On average, the cost for a burial is £4,321, whilst the average cost for a cremation is £3,250. There are many things to think about and decide when arranging a funeral. It is often a difficult time for family and friends who are dealing with loss. A funeral is also, to some people’s surprise, a lot more expensive than they thought, often costing thousands of pounds. We’ll give you a breakdown of costs and suggest a few ways to help you plan a good but affordable funeral.
- Things to consider
- Average cost of a funeral
- Using a funeral director
- Third-party costs (disbursement costs)
- Optional costs
- How to reduce the cost of a funeral
- Help to pay for a funeral
- Practical ways to plan for your funeral
Things to consider
You may be arranging a funeral while coping with grief and feeling you must act quickly, and with little or no recent experience. Some people have strong ideas about what a funeral should be like and what a good send-off should be.
It’s worth considering the following points:
- Choose a funeral that is affordable and is right for the person who has died. It’s unlikely that the person who has died would want you to get yourself into debt to pay for the funeral or fees stressed about the finances. It’s not wrong or disrespectful to give thought to funeral costs.
- Get at least two quotes, perhaps from an independent funeral director and one from a chain. Many people choose to use a funeral director and they can give helpful guidance. But remember they are a business and their fees can be the most expensive part of a funeral.
- More expensive options don’t make a better funeral. As well as the type of funeral and which funeral director you may use, optional extras affect the cost. Words, music and actions can be more meaningful than expensive cars and coffins.
- If you’re worried about the cost of a funeral or think that you might struggle to pay for it, read our article Help paying for a funeral for some advice.
The coronavirus outbreak has imposed serious restrictions on funerals, which makes organising a meaningful ceremony seem difficult. You can find out more about what you can do on the Quaker Social Action website.
The average cost of a funeral
Did you know?
Musician David Bowie and Booker Prize-winning author Anita Brookner both chose direct cremation instead of a funeral.
Recent figures show that a funeral using a funeral director costs on average £3,989*.
This cost can vary quite a bit, depending on location and the funeral arrangements. For example, quotes in London can vary as much as £2,315. But it is possible to have a meaningful funeral for a lot less.
For example, you could have a ‘direct cremation’, which costs about £1,700, and then organise a ceremony at home. Or you could even arrange the funeral yourself.
|Type of funeral||Average cost*||Includes|
|Direct cremation||£1,700||Collection of the deceased, a simple coffin, and return of ashes.|
|Cremation using a funeral director||£3,250||Collection and care of the deceased, a basic coffin, hearse and managing a simple service; but does not include an elaborate ceremony. Also includes cremation fees, and fee for cremation certificate from a doctor.|
|Burial using a funeral director||£4,321||Collection and care of the deceased, a basic coffin, hearse and managing a simple service; but does not include an elaborate ceremony. I also includes cremation fees and minister fees.|
*Source: Royal London National Funeral Cost Index Report 2019.
|English region and UK Nations||Cost of a simple cremation||Cost of a simple burial|
|South East England||£3,306||£4,301|
|East of England||£3,322||£4,086|
|North West England||£3,253||£4,088|
|Yorkshire and the Humber||£3,284||£4,271|
|North East England||£3,232||4,086|
Using a funeral director
A funeral director can help make it easier for you to arrange a funeral, giving you time to grieve.
But this is likely to mean a more expensive funeral.
How much is a funeral director?
The funeral director’s fees can be the most expensive part of a funeral, in many cases making up between 50-66% of the costs.*
If you use a funeral director, they’ll collect, store, prepare and deliver the body to the cemetery or crematorium.
They’ll also ensure the necessary forms for cremation or burial are completed, and some will also arrange a simple ceremony as part of their fee.
They’ll also provide a coffin, hearse and usually a limousine.
But these items can quickly add up depending on what you pick.
For example, the price of a coffin can be as little as £100 to as much as £10,000.
If the price is a concern, you should ask your local funeral director if they offer a simple funeral or a direct cremation.
How to find a funeral director
You shouldn’t just pick the first one you find. Call around and get at least two quotes before you choose one that’s best for you.
