The diversity of funeral, burial, and memorial rites and rituals across different regions of the country has led to establishment of various different types of funeral homes. As society’s views on death and mourning have changed over time, a variety of new types funeral homes evolved to supplement and replace the historic funeral parlor with the modern funeral home.

Funeral Homes can be classified by a number of factors. The most the important distinctions can be made based on the facilities available, services offered, any religious affiliation, and the ownership of the firm.

Purpose and Characteristics of Funeral Home Types

The different types of funeral homes serve and reflect their community’s unique cultural, traditions and religious observances surrounding mourning and grieving. The continuous evolution of different types of care and preparation provided to a decedent (refrigeration vs cremation vs embalming), the decreasing length of pre-funeral visitation, the increase in post-service meals, changes in religious vs secular observance, and the impact of internet-based technology has led to the establishment of a variety of funeral home types.

The most common types of funeral homes include full-service funeral home, independent funeral director, cemetery-funeral home combination, crematory-funeral home combination, and religious funeral providers.

Common Funeral Home Types

  • A Full-Service Funeral Home is a dedicated facility that is able to care for deceased individuals from the time of death, until the time of burial. Full-service funeral homes have a funeral chapel that can be used for any visitation, funeral, and/or memorial services as well as on-site preparation facilities. Full-service funeral homes provide services including bathing, dressing, refrigeration, and embalming. Some full-service funeral homes may host meals of condolence or catered receptions following services. In many states, it is common practice to have a funeral director, or funeral student intern, live in the funeral home so that decedents can be cared for at all times of the day and night.
  • Independent Funeral Directors are practicing funeral directors who operate without direct control of their own preparation and chapel facilities. Independent funeral directors will contract for, or outsource, part(s) of the arrangement, coordination and burial preparation process. In most states, independent funeral directors must receive the same professional education, maintain the same state-based licensing, and comply with the same continuing education requirements as full-service funeral home directors. *State requirements vary considerably by state.
  • Cemetery-Funeral Home Combinations have become popular options in the last number of decades. The convenience of having both funeral services and cemetery burial services together in the same place, simplifies the service arrangements and eliminates the need for lengthy processions from the funeral home to the cemetery. Cemetery-funeral home combinations may share staff, ownership and facilities allowing an enhanced level of integrated care. There are specific state jurisdictions such as Wisconsin that will not allow the shared ownership of cemeteries and funeral home combinations.
  • As the cremation rate increases nationally, funeral home–crematory combinations have proliferated across the country. This specialized combination of services allows an individual to be cared for and cremated within the same facility and under the supervision of the same funeral director and staff. The addition of a certified cremation operator is necessary when a funeral home adds a crematory.
  • Religious groups and orders may, in some communities, prefer to care for their own dead. Religious service providers must follow the secular rules, regulations and legalities of the specific jurisdiction. Frequently, religious service providers are also trained, licensed and certified funeral directors.

Cost of Funeral Services

The cost of funeral goods and services will depend on the type of funeral home, type of preparation (refrigeration or embalming), type of funeral service, inclusion of visitation or meals of condolence, selection of casket, selection of burial vault, clergy, and additional cash advance items. Additionally, the cost of funeral arrangements will depend on the location and type of cemetery and burial services. Costs vary between regions with large disparities between rural and urban service providers. Full-service funeral homes tend to have higher costs because they are able to completely service a family without having to outsource any part of the care and service. Independent funeral directors are able to offer lower costs because of their lower fixed-cost overhead however; they are not able to off their control over the entirety of the funeral process. Combos, both cemetery-funeral and cremation-funeral are not markedly different in cost when compared to non-combination providers.

Ancillary Information about Funeral Homes

A funeral home can be owned and operated by a family, sole-proprietor, small business, or by a larger conglomerate. Over the last 20 years, a wave of acquisitions and mergers occurred whereby a large number or independent funeral homes were purchased by large public and private conglomerates. Conglomerate owned funeral homes may be able to offer consistent goods and services nationally, however they may not be able to offer the personalized level of community engagement at the traditional family-owned firm provides.

ALL funeral homes regardless of type, size, ownership or facilities must adhere to the FTC Funeral Rules. The FTC Funeral Rules are requirements placed on funeral homes by the federal trade commission in order to provide consumer protections such as transparent pricing practices and adequate disclosures.