Breakdown of Funeral Costs
The cost of a funeral for your loved one depends on several different things. These include the location, type of service, transport, type of coffin, funeral directors fees, and any extras, for example, flowers, catering, and notices in the paper.
You can break the cost of a funeral down into three sections: basic costs, professional fees, and money spent on a send-off.
Basic costs: includes funeral directors’ fees, doctors’ fees, clergy/officiate fees, and the burial or cremation fees.
Professional fees: hiring a professional to administer the estate
Send-off costs: includes a memorial, catering, limo hire, venue hire, flowers, order sheet/service cards, the funeral notice, and the death notice
What’s the average funeral cost in the UK
Every year, SunLife publishes a Cost of Dying Report. It provides the latest news on funeral costs, together with information relating to people’s attitudes to funerals and funeral planning.
SunLife bases its report on an online survey of more than 1,500 adults who have had the responsibility of arranging a funeral and administering an estate, within the last four years. They also base it on telephone interviews with 100 funeral directors located across the UK. The information within the report is therefore very relevant and up to date.
The Cost of Dying Report by SunLife for 2021 puts an estimate of £9,263 on the average total cost of dying. SunLife has been tracking the market for 12 years, and since 2007, there has been a 42% increase. In just one year, from 2018 to 2019, the cost increased by 3.1% to take it to an all-time high.
Basic funeral costs
These include the funeral directors’ fees, doctors’ fees, clergy/officiate fees, the burial or cremation fees. The largest percentage of the basic funeral costs relate to the burial or cremation fees, and the difference between the two can vary from a few hundred to several thousand pounds. You can find a more detailed break-down of basic funeral costs below.
Funeral director fees
Funeral directors charge a fee for the services they provide while handling the practicalities of your loved one’s death and arranging their funeral.
A funeral director provides support for the bereaved family by managing funeral arrangements for them. The work involves dealing with essential paperwork and practical procedures. These include collecting and looking after the person who has died.
Most families would expect their loved one to be taken to a suitable facility, such as a funeral home, and looked after there until the day of the burial or cremation. The funeral director will usually purchase the coffin on a family's behalf and ensure that it is fit for purpose. Services like these can be very helpful and reduce the stress for the bereaved family during such an emotional time.
Many funeral director websites only give general price information and you will probably have to telephone to get the final costs for the service you require. On average, you can expect to pay £2,687 for the services of a funeral director.
You’ll find it very helpful to read reviews of funeral directors by other families who have used their services previously. You might also know someone who has used their services and can give a recommendation.
If you are arranging a traditional funeral then you might want to check whether the firm is a member of the bigger UK trade associations - National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) or the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF). These organisations have codes of practice for members to follow.
However, membership of a group does not guarantee professionalism, compassion, or care and many good funeral firms have chosen not to join these bodies.
When you’re trying to arrange the funeral of a loved one, it’s important that you choose a professional, compassionate, and caring funeral director.
Minister or officiant fees
Having someone to create and lead the funeral ceremony itself is extremely helpful. Most bereaved families will not feel up to this task on the day. There are three types of celebrants to choose from: faith leaders or clergy for a religious service, humanist celebrants for a totally non-religious service or civil celebrants who are able to include hymns and prayers but without formal religious rituals.
Clergy charge an average of £169.
Church of England burials start at £199.
Humanist and civil celebrants charge between £150 – £350 for a funeral.
There is no requirement to use a registered or ordained person to lead a funeral service. This means that you can dispense with this fee completely if a family member or friend is willing and able to create and lead the service for you.
Third-party costs (disbursements)
A funeral director's fees are only part of the overall cost. There will be other fees that the funeral firm usually pays out on your behalf and adds to their invoice as this means you only have to pay a single bill.
