How do you compare funeral directors in Australia?
This is the question that struck us when my great aunt passed away. It sounds like it should be a simple thing to do with so much information now freely available on the internet. Unfortunately, however, that wasn’t the case. We found the whole process of comparing funeral directors and finding the right funeral home to look after us incredibly stressful and time consuming.
What follows is a description of the challenges we faced – the same challenges that are faced by hundreds of Australians every day – and what eventually led us to build Gathered Here.
Building a list of funeral directors
Where to even start was our first challenge. We couldn’t find a comprehensive list of local funeral directors so we were forced to build our own through a combination of google searches such as “list of funeral directors” and “best funeral directors”, word of mouth recommendations and even consulting the old hard-copy Yellow Pages phone book.
Researching funeral costs
Once we had put together a list of funeral directors in our area, we then went about the task of calling each funeral home to understand their services and pricing. What we discovered was an eye opening range of service levels and transparency in the funeral industry. Some funeral directors were extremely generous with their time and happy to talk us through their services and the different options, and some were not, even to the extent of being annoyed with us when we couldn’t describe the exact style of funeral we wanted immediately. But the most stressful part, without a doubt, was trying to understand and compare funeral costs.
Of course, a number of funeral directors were extremely clear on their costs, providing itemised breakdowns over the phone or sharing public price lists from their websites. However, for the most part, funeral homes would usually throw out a ballpark figure (rounded to the nearest thousand), and when asked to breakdown the price, would either refuse or explain how it was too complicated to do so. Some funeral directors even told us it was their policy not to provide pricing over the phone and that if we wanted details we would have to meet with them in person. Under time pressure and emotional stress, it was the last thing we wanted to do.
Comparing funeral directors side by side
When we finally had our price lists, they were difficult to understand and it was impossible to compare funeral costs side by side as they were all set out differently. The best quotes would itemise components individually, but most quotes would arbitrarily lump different services and products together. For more guidance on understanding funeral costs and quote structures, see our guide to understanding funeral costs in Australia.
Ultimately, what we really needed was a simple, standardised approach to comparing funeral costs.
It’s not only about the price
With the average cost of a funeral in Australia rising steadily over the past decade, price is an important consideration for most families, so it’s natural that it’s often one of the first enquiries made. For a detailed breakdown of the costs involved, read our articles on the average cost of a burial and the average cost of a cremation.
On one hand, we could understand why funeral directors were almost always hesitant to clearly state their prices. For them it can feel like customers simply want their price list so they can shop the offer around and negotiate the cheapest cost elsewhere.
But for us, while funeral cost was an important consideration, it was just one component of our research. Far more important were things like compassion, trust, service and the confidence that they understood who my great aunt was and how best to pay respect to her memory. In our experience, being evasive about costs only worked to undermine our trust and confidence – it was a terrible first discussion and a deal-breaker.
Choosing on reputation
Once we had our shortlist, we needed to make our decision. We wanted to be confident in our choice and know that our chosen funeral director would properly look after us. After all, there are a lot of moving parts that go into planning a funeral and we wanted to find someone who could help us get it right. If you are at the planning stage, you may find our guide to planning a funeral service a helpful starting point.
Getting comfortable with the final decision was a lot harder than it needed to be. We really needed a source of independent customer reviews for funeral homes. For some of the more well known providers, we were able to find a handful reviews online but for the smaller, family run funeral homes it was difficult to find any reviews at all.
Our gut instinct was to choose a smaller, local funeral home. The community ties, the higher levels of personal service and attention, and the flexibility to customise the ceremony were attractive, but ultimately we felt that we couldn’t be 100% certain on the service without the confirmation of independent reviews, and we ended up selecting one of the bigger name funeral homes simply for the brand name confidence. That’s not how it necessarily should have been, but we felt that it was the less risky option.
At the end of the day, selecting the right funeral director shouldn’t be about taking the least risky option – it shouldn’t require a leap of faith. We should be able to choose the funeral home – whether big or small – that best matches our family’s needs.
An independent, comprehensive funeral home comparison website
There’s nothing harder than dealing with the passing of those we truly love. It’s a time of immense emotional distress. Yet it’s at that exact moment that we’re faced with so much to organise. The experience that I’ve described above took a total of four days of research, phone calls, meetings and discussions. Most families simply don’t have that time.
It’s our sincere hope that Gathered Here makes the process of finding the right funeral home a little easier for Australian families.
With independent and comprehensive lists of local funeral directors, standardised and itemised price lists, and independent customer reviews, what took us four days to achieve can now be done in minutes.
See the full picture and make fully informed decisions. Move forward in the certainty that your loved one’s memory will be looked after. Funeral Homes are Gathered Here.