Choosing a funeral director

There are dozens of funeral directors operating in Melbourne, and they offer a very wide range of services and prices. The “Traditional” family owned companies, and the international “Corporate Chains”, can offer every service. The “low-cost” companies usually only offer limited services. The cheapest services start at less than $2,000, the standard price is usually between $5000-$9000 (sometimes twice that for the big corporations), and expensive services cost tens of thousands of dollars.

The ‘traditional’ Australian family owned companies, whether single premises or small chains, are set up to provide ‘full-service’ funerals.

They have all the necessary chapels and facilities to provide for every possible need, and most options like viewings of the deceased, cars for the family, memorial books, and other extras, are included in their standard service fee.

Many of them allow you to pay half up front, and the rest of the funeral later.

These are the companies that have the most consistent standards, and usually they also enjoy the best feedback. This is often because they do a higher level of personal service, and you deal with one arranger/director from start to finish. (Unlike the big corporates, where you will often get a new face at every stage.)

Their price ranges from very low to very high depending on the company. It is wise to get more than one quote.

The ‘corporate chain of many trading names’ is a recent American introduction.

The biggest corporations that are majority American owned now list on the Australian stock exchange, so they can get away with pretending that they are actually Australian companies. (In fact your local MacDonalds franchise has a far higher percentage of Australian ownership than most of these companies do.)

Many famous old Victorian funeral parlours, and many of the big names now flooding the airwaves with television and radio advertising, are now subsumed into these international conglomerations.

They provide a full range of services, usually with good quality control, but cost cutting sometimes involves over-centralization of resources, which can affect their service levels.

Instead of all-inclusive prices, they will often sell everything separately: a “will you have handles with that coffin” approach. Regardless of their quoted starting price, they almost inevitably finish up well above average in total cost, so always get more than one quote.

The ‘low-cost’ companies are another recent concept, this time an Australian idea.

They assume that you want a simple service with a minimum of fuss, such as a Single Service, or even an Unattended service; and their advertised prices reflect this.

Some can offer a range of additional services up to a Full Service funeral, but this will bring their price up towards (or sometimes even beyond) a level of the traditional family companies.

One of the reasons that they are sometimes cheaper is that they expect cash upfront. This is one of the things that allows them to cut costs to the bone.

These companies can offer excellent alternatives, particularly if you know that you only want the basic services.

Nonetheless, too many of these companies are ill considered start ups, with about 70 odd coming and going again in the last decade. Some are 'backyard' operations with completely inadequate facilities that would never be acceptable for membership of the professional bodies.

(Amity is certainly a 'low cost' but we have been around for 25 years, and our facilities have been inspected by the NFDA – National Funeral Directors Association – and certified by them. So we do not consider ourselves to be 'backyard'.)

If you do use a 'low cost', choose carefully to find the reputable ones, and always assume that aggressive undercutting might be a warning sign.

Always check exactly what they offer, and get more than one quote.

Which company you should go to depends on what you want. The traditional Full ‘church with all the trimmings’ Service will be done best, if not cheapest, by the Australian family owned Full Service companies; while the Single Service at a crematorium will be done cheapest, if not best, by the Low Cost companies.
Amity specializes in Low Cost funerals, but if you need a higher level of service, we can do full service if required, and can promise a very competitive quote.

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