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Welcome to the SunLife Cost of Dying Report 2024

After two years of falls, the cost of a basic funeral in the UK is on the rise again. Meanwhile, the average cost of dying – that’s a funeral plus professional fees and send-off costs – has reached a record high.

This report, like previous editions, explores how people are trying to cover mounting funeral costs, changing attitudes towards final farewells, and the evolving landscape facing the industry. Of course, the cost-of-living crisis has also been central to our findings, with many organisers reporting an impact on their own finances, standard of living, and wellbeing.

As always, both funeral directors and those who’ve recently organised a send-off have given us plenty of tips and advice on what (and what not) to do.

And for even more insight into funeral costs and trends, download our full PDF report.

How much does a funeral cost in the UK today?

For the first time in three years, the cost of a basic funeral in the UK has risen – now standing at £4,141 (up 4.7% on last year).

What’s more, the overall cost of dying has increased to a record high of £9,658 (up 5%).

The cost of dying

The ‘cost of dying’ is the total cost of a person’s send-off – including professional fees for administering the estate, a basic funeral service, and optional extras like the party or wake.

2023 saw the total cost of dying go up by 5% to £9,658 – the highest figure ever. Increases in both send-off and professional fees mean we’re now paying an average of £458 more than we were in 2022.

Infographic entitled The cost of dying showing how much the cost of dying has changed between 2022 and 2023, discussed above.

Other costs included in the total cost of dying

Professional fees

Like in 2022, the cost of professional fees rose the most in 2023. However, the rise is less steep at 6.6% (compared to the 10.9% rise in 2022).

Send-off costs

A send-off is all the optional extras that can make a funeral more personal to the deceased and their loved ones, like the transport, catering, wake, and flowers.

2022 marked a post-pandemic ‘bounce-back’ for send-off costs, and they continued to rise in 2023. The send-off now costs an average of £2,768 – up 3.7%.

Funeral costs

After two years of lower funeral costs – in part due to the pandemic – prices are on the rise again. In 2023, the average funeral cost £4,141 – 4.7% more than in 2022.

Infographic entitled The cost of a basic funeral showing how much the cost of a basic funeral has changed between 2022 and 2023, discussed above.

How much does a burial and cremation cost?

Our funeral costs are a weighted average of burial and cremation prices. Whereas funeral costs went down for two years in a row from 2020 to 2022, 2023 saw the price of both a burial and cremation start to rise to pre-pandemic levels.

At £1,498, a direct cremation is the only funeral type that costs almost exactly the same as in 2022. And it’s still the most affordable type of funeral.

This year, we asked people if the funeral they’d organised was a ‘direct burial’. Like a direct cremation, this is a kind of funeral without a service. Instead, the deceased are taken straight to a cemetery and buried – making it a more affordable option.

2023 percentage change in cost 2022
Burial £5,077 +5.9% £4,794
Cremation £3,795 +3.3% £3,673
Direct cremation £1,498 -0.9% £1,511
Direct burial* £1,657 (n/a) (n/a)
Average funeral cost £4,141 +4.7% £3,953

*New addition for Cost of Dying 2024. Direct burial cost doesn't include third-party fees (such as burial plot).

Funeral costs by UK regions

Unlike last year, when only two regions saw price rises, most areas in the UK have higher average funeral costs in 2023. Only London, North West England and Northern Ireland have seen a drop.

Once again, Northern Ireland remains the most affordable place to die in the UK, with the average funeral there costing £3,256. And at £5,171, London yet again has the highest price, despite a slight drop in cost. That’s a mark-up of 59% from the least to the most expensive region.

Rank Region Average funeral cost Change from last year
2South East & East of England£4,643+8.0%
4East & West Midlands£4,150+6.6%
5Yorkshire and the Humber£4,065+8.6%
6South West England£4,032+10.8%
8North East England£3,973+8.3%
9North West England£3,802-0.8%
10Northern Ireland£3,256-1.8%

The future of funerals

What type of funeral are people choosing?

