Even death has its markups. That's part of the reason the average funeral in the U.S. costs $6,500, about four times what folks in Great Britain pay to see their loved ones off [source: Gottschlich].
Caskets are a big part of it. They're generally marked up 300 to 500 percent over the wholesale cost. For example, a casket might wholesale for $325. An independent retailer would typically sell it for about $650. A funeral home may charge $1,295, a 300 percent markup [source: Funeral Consumers Alliance].
Other funeral products and services also carry a healthy markup. The charge for placing an obituary in a local paper can be three times the actual cost. A "coffin vault," which holds the casket in the ground, is much more expensive than a concrete "grave liner." A funeral home might charge an $800 premium for a sealed casket, even though it just means adding an $8 rubber seal to the lid. And remember, no casket preserves a body in the grave [source: Gottschlich].
Internet sources and discount stores like Costco sell caskets for less than what you will pay a funeral home. Or, a person handy with a hammer and saw could even make his or her own coffin in advance. If that seems too morbid, cremation is another money-saving option. Keep in mind that Federal Trade Commission rules allow you provide your own casket for a funeral and prohibit the funeral home or cemetery from charging extra fees if you do so.
For much more information on markups and other money matters, read on to the next page.
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Dollar stores — where most items cost just a buck — always seem to make money. HowStuffWorks finds out how they do it.