Average funeral costs decreased by around £100 last year compared with 2021, according to SunLife’s annual cost of dying report.
However, with rising professional fees, such as probate, and higher send-off costs, which include venue hire and catering, the overall cost of dying has increased to more than £9,000.
With households feeling the pinch during the cost of living crisis, finding money for a funeral could be added stress you can do without.
Here, Which? explains which funeral-related costs have increased and decreased, and how you can prevent overspending.
How much does a funeral cost?
The average cost of a funeral in 2022 was £3,953, down from £4,056 in 2021, according to insurer SunLife.
As well as a drop in the overall cost of a basic funeral, burials, cremations and direct cremations – a cremation without a service – have all individually fallen in price, as shown in the table below:
According to SunLife, cremation is still the most popular type of funeral, making up 57% of funerals in 2022. 25% of funerals last year were burials, while 18% were direct cremations, which tend to be the lowest priced.
Funeral costs where you live
Average funeral costs across most UK regions were lower in 2022, compared to the year before.
Only Northern Ireland and Wales saw an increase to costs, though Northern Ireland remains the region with the lowest funeral costs, with the average funeral priced at £3,317.
Funerals are most expensive in London, with the average funeral costing £5,283.
The table below shows the average funeral price for regions across the UK, ordered by the most expensive.
Professional fees and send-off costs on the rise
Although the average cost of a funeral decreased in 2022, rising professional fees and send-off costs have caused the overall cost of dying to increase to £9,200. One example of this is last January’s increase to probate fees, which now cost a flat fee of £273.
The SunLife report also found the average send-off costs in 2022 had risen to £2,660 – an increase of 7.4% since 2021.
‘Send-off costs’ are the optional extras that can make a funeral more personal to the deceased and their loved ones, and can include things like venue hire and transport.
Looking at average costs, here’s what the optional extras can cost you:
Funeral prices must be transparent
In the past, the funeral market has been heavily criticised for its lack of transparency around costs, which has led to vulnerable customers paying inflated prices.
This prompted the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to launch an investigation, and in 2020 it announced a series of ‘sunlight remedies’ requesting that funeral directors and crematorium operators make prices clear for customers.
These remedies were made law through the Funerals Market Investigation Order 2021, meaning those that do not comply could end up facing court action.
As a result, funeral directors must display a standardised price list at the premises and on their website, which must include:
The CMA recently issued a press release on funeral costs and found that while its rules on price transparency were having a positive effect on keeping funeral prices down, more than 100 funeral directors appear not to be complying with transparency rules, representing 5% of all providers.
How to pay for a funeral
Some people choose to put money aside for their funeral while they’re still alive.
According to SunLife’s report, seven in 10 people made provisions for their own funeral before they passed away, but only six in 10 of those put enough aside to cover the whole cost of the funeral.
These financial provisions included:
Prepaid funeral plans
A prepaid funeral plan allows you to pay upfront for your funeral so your relatives don’t have to cover the costs themselves.
It means you can lock in today’s price, which can be particularly effective when inflation is high – and it can save your family the stress of organising every aspect of the funeral themselves.
However, these plans won’t cover everything, which may leave your family facing unexpected costs.
Since July last year, all prepaid funeral providers must be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). This means should something happen to your provider, you’ll be able to get your money back.
Life insurance is a financial product that enables you to leave behind money for your family when you die.
A lump sum is paid out when the policy holder passes away. This can be used to replace lost income, to pay off debts and can also be used to cover funeral costs.
Over-50s life insurance
Over-50s life insurance, which pays out a fixed lump sum when you die, is often marketed as another way to help your family cover funeral costs.
Unlike regular life insurance, there’s no medical screening; all that’s checked is your age and smoking status. You choose your monthly premium, which can start from around £5. However, there’s a good chance you’ll end up paying more in premiums than the policy pays out.
You can leave money in your bank or savings account to cover your funeral, but your family may have trouble accessing this when you die.
This is because banks and building societies normally freeze accounts when they’re informed of the account holder’s death. Your family will need the help of the executor or administrator of the estate to access the money.
How to plan a cheaper funeral
Six in 10 people report actively cutting back on certain aspects of the funeral they held in order to keep costs down, according to SunLife.
Here are a few ways to help save money:
Shop around for the best price
Fewer than one in five people get more than one quote when organising a funeral, according to SunLife’s report.
The CMA’s price transparency regulations have been designed to make shopping around easier, as providers should allow you to see an itemised breakdown of costs.
One option is to use a price comparison site such as Beyond, Funeral Guide or Funeral Choice. Simply enter your postcode into one of these websites and it will give price estimates for funeral directors in your local area.
Cut the extras
Choosing a cheaper coffin was the most common way people saved on funerals in 2022, according to SunLife.
You can order the coffin yourself and have it supplied to the funeral director. The Natural Death Centre has a list of suppliers that sell directly to the public.
Other options include holding the service on a weekday – as weekends can cost around £250 more – and using your own cars, if possible, instead of hiring limousines.
Speak to your loved ones about what you want
Around half of people surveyed didn’t even know if their loved one wanted a burial or cremation, according to SunLife.
As burials can be considerably more expensive, it’s a good idea to have these conversations with your loved ones while you are alive as it means your wishes will be followed and money won’t be spent on services you don’t want.
See if you can get government help
People in receipt of certain benefits or tax credits might be eligible for state support for the funeral costs.
The government offers a Funeral Expenses Payment, which covers the cost of the burial or cremation and contributes up to £1,000 towards other costs.
However, if the deceased held a funeral plan, you can only get up to £120 to help pay for items not covered by their plan.