How much does a funeral cost?

Nobody likes to think about their funeral arrangements, but if you don’t consider them, you could when leave your family with big bills after you die. We’ve put together a straightforward guide to help you support your loved ones for the future.

Nobody likes to think about their funeral arrangements, but if you don’t consider them, you could when leave your family with big bills after you die. We’ve put together a straightforward guide to help you support your loved ones for the future.

Faith Archer
Insurance expert
8
minute read
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Posted 19 JANUARY 2022

Average funeral cost 

According to SunLife’s Cost of Dying Report 2022 , the average cost of a basic funeral is £4,056**. This is a slight drop from its record high of £4,184 in 2020. The average cost of dying, including the funeral service, wake or gathering and professional fees now tots up to £8,864**. However, funeral costs can also vary significantly depending on where they’re held. For example, you could pay twice as much in London. 

The most expensive part is hiring a funeral director, who takes care of the basics of a burial or cremation. If you’re holding a service, the cost of everything from flowers and catering to car hire will drive up the cost of a traditional funeral. That’s perhaps why direct cremations are becoming more popular. They’re a no-frills alternative to a traditional funeral, with no formal service or mourners present. 

If you’re worried about the costs, you might consider taking out life insurance. This can provide your family with either a lump sum or monthly payments when you’re no longer around. 

**SunLife (2022), Cost of Dying Report

How much is a funeral?

It depends on what sort of funeral you want to have. On average, burials cost over £1,000 more than cremations**. The average cost of a basic burial has dropped by 2.1% on the previous year, while the average cost of a cremation has dropped by 3.1%**. On the other hand, the cost of direct cremations, where there is no funeral service, has risen by 6%.

Type of funeral Average cost** 
Burial £4,927
Cremation £3,765
Direct cremation £1,647

As well as the basic funeral costs, pandemic rules permitting, many people also want to give their loved ones a send off, which can add significantly to the expense. 

If you ask a solicitor or accountant to handle dealing with the tax and inheritance aspects of a death for probate, expect to pay additional costs for this too.

Basic funeral services

Average cost**

Average funeral costs

£4,056

Wake and send off costs

£2,484

Professional fees to administer the estate if required

£2,325

Funeral costs: Burial funeral 

A burial is the most expensive type of funeral in the UK. Costs include:

  • the fee for the minister or officiant conducting the funeral service
  • a coffin
  • the exclusive right of burial (in other words, the burial plot in a cemetery or garden of remembrance)
  • the interment fee for the preparation of the burial plot or grave
  • church fees for holding the funeral service in a place of worship
  • creating, installing and engraving a headstone
  • maintenance fees charged by councils for cutting the grass around the burial plot 

Funeral costs: Cremation funeral 

A cremation with a full service is cheaper than a burial but more expensive than a direct cremation. Costs include:

  • fees charged by the local crematorium
  • the fee for the minister or officiant conducting the funeral service
  • cremation form fees for applying for a cremation
  • a coffin and then a container for the cremated ashes
  • burying the ashes in a burial plot or garden of remembrance
  • creating, installing and engraving a headstone
  • doctor’s fees for drawing up cremation certificates 

Funeral costs: Direct cremation 

Direct cremations are the least expensive option, but they don’t include a funeral service. The body goes straight to the crematorium without a ceremony, although there’s nothing to stop you holding a memorial service, wake or family get together later. Costs include: 

  • a simple coffin
  • doctor's fees for registering the death
  • collection, care and transport of the body
  • scattering of the ashes in a garden of remembrance, or their safe return to a loved one  

Funeral costs: Direct burial 

A direct burial is the least common option, where there is a burial without a funeral service, and without any mourners present. As with a direct cremation, you do not choose the time and date, but can always hold some kind of memorial afterwards. Costs include: 

  • a simple coffin
  • collection, care and transport of the body
  • the interment fee for the preparation of the burial plot or grave
  • the burial plot in a cemetery, garden of remembrance or natural burial ground
  • creating, installing and engraving a headstone, if you have one
Did you know?
Rockstar David Bowie, who died in January 2016, chose a direct cremation for his funeral. He reportedly wanted his loved ones to celebrate his life in a place special to him rather than mourn his passing.

Using a funeral director

Most funerals are arranged through a funeral director. A funeral director can take much of the stress out of organising a farewell service at an already difficult time and can guide distressed family members through the process.

They will take care of the arrangements before, during and after the funeral service. This includes caring for and preparing the body, providing a coffin, hearse and limousines for family mourners and organising extras like funeral wreaths, music and orders of service. 

How much is a funeral director? 

The funeral director’s fees make up much of the expense of a typical funeral – often more than half the overall cost. The average cost of a funeral director now stands at £2,687**. If you’re concerned about the price, you could think about holding a simpler funeral or direct cremation.

