How much does a funeral cost: Taking control of funeral costs

All articles

Share it


Most people are arranging a funeral for the very first time and their job is all the harder because they have not previously considered three key things:

How to manage funeral costs

It’s worth knowing that those families left to cover some or all of the costs of a relative’s funeral on average are having to contribute £1,981, which can be financially challenging.

Did you know that people spend more time planning their annual family holiday than a funeral for their nearest and dearest? They often spend a similar amount of money too.

It’s fun to think about your holiday plans – the place you want to visit, the hotel, the trips, and the new clothes you might need, but it makes financial and emotional sense to take the same approach to your final journey.

Knowing what you want gives a firm basis for researching the current costs for the right send-off. Then you can decide the best way to provide for those costs.

Here’s a great place to start:

How much does a funeral cost?

According to the Sun Life Cost of Dying 2020 report, the average UK funeral cost is     £4,417. To put things into perspective, this is a rise of 3.4% on last year, 23% over the past five years, and up 130% since 2004, when they started tracking funeral costs. 

This information is very well-publicised, but it seems that (understandably) most people don’t take much notice until they are facing the prospect of arranging a funeral themselves. 

As a result, the costs often come as an unpleasant surprise, only adding to the stress of the situation – especially when you are too upset to ‘shop around’.

For almost every other type of service, you’ll find savvy shoppers deciding what they want and doing their homework. Even when they need a product or service pretty urgently. Of course, everything feels more difficult when you are bereaved, so it makes perfect sense to look at costs and options long before dealing with the death of someone special to you

How much does a basic funeral cost?

A basic funeral is usually defined as a funeral where the deceased is placed in a simple coffin, and on the day of the event the mourners meet the funeral director at the ceremony venue (cemetery chapel or crematorium).

Funeral director fees for arranging a basic funeral are £1,200 on average.

THEN You need to ADD third party costs such as cremation or burial fees for your chosen venue, the fees for the celebrant plus any fees for doctors’ certificates (cremation only).

Crematorium fees vary widely across the UK from less than £500 to over £1000. 

These fees include a ceremony (with audiovisual facilities) in the crematorium chapel, followed by the cremation itself. 

Burial fees will depend on many factors:

  • Is this a completely new grave or one that is being re-opened?
  • Do you need to remove and then replace a headstone?
  • How long was the deceased a resident in the local authority area? Some Non-resident fees can be double or triple the standard rate

What is the average funeral cost in the UK?

The costs quoted below are taken from the Sunlife Cost of Dying Report 2020 which also contains information about regional averages. 

Average Cremation Cost in the UK is £3,858

The average UK cost for a cremation was reported as £3,858* and this would usually include a ceremony at the crematorium. Research the costs that apply to you by checking the following things:

  • How many local venues are available to you and what do they each charge?
  • Is the cost lower if you have a separate ceremony somewhere else before/after a short committal at the crematorium?
  • Do they offer a cremation-only service if you wanted to completely separate the cremation form the celebration of life event?

REMEMBER - Cremation-only services don’t have to be held at your nearest crematorium – can you access a better-value service elsewhere?

Average Burial Costs in the UK is £4,975

The 2020 average cost for a burial in the UK is reported as £4,975* but it is essential to check the following things to understand the specific costs that apply to you:

  • Is there still space in your chosen location?
  • How deep a grave is needed? (Double or triple depth provides for future interments)
  • Is there an existing family grave with space that could be used?
  • If there is an existing family grave, who holds the grave deed? You’ll need their permission to arrange another burial in that plot. Ensure the deed is transferred to an executor or representative before the deed holder dies!
  • What are the specific costs for the kind of grave you need and the deceased’s residency status?

But of course, these average costs exclude the funeral extras such as flowers, orders of service, catering, memorial and legal services – these all vary based on family wishes and circumstances. 

Taking control of funeral costs

Did you know, that the ONLY legal requirement regarding a funeral is to choose to commit the body to either cremation in a licensed facility or to burial? 

Anything else about the funeral is entirely up to the person making the arrangements. 

Knowing this and thinking carefully about what you actually need from a funeral director will help you manage the funeral budget and get the send-off that’s right for you and your family.

Most people are surprised to learn that there is no legal requirement to have any of the following things:

So why do so many funerals look the same? 

It’s because most funeral directors will offer a basic funeral formula, with slight variations. But you can ask for a detailed breakdown of funeral costs before you commit to a provider, selecting the parts of the service that you want, and so tailor the farewell exactly as you wish.

You can spend as much as you like on a funeral, or as little as possible, especially if you are prepared to do some of the work yourself.

