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Home > News & Advice > Funeral cost reduction in 2021

For the first time since insurance company SunLife began researching funeral costs in 2004, the cost of an average funeral in the UK has fallen. The SunLife (2022), Cost of Dying Report - the insurer’s annual look at funeral prices - shows the average cost of dying is £8,864. This figure, which includes the cost of organising a funeral plus professional fees and spending on a wake, is down 4.3% since 2020. The average cost of a basic funeral has also dropped - at £4,056, it’s down 3.1% since 2020.

With the vast majority of people who organised a funeral between February 2020 and July 2021 impacted by COVID-19 and social distancing measures, funeral spending was understandably down. An overwhelming number of the funeral directors surveyed by SunLife (97%) said they had been affected by the pandemic.

Direct cremations – cremation with no funeral service or attendees – are not only growing in popularity but also in price. The cost of direct cremations rose in 2021, increasing by 6% to £1,647. As the most affordable funeral option, it was also the most practical at the height of pandemic lockdowns. Almost a quarter of all funerals carried out between February 2020 and July 2021 were direct cremations compared with only 3% in 2020.

Funeral costs

The main cost associated with a basic funeral is the cremation or the burial. At £4,927 a burial is the most expensive option whilst a cremation costs £3,765, on average.

Other key areas of spending are professional fees (e.g. funeral director fees) and the ‘send-off’. SunLife classes the optional extras that can make a funeral more personal to the deceased as send-off costs. Compared to those who organised a funeral in the past four years, less was spent on extras such as venue hire, catering and limousines in 2021. The costs associated with this area of spending fell almost 2% to £2,484.

● 83% of funerals had fewer attendees

● 56% of funeral had no wake

● 27% had no limousines

● 20% of funerals had no flowers

● 14% of funerals had to take place virtually

A memorial can be the most expensive part of a send-off. At an average of £1,024, it can make up more than 40% of the total funeral cost.

The biggest change in costs for 2021 was the fall in professional fees, down by almost 9% since 2020. At £2,325 professional fees make up 26% of the total cost of dying.

Unexpected expense

Despite the overall price decrease, one in five surveyed by SunLife said they were surprised by certain funeral costs. Half said that they had tried to reduce funeral expenses by cutting back on flowers and the cost of the coffin. Home wakes were another popular way to keep funeral costs down.

Although more than half of funeral directors interviewed for the SunLife (2022), Cost of Dying Report said they had noticed an increase in the number of people getting quotes from different funeral directors, less than 20% of the people surveyed shopped around. More than 80% got no quote, or just one quote from the funeral director they ultimately used.

Funeral planning

Of the people SunLife surveyed, 66% said that they had made provisions to pay for their funeral, an increase of 2% since 2020. But of that group, just 63% could cover the whole cost of their funeral.

Of the families left to make up a shortfall, 17% said the funeral caused notable financial problems, having to find an average of £1,800 to cover total costs. Almost 40% of these people had to use savings or investments to cover funeral costs, 27% borrowed money from family or friends, and 22% used a credit card.

Although funeral spending was down in 2021, there is no guarantee that prices won’t return to pre-pandemic levels and SunLife’s ‘Cost of Dying Report’ is an annual reminder of the need to protect your family from funeral price inflation. Over the last 17 years, costs have risen 121% and SunLife’s price predictions forecast the average cost of a basic funeral to be over £5,000 in 2026.

At Golden Charter, we offer a range of options that can help protect your family from worry and expense - you can compare our funeral plans here.

  • SunLife’s annual Cost of Dying report is compiled from an online survey of more than 1,600 UK adults who were responsible for organising a funeral within the last four years plus telephone interviews with 100 funeral directors across 10 regions of the UK.

Golden Charter

Smart Planning for Later Life

Golden Charter has one of the largest networks of independent funeral directors in the UK. Many are long-standing, family-run businesses and all provide a compassionate and professional service.

Find out more about how you can plan for your funeral with one of the funeral directors in our network.