Funeral Costs: How to avoid the spiralling cost of funerals

A step by step guide to better manage funeral expenses.

  • The average cost of a burial funeral in 2017: £4,257
  • The average cost of a cremation funeral in 2017: £3,311
  • Sunlife report that the cost of dying is now £8,905 which represents a 50% increase versus 10 years ago
Talk to our friendly funeral expert and find out how much a funeral plan will cost you today:
Total Cost of Dying 2017Total Cost of Dying 2016Change from 2016Total cost of dying 2007Change from 2007

The death of a loved one is never easy. 


Aside from emotional issues, there are also a variety of practical matters which can be complicated and costly.  Unfortunately, if the person did not properly plan for their funeral before their passing, the surviving loved ones can be faced with a complicated financial situation.

"I wish I'd known how to beat funeral costs sooner..."

When my Uncle Colin passed away in a car accident, everyone in the family was taken by complete surprise.


Only 52 years of age, Colin had made no legal preparation regarding his posthumous wishes. 


During a time of heartbreak and shock, I was also left with a variety of financial and legal obligations on his behalf, including the burial expense.


My uncle didn’t purposefully want to leave me with no assistance with funeral prices. 


He simply hadn’t properly prepared for his funeral, and the related funeral plan cost, in any way. 


Today, about 10 months later, I’ve created this guide to help others avoid the situation I was in.


Below is my complete guide to funeral expenses and the various options available. 


While this isn’t the most pleasant topic, the cost of funeral services is an issue which affect us all.


This guide is for both those who want to compare funeral plan pricing for either their own funeral arrangements or for those of a loved one.


We’ll discuss the average cost-price of a funeral, and the various ways pre pay funerals can result in a cheaper, more affordable funeral plan suitable for any budget.

Step 1: Create a Financial Factsheet

Step 1: Create a “Financial Factsheet”

This is a simple document with a clear overview of the person’s entire financial picture. You’ll want to list all bank accounts, credit cards and other financial accounts. 


Spouses and adults children often don’t know all the details of every financial account, especially if the finances are mainly controlled by one family member. The Financial Factsheet is a broad overview of your entire financial picture.


Along with your financial information, you also want to list all the various accounts associated with your household. These will be organisations like the power company, water company, milk delivery and even Facebook. You’ll want to list all necessary login information, too.


Obviously, your Financial Factsheet is a pretty valuable document. So you’ll need to store it securely. Instead of online, many people find the most secure option is to write the information on a piece of paper. Then you can store that paper in a home safe, a safe deposit box (with joint access for a spouse) or even at a solicitor’s office.

Step 2: Create A Will Or Have A Will Written Up

You’ll want to also create a will so your property is distributed as you wish. If you have a relatively simple estate, you can probably create a will yourself using online resources.


But if your estate is larger or has complications (such as personal debt) you’re probably better off consulting a legal professional. Often this person can help you create a Financial Factsheet, too.


How much do Funerals Cost?


An average funeral service starts around £3,000 and then increases based on the individual’s wishes, needs, location and budget. The Centre for Death & Society did a study on funeral affordability and published their research and findings here. 


For most people, the price of the funeral must be taken into careful consideration. Assistance with funeral expenses is often available in the form of funeral plans. There are also a few options for low-cost funerals:

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Options for Paying for Your Own Funeral


If you die, your assets aren’t immediately made available to your heirs, even if you have a will. So loved ones left behind might have to pay for the cost of funeral services out of their own pocket. There are a few options to prevent this, however, including:


Savings Accounts

You can always simple set up a savings account to be used for your funeral expenses. The advantage here is that interest will grow over time. Saving for a funeral using a traditional bank account is also
very easy to setup and requires very little attention.


Unfortunately, in most cases interest will not keep up with inflation. This means the cost of your funeral could be more than the money in the account, even if the account has been open for decades.

Over 50’s Life Insurance


Available only for those over the age of 50, this policy pays a fixed lump sum to the family of the deceased. Most of these products are available for purchase without a medical screening.


This makes the policy appealing to anyone who can’t afford or otherwise obtain life insurance due to a pre-existing medical issue, which differs to that of end-of-life insurance.


Like a savings account, this product does not also grow with inflation. There’s a possibility the policyholder could pay more in premiums than the eventual claim.


For this reason, over-50 life insurance policies aren’t always the best option, especially those who are generally healthy.