Few people shop around for funeral services, but costs can vary a lot between different funeral chains and compared to many smaller independent businesses. 

If you’re concerned about the price, you could also think about holding a simpler funeral or direct cremation.

How to find a funeral director

A good place to start is your local independent funeral director. They have practical things, like how long it takes to get to a local crematorium, down to a fine art. Some councils also run non-religious burials.

Find a funeral director who belongs to a professional association like the National Association of Funeral Directors or the Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF). These organisations have a code of practice that means certain standards must be met and you should be told about all costs in advance.

Third-party costs (disbursement costs)

Third-party funeral costs, also called ‘disbursement costs’, are expenses that a funeral director usually pays for on your behalf. The biggest of these is the burial or cremation fee, but they can also include doctors’ certificates and notices of death in a newspaper.

Costs can vary a lot depending on the type of funeral you have and where you are. For example, burial costs differ hugely across the UK. In London, the average funeral cost in 2021 was £5,358, compared with £3,056 in Northern Ireland**.

Optional funeral costs

Alongside basic funeral costs, there are also extra services you can choose to make the funeral more personal. These bills could be much higher depending on the kind of venue and catering you decide on.

Additional funeral services  Average cost** 
Memorial  £1,024
Catering  £406
Limo hire  £321
Venue hire  £268
Flowers  £206
Order sheets for service £105
Funeral notice £83
Death notice £71

What is the cheapest type of funeral? 

The cheapest type of funeral is a direct cremation. On average, direct cremations are less than half the cost of a burial or cremation with a full service. A direct cremation doesn’t allow anyone to attend a ceremony or even include a viewing, but it’s by far the cheapest option if you’re struggling to pay for a funeral.

How to reduce the cost of a funeral

As you can see, the cost of a funeral soon mounts up. But you can still have a send-off that’s personal and meaningful without it costing the earth.

  • Consider a direct cremation and organise your own remembrance event
  • Shop around for extras like flowers and catering
  • Ask family and friends to bring food to the wake rather than using an outside caterer
  • Choose an eco-friendly coffin or bamboo shroud instead of an expensive traditional coffin
  • Pick out a natural burial ground, such as a woodland. This can be much cheaper than a traditional cemetery
  • Rather than buying a headstone, create an online memorial where family and friends can donate to a charity

**SunLife (2022), Cost of Dying Report

Can I get help with paying funeral costs?

Yes, in some cases the government can help with funeral costs. You may be eligible for a Funeral Expenses Payment, depending on whether you currently receive certain benefits. In Scotland, you can apply for a Funeral Support Payment. A funeral payment can help cover some expenses, but it won’t usually cover the cost of the entire funeral.  

If there’s money remaining from the deceased’s estate, the government will usually deduct its contribution for the funeral costs from the available assets. However, you won’t need to pay the government money back if the deceased only left personal possessions and any house is still occupied by their spouse or civil partner. 

Local councils can sometimes organise public-health funerals. This is possible for those with no family or friends, or if there’s no money in the deceased’s estate to pay for one.

Could life insurance pay for my funeral?

Life insurance is a good way of ensuring that the financial burden of arranging a funeral doesn’t fall on the people you leave behind. If you organise your life insurance well in advance it doesn’t have to be expensive, because the cost tends to go up the older you get. There are two main types of life insurance policy – term life insurance and whole of life policies. If you’re still not sure then you can read more about funeral cover. Some people also use specific over 50s insurance plans to leave a lump sum that could contribute to funeral expenses.

According to the Sun Life report, 66% of people made provisions specifically to pay for their funeral – up by 1% since 2020. But only 63% of these people put enough aside to cover the whole cost of their funeral. Life insurance could be a good way to deal with a potential shortfall.

What’s the difference between a funeral plan and life insurance? 

The decision between a funeral plan vs. a life plan depends on what sort of help you’d like to leave behind. 

A funeral plan will specifically contribute towards the cost of your own funeral. With a prepaid funeral plan, you decide your own funeral arrangements and pay for some parts in advance, at today’s prices. The premiums can be paid entirely up front, or you can spread the cost over an agreed period. However, funeral plans may not cover certain costs or services, so please be sure to read your policy details carefully. 

Meanwhile a life plan, commonly known as ‘whole-of-life insurance’, is life insurance that’s guaranteed to pay a fixed sum when you die. If you’re interested in this, give the friendly team at Assured Futures a call on 0808 141 1332.

Whole-of-life insurance is different to decreasing term cover, where the pay out reduces in value over the length of time the policy runs for. The big difference between life insurance and a funeral plan is that the money received from the policy by the beneficiary can be used however they wish, whether for funeral costs or whatever else.

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