How Much Should a Headstone Actually Cost?

CNN recently reported that the pandemic has claimed over 900,000 lives in the United States since COVID-19 first visited the country in January 2020.

It disrupted the global supply chain when demand for memorials rose. Essential materials, including rubber stencils, stone, and saws, are in limited supply, further encouraging the surged prices for headstones.

This eventually has made it difficult for grieving families to mourn in peace. And if they're given the option, they have to cash out a ton for their loved one's sake.

What Is a Headstone and Why Does It Cost So Much?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a headstone is a burial monument put at the top of a grave, a practice that was first introduced in 1676. They might have been engraved, but their function was to secure a departed corpse in a tomb or the earth.

Since the headstone's inscription represents an individual's life, some families may consider putting biblical quotes, achievements, and virtuous characteristics of the deceased in the epitaph as a way to honor them.

A framed picture of the dead may also be etched on a gravestone. You can even include an emblem, like ivy, a six-pointed star, or a rosary.

Like other things, headstones come in various forms, including the following.

Kerbed Headstones

These are full-length headstones that rest flat on the ground and define the grave's perimeter. Inscriptions and artwork are commonly included on the upper end to allow more creative freedom.

Many families choose to grow flowers and create sculptures to offer a distinctive finishing touch to the site.

This style of headstone usually takes a significant amount of effort, so expect to spend between $2,000 and $5,000. A few companies may also offer the inscription's first 20 letters for free.

Kerbed Headstone Example

Flat Headstones

Flat headstones have the same surface space as upright headstones, so they have room for engravings. They may be level with the ground or slightly slanted and are usually weather resistant.

These are also known as "grass markers." They're the most affordable, with prices ranging from $130 to $600. If you want a more refined color, like a rare granite hue, with bolder text and intricate artwork, you'll have to spend roughly $800 to over $1,500.

Flat Headstone Example

Upright Headstones

This is the most common choice in the US. The stone itself might be limestone, granite, or marble. This option is fantastic for writing large amounts of text and can be altered to your preference.

A modest upright headstone costs as little as $700, while size, material, engravings, and color may add up to $10,000. Typically, they go from $1,000 to $3,000 according to these factors.

A granite headstone with a family name will likely run around $2,000. However, you'll be looking at a $4,000-$5,000 product if you include other customizations.

Upright Headstone Example

Although they appear to be a low-cost material at first glance, these stones don't come cheap. A headstone's materials take thousands of years to make. It's a nonrenewable resource, making it valuable, particularly when it comes to marble and granite.

Breaking Down the Cost of a Headstone

Negotiating the expense of a loved one's headstone should be the last thing on your mind at this difficult time. Knowing the price range for your choice can help you get a better deal.

Reminder: Cemeteries have varying laws and restrictions regulating the headstone that may be in place. The limits might determine the headstone's design, size, or even material.

Headstone Stone Cost

Granite is the most common headstone material nowadays. Its hues are sourced from far-flung corners of the globe, so the color you choose will affect the price.

A more exotic stone must be delivered and taxed, which raises the price. Granite is long-lasting and affordable at roughly $450.

Marble is a more costly alternative, ranging from $1,500 to $1,800 on average.

Marble headstones also deteriorate faster than granite headstones. Yet many still love and appreciate its polished look. Keep in mind that you may need to do extra maintenance to keep it looking its best.

Granite Versus Marble Headstone

If your supplier has the material in stock, a headstone can be delivered to you in 1-2 months. If you choose a rare stone that must be imported, it might take 5-6 months.

Gravestone Engraving

Aside from the actual stone material, creating a headstone requires excellent engraving. The overall cost varies based on the complexity of the inscription.

For inscriptions up to 20-30 letters long, engraving costs around $20 per letter. Beyond that length, additional lettering is often estimated at $10 per character.

Meanwhile, a standard headstone with your loved one's name, birth date, and death date will set you back roughly $500.

Instead of etching directly on the stone, you might have an etched plaque made. Engraved bronze plaques are often used since they're inexpensive and durable. They can also lend detail to a flat headstone that would otherwise be plain.

Bronze and aluminum memorial plaques commonly range from $100 to $300. Simple plates are less expensive, while complicated plaques can have a higher price tag.