- The exclusive right of burial (EROB)
- Interment fee
- Fee to add/remove the headstone
- Maintenance and monument fees
- Memorial masonry
Burial total: £4,775
- Cremation fees at a crematorium
- Minister or officiant fee
- Cremation documents fees
- Cremation and medical certificate fees
- Fee to return the ashes outside the local area
- Interment of ashes/scattering of ashes
- Death certificate copies (you need several copies for probate) – prices start from £11 per copy.
Cremation total: £3,858
How to save on funeral costs
The average cost of a basic funeral in 2020, according to the SunLife report, is £4,115. A funeral can be dignified and meaningful without having to spend a huge amount of money. You shouldn't feel pressured to spend more than you wish to or can comfortably afford. There are many other ways to show your love and respect for the person who has died.
There are certain factors of a funeral you can’t change, such as the location and personal residential status of the deceased. However, there are factors you can decide on as a family, that will make a difference to the overall cost.
The choice of final resting place will impact costs considerably. Burial plots can vary in price between and even within cemeteries, and different prices can apply to residents of the local area versus non-residents. The total burial cost will consist of 3 things - the plot itself, digging the grave and a fee for the right to erect a memorial.
Most cemeteries grant an Exclusive Right of Burial for a limited period of time, with the first use of the grave signalling the start of that period. If the EROB isn't renewed at the end of the term the cemetery owner is legally allowed to re-use the grave, however, most remain undisturbed even many years after the original EROB expires.
Natural burial grounds will accommodate burials of either the deceased's body or their ashes. This option can be less expensive than a formal cemetery, but not always, and you won't usually have the option to erect a permanent memorial.
A churchyard burial is probably one of the least expensive options if you have a meaningful connection to and/or live within the parish. Space is very limited and so charges for non-residents can be three times higher than for parishioners. Remember to add the costs for digging the grave and the right to erect a memorial.
A columbarium (an above-ground niche with inscribed front plate) is typically a more expensive way to place an urn than burial in a traditional cremation plot or existing family grave. Both ashes plots and columbarium locations are leased for a fixed period of time, rather than purchased.
Modern long barrow sites such as the Sacred Stones barrow are an alternative option with a very different 'feel'. You can choose either a single or family niche and can personalise it. Long barrow niches are also leased for a fixed period of time. Prices vary but are comparable to cemetery columbaria.
Of course, arranging a burial is an urgent matter, but an ashes interment doesn't have to happen immediately after the cremation. This gives you time to save up for the location you really want.
Cheapest funeral options: Do it yourself funerals
Some families want to be very involved in the care, transport and committal for their loved one. A DIY funeral is undoubtedly one way to save on the costs, but not a route that will suit everyone.
It is perfectly possible for an individual or family to do everything that a funeral director would do, or to selectively purchase only those professional services that they really need. There are no legal requirements for using specialist vehicles for transportation and nothing to prevent you from keeping and caring for your loved one at home until the burial or cremation. You should be able to find support for this journey (including hospital staff, funeral directors, celebrants and doulas) in almost any part of the UK.
Low-cost alternatives to a funeral in the UK
Direct cremation funerals
One of the most affordable options, if you want to arrange a cheap funeral in the UK, is direct cremation. This alternative to a traditional funeral means the body of your loved one is cremated without any ceremony at the crematorium. Usually, there are no mourners present. With direct cremation, you get to decide how you want to remember your loved one.
This is the simplest and cheapest cremation you can arrange and allows you to separate the practical elements of a funeral from the personal farewell.
Many people describe this as shifting the focus from all the trappings of death (seeing the coffin, the cars, mourners gathered at the crematorium) to celebrating the life that has been lived in a more uplifting and joyful way. Farewells are often held in places of great personal significance, from beauty spots to homes and gardens, and often at a very low cost.
Pre-paid funeral plans
A pre-paid funeral plan is one of the best ways to relieve your family of any worries about paying for your farewell. You're fixing costs at today's prices, but do check exactly what is covered - most plans will guarantee the funeral director's fees and contribute a sum towards the third-party fees.
