/ Health, Money, Parenting

Do you know the cost of a funeral?


It may be the last thing you think about when faced with bereavement, but the cost of a funeral can be enough to drive some families into debt. So how can this be resolved?

Unsurprisingly, according to the campaign group Dying Matters, only 18% of British adults (PDF) say they have asked a family member about what they want to do once they have passed on.

Talking about death and dying is hardly the best conversation starter around the family dinner table on a Sunday afternoon, and it’s not quite how I envisaged my debut on Which? Convo either. But it’s an important subject that we all have to deal with at some point.

Dealing with death

Today’s report ‘Support for the bereaved’ published by the Work and Pension Select Committee (PDF) examines the current state of the funeral and bereavement sector in the UK.

The report examines the experiences of people who’ve organised and paid for funerals, how people looked to get the best deal, and if the lack of competition for funeral directors in the sector is leading to higher prices.

It turns out dying has become an expensive business. According to our own research in the report Dying Better, the cost of a funeral is set to be over £6,000 by 2020.

The Select Committee’s report found that in some areas the lack of competition for funeral directors led to increased costs. In fact, it found the cost of organising a funeral rose between 4.9% and 1.8% since 2014. Competition was also being impacted by the number of funeral directors in particular areas. As you can imagine there may be more choice of funeral directors in urban areas, than in rural areas.

In one area of the UK the cost of a funeral service ranged from £990 to £3,012 – a massive £2,022 difference for the same funeral service including coffin and other necessities.

‘Shopping around’ in an effort to save money on the last send-off for a loved one may not sit right with many people. But why is that?

Difficult decisions

Funerals are obviously emotional events. Our decisions can be driven by our emotions, and this might be one reason why people do not want to shop around for the best deal.

The Department of Work and Pensions calls this ‘unusual customer behaviour’. I’d like to call it usual human behaviour at an emotional and distressing time. This raises the question; how can it be made easier for grieving loved ones to make better decisions?

So do you think it’s good or bad to talk about funeral plans?


My late brother stated in his will “no funeral thank you.” There are UK companies who carry out Direct Funerals at a reduced cost. My brothers ashes were later scattered on a beach with a small family gathering off the coast of Vancouver, a place he settled in and loved after serving 12 years in The Royal Navy. You can also leave your remains to medical science which are usually gratefully received by medical students if you so wish.

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I’m glad we can agree on some things Duncan 🙂 Have you noticed the huge increase lately in care for the elderly? £1000 a week now in some care homes in my area. There’s not a lot left to pay for funerals by the time you need one these days, as Simon more or less points out.

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i have made no secret of my wish for the cheapest possible cremation. And at a suitable time a celebration of my life can be held [if desired by others] at a good restaurant.

I investigated it fully when looking into it at my parents deaths. Off-hand I am thinking around £1000 tops. I have not looked into the benefits of being buried in the garden ….. though doing it without official approval might be a problem for my wife .. : )

No problems for us. We have a large garden and we could use the fertiliser. A garden grave must be situated more than 10 metres from standing water, at least 50 metres away from a drinking water source, and be deep enough to dissuade foxes from digging up the dearly and recently departed.

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You’re welcome…

sepulchral tones

Just to put some numbers on this, last year I had to make funeral arrangements for a close relative. It was not an elaborate affair, a fairly simple cremation with a non-religious celebrant and subsequent interment of the ashes in the family grave. The funeral contractors and crematorium charges came to around £5,000. It did involve two firms of funeral contractors and transfer of the body from Norfolk to South London but that probably only represented a small percentage of the costs. On top of the direct funeral expenditure the estate had to meet the considerable costs of correspondence and postage, and other incidental costs.

I am not sure about how competition works in the funeral trade. There seems to have been a considerable increase in the number of funeral contractors in our area over the last ten years but no commensurate rise in the number of deaths. Far from this exerting pressure on prices there seems to be remarkable consistency in prices for the same standard of funeral. However, there are economy-grade packages available from most, if not all, funeral companies. I was pleased to see that Beryl mentioned “direct funerals” as I have been an advocate of this, and basic simple funerals, for over fifty years, but the trend is going in the opposite direction now with ostentatious display being the order of the day in a return to the Victorian way of death with fancy horse-drawn hearses and elaborate services. Similar to modern weddings, these affairs also impose higher than necessary costs on the people attending who are expected to lay out quite a bit on flowers, tributes, dress, travel and accommodation.

A point on garden burials: As I understand it the seller should inform a prospective buyer if a human body is buried in the garden . Not normally a good selling point, and it also complicates visiting the last resting place of the departed if the home is sold. Totes awk.