Funeral Costs: The Price of Dying

Next week is Dying Matters Awareness Week, and Adam Shaw has been investigating the best ways to plan an affordable funeral and how we can avoid pitfalls and scams.

Planning a funeral can be one of the most difficult times of our lives, and a recent news story in Hull has put the funeral industry in the spotlight. Two people from Legacy Independent Funeral Directors have been arrested on suspicion of prevention of lawful and decent burial, and it has re-ignited calls for the funeral industry to be properly regulated.

But perhaps a more pressing issue is the cost of funerals, with the most recent Sun Life Cost of Dying report showing that for the first time in three years, the cost of a basic funeral in the UK has risen – now standing at £4,141 (up 4.7% on last year). Over the last twenty years, the cost of a basic funeral has risen a whopping 126%, far higher than the rate of inflation, which was 72% over the same period.

And increased funeral costs are having a significant impact on people, especially in light of the cost of living crisis.

The rise in the cost of funerals is attributed in part to general inflation. With energy prices high, the cost of cremations has risen, and many local authority cemeteries have had to raise the price of burial plots as they are running out of space.

The Competitions and Markets Authority recently reported that while the cost of funerals is up, it has not risen above the rate of inflation, and the CMA has said that this shows that its 2021 intervention, requiring all funeral directors to clearly display their prices in branch and online, is continuing to have a beneficial impact on the costs paid by bereaved relatives when arranging a funeral.

To keep funeral costs down, more people are now opting for a direct - or unattended - cremation, with these now accounting for 1 in 5 funerals, up from just 3% of funerals in 2019.

We meet Leni Robson who runs The Coffin Club in Derby. The club was set up to help people find out more about funerals, with groups up and down the country. 

We drop in on a session on the topic of sustainable funerals, and the surprising cost benefits of having a green funeral. Attendees learn about eco-friendly alternatives to traditional coffins, including woollen shrouds and coffins made with reclaimed wood from shipping pallets, and discover the concept of a natural burial where a body is not embalmed and avoids the use of non-biodegradable material such as plastic.

Another way to save money when planning a funeral is to shop around and seek quotes from multiple funeral providers before making a decision. Over 80% of people only look for a single quote before booking a funeral, and this could mean that they are not getting the best price to meet their needs. Rebecca Peach was inspired by her own experience of planning a funeral for a family member, and the difficulty she had finding price information online, to establish the funeral comparison website, The Farewell Guide.

While 70% of people make some provision to pay for their funeral, only half put aside enough to cover the entire bill. That can leave relatives with a hefty bill to cover when someone passes away, so the advice is: plan ahead, research the best deals - and make sure you share your wishes with your loved ones.

Useful links

  • If you’re struggling with funeral costs head to Down to Earth for advice, information and support

  • If you live in England and Wales and need government support for funeral costs head to their website here

  • If you live in Scotland and need government support for funeral costs head to their website

  • If you live in Northern Ireland and need funeral cost support head to their website here

Check out Coffin Club UK to see whether there might be a local group near you