What is a Mausoleum? Purpose, Cost, How to Choose

Mausoleums are an above-ground alternative to burial that can house caskets for an entire family together.
Dalia Ramirez
By Dalia Ramirez 
Published
Edited by Tina Orem

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A mausoleum is a freestanding, above-ground building in a cemetery that can house multiple caskets

Merriam-Webster. mausoleum. Accessed Sep 21, 2023.
. Mausoleums are typically used in places at risk of flooding, or as a way to keep a family’s final resting places together without purchasing neighboring burial plots.

You can house a casket in a public mausoleum with others, or you can purchase a private mausoleum for just your family. Though they have a reputation for being large, imposing structures, mausoleums offer a variety of options depending on your aesthetic, family and budget. Mausoleums are not the same as columbariums, which house cremation urns instead of coffins in spaces called “niches"

Merriam-Webster. columbarium. Accessed Sep 21, 2023.
.

If you’re planning a funeral for yourself or for a loved one, here’s what to know about mausoleums, what they cost and how to choose the best option for your family.

Pros and cons of mausoleums

Advantages

Drawbacks

Likely to last longer than a gravesite, especially in areas prone to flooding and other natural factors. Mausoleums are common in places such as New Orleans because of this.

Takes time to prepare, so they require advance planning — and they’re not available in every cemetery. Mausoleums often come with special regulations and may not be ready in time for a funeral.

May be less expensive than purchasing neighboring burial plots, depending on how large your family is. A single building can ensure your family is entombed together and reduce the amount of cemetery land needed.

Can be expensive depending on size, location and design. Entombment in a public mausoleum may be similar to the average cost of a burial plot and grave marker (around $4,000 to $8,000), while a private family building can cost as much as $25,000 and up.

Can align with your family’s preferences by giving you the opportunity to personalize with materials, engravings and details such as a family crest. Private ones can also be tailored for families to visit with benches, windows and even background music.

Will likely require maintenance over time to protect the building from water damage and other natural factors.

Types of mausoleums

There are several different types of mausoleums. Here are the main options:

  • Single crypt mausoleums hold one casket. A crypt is the vault inside a mausoleum that holds the casket.

  • Family mausoleums can be customized for any number of relatives. 

  • Public or community mausoleums are typically larger and can hold many caskets. Families can purchase a private section of the entire space, called a niche. Community mausoleums may be specific to a religion and can be indoor or outdoor in a garden.

  • Side-by-side crypts are meant for two people to be entombed next to each other.

  • Companion or end-to-end crypts house one casket behind another, taking up less space.

  • Lawn crypts are essentially underground mausoleums. They can house multiple caskets, but they won’t have an entryway or physical space like a mausoleum. 

Mausoleum costs vs. gravesite costs

Costs for mausoleums and gravesites can vary widely depending on your location, preferences and whether you’re entombing in a private or public cemetery.

For single caskets:

  • A space in a community mausoleum can cost around $2,000 to $8,000. 

  • A traditional cemetery burial plot can cost $1,000 to $10,000.

  • A columbarium niche can cost around $750 to $2,500

    Cemetery.com. Mausoleum Costs. Accessed Sep 21, 2023.

For families:

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Frequently asked questions

No, mausoleums and other monuments are used by many religious groups and traditions

New World Encyclopedia. Mausoleum. Accessed Sep 20, 2023.
. If you’re interested in purchasing a mausoleum space in a religiously affiliated cemetery, contact several to see what your options are.

This may be a surprising question, but it’s a common worry among families when weighing their burial choices. Mausoleums shouldn’t smell, as they’re held to high standards for ventilation and sanitation. Make sure to work with a professional when choosing a mausoleum to make sure they’re following proper practices.

Mausoleums vary widely in size and price. If you’re considering a mausoleum, decide how many people you want to be entombed, whether you want a private or community space, and whether you’d like an indoor space for visitors. Consult with cemeteries in your area to discuss options within your budget.

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