Compare funeral costs

A funeral director can help you research the local costs of cremation or burial in the style that you are looking for, and of course you will need to discuss the different costs for their service too!

Unfortunately, it is still more difficult than it should be to compare funeral director prices and services. A growing number of firms publish prices on their websites, but most still ask you to call for a quotation. 

Breakdown of funeral costs 

Below you’ll find a list of services that will usually be included in the single amount described as the funeral director’s “Professional Fees”:

  • Collection and care of the deceased during working hours
  • Help with the paperwork
  • Securing the legal certificates for cremation from the doctor or Coroner
  • Transferring the coffin to the crematorium or cemetery
  • The provision of a hearse, driver and bearers
  • Overseeing the ceremony arrangements

Most funeral directors will offer a choice of coffin and so this item is usually quoted separately from the professional fees, plus you can also book additional vehicles to transport mourners if you wish.

The average professional fees for UK Funeral Directors are reported as £2,771* and this sum will include vehicle hire and the coffin.

Here are the other costs usually quoted as “disbursements”:

  • Doctors’ fee for preparing legally required medical certificates for cremation (not needed for burial or when the Coroner is involved)
  • Celebrant fees – for preparing and delivering the funeral ceremony

Using this list will help you to compare ‘like-with-like’ but remember that a good funeral firm will allow you to choose or reject elements of the service that you don’t want or need.

Keeping funeral costs low

You can reduce the costs of a funeral that still looks and feels ‘traditional’ in the following ways:

  • Ask a friend to lead the funeral service
  • The first service of the day at a crematorium is often cheaper (may also be slightly shorter!)
  • Choose the cheapest coffin – these still look very good indeed
  • Get mourners to travel to the venue in their own vehicles
  • Keep the floral tributes simple – single blooms or garden flowers
  • Have a wake at home with everyone bringing a dish and something to drink.

Arranging the cheapest funeral possible

Most people are unaware that you don’t have to engage a funeral director at all when organizing a funeral.

Instead, you can choose from a growing number of specialists that provide only the essential services for the care and disposal of the physical remains of someone who has died.

Many families are deciding to arrange the simplest cremation possible because they want to organise a separate ceremony or celebration of life themselves. They get the same support with paperwork and simple, dignified care for their loved one…at a fraction of the cost of a traditional funeral!

This style of send-off is called direct cremation and its popularity is growing fast. 

The average UK cost of a direct cremation is £1,626*, saving hundreds or even thousands of pounds compared with a traditional cremation. This means there is more left over to spend on the ‘goodbye party’ or more money to leave as a gift to a family member or even to a good cause.

Pure Cremation is 100% dedicated to this style of farewell and the only provider to cover the whole of the UK. Their direct cremation service includes hand delivery of the ashes, an eco-coffin, cremation fees and they even cover the doctors’ fees within their price.

Planning for your funeral expenses

Once you have decided on the funeral style that is right for you and researched the likely costs, there are different way to make provision for those future expenses:

  • Savings – you’ll pay the funeral price that applies at the time of need, so every couple of years refresh your knowledge of local firms, prices and service levels.
  • Insurance – life insurance will pay out an amount to your estate and you can tell your relatives or executor what kind of funeral you want and how much of the pay-out should be reserved to cover these costs.
  • Over 50’s insurance – low monthly premiums based on age that pays out a fixed lump sum which may not be inflation-protected.
  • Pre-paid funeral plan – check exactly what’s included, most only make a contribution towards cremation, doctors’ and celebrant fees.  Also, check whether any of the costs within the plan are guaranteed.

The Pure Cremation Pre-paid Funeral Plan is 100% guaranteed (provided all client payments are up to date) and covers absolutely everything needed for a simple, unattended cremation, with the hand delivery of the ashes afterwards. Unusually, the plan even includes the collection of the body from non-hospital locations at any time day or night.

Are Pre-paid funeral costs lower? 

No. These plans are usually based on the current costs of a funeral plus an administration fee for setting up the plan and placing your money in Trust for future use.

How much does a funeral plan cost? 

This depends entirely on the type of plan you want. 

Is this pre-paid plan safe? Remember that some plans only guarantee to cover the funeral director’s fees and make a contribution towards the other fees. There are even some low-cost plans where these professional fees are the ONLY costs covered, so always check carefully before making your final decision.

A Pure Cremation Trust-based Funeral Plan is available to anyone over the age of 18 and costs from £1,595 where payment is completed within 1-6 instalments. 

Alternatively, you can choose the Pure Cremation Over 50’s Plan available to anyone between 50 and 75 years of age; premiums are based on your age at the time of purchase and start at £6.25 for someone aged 50.