Simple Guide to Headstone Prices and Costs

Published September 10, 2020
Blank Tombstone at Cemetery with Flowers

Purchasing a headstone for a loved one involves looking at factors like materials, color, engraving, design, and installation at the burial site. These factors can significantly increase the headstone prices, although you can find savings if you and your family plan ahead so you won't need to worry about handling this issue during the grieving period.

Average Headstone Prices

A typical headstone will cost about $1,000 once you've added in the cost of engraving and installation. Headstone prices can increase as you opt for more details, which can run between $2,000 to $3,000. Truly elaborate headstones can approach prices as high as $10,000, although this is not the norm for most. To understand the range of prices, look at the different factors that go into creating a headstone.

Simple Guide to Headstone Costs

Most headstones are made from either marble, granite or bronze.

Granite Headstone Cost

Granite is the most popular option and comes in a range of colors, some of which can cost more than others because they're imported from other countries. Colors can range from a standard gray, which is the cheapest option, to pricier colors like coral, blue pearl, or aurora red. The other important factor in choosing granite is the grade, which is based on the durability of the stone with higher grades lasting longer against the elements. On average, you can expect to pay about a final price $450 for a simple engraved gray granite headstone.

Marble Headstone Pricing

Marble is less popular than granite because it's more expensive. It only comes in shades of white and gray. It's also not nearly as durable as granite, which means you'll need to have money budgeted for regular maintenance. The average cost for a small flat marble headstone starts around $400 up to around $1,500 for an upright grave marker.

Cost for Bronze Headstones

Bronze is the most expensive option, with simple flat headstones starting around $900 and larger markers can cost around $3,500.

Headstone Finish

Another addition to the cost is the type of finish for the headstone. A granite headstone with a polished finish will have a glossy, high-end look to it, but this will cost more compared to a rock pitched or sawn finish. These finishes look more like natural stone and have less of a shiny surface. Aside from being cheaper because an additional coating process is not required, they are also cheaper to maintain in the long run compared to a polished finish which needs regular upkeep and cleaning.

Headstone Size and Type

The type and size are also factors in determining the headstone price. There are five common sizes of headstones with varying average prices for a single grave marker delinated in the graphic above.

Average Cost of Headstone Engraving

Once you've chosen the stone, you need to pay for the engraving. At a minimum, you will want to engrave the person's name and the dates they were born and died. The average cost of headstone engraving is around $20 per letter, which depends on the complexity of the lettering. Most engravers cap the cost at a maximum of 20 to 30 letters, charging an additional fee of $8 to $10 per letter for more. If you intend to engrave an inscription or artistic details like religious symbols, flowers, or other artwork, you can expect the cost to increase significantly.

Engraved Plaques

Another option that families consider instead of engraving the actual headstone is having a plaque made to place on the stone. These are usually made from bronze or aluminum, and the engraver can do the work on the plaque prior to mounting it onto the headstone. This option can run between $100 to $300 depending on the length of the text and the detailing you choose on the plaque.

Woman Holding Flowers Next to a Headstone

Shipping the Headstone

Another cost to consider is shipping if you choose to order the stone online. While you can find savings by working with a memorial company online, most will charge you shipping, which can be quite a lot depending on the size and materials in the headstone and the shipping distance. Make sure you're aware of a company's shipping policy before you start shopping to avoid sticker shock.

Headstone Installation

Once you've chosen the headstone, you still need to pay to have it installed at the gravesite. This service is usually offered by the cemetery you choose, although you can also hire a third-party installation service. Most cemeteries will not allow you to do it yourself, though if you are on a budget you can inquire if that's an option. Installation for a typical standard headstone will run about $50 to $450, assuming it does not require a concrete foundation to be installed. The cost of a concrete foundation starts at about $300 on average for a standard size monument.

Maintaining a Headstone

Even durable headstones made from granite will need maintenance due to damage from environmental factors like wind, snow, and rain. You have the option of caring for the headstone on your own or hiring a professional company. Rates to clean a headstone will run about $40 to $170.

Saving Money on Headstones

Purchasing your headstone ahead of time can sometimes save you money, although you should be aware that some cemeteries have restrictions on where you can purchase a grave marker. They may have preferred vendors that they only work with, or they will allow you to purchase from an outside vendor but charge you a higher fee for installation. Shopping around and buying online may yield savings, but you'll need to include shipping in those calculations, as well as have a place to store the marker, which some cemeteries will do for a fee. You also need to consider engraving, which may need to be updated after a loved one has died to enter their death date, and this will cost an extra fee.

Best Practices for Purchasing a Headstone

Deciding on the materials, design, and size of a headstone is a personal choice based both on your individual beliefs and budget. It pays to shop ahead of an anticipated funeral to look at the wide range of pricing for different materials, colors, finishes, and engraving designs. An additional benefit to shopping ahead of time is that it allows you and your family to spend time consoling each other after a death rather than worrying about choosing for a headstone. It also allows one the chance to have input on what they'd like to see in their own grave marker. This can reduce potential family conflicts over what the deceased would have wanted if they're involved in this difficult decision.

Simple Guide to Headstone Prices and Costs