Donna Christopher

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Why Funerals Cost More On Long Island

Planning a funeral will save both money and tears. (Getty Images)

It should come as no surprise that not only do Long Islanders contend with a high cost of living, but dying here also comes with a lofty price tag.

Funerals typically cost about $9,744 in Nassau and Suffolk counties, which is 31 to 67 percent higher than the average cost in 100 large metro areas nationwide, according to a recent New York Post analysis of funeral cost data compiled by funeralocity.com

“One of the most expensive places to live is Nassau and Suffolk counties so, of course, that trickles down to every business, not just the funeral business,” says John Vigliante, a fourth-generation funeral director and owner of Branch Funeral Homes in Smithtown and Miller Place. “You can do a full-service funeral on Long Island with the casket and everything for $7,500. The price ranges from $7,500 to $15,000.”

That’s opposed to funerals reportedly costing between $2,124 to $7,422 elsewhere in the United States.

Michael Lanotte, the executive director of the New York State Funeral Directors Association, notes that funeral homes often disclose pricing on their websites.

“We have a public awareness campaign called Good at Goodbyes and a website with information for planning funerals,” he says. “We try to ensure that our funeral directors work with consumers.”

As for the local funerals, the high costs are due to a familiar expense: taxes.

“You have to look at the daily cost of running a funeral home,” says Stephen Graziano, manager at Krauss Funeral Home in Franklin Square. “We always try to keep our funeral costs as low as possible.”

Large Long Island funeral homes on big lots can pay from $60,000 to $100,000 a year in real estate taxes, according to Graziano. He also said staff members at Krauss are paid well enough to live here and get medical benefits and pensions.

And while his business works with everyone’s budget, including having a widely priced range of casket choices, there are costs out of their control, such as the cemetery, where grave openings can run $2,200 and up. They are most expensive on Saturdays.

When her husband died unexpectedly in 2017, Wantagh resident Stephanie Anderson had the difficult task of planning his funeral, which cost $12,000.

“I didn’t want him displayed in a funeral home,” Anderson  says. “My Greek church laid him out open casket on the altar for two hours prior to the funeral. My husband is buried at Calverton because he’s a Vietnam veteran, otherwise I would have had that expense as well. So my husband’s $12,000 funeral did not include funeral home services or burial.”

Vigliante says prices vary with options. 

“Some people want to be very elaborate and some want to be basic, and some want to be in the middle,” he says.

He also points to the cost of opening graves for a casket. The burial of ashes cost much less, noting the range is from $2,800 to $3,000. 

“Cemeteries give me the prices every year and they go up eight to 10 percent,” he says. “The cremation rate on Long Island is about 50 percent,” and a savings in terms of funeral costs. 

Families can also cut costs by driving themselves to funerals instead of hiring limousines that can cost around $500 each. The average family hires three, Vigliante says.

But some cost-cutting measures are better than others. Graziano says families sometimes order caskets online rather than from the funeral home.

“I’ve had some caskets come in here, bought online from third-party vendors, [that were] in no condition for burial,” he says.