Funeral costs in the UK

08 June 2021

Planning a funeral isn’t something anyone looks forward to, but to make your life easier, we’ve put together a guide based on research to help you calculate funeral costs in your area.

 

How much does a funeral cost?

The average cost for a funeral in the UK in 2020 was £4,1631. This figure is an average of both cremation and burial costs, but more specifically, the average cost of cremation in 2020 was £3,917, and for burials it was £5,063. This research was carried out by Matter Communications for our partner Dignity, a leading provider of funeral services and pre-arranged funeral plans.

 

The 'cost of dying' is on the increase

As you can see from the diagram here, UK funeral costs have been on an upward trend for some time, and look set to continue to rise.

If funeral fees keep rising at the current rate, the cost of a funeral could be £5,833 by 20292.

Rising Funeral Costs

Breakdown of funeral costs

Whilst knowing how much a funeral costs in 2020 is helpful, there are other factors that may determine how much a funeral might actually cost to arrange. That’s because the costs can depend on the type of funeral, and the level of service you require. But from the research Dignity commissioned, here’s a breakdown of funeral costs and a summary of what exactly you get for your money.

Burial costs

In 2020, the average weighted cost of a burial funeral in the UK was £5,063. This includes the burial charges, such as the buying and opening of a plot, the minister’s fee, and funeral director charges.

Lillies and gravestone in churchyard
selection of urns for ashes

Cremation costs

If you opt for a cremation funeral, you can expect to pay around £3,917. This covers the crematorium fee, minister’s fee, and funeral director’s charges, as well as doctor’s fees (not applicable in Scotland). However, the average cost of cremation alone was £832 in 2020.

Funeral director costs

Looking at funeral director charges in isolation, the average cost in 2020 was £2,734. This includes a number of elements: the transportation and care of the deceased, a limousine, a light oak or teak veneer coffin, the hearse and bearers, an opportunity for the family to view the deceased, and hygienic treatment such as embalming.

Funeral director standing with hands crossed

Why are funeral costs so high?

Funeral costs are high largely due to the expense of appointing a funeral director, who carries out extensive professional work to conduct a funeral, as well as the third party costs for the burial or cremation; this includes the cost of the service, plus the minister or officiant. More specifically, think about the costs incurred for each element of the funeral, such as selecting a coffin, the hearse, transportation, and the hygiene methods used to embalm the deceased, all of which contributes to the overall cost.

To give you an idea of how much your funeral might cost, the research looked at funeral costs region-by-region across the UK. As you’ll see, funeral costs can vary depending on where you are in the country

Map of average regional costs for funerals in the UK

Given the wide regional variation in average funeral costs, it pays to plan ahead and consider how your loved ones might pay for your funeral. It can be daunting to think about funeral costs, but when you've spent your life taking care of your loved ones, the last thing you'd want is to leave them with financial worries.

Average UK funeral costs by region

The funeral costs shown in the table below are broken down into separate amounts for the funeral director charges only, and the total average cost of a cremation or burial funeral.

x
  Funeral Director charges Cremation funeral (total) Burial funeral (total)
Greater London £3,270 £4,471 £8,397
South East £3,166 £4,406 £5,289
South West £3,156 £4,442 £5,177
East £3,138 £4,489 £5,497
North West £2,740 £3,884 £4,648
Yorkshire & Humber £2,802 £3,982 £4,718
North East £2,523 £3,705 £4,500
West Midlands £2,928 £4,151 £5,728
Scotland £2,843 £3,659 £5,131
East Midlands £2,923 £4,095 £4,864
Wales £3,238 £4,218 £4,654

Cheapest burial funeral costs in the UK

Even within each region there can be high variations in funeral costs. So let’s look in closer detail at the cheapest places to arrange a burial funeral in the UK:

St Helens – £2,828

Lytham St Annes – £3,140

Hull – £3,163

Doncaster – £3,178

Carlisle – £3,362

Cheapest UK cremation funeral costs

If you’re after a cremation funeral, here are the cheapest places according to the 2020 research:

St Helens – £2,120

Bradford – £2,347

Harrogate – £2,415

Lytham St Annes – £2,692

Glasgow – £2,735

What are the optional funeral costs?

In addition to the cost of appointing a funeral director and the cremation or burial costs, there will be other funeral costs that depend on what kind of funeral you and your loved ones choose to arrange. Here are some optional extras:

  • Floral tributes
  • Memorial headstones and plaques
  • Order of service sheets (if you arrange a service)
  • An urn (for a cremation)
  • Newspaper / online tributes or announcements
  • Hiring an organist
  • A dove release or other unique tributes.

Additionally, some of the more expensive optional funeral costs include purchasing a burial plot and/or opening an existing grave, or choosing a casket instead of a coffin.

 

What does a funeral director fee cover?

Your funeral director has an important role to play and their duties can go on far longer than you’d expect. They act as a guide in both planning and delivering the funeral, and together with their staff, will ensure all family members are cared for to make a difficult day as easy as possible.

While not all funeral directors will cover the following tasks, you can generally divide the funeral director's role into three stages:

Before the funeral

A funeral director helps with all aspects of arranging a funeral, which typically involves:       

  • Providing support and advice
  • Collecting and preparing the deceased
  • Helping to plan the service
  • Arranging visits to the chapel
  • Offering a choice of coffins
  • Producing orders of service
  • Co-ordinating floral tributes
  • Completing the necessary paperwork
  • Advising on a minister or officiant
  • Masonry services
  • Newspaper notices
  • Liaising with all third parties such as the crematorium or church, minister or officiant and paying these fees on behalf of the family as well as managing all documentation.