Grave Monument Installation

Most cemeteries offer headstone installation services to help out the family. Their price for a modest flat burial headstone might range from $50 to $200.

The headstone's size and style, including the required amount of foundation, are also critical factors in the quote.

Note: The grave is unmarked until the headstone is made. For $20-$30, a cemetery or funeral home can sell you an aluminum and glass temporary memorial, while an aluminum picture frame and a small metal spike may be used to make a DIY marker.

If the cemetery doesn't offer this service, you should think about hiring a professional crew. It's not advisable to install a headstone yourself.

Installing a headstone requires stone measuring, drilling a suitable-sized hole, and, in many instances, a concrete base (You can skip this step for a little flat headstone).

Expect to spend $150-$450 depending on the labor necessary and the stone's size. Installing a companion headstone typically costs $300-$600, but the price may escalate if a concrete base is required.

Headstone Maintenance

Even though headstones are made of durable materials, they still need regular upkeep.

You should contact professional cleaners to make the procedure easier and prolong the stone's life, especially if you don't want to be responsible for hands-on cemetery care all the time.

Headstone cleaning costs anywhere from $40 to $170, depending on the company. You can also include services such as grass watering and flower planting.

In some cases, you'll spend between $200 and $500 every 5-10 years, or $50 annually, when the headstone isn't maintained properly.

Gravestone Restoration

Besides basic maintenance, headstones occasionally need restoration and repair since temperature, rain, and wind may erode away the stone's shine or intricacies.

This may include meticulously polishing the stone to restore its former sheen. Or, in severe cases, a total replacement of the concrete foundation.

Keep in mind that repair expenses vary based on the stone's condition. So a decent-looking headstone with minor flaws like fading lettering won't be as costly.

Pricing generally starts at $99.99 and may increase based on the company's evaluation. The job is typically completed in a day, but it might take up to three days, depending on the workload.  

How to Save Money on a Headstone

A headstone shouldn't cost you an arm and a leg. Although some companies promise to provide free services, this is generally included in the final price. To save money, you must take into account all factors.

Plan Ahead

Buying in advance or making prepaid preparations can save you money. This relieves the family of unnecessary burden upon your death.

The family might also pick a product together, sorting it out in advance. In any case, you can choose a manufacturer that offers a headstone design that suits your taste and do the engraving for a reasonable price.

Pro Tip: By completing a VA Form 40-1330, Claim for Standard Government Headstone, the Veterans Administration (VA) will give a government headstone for the unmarked grave of any qualifying deceased veteran in any cemetery worldwide at no charge to the family.

More importantly, companies adjust their pricing to respond to inflation throughout the winter. Placing an order before the end of January allows you to benefit from last year's rate, saving you up to 3%.

In addition to battling price hikes, some memorial firms may hold sales specials since it's a sluggish season for their business.

Go Minimal (Bigger Isn’t Always Better)

Keeping an upright headstone in place is challenging, costly, and may even demand higher transport fees altogether.

A modest flat or slanted headstone, on the other hand, may cost the absolute minimum and look just as wonderful. Consider making a low-cost alteration, such as choosing a plaque made out of aluminum or bronze.

If you want a particular stone or color but customizing it costs more than $500, review the order's cost breakdown and determine which features you can do without.

It'll be best to consult with the cemetery to find out the lowest sizes permitted and then look for headstones that fit within that range.

Share the Cost of a Headstone

More elaborate headstones may require teaming together with your spouse or other family members. If budget is your priority, consider buying and erecting a single companion headstone instead of two separate ones.

A more elaborate family stone allows you to use fewer flat headstones for each individual while enjoying a beautiful upright headstone.

This technique helps everyone involved by cutting costs and providing a headstone to serve your family for years.

You may even look for a local supplier in the Monument Builders of North America or the American Institute of Commemorative Art directories for professionals with strict quality standards.

What Is the Average Cost of a Headstone?

A headstone's average cost in the United States, including installation, is $1,000.

Flat headstones are frequently the cheapest available option for those on a shoestring budget. The more upright and bigger a headstone becomes, the more costly it becomes without regard to material type.

A stunning headstone doesn't need to break the bank. It's possible to stay within budget and buy a meaningful memorial by strategic planning and setting priorities.