Pay for Your Own Funeral from Your Estate

After your death, certain funeral expenses can still be deducted directly from your back account.

Most banks will release the necessary amounts as long as a family member provides a copy of both the death certificate and a bill from a funeral home.

The disadvantage here is banks will typically only release funds for average funeral expenses. In the immediate aftermath of a death, the survivors might need money from the estate for more than just the price of a funeral.


Even if you choose the cheapest funeral plan, help with funeral expenses might be only one reason why your heirs will need immediate access to your funds.

They might need help with rent, utilities and similar expenses which you normally helped pay for.

Pre-paid Funeral Expenses

According to the National Funeral Directors Associationpre paid funerals are an increasingly popular option.


The idea is simple: You simply pay for the funeral in advance, locking in prices while also choosing exactly what type of funeral you want.


Paying funeral costs in advance will cover most everything related directly to the funeral services. This includes:


  • Care of the body
  • Transportation of the body via the hearse
  • Coffin (quality can vary based on cost – see our guide to coffin choice here)
  • Help obtaining the death certificate & other bureaucratic matters

What costs are not covered in a funeral plan?

Most pre pay funeral plans do not include burial plots or headstones. However, most funeral directors will add those into the plan, although this will increase the price of the funeral.


Some plans offer “guaranteed payments” which means the provider will pay all burial expenses. Other plans offer partial payments for burial expenses, where an additional fee will be required upon death. A partial payment can still help you beat inflation.


A funeral plan is far more likely to cover the price of cremation than burial. The average cost of cremation is a relatively fixed expense, whereas burial plots only grow in scarcity over time. If you’re interested in pre paying for cremation, make sure the policy includes a “guaranteed payment.”


There is no one type of funeral plan, or even one type of cheap funeral plan. Most providers will certainly be happy to add as many options as you’d like to pay for. They’ll also work with you to provide low cost funerals whenever possible. You can even arrange payment plans for funerals.

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“After my father passed without any arrangements, I had to sort everything out, it was difficult. I quickly decided I didn’t want to leave MY kids with that kind of burden. Now I pay a small monthly amount and it’s such a relief”

– Steve Bailey, Hertfordshire.

Thorough Funeral Costs FAQ

Common Questions About Funeral Expenses

Q. When Should You Prepare for Your Funeral?


A. Nobody wants to dwell on thoughts about their own death or the death of loved ones. But, at the same time, nobody wants their passing to be a financial or logistical burden for those still here.


A fatal, unexpected accident can occur to anyone. For instance, people between the ages of 15 and 19 make up 25% of all road fatalities.


Every adult, even young adults, could consider doing some basic planning regarding their wishes and their finances should they die without warning. This is especially important when family members depend on that person for financial support.

Q. How much do funerals cost?


A. Funerals can cost anywhere up to £5,000 or more depending on the type of coffin, funeral and burial you choose. For some examples of costs see our funeral plan comparison page. On average it’s around £3,000.

To find out how much your funeral might cost you in YOUR area, click over to our Free Funeral Calculator.

The cost of a funeral tends to depend on the amount of services, standard or bespoke, that are included in a single funeral package. The usual procedure for many upon hearing about the death of a loved one is to contact a funeral director who will immediately begin the planning and its organisation on your behalf.

The average funeral cost for a traditional burial is £4,257 , and cremation is £3,311.

To get an idea of funeral costs in your area please use our interactive funeral calculator >> 

The exact fees will be known the moment you enlist the funeral director to assist in the funeral preparation. Their fee will be based upon their time and expertise and will include many services, as discussed in the initial meeting. Services and products that are either offered by themselves or through third parties of which they may add a profit margin on top of the fee charged to them.

Such inclusions are:

