How to Arrange Transportation for a Funeral

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Odds are high that, at some point in your life, you’ve stopped on the road to let a funeral procession pass by. And you probably didn’t give the procession much thought once you were on your way. Yet when you’re planning a funeral, it’s these types of logistical details that have to be organized to make sure the day goes as smoothly as possible. Use this starter list to help you think through your choices.

Getting the body to the funeral home

Whether you’re having a funeral and burial or not, you’ll probably need to transport the body of your loved one to the funeral home from the place of death.

If you’re moving the body by ground transportation

The funeral home can help arrange this for you. A local move (say, from the hospital to the funeral home), generally costs less than a few hundred dollars. For a move across state lines, though, you’ll have to account for additional regulations and higher costs. Some states require that a body be embalmed before it enters or leaves the state, for instance, which can add $800 or more to the final expenses, if you weren’t already planning to embalm the body.

If you’re moving the body by air transport

You won’t be able to deal with the airlines directly. Instead, you’ll have to find a funeral home that’s registered as a “known shipper,” which means they’re able to coordinate the transport of human remains by air transportation. The price of such a move can range from $1,000 for a short, domestic flight to up to $10,000 for an international flight on the other side of the globe. Transporting cremated remains can slash that cost by more than half, and many families facing such high transportation costs opt to have the body cremated and then shipped.

Getting the body to the burial site

Once at the funeral home, the next step involved is getting the body to the burial site (if you’re not choosing cremation). The most common way to transport a body is in a hearse, and this type of vehicle can be organized by the funeral home or arranged independently through a third-party company (check with limousine rental companies near you). Though prices fluctuate somewhat by location, hearse fees range from $100 to $500. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask the funeral home for a price estimate and then shop that quote against local independent companies.

Getting funeral attendees to the burial site

For the family: Consider a limousine

Many funeral processions include a limousine, which trails the hearse from the funeral home to the burial site. Having the deceased person’s immediate family in the limousine has a two-fold benefit: It allows the intimate group to comfort one another during the drive, and it eliminates the real risk of driving while emotionally upset.

If you plan to rent a limousine, the funeral home will have a list of recommended vendors, or you can call local companies directly. You’ll want to ask for the seat count in advance, and invite specific people to ride with you well before the funeral, so there’s no confusion in the transition from funeral to burial site about who is riding where.

For the funeral procession

Funeral processions also often include a lead car: typically a standard black sedan, with hazard lights flashing and white funeral flags to alert other motorists that a funeral procession is underway. A funeral home staff member usually drives the lead car and navigates the procession.

The funeral attendant will also attach magnetic flags or signs to each vehicle in the procession. This is a way to signal to other traffic which cars are part of the procession and should be given the right of way. You’ll want to drive slowly (typically 30 to 40 miles per hour), keep your headlights on, and stay close to the vehicle in front of you. Even if it means driving through a red light, you don’t want to break the procession or allow other traffic to get between you and the car ahead of you. Rest assured that the law give funeral processions the right of way (even to cross an intersection at a red light).

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