New research conducted by SunLife has found that the average funeral cost in the UK is a staggering £4,184 – the highest it’s ever been since they started tracking funeral costs in 2004. This rising trend is also present in the US too.
They also report that the total cost of dying is now a jaw-dropping £9,263; this amount includes funeral costs, professional fees and send-off costs.
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the cost of dying has risen by +0.8% since 2019 and funeral costs have risen 1.7%.
As a result, many families must cut back on certain funeral expenses or opt for a low-cost alternative such as direct cremation.
Continue reading to learn more about the average cost of a funeral where you live in the UK today, the cost of cremation vs burial and how you can personally beat rising funeral costs.
What is the average cost of a funeral today?
The 2021 Cost of Dying Report by SunLife states that the average cost of a funeral in the UK is £4,184 (up 128% since 2004).
This amount is calculated by adding up the average cost of all the fees associated with having a basic funeral.
- Funeral director fees
- Doctors’ fees
- Minister or celebrant fees
- Cremation or burial fees.
Funeral costs vary massively from region to region, which means some parts of the UK pay much higher than the national average and some parts pay much less, (the cheapest and most expensive places are revealed below).
The report also breaks down the average cost of a funeral with cremation, the average cost of a funeral with burial, and the cost of direct cremation, as these are significantly different.
How much is a cremation?
Cremations are far more popular, and tend to be more affordable, than burials in the UK. SunLife calculate that the average cost of a basic funeral with cremation is £3,885 (up 0.7% from 2019).
See the change in the cost of cremation and the % of cremations over the last 4 years:
|% of all funerals||75%||73%||77%||59%|
Even more affordable is direct cremation, which is a straight-forward cremation without a funeral service. Direct cremations are actually dropping in price, now currently standing at £1,554 on average.
See the change in the cost of direct cremation and the % of direct cremations over the last 4 years:
|% of all funerals||3%||2%||4%||14%|
As you can see, the number of cremations has dropped in the last year and have been replaced with an increasing number of direct cremations.
Many more people are opting for direct cremation due to the practicality of it whilst Covid-19 restrictions are in place. It allows family and friends to hold a memorial or celebration of life at a later date when it’s safe to get together.
How much is a burial?
Not surprisingly, burial fees are much higher than cremation fees in the UK. SunLife calculate that the average cost of a basic funeral with burial is £5,033 (up 1.2% from 2019).
As well as the usual funeral expenses, this amount takes into account grave digger fees and the cost to purchase the lease of a burial plot.
The cost of a burial plot can range from a few hundred pounds to thousands of pounds.
There’s also the additional outlay of a headstone or memorial and ongoing maintenance for this. In 2020, people spent on average £1,016 on a memorial for their loved ones.
See the change in the cost of burial and the % of burials since over the last 4 years:
|% of all funerals||25%||27%||23%||26%|
Why is a funeral so expensive?
Traditional funerals are expensive because they require the professional services of a funeral director.
Funeral director fees are certainly one of the biggest expenses when it comes to arranging a funeral.
They tend to oversee the whole funeral and their services include:
- Making all the necessary arrangements for the funeral
- Caring for and dressing the deceased at the funeral home
- Dealing with the legal paperwork for cremation or burial
- Making/receiving all the necessary phone calls
- Providing a hearse or other suitable transport
- Providing a coffin or casket.
Whilst having a funeral director is essential for many families who need the guidance and support during a difficult time, there’s no obligation to use their services.
For example, you can have a direct cremation which only requires the basic services of a funeral provider and can save thousands of pounds.
Where’s the cheapest place to have a funeral?
The cheapest place to have a funeral is Northern Ireland where funeral services cost on average 23% less than the national average.
Cheapest places in the UK for funerals are:
- Northern Ireland £3,222
- Wales £3,718
- North West England £3,785
- North East England £3,826
Where’s the most expensive place to have a funeral?
The most expensive place to have a funeral is London, of course, where funeral services are 25% higher than the national average.
Most expensive places in the UK for funerals are:
- London £5,235
- South East and East of England £5,007
- East and West Midlands £4,488
- Yorkshire and the Humber £4,270
Some funeral directors will charge regionalised pricing, whilst others (usually the bigger companies, such as Co-op), will charge fixed rates no matter the location of the funeral.
When planning a funeral, it’s important to get quotes from more than one funeral director to ensure you’re getting the best price for the services you want.
What is the total cost of dying in 2021?
As well as the funeral itself there are other expenses that need to be covered when someone passes away.
- Professional fees (the cost of hiring a professional to administer the estate)
- Send-off costs (for things like flowers, venue hire, additional limo hire, catering and a memorial).
In 2020, people spent on average £2,547 on professional fees and on average £2,532 on the send-off elements, which make up to 54.8% of the total cost of dying.
When you add the cost of a funeral (£4,184), this makes the total cost of dying £9,263 in the UK.
Beat rising funeral costs with a funeral plan
If funeral costs continue to rise year on year like they have, then the average funeral could cost more than £5,000 in just 4 years’ time.
According to the Cost of Dying report, 1 in 7 families that had arranged a funeral in 2020 said it caused them notable financial difficulty.
However, with a prepaid funeral plan it’s possible to protect loved ones from this inevitable burden and at the same time beat rising funeral costs.
A funeral plan allows you to pay in advance for your funeral services, for cremation or burial, at today’s prices.
There are various plans available to suit different needs and budgets, and you can choose to either pay in full or spread the cost in monthly instalments.
Direct cremation can also be paid for in advance, therefore, if you have specific wishes for a simple send-off or you don’t want loved ones overspending on your funeral, then this could be a good option.
Prepaid funeral plans range in price depending on the plan provider and what’s included in the plan.
They usually start from around £1,500 or £16 per month for direct cremation, all the way up to £4,500 for a superior plan for a full-service funeral.
An easy way to compare plan features and prices is to use a FCA registered broker, such as UK-based Reassured.
The providers they work with are registered with the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA) and operate across the whole of the UK.
There’s no obligation to use a broker such as Reassured, they simple provide you with free information to help you decide which funeral plan is best for you and your family.
SunLife (2021), Cost of Dying Report, sunlife.co.uk/costofdying2021