2012-03-29 / Community

Survey looks at burial costs in Ventura County

By Darleen Principe

A full funeral service in Ventura County can cost upwards of $6,000, according to a recent survey by the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Southern California.

And that figure doesn’t include the cost of a casket, a cemetery plot or a headstone.

Earlier this month, FCASC— a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization—released its 2012 Ventura County Funeral Price Survey, which compares the current prices of cremations, burials and funeral services offered by 23 funeral homes throughout the county.

According to the survey, the price of a full funeral—which typically includes the assistance of a funeral director and staff, transport of the deceased, embalming, viewings and accompaniment to a graveside ceremony—can cost anywhere from $3,310 to $6,740, depending on the provider.

“That’s why this price survey is so important,” said Shannon Shoup, president and founder of FCASC. “It’s really difficult if you’re a consumer, especially if you were going to plan a funeral at the time of a death, to comparison shop.

“Most people will only plan one or two funerals in their life, and they’re often doing it at a time when they’re not in the best position to be a smart shopper.”

The local organization, which is an affiliate of the Vermont-based National Funeral Consumers Alliance, helps consumers make fair price comparisons for end-of-life arrangements and ensures that funeral homes are in compliance with rules set forth by the Federal Trade Commission.

Funeral home price lists are often confusing, which makes it difficult to effectively compare costs when shopping for services, Shoup said.

“I think (consumers) should definitely know what their rights are and what they’re entitled to be given in terms of the price list,” she said. “I strongly recommend they (visit funeral homes) with someone who’s maybe not as impacted by the death they’re experiencing— someone who may be more of a clear thinker to support them.”

Survey findings

In compiling the survey, FCASC requested price lists from 27 licensed funeral homes in Ventura County and was able to obtain lists from 23 of them.

The survey was broken down into three service categories—direct cremation, immediate burial and full funeral.

Direct cremation, the least expensive of the services, costs Ventura County customers an average of $1,723. Depending on the provider, the price can range anywhere from $795 to $3,445 for essentially the same service.

According to the survey, direct cremations in the county cost the least in Camarillo, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Moorpark and Ojai.

Immediate burials, which do not include viewings or memorial services, cost an average of $2,093 Ventura County. The average cost of a full funeral is $4,638.

The survey found that Santa Paula, Oxnard, Fillmore and Ventura— the cities with the highest poverty rate and the lowest median income in the county—had the steepest average costs across all three categories.

Shoup said the high prices can be attributed to a greater concentration of corporate-owned funeral homes in these areas, which generally charge more than privately owned facilities.

“I’m sure that if you go to some of these facilities, you’ll see some differences, like what the buildings look like and the amenities they offer,” Shoup said.

She speculated that corporateowned funeral homes tend to operate in areas where they feel they can make the most profits.

Quality of service

Besides comparing costs among funeral homes, Shoup said, consumers should consider a facility’s reputation and quality of service before making a decision.

“But those are very subjective measurements,” she said.

Robert Perez, funeral director of Perez Family funeral homes in Camarillo, Moorpark and Ojai, said his family-owned business emphasizes service and “healing.”

“The way I see it is we treat families how we would want to be treated,” Perez said.

Shoup said consumers should try not to feel pressured when planning a funeral.

“I think it’s important for them to know that this is their funeral and they should really do it the way they want to,” she said.

The 2012 Ventura County Funeral Price Survey is at www.fcasocal.org.

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