Markers come in many different styles, materials, and colors, and there are numerous ways to customize a marker. Here we take a look at the costs for common styles of markers, materials, and options for customization. We also provide some important information with respect to the rules regulating cemeteries. This article will provide the details you need to make an informed decision about what kind of grave marker to purchase.
How Much Does a Headstone Cost? How Much Does a Mausoleum Cost?
How much does a headstone cost? This varies widely based on the type of marker that you want to purchase, and the material that makes up the marker. Headstones can cost anywhere between roughly $149 for a small granite flat marker up to $10,000 for an elaborate upright marble marker. The average cost for a typical gravestone is in the middle of these extremes, roughly $1,500 to $2,000. Many companies include engraving in the cost of the marker, while others may charge an additional fee.
Mausoleums typically cost several hundred thousand dollars, ranging up into the millions.
Using a variety of pricing information from numerous gravestone companies, we’ve compiled the following price list. Here’s a brief overview of costs for the most common types of headstones and grave markers:
- Granite flat: Typically $149 (12″ x 8″ x 3″) to $810 (36″ x 14″ x 4″)
- Granite bevel: Typically $500 (20″ x 10″ x 6″) to $2,190 (36″ x 12″ x 8″)
- Granite slant: Typically $600 (20″ x 10″ x 16″) to $2,170 (30″ x 10″ x 16″, companion marker)
- Granite upright: Typically $1,300 (18″ x 6″ x 24″) to $4,100 (36″ x 6″ 24″) for basic upright markers with bases; more elaborate upright markers can cost $10,000 or more
- Granite ledgers: Typically start at $3,000
- Bronze grave markers (flat), no base: Typically start at $900 for individuals (companion markers generally not available without base)
- Bronze grave markers on a granite base (bevel): Typically $1,250 and up for single markers, $2,500 and up for companion markers
- Bronze ledgers on granite base: Typically start at $3,570 for a single marker or $3,670 for a companion marker
- Marble bevel: Typically $390 and up
- Medium marble statue: Typically $600 and up (roughly 24″ tall)
- Large marble statue: Typically $1,500 and up (roughly 40″ tall)
- Sepulcher or garden style mausoleum: Typically start in the low to mid-hundred thousands of dollars. (These are open-air structures with no walk-in interior.)
- Vestibule and walk-in mausoleums: The most basic walk-in mausoleums start at $350,000, while an elaborately designed mausoleum can cost upwards of $1 million.
We’ll cover these types in more detail below, and we’ll also take a look at the customizable options that can add on to these base prices. Headstone costs are highly variable.
How to Decide Which Material to Use
The most common marker materials are granite and bronze. Less common materials include marble, concrete, wood, sandstone, limestone, and iron. There are some important factors to consider when choosing one of these materials.
Granite: Granite is the most common marker material because of its durability; it can withstand centuries of weathering without showing significant wear. Granite is also reasonably priced and comes in a variety of colors, including shades of black, gray, red, pink, brown, green, and blue.
Bronze: Bronze is commonly used to make markers because it ages well and the inscription will still be readable after decades of weather wear. Most frequently, a bronze plaque is mounted onto a granite base.
Marble: Marble is also available for grave markers, and is often more expensive than granite. While marble is easier to engrave than granite, mild acid rain can significantly erode marble, which can make inscriptions unreadable after a relatively short length of time (years or decades depending on weather). Marble is available in white and gray.
Types of Markers
Headstones, gravestones, and tombstones refer to markers that indicate where a deceased person is buried. There are several different types of markers to consider. In ascending order of price, they are:
Flat markers: Flat markers (also called grass markers) lie flat on the ground at the head of the grave. These are the least expensive types of grave markers.
Bevel markers: Bevel markers (also called pillows) also lie flat on the ground, but are beveled: the back side is usually two to three inches thicker than the front. Unlike flat markers, bevel markers stand out by rising above the grass level by a few inches. The bevel shape can help keep markers clean by allowing water and dirt to flow off the marker more easily.
Slant markers: Slant markers are wedge-shaped. They are usually about 18″ tall (as opposed to bevel or pillow markers, which are typically only a few inches above grass level).
Upright markers: Upright markers are tablets that stand upright from the ground.
Ledgers: Ledgers lie flat on the ground and cover the entire grave. Ledgers may be engraved and used as the marker itself, or there may also be a monument at the head of the grave.
Mausoleums: Mausoleums are free-standing buildings that serve as monuments and house the remains of a single person or of multiple people. By far, this is the most expensive option for a grave monument.
Detailed Breakdown of Headstone and Grave Marker Costs
Markers can be purchased from cemeteries, funeral homes, monument retailers, or online retailers. A number of additional costs, like shipping, installation fees, cemetery fees, and others, may apply — be sure to take these costs into account before making a final purchase decision.
The price of a marker is calculated by weight or size and material or color. There may be additional costs for custom designs and engravings.