You should also consider using a local independent funeral director. They’re usually cheaper than a national chain.
Use these sites to find a local funeral director. Make sure you check more than one site as the prices will vary and none are whole of market, so results vary by sites.
- Fair Funerals Campaign
- The National Association of Funeral Directors
- The Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors
You could also use the Funeral Choice website to compare the price of your local funeral directors.
You can refine the results by changing your search area. The prices shown don’t include the cremation or burial fee.
*Source: Data in based on the Royal London National Funeral Cost Index Report 2018.
Third-party costs (disbursement costs)
Third-party costs, also known as ‘disbursement costs’ is a fancy term for fees that you must pay to a third party to either bury or cremate the body.
If you’re using a funeral director, they are likely to manage this payment for you, but they’ll probably ask for this money upfront.
Costs can vary a lot depending on your choices. For example, a cremation is normally cheaper even if you’re using a funeral director.
However, burial costs vary enormously up and down the country, with a new grave costing from just over £550 in Belfast, to over £4700 in the London and Brighton areas.
|Cremation fees, Medical referee’s certificate in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (only applies for cremation), Clergy/officiant||£164|
**Source: Royal London National Funeral Cost Index Report 2017.
The burial fee usually covers the lease of a burial plot and the digging and filling of the grave.
There’s also a fee to use the crematorium to cremate the body.
Before you decide on a cemetery or crematorium, there are a few things to bear in mind which might affect the final cost:
- There is sometimes a big price difference in having a funeral in one crematorium or cemetery to another just a few miles apart. So, it’s a good idea to check both your local and surrounding areas to compare the cost and find the best one for you.
- You should also ask if the cemetery has ‘non-resident charges’. These are extra charges for cremating or burying a person who didn’t live in the district or borough.
- There is also usually a separate charge to keep a grave clean and tidy. This is normally paid every year. Before you decide which cemetery to use, you should check how much this is.
- Sometimes there is a separate charge to use the cemetery or crematorium to conduct the funeral service. You should check to see if this is included in the burial or cremation fees.
The third-party costs might also include fees for specific services.
For example, doctor’s fees to certify the death, a member of the clergy to perform the funeral service, or an officiant to lead a non-religious service.
If you’re using a funeral director to arrange the funeral, the third party costs are sometimes included in their funeral package.
Most funeral directors will ask you to pay for the disbursement costs before the funeral.
You should check the quote they give before you agree to use them.
*Source: Some of the data in this article is based on the annual SunLife Cost of Dying report 2017, and the Royal London National Funeral Cost Index Report 2017.
There are many items and services that you can add to a funeral. Each item, however, costs money.
The more you add, the more expensive the funeral becomes.
And you could very easily end up adding an extra £1,976* or more to the final bill.
You might wish to think carefully about whether these items and services are needed in the funeral.
If you feel they’re needed, you should shop around and see if you can get them for less.
|Memorial headstone or plaque||£910|
|The fee to return the ashes (only applies to direct cremation)||£62|
|Death notice or obituary||£82|
|Order of service sheets||£88|
|Death certificate copies (several copies are needed for probate)||From £11 per copy|
You can find more information about optional funeral costs on the Funeral Costs Help opens in a new window website.
*Source: Some of the data in this article is based on the annual SunLife Cost of Dying report 2020.
How to reduce the cost of a funeral
There is no need to feel pressured to spend a lot of money or get yourself into debt, just to show your affection and respect.
You can have a funeral that’s dignified and meaningful without having to spend a huge amount of money.
A cremation is usually going to cost less than a burial. As is arranging the funeral yourself instead of using a funeral director.
But there are some ways to further reduce the cost of a funeral regardless of these choices:
- Shop around: funeral costs can vary a lot. While you might find it difficult, it’s important to compare prices and services.
Get a quote from more than one funeral director, caterer or florist so you can compare prices. You can then pick one that fits your budget.
- Ask family and friends: for example, instead of paying for a caterer, ask family and friends to bring food to the wake. You could also ask them to help you check for cheaper options.
- Charity collection and memorial: buying and maintaining a headstone or memorial plaque can be expensive. Instead, you can create an online memorial where family and friends can donate to a charity in memory of the deceased.