  • A coffin and or urn depending on whether you choose Burial or Cremation, selecting either of these two routes will enable the next line of questioning to be asked. Both of these items can be customised. A coffin or casket can have interior furnished with panelling options, handles, etchings and photographic wrap around design. The Urn also can be decorated, materials chosen specifically and be multiples, such as keepsake urns for all.
  • Order of Service, Eulogy, Funeral and Death Notice publication will tend to be the same for both. Enlisting someone else to be a celebrant rather than the religious leader can add costs.
  • Cremation would involve hire of a Crematorium for the service to be held, room hire for meeting family and friends. With perhaps a garden area reserved as a plot for any urn that is not to be scattered immediately.
  • A religious place of worship for a burial service with grave digging, memorial service and headstone (usually installed at a later date) can be priced in. The two locations may not be the same and Cemetery fees could be extra.
  • If a more simple Green burial is requested, the service may be outside in the grounds of the woods or field or held elsewhere. In this instance a venue may need to be hired, religious or otherwise and payment for those holding separate services.
  • You should consider all parts of a funeral service to be a choice but there are considered optional extras. Such as funeral flowers – separate from those sent by relatives, and to make pretty the area of the congregation. You may also need additional transport for the cortege, limousines typically, the hire of a hearse, pallbearers to carry the coffin if relatives unable or not chosen.
  • For the people in attendance instead of hovering around conversation, you could hold a wake or allow for a meeting after the funeral service has been held. This may require further transportation, venue hire, flowers, catering and speakers. Alternatively it could be held at someone’s home to reduce costs or to feel more homely.

There are many different ways and locations to hold a funeral, each and everyone choose different parts of a funeral service to make their goodbyes as simple or as precious as possible. Whether basic or more detailed with a memorial service some years later. The question should perhaps be what is the budget for the funeral and how best can the cost be spread?

Q. How much do funeral plans cost?


A. When you choose to take out a funeral plan you will be signing a financial agreement which commits you to paying a certain sum each month so that when the time comes your most (or all depending on what you choose) of your funeral expenses, planning are already paid for and arranged.


To complicate matters, each funeral plan provider has multiple levels of service, packages which include varying degrees of offerings from change of cortege route to additional memorial services. We have cast our eye over some of the most popular plans online to allow you to see how much each plan costs and what they contain. You can view our funeral plan comparison page here.


Paying for a funeral is never easy at any time. Whether out of the blue or known, it can still be a financial set back for most. Even if payment is to be borne by the deceased’s estate and you’re the Executor and Benefactor, the organisation of payment and settling of dues can still be unsettling.


This is why many choose the option of a funeral plan. Because having asked themselves the question of how much is a funeral today and how much will the funeral be next year? They have realised that undoubtedly a funeral will cost more in the years to come than it will by starting to make payments in the immediacy.


There are two examples of how much a funeral plan can cost.


Much like any arrangement where you are buying a financial product that has a monetary outcome there will be varying terms and conditions attached to any payment schedule, so it’s recommended to read the terms & conditions of any funeral plan before you sign on the dotted line.


  • 1. If you are aged 50 and you wish to start paying for your funeral over a longer period, you need to treat your funeral plan payment as an investment that returns a fixed fee for services required. Your prospective funeral details could include, burial, the coffin – chosen by you, a service, flowers, transportation or more basic or more detailed.

You will be asked to pay £x amount a month over several years until the agreed balance is paid off.


  • 2. A second example is: You’re perhaps 80 years old, quite concerned about your children paying for your funeral so decide to take a policy out for a funeral plan over twelve months instead.

This schedule works out similar, only payments will be spread over 12 months and the difference between a funeral today compared to the years to come will be lessened; furthermore your family won’t have to pay or arrange any major details – as this will be all done beforehand.

Q. Why is it funeral prices cost more or less in different parts of the UK?


A. In an even economy everything would cost the same everywhere. The price of a bottle of branded fizzy pop can cost the same in Hull as it does Brighton due to a nationwide supermarket buying in supplies and distributing the cost of its staff evenly across profits. A small funeral director established in a small area cannot possible to do the same.


A Funeral Director may have different suppliers for coffins, for hymn sheets, flowers and these costs and their margins have to be reflected in the cost of their services locally. There is also the city weighting effect. If in London or an affluent area where living costs are higher, services need to be higher to afford the cost of living of the service provider.


A third effect comes into play with regards to land prices. While land is usually owned outright or on a lease, charges for grave rentals which are usually 75 to 99 years need to reflect the costs of those leases and benefit from a profit margin too. Therefore the cost of a burial in London may be much higher than in a village or two that has plenty of room for the deceased or lower land prices.


When we die we are tend to be connected to the area we reside in, either by family or by friends too. So we make it easier for everyone if we get buried near to where we lived. You can be buried elsewhere but the ties to home are usually greater. Otherwise we would see comparison sites popping up that offer the ability to be buried in the cheapest place rather than near to you based on competitive services of a local undertaker.

Q. Where are the most expensive places to have a funeral?


A. You’ll have noticed that most funeral plans don’t include burial costs unless they know the postcode in advance and understand which funeral director to make use of. Theirs or your choice.


