Are we paying too much for funerals?

By John Cousins, Kim Fulton

1 comment
Richard and Tony Hope say cardboard coffin liners provide a practical solution without compromising dignity.
Richard and Tony Hope say cardboard coffin liners provide a practical solution without compromising dignity.

Western Bay families could be spending thousands of dollars unnecessarily on funerals, according to the owner of a new funeral planning website.

An estimated $14 million was spent on 1534 funerals in the Western Bay last year, with Citizens Advice Bureau putting the cost of an average funeral at between $8000 and $10,000 depending on whether it was a cremation or burial.

Fresh Funerals owner Jude Mannion said people could halve the cost of a funeral by hiring a coffin, forego embalming and arrange their own flowers and catering.

Her website was an online planning tool that allowed families to sit at home and understand their options when making funeral decisions, including quotes from several funeral homes, she said.

Ms Mannion said the average coffin purchased from a funeral home might cost $3000 while embalming quotes ranged from $500 to $1000. She estimated at least 70 per cent of bodies were embalmed, meaning Western Bay of Plenty families spent about $800,000 on embalming last year.

Tauranga funeral directors told the Bay of Plenty Times they did as much or as little as families wanted, including the cremation option of hiring caskets with removable cardboard liners. Elliots manager Neil Gedge said its caskets started at about $1100 for a plywood coffin, with $3000 the price for a solid timber casket. The advantage of a plywood casket to a coffin and liner was that the deceased did not have to be lifted in and out.

He said the majority of funeral costs were in catering, flowers, the minister or celebrant, venue hire, and service sheets. Families could save money by doing it themselves but funeral directors were there to relieve the bereaved of as much stress as possible.

Three-quarters of about 250 funerals last year were cremations, with an estimated 10 per cent of families choosing the cardboard liner option.

Hope Funerals director Tony Hope said most funeral directors sourced their caskets from the same supplier and an average casket started at about $1200 and averaged $1500 to $1800.

Of their 250 cremations last year, all but two families opted for cardboard casket liners - effectively halving the cost of buying a casket. It allowed a casket to be re-used four or five times.

Hireage of a basic casket from Hope Funerals was about $250 while the cardboard inner was typically $350, he said. The cost of the liner included items like the satin lining, pillow and mattress.

"It is not just about the money. It is a typical Kiwi practical thing. A lot of families say their mum or dad would have loved that."

Bodies were embalmed if they went home but this cost could be saved if the body stayed at the chapel where it was stored at 4C so there was no deterioration. There were still costs such as sanitising the body.

Legacy Funerals director Mike Savage said it did not advertise budget funerals but they did minister to families who wanted to cut costs. Families could do their own catering or service sheets and even supply their own casket.

About a third of its cremations involved the use of cremation caskets in which the family hired the outer casket. It averaged about $1000 for a cremation casket and $1800 to $2000 for a non-solid wood casket. Legacy also had a refrigeration unit so that embalming was optional.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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