Reasons to Buy a Cemetery Plot in Advance

Despite the growing interest in cremation during the past several decades, ground burial of a deceased human body is a common form of disposition in many countries worldwide, such as the United States, Poland and Italy, and in areas where religious beliefs prohibit bodily disposition by fire.

This article explores three reasons you might want to buy a cemetery plot before you die, and the advantages that buying a gravesite in advance of death can offer if interment in a cemetery (whether above or below ground) is your preferred form of final disposition.

A Headstone
Rob Atkins / Getty Images

"They Ain't Makin' No More"

Explaining why he continually invested his money in oceanfront property, humorist Will Rogers once said, "For the sole reason that there was only so much of it and no more, and that they wasent [sic] making any more." The land is indeed a finite resource, and any real estate agent will tell you that the most important rule governing a property's purchase price is "Location, Location, Location." Two identical houses placed on significantly different properties — one with a beautiful ocean view and the other overlooking a crowded landfill, for example — will sell for vastly different sums.

The same principle governs the cost of a cemetery plot. The desirability of a particular gravesite, specifically, and the availability of plots within a particular cemetery, generally, drive demand and therefore the amount of money people are willing to pay.

Many graveyards today face a harsh reality: they cannot create more burial space and will eventually run out of room. Add to this the decreasing amount of land available for use as a cemetery due to the inexorable spread of residential and business development, zoning restrictions, and the fact that many existing cemeteries are now landlocked because of urban expansion, and it's easy to understand why some graveyards will eventually need to hang "No Vacancy" signs on their main gates.

In addition, even cemeteries with plenty of available space for the next several decades have fully plotted — cookie-cutter fashion — the most efficient use of that real estate in order to maximize the number of saleable gravesites and then priced these plots according to geographic desirability. Unfortunately, there are far fewer pastoral sites beneath shady oak trees atop grassy hills than there are run-of-the-mill plots lost among row after row of tombstones breaking up otherwise nondescript acreage. Guess which type of site sells soonest.

Thus, purchasing a gravesite sooner rather than later generally offers you not only a greater number of sites from which to choose within any given cemetery but also a larger selection of desirable locations.

Death, Taxes and the CPI

According to Benjamin Franklin, only death and taxes were certainties, but if he still lived today, he would probably add the fact that just about everything grows more expensive over time. (The U.S. federal government's Consumer Price Index, or CPI, reflects this increase in the average price of goods through the years.)

For example, in 1991, the cost of a regular adult funeral averaged $3,742. As of 2019, the median price for an adult funeral costs $7,640, (a figure that doesn't even reflect the cost of a cemetery plot and headstone, among other funerary items).

Even disregarding the desirability of a particular item (as noted above) and how it affects price, the growth of any given population (among other factors) increases the cost of finite-resource goods, i.e., more people wanting the same item means some of them can/are willing to spend more for it than others.

Therefore, buying a gravesite sooner rather than later likely means that the price you pay now for a plot will be less than you will pay in the future.

The Luxury of Time

Another significant advantage of buying a gravesite in advance of death is the ability to "shop around." While the idea of comparing the plots offered by two or more cemeteries might seem odd, purchasing a gravesite without the pressure of imminently burying a loved one allows you to weigh your options more clearly without feeling clouded by grief and loss.

The numerous decisions that must be made following the death of someone you love can prove burdensome when planning a funeral and burial because of the time constraints involved. Grappling with a myriad of choices in the midst of sadness, it is common to select services and options without too much thought simply because the immediacy of getting things done demands it.

On the other hand, by shopping for a cemetery plot before it is needed, you eliminate such pressure and can think clearly. With the luxury of time on your side, you can fully research your options, preplan your funeral and burial, prepare a list of questions to ask, and even tour the cemetery in advance.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Wyoming Funeral Directors Association. Funeral Costs.

  2. NFDA. 2019 NFDA General Price List Study Shows Funeral Costs Not Rising As Fast As Rate of Inflation. December 19, 2019.

By Chris Raymond
Chris Raymond is an expert on funerals, grief, and end-of-life issues, as well as the former editor of the world’s most widely read magazine for funeral directors.