The reason for this is land prices and grave plot rental costs. for instance, to get buried in Highgate Cemetery in London, would cost £18,325 according to a Guardian article. Obviously there must be other options for the less well off living in the area. 


Although the next nine highest are also in London; Hammersmith And Fulham, then Kensal Green being four times the London average which itself is double the national average.


To get an estimate based on location – try our funeral calculator page.

Q. Where are the cheapest places to have a funeral?


A. With Brexit in full swing you may wish to consider retaining Northern Ireland as it is by far the cheapest place to be dealt with after dying. The district of Fermanagh and Omagh Cemeteries have the cheapest land prices in Great Britain. 


The process which does stop shopping around for cheap burial plots is that locals come first. If you reside outside of the area and do not have an absolute perfect reason to buried in that cemetery of choice by way of family connections, the prices start to rise considerably.

Q. How much does a cheap/affordable funeral cost?


A. Those who want the cheapest funerals usually opt for cremation instead of burial. The most affordable funerals start from around £1,500. 

Q. How do I reduce expenses and save money on funeral costs?


A. One of the best ways of keeping costs down is to ‘lock in’ the price of the funeral at today’s rates.


This will ensure, come time for the funeral whether in 5, 10 or so years, you will still pay that rate, and NOT the going rate in 10 years time, which is sure to be much higher. 


This can be done by getting a funeral plan quote and talking through your options; and working out what works best for your needs.


Another way to reduce costs is by going for a cremation, so you don’t have burial costs, and keeping everything nice and simple.

Q. Who should pay for a funeral?


A. The money advice service has some information on this – but they suggest, if there are debts/no money, it is usually paid by family, friends or the council. The costs are then recovered from the deceased’s estate. 


Otherwise it would rest with the close family to cover. This is why it can be worthwhile to have it paid for in advance, for one the financial side of things would be taken care of (no pressure on family to pay), for two, the funeral would be organised in advance so every detail would be already in place (less stress on family to sort).

Q. How do you pay for a funeral?


A. For a traditional funeral, you would pay the funeral director fees, which would cover most aspects of the funeral.

Q. Financial help with funeral expenses / How to get help towards funeral costs?


A. If you need help with funeral expenses, if you are a low income family, on benefits or tax credits and fear you can’t afford a funeral or have no money, you can apply via the government website for assistance, but there are strict eligibility criteria to be able to claim.


Alternatively, if you’re not on benefits or receiving tax credits, or are a pensioner, but can see potential difficulties when the time comes but you can still get help paying, a pre paid funeral plan could offer the kind of help you need; by paying a set monthly sum each month it will ensure you won’t have any financial worries and enable to have the funeral you want.

Q. Government Funeral Expenses Payment?


A. Separate from the above you may be able to gain assistance from the government if the deceased did not already have a funeral plan in place. Otherwise the contribution will be £120. 


You may be eligible for the following; up to £700 for funeral expenses, burial fees, cremation and Doctor’s fees, costs for travel to funeral and for conveying deceased if more than 50 miles. Help paying for paperwork i.e. death certificates.

Q. What is a paupers burial/paupers funeral?


A. There are many thousands of incidents of lonely unclaimed deaths in the UK each year. Everyone is entitled to a Pauper’s funeral as it is the local council’s responsibility and statutory duty to care for the deceased and arrange the proper services to convey the body to cremation or burial. Though it is not the ideal way to leave.


While a Direct Cremation without funeral service is an acceptable offering, a Pauper’s funeral really is very basic and if buried may share a plot with other deceased, though it is not uncommon for a person to be buried above another in normal circumstances either.

These funerals are preceded by attempts to contact the next of kin, place or work or friends to notify them of the death.


In other situations some family are notified and are either not willing to help or cannot afford to help so falls back to the local authority to make funeral arrangements.


People may still attend such a funeral but it is per authority whether or not the service is more than a few grave side words or a full committal with representation and celebrant. Otherwise there tends to be no flowers, no attendees other than perhaps a council representative.


This is not simply a cheap way to have a funeral, it is often the only way. if the deceased had an estate and it is either claimed or unclaimed and ready for government discharge, the local council / authority can reclaim fees for the Pauper’s funeral from the estate as this was public money.

Q. Does social security help pay for funeral expenses?


A. The government website has a form you can download and fill in here. You may also wish to read up on the social security bereavement payment.