On the day of the funeral

On the day, a funeral director ensures everything runs smoothly; for example, they will check that vehicles and pallbearers are in place, that if a funeral procession has been requested, it takes the right route and arrives precisely on time, and that a difficult day is as stress-free as possible. They’ll also be in constant contact with the crematorium and burial site staff so that those third parties know what they’re doing.

After the funeral

Once the funeral is over, they will keep in touch, often advising on the next steps regarding ashes, the collection and payment of charitable donations and the arrangement for any memorials. Also, many funeral directors provide support with probate matters.

The research found that the average cost of funeral director’s charges in 2020 was £2,734. Note, this figure refers to the funeral director fees – including one limousine plus a coffin – rather than the total cost of a cremation or burial funeral. Of course, your exact costs will depend on the choices you make, such as how many limousines you wish to hire, and the type of coffin material you want, but the figure of £2,734 is an average and takes all such decisions into account. There is also some regional variation in price; according to the research, St Helens has the lowest average funeral director charges at £1,118, compared to £3,898 in the SE22 postcode of London.

How to pay for the funeral

Even the most modest funeral is likely to cost a tidy sum, no matter where you live in the UK. Funeral prices might seem high at first, but it’s a great feeling knowing you can provide financial support for your family after you’re gone. By planning your funeral now, you could make life a little easier for your loved ones. Below, we explore some of the ways you can meet your funeral payments.

Paying through your estate

Some people make a special provision that their funeral costs are to be paid from their estate. However, if funeral costs continue to rise, it may be necessary to review and increase the amount you set aside. So, if you haven’t done so already, now may be a good time to think about other options that can help cover your funeral costs.

Is there help available for funeral costs?

You can apply for a Funeral Expenses Payment if you or your partner receive specific benefits – such as Income Support or Child Tax Credit. You will need to meet certain rules on your relationship with the deceased – for example, being a partner, close friend or relative. While there is no cheap ‘government funeral’ as such, the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 stipulates that local councils are legally responsible for funeral arrangements in cases where there isn’t enough money in the estate to pay for it, or there are no relatives or friends who can arrange the funeral.

Other ways to plan a low cost funeral

If you’re ineligible for government support and simply want to plan a low cost funeral, the cheapest way is to undertake many of the tasks yourself. For example, you can collect your loved one from their place of death yourself; legally, there is no requirement for them to be embalmed.

You’ll need to pay doctors’ fees for the cremation certificate, which currently costs £164 – the fee is waived in the event of a sudden or unexpected death as the death would be referred to the Coroner. You can potentially save on cremation costs by booking a morning slot. You could also research coffins made of bamboo, wicker and even biodegradable cardboard, though be careful, as coffin prices vary and green coffin options are not always cheaper. You can technically arrange a funeral yourself without a funeral director, though you will be responsible for booking the crematorium, transporting the body and choosing who will lead your ceremony, if you have one. What’s more, instead of hiring caterers, your family and friends may be able to help with preparing food and drinks at a post-funeral gathering.

If you wish to arrange a burial yourself, you will need to obtain a burial certificate when you register the death. If you intend to buy a new grave or re-open an existing plot, you’ll need to sign a burial plot application form through your local authority or cemetery. You may also need to hire a professional gravedigger and comply with the rules outlined by your chosen cemetery.

In all these cases, planning ahead is key, and by doing your homework you can ensure peace of mind for your family and friends at a difficult time.

 

 

What is a direct cremation?

Some people opt for a direct cremation, where the deceased is taken straight to the crematorium with no family or friends present at the time. This approach is one way to reduce cremation costs, as there is no funeral service, embalming or viewing in a chapel of rest. You also won’t have to think about transportation costs, such as the hearse and limousine, which wouldn’t be required. As well as helping you to save money on funeral costs, a direct cremation is suitable for those who wish to avoid the emotionally difficult build-up to a traditional funeral, keep things simple, and put the emphasis on remembering the departed in their own way and their own time. It’s also the case that many direct cremation providers will give you the option to pay for time in the crematorium where a small family-led service can take place.

 

 

Future funeral trends

The one thing that’s inevitable in life is that we’ll all pass away one day, but the way in which we commemorate the end of our lives is ever changing. Take a look at some emerging funeral trends.

Eco-friendly funerals

Burials take up land resources, while cremations lead to emissions, so it’s no surprise that many people are opting for an environmentally-friendly funeral.

How to plan an eco-friendly funeral

UK funeral costs – the public have their say

Naturally, most of us don’t tend to dwell on the average cost for a funeral until we have to. Based on our experience of interviewing people around the country, it seems that a lot of people are more certain about the songs they would like played at their funeral rather than how much a funeral costs. Given that there’s little discussion about funeral costs, we wanted to find out what the public know about funeral prices in the UK. Watch the video to see what people thought.

Street interviews carried out on behalf of Legal & General, July 2017.

Over 50s Fixed Life Insurance

Our Over 50s Fixed Life Insurance could allow you to leave a fixed cash sum to your loved ones that can be used to contribute towards your funeral costs, unpaid bills or even to enjoy as small a gift when you’re gone.

Find out more about Over 50s Life Insurance and how you can help contribute towards your funeral costs.

Senior man passing food at BBQ

Sources:

1. This independent research was carried out by Matter Communications on behalf of Dignity in 2020.

Dignity is a British run company that has funeral homes and crematoria in towns and cities across the UK. They also have a strong market presence in pre-arranged funeral plans, where people plan and pay for their funeral in advance. Dignity Funeral Directors strive to lead the market in the provision of excellent client service, facilities and care of the decease.

2. 2029 forecast based on average annual compound growth rate of 3.82% each year between 2011 and 2020.

3. Street interviews carried out on behalf of Legal & General, July 2017.