Families Hit Hard by Rising Funeral Costs Across UK

The cost of dying continues to spiral, with funeral charges rising at almost 10 times the rate of inflation.

Families Hit Hard by Rising Funeral Costs Across UK

  • Funerals are now one of the UK’s fastest rising costs, outstripping inflation, wages and pensions.
  • The average funeral now costs £3,897, with the total cost of dying a staggering £8,802 per person.
  • Families are spending 28% less on the send-off than they were 5 years ago to cover rising funeral costs.

SunLife’s annual Cost of Dying research shows that the cost of dying is the fastest rising of any fixed cost in the UK – rising much faster than any cost of living such as rent, food, utilities, insurance, or clothing.


The overall cost of dying which includes death-related costs such as probate, headstones and flowers in addition to the basic cost of a funeral – has risen by 8.3% to £8,802.


The funeral – which makes up 44% of the cost of dying – has soared by 5.5% in a single year. The average funeral in the UK now costs £3,897 which is more than double what it was when SunLife first started tracking funeral prices in 2004.


To put this in perspective, if the cost of a funeral had risen in line with the cost of living it would now cost £2,540 – £1,357 less than the actual figure


London remains the most expensive place to die, with the average funeral costing £5,529, which is 42% more than the national average of £3,897.

Region Average Price (£) Difference from National Average (%) Change from 2015 (%)
Wales £3,627 -6.9% +2.0%
South East and East of England £4,090 +5.0% +13.5%
London £5,529 +41.9% +9.1%
East and West Midlands £3,878 -0.5% +5.7%
Yorkshire and the Humber £3,834 -1.6% +8.0%
Scotland £3,716 -4.6% +3.4%
South West England £4,011 +2.9% +6.1%
North West England £3,381 -13.2% +3.8%
North East England £3,744 -3.9% +2.6%
Northern Ireland £3,277 -15.9% +2.3%
National Average £3,897 +5.5%

Cutting Corners on the Send-Off

SunLife’s research found that 40% of people organising a funeral said it cost more than they expected and more than a third (38%) of those said it cost a lot more.


As a result, one in twelve people organising a funeral said they had to cut back or change some of the ‘send-off’ costs they had planned for their loved one:

  • 30% had to cut back on limousines for immediate family.
  • 27% on the memorial (headstone, urn, bench etc.).
  • 26% had to make cutbacks to the catering.
  • 17% cut back on flowers.
  • 15% had to find a cheaper venue.

Back in 2008, the average spent on the send-off was £2,097, which was almost a third (31%) of the total cost of dying. Now it is £1,976 which is just 22% of the total and a drop of 28%. In comparison, the proportion spent on the funeral has gone up from 38% of the total cost to 44%.

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Cost of Dying (£) £6,698 £7,098 £6,801 £7,248 £7,114 £7,622 £8,427 £8,126 £8,802
Funeral (%) 38.1% 38.5% 42.0% 42.6% 46.2% 45.3% 42.6% 45.4% 44.3%
Send-Off (%) 31.3% 30.4% 25.7% 25.7% 27.0% 26.3% 21.8% 24.6% 22.4%
Professional Services (%) 30.6% 31.1% 32.3% 31.6% 26.8% 28.3% 35.6% 29.9% 33.3%

The ‘send-off’ is the only part of the overall cost that is discretionary and has been around £2,000 for the past 10 years, which means as a percentage of the entire cost of dying, it has been slowly dropping for a decade. This suggests that families are being forced to cut back on the extras due to the rising fixed costs.

Are we making sufficient provision?

The fact that the cost of dying is far outstripping the cost of living does seem to be affecting behaviour, as the number of people that have made at least some funeral provision is rising.


This year, more than three in five (62%) put at least some money aside compared to 59% last year and just over half (54%) in 2009.


And while this is definitely encouraging, it still means that 38% are still making no provision to pay for their own funeral. Of those that do make some provision, one in five are not leaving enough to cover the full cost, up from one in six last year.


One in seven people (13%) who have organised a funeral in the past four years admitted it caused them notable financial concern with the average shortfall standing at £2,334. Of these:

  • 10% had to sell belongings to cover the cost.
  • 24% had to put the balance on a credit card.
  • 10% had to take out a loan.
  • 18% had to borrow money from a friend or relative.

Lack of conversation

The Cost of Dying also reveals that as a nation we are still reluctant to talk about death and dying, and this means that the vast majority of those organising a funeral do not know all the preferences of the deceased.


In fact, just 1% of those who had organised a funeral in the past four years fully understood their loved ones’ send-off wishes. Only 37% knew which funeral director to use, and just 59% knew the deceased’s preference for burial or cremation. Staggeringly, 22% didn’t know any of the deceased’s wishes.


Of those surveyed, more than half (53%) said it would have been much easier to organise their loved one’s funeral if they had had a ‘conversation’ with them about death and dying, yet 29% still haven’t done anything about their own end of life plans.

In Conclusion

We all know that death will eventually come to us all, and therefore, we will all need to pay for a funeral, yet it is something that, as a nation, we are uncomfortable talking about or planning for.


Unfortunately, this reluctance to talk death is not only causing financial issues, but emotional ones too. The report shows that just 1% of those organising a funeral knew the preferences of the deceased which means at a difficult time, many of us our forced to make decisions about a loved one’s funeral not knowing if it is what they would have wanted.


95% of those organising a funeral said it was easier when they knew the preferences of the deceased, yet almost a third of those people still haven’t done anything about their own end of life plans, so it is vital that we change our attitude towards death.


Talking about it won’t make it happen, but if we don’t, we will end up putting a huge financial and emotional burden on those left behind.

We can help!

Working in partnership with the UK’s leading pre-paid funeral plan providers, we offer a variety of different funeral plans and payment options to suit your needs. Your money is held in a solid, stable, and secure independent Trust, and your funeral is fully paid for and secured at today’s costs, regardless of future price increases.


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