have a crematorium, or do you contract with a separate crematorium? Can we witness the cremation (if desired)? Do you have niches for cremation urns?
- Can we customize the service to honor our loved one’s preferences and religious/cultural beliefs?
- How much does your chapel/venue cost to rent for the service? Is it included in your packages? (This may help you save from renting a separate venue, plus transportation costs.)
- Do you offer any environmentally-friendly options?
- Will I get to choose the funeral director?
- Do you have someone on call 24 hours a day?
- How long have you been in business?
- Are you part of a larger franchise, or independently owned and operated?
- What associations, certifications, and affiliations do you have?
- Can I tour your facilities?
- What is the total cost, including all required and additional fees?
- Can you provide me with a written quote that I can review at home?
- What are the options for payment? Will you work with my insurance company? Do you accept payment in installments?
How to Choose a Funeral Director
When you visit the funeral home to tour the facilities, make sure to meet with the funeral director who will actually be working with you and your family.
Tip: Bring a friend with you; someone who is personally close to you but perhaps not family and thus not grieving your loved one in the same way. This person can be a little more “neutral” and less swayed by any subtly emotional sales tactics.
Knowing that you like the facilities, location, and price, then it finally comes down to whether or not you enjoy working with the funeral director. If you haven’t asked all of the above questions yet, do so now.
Is the funeral director friendly, compassionate, helpful, and communicative? Do you get a weird vibe from them if you talk about, say, buying an urn or casket elsewhere, or using a different cemetery?
Most funeral directors are in the industry because they have a personal experience that made them want to help and serve others in their time of need. More often than not you’ll find a professional who is truly ready to be there for you and your family, no matter your need. But funeral directors are people, too, and get tired, have bad days, and so on. You should have every right to expect courteous and helpful professionalism, but remember to show them compassion as well for the difficult but rewarding occupation they have chosen.
Funeral Scams & Red Flags
You’re unlikely to run across a full-on “scam,” but it’s best to be prepared. You mainly need to be aware of common sales tactics that can put emotional pressure, however slight, on you to purchase certain products (that you don’t need) or buy a more expensive upgrade of a product that you do need (when the mid-range version will work just fine).
For instance, they might show you three caskets. The first is extremely high-end and way out of your price range, but it sets a dollar amount in your mind. A very high amount. Next, they show you the low end casket, which doesn’t look very good at all. Finally, you see the mid-range one, which looks a lot better and isn’t too much more than the cheapest one. So that’s the one you choose.
That’s a simplified version of the tactic, but you get the idea. Too high, too low… just right. But in reality there are many more options available than that, and the “just right” product or service is probably the one with the highest markup.
Here are a few more:
- “Nothing is too good for a mother.”
- “It’s what he would have wanted.”
- The “casket gasket” scam
- Maxing out your insurance policy
Again, most funeral directors are honest and want to help. They do need to sell their products and services. Reasonable sales tactics are perfectly acceptable. We just want you to be prepared in case you run across an actual scammy type. Avoid the scammers, and then also be aware that, as with any business (including ours!), the funeral director is there to help you and also make a living.
Learn more: Avoid These 10 Common Funeral Scams
How Do You Pick a Funeral Home?
We’d love to hear about the factors that influenced your choice.
When you were looking for a funeral home, what drew you to that particular one? Did you have a good experience? What would you do differently, and what advice would you give to others?
Let us know!
Read next: How to Plan a Funeral