Flat markers are usually the most affordable. Small, basic flat markers can be purchased for as little as $149. The average price for flat markers is around $500. As flat markers increase in size, they will also increase in price. More expensive flat markers generally cost a little less than $1,000.
The next most affordable markers are bevel markers. Similar to flat markers but with the back side raised about two inches to create a slant, these markers are slightly more expensive on account of the increased complexity of their design. Basic bevel markers start around $500, and price increases with size and with more expensive types of granite.
Slant markers are considerably more expensive than flat and bevel markers. Most begin around $900, with some starting above $1,000. Slant markers are usually 12 to 20″ tall. Like flat and bevel markers, wider companion markers are often available.
Upright markers are the most costly. The most basic upright marker available will be at least around $1,300, though most cost a few thousand dollars. More elaborate upright markers can cost over $10,000. Upright markers are also available in both single and companion widths.
Ledgers, due to their size, are also costly. The most affordable ledgers available begin around $3,000, although most are much more expensive.
The color of the granite used to make flat, bevel, slant, upright, and ledger markers also affects the price. Gray granite is usually the most affordable, though specific shades of gray may be more expensive. Blue granite is generally the most expensive, and shades of red and black usually fall somewhere in the middle of the price range.
Most commonly, bronze plaques are mounted onto a granite base. While bronze plaques are sold individually, retailers often sell a base along with the bronze plaque. Bronze plaques vary in size, and typically start at roughly $900 for an individual marker without a granite base.
The cost of a granite base on which to mount the bronze plaque will vary depending on which style of base is chosen. Variation in base prices will correspond to the variation in prices of the styles discussed above — flat, bevel, slant, and upright.
Many retailers offer markers in single or companion widths — i.e., the marker can be engraved with the name and information of one person or two people. While some retailers do sell single and companion markers in the same size and thus at the same price, most sell companion markers that are larger and better able to accommodate the additional text. Companion markers can be significantly more expensive than individual markers. For example, an individual flat marker on BuyMemorials.com starts at $600, but the companion marker in the same style and color starts at $1,359.
Check with your cemetery to find out their rules on mausoleums and whether there is existing mausoleum space available for purchase. Constructing a private mausoleum is an involved task. Prior to construction, one must purchase several cemetery plots to accommodate the mausoleum. Simple mausoleums will cost several hundred thousand dollars, while elaborate designs may exceed $1 million.
Options for Customizing Markers and Associated Costs
Most retailers include the cost of standard engraving in the marker’s price. Some retailers offer an unlimited “text that fits” policy while others have a character limit that’s include with the base price. Things like custom fonts or extra text beyond the allowed character limit will increase the cost of the marker. Custom-designed artwork or images will also cost more to engrave, although many retailers offer pre-designed images that will not increase the price.
Pictures may be mounted onto markers at an additional cost. Porcelain pictures sized at about 4″ x 6″ begin around $300. Pictures may be bought at the same time as the marker, or purchased separately and installed later using industrial adhesive tape. The tape may be included with the picture or incur an additional fee.
Bronze frames are also available for pictures. While price depends on the size of the photo, bronze frames will usually cost at least another $100. There may also be an additional fee for attaching the picture to the frame. Pictures with frames are also mounted onto markers using industrial tape.
Many markers come with the option of adding an attached vase for flowers. Granite vases will add about $300 to the price of the marker, though there are vases available for less. Granite vases are mounted with adhesive tape, which may be included in the price if bought separately from the marker. Bronze vases start around $400. If the bronze vase is not ordered with the marker, a bronze ring will also be necessary for installing the vase. Bronze rings will add another $200 to $300 to the price of the marker.
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Cemetery Rules to Be Aware Of
Cemeteries have rules restricting the type, size, and features of markers. Before shopping for a marker, consult the cemetery to find out their restrictions and be sure that they will permit the marker you plan to buy. Some cemeteries will require you to purchase markers from specific vendors, or will charge an installation fee if you purchase from a vendor outside of their approved list.
If you have not yet picked a cemetery, check into the grave marker restrictions before buying a burial plot. The Federal Trade Commission has published information on buying cemetery plots.
If buying a marker from a funeral home, be aware of the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule. This rule gives consumers the right to buy individual goods or services rather than packages, which often inflate the price of individual goods or services. This rule does not cover cemeteries.
Cemeteries also charge setting or installation fees, which refer to the cost of delivering, storing, and installing a marker. According to federal law, the fee can only cover these three items. Cemeteries may charge installation fees regardless of where you buy your marker.
The average grave marker costs between $1,500 and $2,000, but numerous variables can affect this price. Because of the variety of options available, many people choose to consider the type of marker they will purchase before their loved one’s death to avoid making difficult decisions while grieving. Early planning also allows people to choose their own markers. Remember to always check cemetery rules first to avoid purchasing a marker that won’t be allowed.