Red and white roses being placed on a wooden coffin at a funeral Red and white roses being placed on a wooden coffin at a funeral Jan 16, 2020

Nobody likes to think about their funeral, but it's always a good idea to be prepared. That's because funeral costs can be surprisingly high and could be a financial burden on your family.

The average cost of a funeral is now £3,757, with burial typically costing more than cremation. The cost is also affected by your location, the nature of your death and any specific arrangements you want for the funeral.

Many families are unable to pay for even a simple funeral and get into debt to fund one.

  • The average cost of a burial is £4,267
  • The average cost of a cremation is £3,247

Source: Royal London

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Reasons to plan a funeral

Planning your own funeral can have many benefits for you and your family:

  • Your family will be able to make arrangements quickly
  • You'll have the funeral you want
  • You can make sure you leave enough money to cover the funeral costs

How to let people know your wishes

You don't have to plan every detail of your funeral, but it's important to let your family know what you want. At the very least, you need to tell them whether you want a cremation or burial.

Many people include funeral plans in their will, but it's a good idea to write them in a separate letter or keep them in an online document everyone can access. That way your family won't only rely on your will.

Breakdown of the average costs for a funeral

Funeral costs can add up quickly. The biggest expense is the funeral director's fee, which makes up 66% of the total cost of a cremation funeral and 50% of the total cost of a burial funeral.

The following prices are from Royal London's Funeral Costs Index 2018, unless otherwise stated.

Funeral director: £2,153

They arrange the funeral and manage it from start to finish. This may include organising the burial or cremation, the site of the grave, transport, the venue and the cost of the ceremony. This will vary between directors.

Always compare different directors to see who suits you best. Look for someone who's registered with an official governing body – either the National Association of Funeral Directors or the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors. They'll have to follow a strict set of professional guidelines.

The pros and cons of using a funeral director

Pros Cons
They can carry out lots of different services in one package, such as preparing the body and planning the service. This can be cheaper than hiring several people to do separate jobs. They'll ask a lot of questions in a short amount of time in order to start planning. Some people may find this overwhelming.
They can help your family make decisions at a difficult time. Your family might not agree with their approach.
They must stick to the pricing standards set by their governing bodies. Prices are still high and no one knows what the maximum cost is.
Your family should be able to pay the director up to 30 days after the funeral or use a payment plan. Most funeral directors expect customers to pay all the fees upfront.

Minister/officiant: £154

A minister will lead a religious service. An officiant can lead a humanist (non-religious) service, or it can be hosted by a family member or friend.

Death certificate: £11 in England and Wales, £8 in Northern Ireland

Your death has to be registered at a registry office in the district where you died, after which a death certificate is supplied. This is required before you can be buried or cremated. There's also a fee for each extra copy of the certificate required.

Coffin: £275-£1,500+ (source)

There are many types of coffin to choose from. This is why the difference between the lowest and highest price is so big.

Burial fees: £1,960 (for residents) and £3,255 (for non-residents)

Burial fees can vary hugely. High demand and the location of the plot will affect the price. When you buy a burial plot, you're buying the right to say you'll be buried in that grave for a set amount of time. You'll also have the right to have a memorial set up on your behalf, such as a headstone or plaque. This is paid for separately.

Cremation fees: £792

A cremation costs less if it's done at an off-peak time, such as very early in the morning. For an extra fee, the person who organised the funeral will be given an urn containing the ashes. You can also buy a site on which you can scatter the ashes, if you want them in a specific place.

Additional costs could include:

  • Funeral home facilities (such as the chapel of rest)
  • Presentation of the deceased
  • Limo hire
  • Flowers
  • Order of service booklets
  • Funeral reception

Regional differences in funeral costs

The cost of your funeral will depend on where it's held. The difference between the average cost of the most and least expensive locations is £4,500.

The most expensive location in the UK is Kensal Green in London, where a burial costs £11,857. The rest of the top ten most expensive locations are also in London.

The least expensive locations are more spread out. Belfast is the cheapest, while other places with lower costs include parts of Scotland, Staffordshire and the West Country.

Alternatives to a funeral

You don't have to have a funeral. Some people choose to have a direct cremation, where the body is taken straight from the place of death to the crematorium. There's no viewing beforehand, mourners don't follow the hearse, and there's no traditional ceremony.

Your family will need to ask for the ashes if they want to scatter them. If you want to have a memorial, you can arrange one to happen after the cremation.

Most funeral directors will suggest a traditional service, but direct cremations are available if you look for them. If you choose a direct cremation, the executor must:

  • Register the death
  • Sign an application for cremation and ashes instruction form
  • Give the crematorium the doctors' cremation certificates or coroner's form 6.

The average cost of a direct cremation in the UK is £1,600, although some companies offer services for under £1,000.

How to pay for your funeral

One way to pay for your own funeral is to take out life insurance.

When you die, a cash sum will go to your estate or a person of your choice. It can help pay off bills, debts, and expenses, including funeral costs.

If you're unable to leave money to pay for your funeral, there could be options available to help your family cover the cost. These include:

  • Government support e.g. funeral expense payments - find out more from GOV.uk
  • Interest-free budgeting loans
  • Council funerals
  • Charity support
Go to life insurance