Additional funeral costs for the send-off
The average cost of a send-off is £2,532. You’ll spend a large part of this expense on the memorial headstone and the catering service. But there are plenty more discretionary expenses you might pay.
Obituary – £75
Death and funeral notice – £86
Order of service sheets – £94
Funeral flowers – £193
Venue hire – £282
Additional limousine – £336
Catering for the reception – £450
The average catering costs per head are:
Finger buffet – £10
Cold fork buffet – £12.50
Hot fork buffet – £13.50
Memorial headstone or plaque (excluding the cemetery fees) – £910
Urn – from £30
Source: SunLife Cost of Dying Report 2021
Extra funeral costs to consider
You have to consider a number of other costs, some or all of which may apply to you. They include:
Preparation, dressing and viewing of the deceased
Photo slideshow or video tribute at the crematorium or chapel
Administration of the estate of the deceased (Probate)
Types of coffins and prices in the UK
One of the hardest decisions you have to make when arranging a funeral for someone you love is choosing a coffin. A good place to start is to understand the most popular types and how much they cost. The material they make a coffin or casket out of makes a big difference to the price. There are lots of materials to choose from, such as bamboo, cane, mahogany, oak, pine and willow, but the most popular are:
Wooden coffin: the cost of a wooden coffin depends on whether they make it from solid wood or it’s a wood effect or wood veneer coffin. The average cost of a solid wood coffin is around £650.
Wicker coffin: this is a coffin that has been handwoven out of a single material, typically willow. Prices range from £400 to £900.
Cardboard coffin: range in price from £250 to £700. Plain single-colour coffins tend to be the cheapest. While those with a glossy printed design cost considerably more.
Glitter coffin: the price of these varies considerably. Each one is bespoke so even an average price is not possible.
American-style casket: American-style casket - this type of coffin has a plush padded lining and 2-part lid that can be opened from the waist up to permit viewing of the deceased. The lid interior can feature a luxuriously embroidered panel. Prices for this type of coffin can start from £2,500 and go as high as £20,000 depending on the materials and design.
We’ve mentioned coffins and caskets, but is there a difference? The most obvious difference is their appearance. A casket tends to be rectangular, but a coffin will be the traditional shape that is tapered towards the head and foot ends.
How to limit additional funeral costs
Saying goodbye in your own way doesn’t have to cost lots of money. Why not hold an inexpensive memorial service at home? This is particularly appropriate if your loved one was a quiet and contemplative type of person that wouldn’t have appreciated a lot of fuss.
Regional UK funeral costs vary
Where you live can make a huge difference to the cost of a funeral. The reason for this is the average cost of burials differs enormously. One of the most expensive locations is London. Here are some examples, taken from the SunLife report, for various areas of the UK:
East and West Midlands: £4,488
Yorkshire and the Humber: £4,270
South East & East of England: £5,007
The highest funeral costs by region
According to the Royal London National Funeral Cost Index Report 2020, the following locations are the most expensive for a funeral:
Kensal Green £13,262 (burial)/ £3,156 (cremation)
Enfield £9,552/ £3,420
Beckenham £7,824/ £3,541
Southgate £7,590/ £3,396
Golders Green £7,628/ £3,201
Who is responsible for funeral costs?
While a relative, friend or executor may take responsibility for the arrangements, the payment can come from the following sources:
Your own bank account - presenting an invoice and death certificate will release the funds to the funeral director (as long as the account hasn't been closed or frozen)
Your estate - as it will take months to release funds from an estate, someone will have to pay the funeral bill and claim the costs back.
Insurance policy - many people take out life insurance or Over 50s plans to leave a lump sum towards their funeral expenses. Some policies have a very low value so the deceased family may have to top this up.
Funeral plan - if you plan ahead for the costs of the funeral style you want your family will know your wishes and have little or no worries about the costs.
Get in touch to find out more about the Pure Cremation Pre-paid Funeral Plans.