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How much does a funeral cost?

 

As we approach an age where we begin to think about life after we’ve gone, the cost of a funeral might weigh on our minds. It’s no secret that funerals can be costly – ranging from the low thousands to much more at the upper end – and we may want to avoid lumbering our relatives with these costs.

 

The good news is that there are a number of ways to pay for a funeral, and the type of funeral you choose can reduce overall costs. The area you live in or want your funeral to take place in can have a significant bearing on its price, so we’re going through the different factors that affect the cost of a funeral to help you make decisions about what to plan for.

 

We’ve looked closely at Royal London’s Funeral Cost Index report (2019) to analyse costs by region and type of funeral.

 

The average cost of a funeral

 

Many factors affect what you can expect to pay for a funeral. Those which have the greatest bearing on costs are the location of your funeral and whether you choose to be buried or cremated. According to Royal London’s Funeral Index report, all of the 10 most expensive locations to have a funeral are in Greater London with the exception of Leatherhead in Surrey.

 

The lowest-cost areas to have a funeral are in the table below.

 

Area Burial Cremation Average
Belfast £3,042 £2,844 £2,943
Alford £3,145 £3,122 £3,134
Glasgow West £3,293 £2,988 £3,140
Paisley £3,293 £2,998 £3,145
Amersham £3,242 £3,082 £3,162
Bridgwater £3,110 £3,302 £3,206
Wellingborough £3,062 £3,351 £3,206
Countesthorpe £3,071 £3,377 £3,224
North Wiltshire £3,121 £3,347 £3,234
Swindon £3,121 £3,347 £3,234

 

From the table, you can see that burial funerals typically cost more than cremation funerals. The reason for this is that the availability of burial plots can vary widely between locations, pushing costs higher where there is both scarcity and high demand. The costs of cremation services, on the other hand, remain broadly similar regardless of where you have a funeral.

 

Typical funeral cost breakdown

 

The funeral service, as well as the burial or cremation, are only two of the many components of a funeral’s cost. However, they are the most necessary. Some of the associated costs are considered discretionary – meaning that you could opt to have them or not. These can include flowers, catering, the type of coffin or casket you choose (however some form of coffin is of course necessary), service fees and service booklets.

 

If you are not having a direct cremation or direct burial (more on which below), then the necessary expenses are:

 

  • A venue
  • Funeral directors’ fees
  • A coffin or casket
  • The cost of either the cremation or burial
  • Doctor’s fees for certification

 

Discretionary expenses can include:

 

  • Special transport to and/or from the funeral
  • A paid eulogy
  • Venue hire for a wake (or other costs of a wake)
  • Catering
  • Venue invites
  • Flowers
  • Funeral notice in local and/or national press

 

Burial or cremation

 

Whether you choose to be buried or cremated is a personal choice, and if it is important to your family or culture that you choose burial or cremation then researching the relative costs for your preferred area may help you make decisions about where to hold the event.

 

From the perspective of cost, cremation funerals are typically less expensive than burials. If you think about it, over time, burial plots become fewer as they are used, which drives up cost. Location therefore has a far greater impact on the cost of burials than it does on cremation costs. Areas where burial plots are oversubscribed can make this type of funeral very expensive even before other costs are factored in.

 

These aren’t the only two options for what to do after you’ve died. In cases of death from a wide variety of diseases, you can donate your body to medical science. This is a valuable way of helping to train and educate the next generation of medical practitioners. The Human Tissue Authority, who control donations of this nature, have extensive information on what to do. Medical schools (the recipients of donated remains) may decline an offer of donation for a number of reasons, so it’s important to find out whether you may need to make alternative funeral arrangements.

 

What is direct cremation? Or direct burial?

 

Direct cremations and burials are one of the least costly ways to have a funeral. In fact, they aren’t funerals at all. With a direct cremation, the deceased is cremated soon after passing in a place organised by a provider and the event isn’t attended by anyone (occasionally a single member of the family may be allowed to attend). There is no service, however a short speech can be requested.

 

This means that the costs associated with a formal funeral are taken away. You still need to pay for the service, however it is significantly less expensive than a full funeral.

 

How you choose to celebrate the life of the deceased is more flexible given that it no longer needs to be attached to the ceremony of cremation or burial. For many people, the closure that proper funerals afford is culturally significant – and if so, direct cremations or burials may not be for them.

 

However, research shows* that direct cremations remain popular options that families consider when buying a funeral. There are many providers of direct cremations and direct burials, so be sure to research the options available if this is an idea you’d like to consider.

 

How much does a coffin cost?

 

Firstly, do you know the difference between a coffin and a casket?

 

It’s quite simple, and it’s all to do with shape. In general, coffins have six sides while caskets have four. Caskets can be more ornate and can open in the middle, however there are plenty of very opulent coffins on offer too. The cost difference is because coffins usually contain less wood than caskets.

 

Coffins can start from the low hundreds of pounds up to many tens of thousands. There are any number of designs available too, from the materials the coffin is made from to the finish or imagery on the outside.

 

So the question is really: what sort of coffin do you want? Once you have an idea of how you want it to look, you can begin researching what’s available to get an idea of ball-park costs. It might be useful to have a budget in mind with a minimum and a maximum you’re willing to spend. Whether the coffin will be cremated or buried might be something to bear in mind, too.

 

Ways to pay for a funeral

 

The first thing to consider when deciding a budget for a funeral is whether the deceased had a pre-paid funeral plan. These are when a person can pay into a plan with the specific intention that these funds are used to pay for a funeral. It’s important to remember that pre-paid funeral plans don’t always cover all of the services of a funeral provider – they might omit the costs of burial or cremation as these can change over time.

 

One advantage to a pre-paid funeral plan is that you can ‘lock in’ the price of the funeral at the time you begin paying into the scheme. This means that inflation in the cost of most aspects of funerals won’t affect you.

 

Another option is to pay for a funeral out of savings. If you have specifically put money away to cover the costs of a funeral this can help relieve the financial pressure on your relatives. Your family could also take the cost of your funeral out of the value of your estate, but bear in mind that this can only happen if there are sufficient funds remaining after tax, creditors and other debts have been paid.

 

If you want to avoid your family having to dip into their inheritance, then you could also take out an Over 50s Life Insurance policy. These offer a cash payout to your relatives when you die which they can use to contribute towards funeral costs. To find out more, visit our pages on Over 50s Life Insurance.

 

Funeral alternatives

 

We’ve looked at direct cremations and burials, but are there other ways to be remembered once you’re gone?

 

In the case of cremation, there are any number of weird and wonderful things that can be done with ashes that you might not have thought of, from having them turned into a diamond to launching them into space.

 

If you have permission from the landowner, then you can scatter a person’s ashes on any privately-owned land. If your loved one had a particularly special place then this might be a fond way to remember them.

 

There are a number of eco-funeral options, which are friendlier on the environment than burial or cremation. These can range from choosing a kind of coffin for burial that won’t harm the environment once it’s in the ground (such as bamboo or cardboard) to fully-natural funerals where you can have a tree planted instead of a headstone.

 

Other useful information

 

Having a funeral plan can save your loved ones money and help them keep more of your inheritance. There are several ways of doing this, including a Post Office Over 50s Life Insurance policy.

 

To find out how much you could get, we have a special calculator.

 

We also want you to know what help is available to you in the event that you lose someone close to you. All of our Life Insurance products come with free access to Here to Help, which can provide you with bereavement counselling from a dedicated nurse.

 

 

*Royal London Funeral Cost Index Report 2019