How much does a funeral cost?

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. A funeral arranged in the usual way costs, on average, £3,675. We’ll give you a breakdown of costs and suggest a few ways to help you plan a good but affordable funeral.

Average cost of a funeral

Recent figures show that a funeral using a funeral director costs on average £3,675*. This cost can vary quite a bit, depending on location and the funeral arrangements. In London for example, the price of funeral is almost double the national average.

But it is possible to have a meaningful funeral for a lot less. For example you could have a ‘direct cremation’, which costs about £1,600, and then organise a ceremony at home. Or you could even arrange the funeral yourself.

Whichever type of funeral you choose, costs can vary widely even in the same location. So make sure you get quotes from more than one provider.

The table below gives an indication of what you may pay for a simple funeral this includes funeral director’s costs, but not optional costs such as an elaborate ceremony.

However you choose to arrange a funeral, you should set a budget that you stick to.

Type of funeral Average cost* Includes
Direct cremation £1,600 Collection of the deceased, a simple coffin, and return of ashes
Cremation using a funeral director £3,214 Collection and care of the deceased, a basic coffin, hearse and managing a simple service; but does not include an elaborate ceremony
Burial using a funeral director £4,136 Collection and care of the deceased, a basic coffin, hearse and managing a simple service; but does not include an elaborate ceremony

What is a ‘direct cremation’?

It’s offered by some companies where the body is collected from a mortuary during normal working hours and cremated at a convenient time. There is 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 may deliver for a charge.

This then leaves you to hold a ceremony, if you wish, at a time and place of your choosing.

Did you know?

Musician David Bowie and Booker Prize winning author Anita Brookner both chose direct cremation instead of a funeral.

How much is it?

We suggest a budget of about £1,600. 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 £100. And collecting the body outside of normal working hours, or from a nursing home or residence is about an extra £500. This brings the total cost of a direct cremation to £1,600.

Costs may 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. Make sure you check more than one site as they will show different results. Some may not provide direct cremations.

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 is the most expensive part of a funeral. It’s over 69% of the cost of a cremation funeral, and 53% of a burial funeral, making it an average cost of £2,411*. The total cost of the funeral will depend on the third party (disbursement) and optional costs.

If you use a funeral director, they’ll collect, store, prepare and deliver the deceased 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 based on what you pick. For example, the price of a coffin is as little as £100 to as much as £10,000.

If 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 is 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 your local funeral director. Make sure you check more than one site as the results differ between sites.

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.

Did you know?

Using the Down to Earth guide, Michael arranged a moving and spiritually rewarding funeral for his mother. Even though it was tough, by doing it himself, he managed to bring the full cost of a funeral to £1,200.

Arrange it yourself without a funeral director

You could save more than £1,000 if you choose not to use a funeral director. But it will require more effort on your part. The total cost of the funeral will depend on third party (disbursement) fees and the optional costs you choose.

You can use the list below to help you arrange a simple cremation by yourself.

1. Care of the deceased

If the person died in a hospital or hospice, they’ll keep and care for the body for a reasonable amount of time. They will also normally arrange for a medical certificate with a cause of death.

But if the person died at home, you must call for a doctor or ambulance to get the medical certificate.

If the death does not need to be referred to the coroner, you can care for the person at home. You can lay them out in a cool space, ideally for under a week, while you buy a coffin and book the ceremony.

2. Register the death

You must register the death at a registry office within five days. You can’t make further arrangements until you do this.

You’ll need to take the medical certificate, which is signed by a doctor, when you register the death. Visit the GOV.UK website for more information on how to register a death.

Once you’ve registered the death, you’ll get a Certificate for Burial or Cremation (the ‘green form’), and a Certificate of Registration of Death (form BD8). You’ll need the ‘green form’ to book the crematorium.

3. Pick a coffin or shroud

You don’t have to legally use a coffin for a funeral. A shroud is a suitable and affordable alternative. See How to reduce the cost of a funeral below for more tips.

The crematorium or cemetery can advise you on what personal items you can place with the body if you’re thinking of doing this.

4. Book the crematorium

To book the crematorium, you’ll need to fill in a form at the crematorium, usually named as an ‘Authority for the disposal of cremated remains’.

They may also ask you to complete a ‘funeral instruction form’. You’ll need to fill in the deceased’s details, and also put in your preferences for timings and music during the ceremony.

5. Choose who will lead a ceremony if you want one

Having a ceremony is a very personal decision. But if you or the deceased wanted one, you can plan and lead it yourself. The Good Funeral Guide website has some advice on leading the ceremony.

Alternatively, you could ask an ‘independent funeral celebrant’ or a member of the clergy to do this. To find someone to lead the service, ask the crematorium or cemetery for a list of local contacts, or visit the Funeral Celebrants website.

6. Transport the body

You’ll need to arrange transport to the crematorium. You don’t have to legally use a hearse to do this. You can transport the coffin or shroud in an estate car or van.

You can get more advice on arranging the funeral yourself on the Good Funeral Guide and Natural Death Centre websites.

If you feel that this is all too much to take on, you should consider a ‘direct cremation’ instead.

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 up front.

Cost 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 the cost of a new grave costing from just over £550 in Belfast, to over £4700 in the London and Brighton areas.

Type of fee Average cost*    
Burial fees £1,950 Cremation fees £733
Medical referee’s certificate in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (only applies for cremation) £164 Clergy/officiant fee £148

The burial fee usually covers the lease of a burial plot, and the digging and filling of the grave. There is 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 may affect the final cost:

  1. 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 good idea to check both your local and surrounding areas to compare the cost and find the best one for you.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 may 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.

Optional costs

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 may 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.

Item Average cost*
Memorial headstone or plaque £801
Catering £397
Limousine £235
Venue hire £192
Flowers £151
Fee to return the ashes (only applies to direct cremation) £62
Funeral notice £62
Death notice or obituary £66
Order of service sheets £72
Urn From £30
Death certificate copies (several copies are needed for probate) From £4 per copy

You can find more information about optional funeral costs on the Funeral Costs Help website.

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 is 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:

  1. Shop around
    Funeral costs can vary a lot. So while you may find it difficult, it’s important to shop around.
    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.
  2. Ask family and friends
    For example, instead of paying for a caterer, ask family or friends to bring food to the wake. You could also ask them to help you check for cheaper options.
  3. 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.
  4. Time of day of a cremation, and who you use
    Picking a cheaper slot, if available, such as an 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 may want to check it out beforehand.
  5. Type of coffin
    There’s nothing in the law that says you have to use a coffin. So you can use a shroud instead. And 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 online coffin and shroud suppliers, such as The Coffin Company.
    Alternatively, check the Good Funeral Guide’s list of recommended companies.
  6. Natural burial
    A burial in a traditional cemetery is generally more expensive. It’s even more so if the deceased was not a resident of the area, as non-resident fees are sometimes charged.
    You may want to consider a natural burial ground, such as a woodland, instead. These are often much cheaper than a traditional cemetery.
    To find a natural burial ground, visit the Natural Death Centre website.

For more ways to reduce the cost of a funeral, visit the Down to Earth and Natural Death Centre websites.

Help paying for a funeral

If you’re worried about the cost of a funeral, or think that you might struggle to pay for a funeral, read our Help paying for a funeral for some advice.

*Source: Some of the data in this article is based on the annual SunLife Cost of Dying report 2016, and the Royal London National Funeral Cost Index Report 2016.