Funeral costs

Last updated: December 2020 | 5 min read

If you are arranging a funeral, you are likely to be considering how much it will cost.

The cost of an average funeral in 2017

The average funeral in 2017 costs £3,784. A funeral with a burial is slightly more expensive than a funeral with a cremation, with the average cost of each being £4,257 versus £3,311 respectively.

The average cost has risen by 3% in 2017, slightly above inflation of 2.6% (the Consumer Price Index).

These figures were calculated by the Royal London Mutual Insurance Society, which compiles an annual index of costs.

The cost of a funeral varies depending on where in the UK it takes place, the circumstances of the death, and personal choices for the ceremony.

Budgeting for a funeral

A person usually describes what sort of funeral they would like in their will.

Their wishes are not legally binding (technically in law, you do not have a say what happens to your body), so while you might want to follow them as closely as possible, if they are impractical or unaffordable, you might want to vary them.

Wishes might be short, such as expressing a preference for cremation or burial, or may go into more detail. There may be a side-letter with the will that gives very detailed instructions.

The main costs to consider in your budget are:

  • funeral director fees
  • cremation or burial fees
  • the cost of a gravesite
  • local authority fees
  • transport costs
  • ceremony costs

Provided there is enough money in the estate, funeral expenses are paid from estate proceeds before any other expenses are paid, or gifts made.

Alternatively, if you have bought a funeral plan, some of these costs might be covered under that.

Funeral director fees

The services that the funeral director provides can vary enormously, depending on your wishes and price. It may be cheaper to manage some aspects of the funeral yourself, but paying for an expert to manage the administration and organisation can remove much stress from family members.

Funeral director’s fees do not vary depending on whether there is a burial or a cremation.

Average funeral director’s costs in 2017 were £2,254, which means that they make up over half of the total average costs.

Cremation and burial fees, and gravesite costs

Burial is on average more twice as expensive as cremation.

The average burial fee is £1,847 compared to £755 for a cremation.

Cremation is more popular than burial. About three quarters of people arranging a funeral choose cremation.

Burial costs tend to be higher (and rise faster in price) for two reasons. The first is that in the UK, demand outstrips supply for grave sites. The second is that burial and cremation fees are a source of income for a local authority to use to maintain cemeteries. Many local authority-owned cemeteries are full or nearly full, and therefore have high maintenance costs. Conversely, many authorities don’t operate a crematorium, leaving burial fees as a primary way of paying for cemetery upkeep.

Obviously, a desirable location within a cemetery, such as a site that is easy to access, or that is in a peaceful or attractive area is likely to be more highly valued.

A site that gives exclusive burial rights within a cemetery can vary between £800 and £7,500.

Cremation is usually less expensive than burial. A crematorium will charge between £500 and £1,000 for cremation costs, depending on location and demand for the time of day. Early morning cremations tend to be least expensive. The crematorium will provide a plastic urn for the ashes as part of the costs.

A gravesite for the ashes in a cemetery with a two-person capacity for a 50-year period typically costs between £100 and £2,000. It can also be possible to buy rights to larger sites that can hold the ashes of four to six people.

If the ashes are scattered within the cemetery or over an existing grave, the cemetery tends to charge additional scattering costs.

Local authority fees

A Death Certificate costs £4 in England and Wales, £10 in Scotland, and £8 in Northern Ireland.

If you buy a copy after the time of registering the death, it will cost more.

Before a cremation, two certificates must be issued – the Certificate of Medical Attendant (Form 4) and the Confirmatory Medical Certificate (Form CR5). Each has to be certified by a different medical doctor.

The British Medical Association recommends a fee of £82 each, which tends to be standard. If a hospital carries out a voluntary post mortem, it may not charge the same costs – one certificate is usually free.

Other costs

Other funeral costs can include:

  • the coffin or casket (the price depends on the material used for it)
  • funeral home facilities, such as hire of a Chapel of Rest, or a congregating room
  • presentation of the deceased person
  • transport – both a hearse and cars for family and friends
  • staff for the funeral ceremony, such as bearers and a celebrant
  • flowers
  • notice of the death in a local newspaper, or perhaps an obituary
  • order sheets
  • catering and venue hire for the wake

Funeral director packages vary in what services are offered, and therefore what costs are included.

Financial help with funeral costs may be available if you are on a low income.

There are also ways to reduce the costs of a funeral that you might not have considered.

More information

We provide more information in our articles about writing a will and dealing with probate and those about planning for and arranging a funeral.

If you haven't made a will yet, we encourage you to do so. To help, we provide a number of straightforward wills absolutely free. If you need any help, please just ask.

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