Memorial Pricing — What is a Good Value? Part 1

Jun 05, 2015

When buying a memorial for a loved one who has passed away, many consider price first. It’s natural to make decisions by comparing prices. We all do it­—it’s the simplest way to understand what we’re getting. But, if you’re budget is tight (and even it’s not) you want to get the best value for your money. You also want to be sure you’re buying a memorial that will last an eternity. Looking only at price doesn’t give you the whole story. And when buying a monument, knowing what you’re getting for the price is very important.

Most people have little or no experience comparing and buying monuments and headstones, and often assume that a good price means a good value. To be an informed consumer, consider the points below when ascertaining a monument’s value and whether it’s a good investment, and a worthy tribute to your loved one.

Seller / Source — Who are you buying your granite memorial from or through? Granite memorials are commonly made and sold by local or regional monument manufacturers (all memorials and gravestones are fully or partially customized to memorialize an individual or family). Cemeteries and funeral directors usually sell memorials and headstones too, as an adjunct to their other businesses, and often sell the popular products of preferred (or affiliated) monument makers. These days you can also find any number of second-tier memorial vendors (retailers) online, but they all compete primarily on price and typically offer a lower grade product, fewer options, higher shipping costs, and no ability to personally inspect the product or make inquiries with monument experts before you buy.

When purchasing from a funeral director or cemetery be sure to ask about all of your options regarding price, grade of granite, memorial type, and design elements and craftsmanship. If they don’t have the detailed information about options you seek, they can inquire with or introduce you directly to their preferred monument manufacturer—thus ensuring your satisfaction. Before buying online, learn about their material sources, grades, pricing and shipping costs, then visit local monument manufacturers’ showrooms to compare and discuss material and pricing options, and delivery costs. Be sure you know what you are getting from any online vendor.

Not all Granite is Created Equal — Most monuments, memorials and headstones are made of granite because of its comparative durability. You may think granite is granite, but granite is available in different varieties, colors, and grades. Created through unique geologic processes, granite comes from domestic and international quarries. And they all have unique characteristics depending on the source. Some granite varieties and colors are more common and readily available than others—more supply usually means a lower price. Rare granite varieties and colors are difficult to obtain and carry a higher price. On the other hand, some granite is more expensive because it is sourced across an ocean, while others are less expensive because they’re quarried down the street.

Regardless of color or variety or source, your primary concern should be the “grade” or quality of the material. You want a granite memorial to look good and last a very long time—and you want your memorial vendor to well-versed on this issue. A granite’s “grade” reflects the material’s durability, density, structural integrity, consistency, suitability for cutting, crafting and finishing. Higher grades typically carry a higher price (all other things being equal—like quarry location), but they last longer and look better. Lower grades of granite are often prone to chipping, degrading, or discoloring over years of exposure to the elements—they also have density inconsistencies or flaws that diminish sharpness and appearance when cut or polished.

So, be sure to ask your vendor about the granite types, grades and colors they offer and how these factors affect price. If your vendor’s selection of granite is very limited, your choices will be too. Ask the vendor to certify the granite “grade” you are buying, and then verify that what is delivered matches what you ordered.

If you’re buying a low grade of granite to save money, that’s ok as long as you understand what you’re getting. Don’t buy a granite memorial because it’s “affordable” without verifying its grade and satisfying yourself that the material will meet your needs and aesthetic intentions. And be careful to avoid paying a high-grade price only to receive a lower-grade material—a problem that can occur when buyers don’t understand the difference between various grades of granite.

Type and Size — An obvious factor affecting memorial price is the granite memorial’s type, size, and design. The more material, craftsmanship, and design involved, the higher the price.

I’ll address several other factors affecting memorial pricing in Part 2 of this post—quality craftsmanship, design elements, and customization options.


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