Q. Can funeral expenses be paid from the estate?


A. This is indeed possible yes. As long as the estate can cover any remaining mortgage and secured debts, first. If you can’t afford to do it this way, for example if there is no money left after paying off debts, then it may not be an option based on affordability. In this case getting a funeral plan quote may relieve some of the pressure, if it suits your circumstances.

Q. Do you have to pay for a funeral upfront / Can you pay for a funeral in instalments?


A. Upfront costs do not apply in the case of a funeral plan where you pay a set, agreed upon monthly fee, this would enable you to have the funeral you want without paying the full cost upfront, only the deposit. 

Q. Why do funerals cost so much?


A. Usually because of the rising cost of burial plots as well as funerals themselves. Planning a funeral isn’t something we do very often, and for that reason alone most don’t think of ‘shopping around’ for a better price, the cost and expense is usually just accepted as is.


Cremations usually cost around half of burial costs, which can increase or decrease based on location. London being the most expensive place to be buried. Everything added increases the cost, such as headstone, flowers and a reception. The average cost of a funeral sits around £3,000 in the UK.

Q. How do I plan a funeral on a budget?


A. There are many ways to plan a funeral on a budget, for example a DIY Funeral may be of interest. 


Knowing your budget could help choose the type of funeral and options you want, which could be chosen when getting a prepaid funeral plan.

Q. How much is a cremation funeral?


A. Funeral cremation costs vary greatly but the average cost of a cremation is around £650-£700. The cost of having a funeral after the cremation will depend on if you have a reception, flowers, and other miscellaneous items.


Q. How does a funeral plot cost?


A. Cemetery plots cost, on average £750 to £950 (75-100 year lease time). Ash plots sit around £450. 


Q. How much does the cheapest funeral cost?


A. For those really on a budget, direct cremation is one way to keep costs low. With this option, there isn’t a funeral as such, but rather the body is collected and taken directly to be cremated and the remains dealt with accordingly. For individuals who do want more of a ceremony, there are affordable funeral plans available that start at around the £1,500-£2,000 mark. 


Q. What is the average cost of a funeral?


A. The average cost of a funeral in the UK is now £3,675, a figure expected to rise dramatically in coming years. Dependent on the so-called “postcode lottery” (e.g. where you live), the average price could be even more! One way to avoid the hike in prices and secure a competitive rate is to do your research and compare pre-paid funeral plans.


Q. How much is a horse and carriage for a funeral?


A. A traditional touch, horse drawn carriages can make a beautiful and lasting impression in your final hour.These are for those who don’t mind paying a bit more however, as a pair of horses starts around the £1,000 mark, while a team of four can cost upwards of £1,800. It’s worth noting that some providers of horse drawn carriages will have limitations in place regarding how far the horses can travel, which may impact other aspects of your burial plans.


Q. Is there any help with funeral costs for low income families?


A. Depending on your household income, you may qualify for financial assistance when it comes to funeral costs. There are certain criteria that must be met, and rules are different for overseas deaths. You can find out more about government Funeral Payments here.


Q. What is available in terms of seniors funeral cover?


A. If you have left it until later in life to put in place funeral plans, there are still some options. If you are aged between 50 and 79, you could be eligible for Over 50s Life Insurance, which could help cover the costs of your funeral.


When it comes to funeral cover for over 80 years, there are some life insurance policies available that may be able to help. However, as many insurers consider individuals over 80 at higher risk to ensure you’ll likely need to contact a specialist insurer to discuss your options. 


If you are not approved, your loved ones won’t receive anything financially upon your death, meaning you leave them nothing to help cover the cost of your funeral. This is yet another reason why planning your funeral ahead can be so advantageous.


Can I Pay for My Funeral in Advance? Should I?

Yes, but whether you should or not will depend on your own circumstances, as everyone’s will be different…

After my uncle died, we had to plan for his entire funeral in just a few days. To be honest, we weren’t terribly concerned about having a fancy service with a theme or anything particularly elaborate. He was a humble guy who would’ve have been more concerned with the price of the funeral than the colour of the flowers.

But even the simple logistics of organising the funeral was daunting. This, to me, is the huge advantage of paying for your own funeral well before it occurs. Not only is the expense of funeral services generally lower, but your loved ones will be relieved of a possibly unexpected burden.

Let’s have a chat to see if we can help you with funeral costs – add your details below, put the kettle on, and we’ll call you right back.