Websites such as JustGiving offer a charity online memorial indefinitely.
- Time of day of a cremation, and who you use: picking a cheaper slot if available, such as early morning or a weekday slot can also lower the cost. You could also pick a council-run crematorium, which is usually cheaper than a private one. The facilities and decor, however, might be a bit basic, so you might want to check it out beforehand.
- Type of coffin: there’s nothing in the law that says you have to use a coffin. You can use a shroud instead. Don’t feel pressured into picking an expensive coffin or shroud if you’re working with a limited budget.
You can sometimes get a cheaper option with an online coffin and shroud suppliers, check the Good Funeral Guide’s list of recommended companies.
- Natural burial: you might want to consider a natural burial ground, such as a woodland. These are often much cheaper than a traditional cemetery, which can be very expensive. Traditional cemeteries also charge ‘non-resident’ fees if the person who died didn’t live in the area. To find a natural burial ground, visit the Natural Death Centre website.
- Body donation: many people can apply to donate their body to medical schools for training healthcare professionals or for research. The body will not always be accepted as it will depend on the requirements of the individual medical schools, the circumstances of the death and the conditions from which the person has died. If donation is not possible, other funeral arrangements will need to be arranged. Schools might hold a memorial or funeral service, but there is often a delay of two to three years before it takes place. Some medical schools will request a contribution towards transporting costs. Find your local medical school on the Human Tissue Authority’s website where you can get more information on the conditions they have for taking the body.
Help to pay for a funeral
If you’re worried about the cost of a funeral or think that you might struggle to pay for it, read our article Help paying for a funeral for some advice.
Arrange it yourself without a funeral director
If you would prefer to arrange the funeral yourself, the following article offers a step-by-step guide to organising a simple cremation.
What is a ‘direct cremation’ or a ‘cremation without a ceremony’?
Direct cremation is offered by some companies – where the body is collected from a mortuary during normal working hours and cremated at a convenient time. It is sometimes known as a ‘cremation without a ceremony’
There’s usually no viewing or ceremony beforehand, or a limousine for the family and mourners.
And if you wish to have the ashes afterwards, make sure you request them.
You usually need to collect them, but some might deliver for a charge.
This then leaves you to hold a ceremony, if you wish, at a time and place of your choosing.
How much is it?
We suggest a budget of about £1,700.
We found several companies online offering direct cremation for around £1,000.
This price normally includes third party costs such as doctor’s certification and crematorium fees.
If you’d like to have the ashes returned to you, this can cost an extra £150. And collecting the body outside of normal working hours, or from a nursing home or residence, is about an extra £550.
This brings the total cost of a direct cremation to £1,700.
Costs might vary depending on location. So, shop around and check whether the company offers a reasonable price for covering your area.
If you choose to hold a ceremony afterwards, you’ll need to factor in these costs as well.
However, there are a variety of low-cost ways to have a ceremony, such as having it at home.
How to find one?
You can do an online search for ‘direct cremation’ in your area.
If you’re in England or Wales, you could try these national providers:
Or use these sites below to find a local provider.
- Fair Funerals Campaign
- The National Association of Funeral Directors
- The Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors
Make sure you check more than one site as they will show different results.
Some might not provide direct cremations.
Practical ways to plan for your funeral
You can plan for an affordable meaningful funeral before the day comes. Writing you wishes down and sharing it with those who may organise it can ensure things that matter to you happen. It can also reduce some of the anxiety of organising a funeral as many decisions will have already been made.
Even if you don’t mind what happens, writing it down can be a big help to your next of kin.
Judith Moran, Director of Quaker Social Action:
“Too many people are struggling with funeral costs and, worryingly, funeral related debt is at an all-time high. The cost of providing a decent send-off for a loved one comes with a heavy financial – and emotional – burden. Funeral debt can hinder the grieving process, and for many people, the debt they take on may take months or even years to pay off.”
You can write down your wishes and store it with your will or share it with family or friends. Quaker Social Action has created a printable funeral wishes form. But you can also just capture the key information on a piece of paper.