At 53%, a cremation with a service is the most popular type of funeral, despite the number of cremations dropping by 4%. In contrast, the percentage of funerals that were burials or direct cremations each went up by 2%, to 27% and 20% respectively.

Percentage bar chart about types of funerals people are choosing between 2019 and 2023.

What type of funeral are people choosing?

  • 2019. 3% Direct cremations. 23% Burials. 74% Cremations.
  • 2020. 14% Direct cremations. 26% Burials. 59% Cremations.
  • 2021. 18% Direct cremations. 25% Burials. 57% Cremations.
  • 2022. 18% Direct cremations. 25% Burials. 57% Cremations.
  • 2023. 20% Direct cremations. 27% Burials. 53% Cremations.
  • In 2023, 4% said they chose a direct burial for their loved one.

The continued rise of direct cremations

The number of direct cremations swelled during the pandemic – out of necessity – but they’ve continued to grow in popularity even in the years after COVID-19 restrictions. This may in part be down to cost-of-living pressures.

A direct cremation needn’t take place in isolation though. 33% of organisers say they held a wake afterwards, 27% held a memorial service, and a further 18% held both.

Paying for a funeral

Who's paying for funerals?

70% of people make provisions specifically to pay for their funeral before they pass away (+1% since 2022).

But only 54% (-5% since 2022) of those put enough aside to cover the whole cost of the funeral.

On top of the deceased’s provisions, many organisers have to fund the funeral through their own or alternative means.

Financial provisions made by the deceased to pay for their funeral



Savings and investments

44%in 2023

41%in 2022

Pre-paid funeral plan

37%in 2023

39%in 2022

Over 50s life insurance plan

23%in 2023

18%in 2022

Life insurance plan

(excluding over 50s plans)

20%in 2023

19%in 2022

How are loved ones making up the funeral costs?

1 in 5 (20%, +1% from 2022) of families experience notable financial concerns when paying for a funeral. On average, they have to find almost £2,716 to cover the costs – £116 more than last year.

Most of them find the money by delving into their savings and investments (35%), using a credit card (25%), or borrowing from a friend or relative (25%). The number of people selling belongings to cover the cost has risen by 3% to 18%.

How people who report notable financial concern make up the funeral cost



Took money from savings or investments

35%in 2023

33%in 2022

Put the outstanding amount on a credit card

25%in 2023

27%in 2022

Borrowed money from a friend or relative

25%in 2023

23%in 2022

Sold belongings to cover the cost

18%in 2023

15%in 2022

Paid the funeral director in instalments

16%in 2023

12%in 2022

Borrowed money from a loan provider

(e.g. a bank)

14%in 2023

14%in 2022

Applied for a subsidy from government or local authority

(e.g. Funeral Expenses Payment)

12%in 2023

9%in 2022


3% in 2023

Something else

1% in 2023

2%in 2022

Can't remember

3% in 2023

4%in 2022

*New addition for Cost of Dying 2024

The cost-of-living crisis and the impact of paying for a funeral on our wellbeing

Over 4 in 10 (44%) people say the cost-of-living crisis impacted how they organised and/or paid for the funeral.

And for 1 in 4 (24%), paying for a funeral affects standard of living. 6% struggle to pay essential bills or rent, and 1 in 10 (10%) have to cut back on essential items such as food.

Of those who experience notable financial difficulties when paying for the funeral, over 3 in 4 (76%) people say it impacted their mental health. And 67% say it impacted their physical health.

Tips and advice

Cutting costs

As the cost of dying continues to rise, more and more organisers are looking for ways to keep their spending low. 59% (+2% from 2022) of people report actively cutting back on certain aspects of the funeral in order to keep costs down.

93% of funeral directors say people spend more money than they need to, on things such as catering and the coffin. A massive 82% of those mention flowers in particular.

How did people cut costs?



Spent less on flowers

18%in 2023

17%in 2022

Chose a cheaper coffin

16%in 2023

18%in 2022

Had a home wake

15%in 2023

16%in 2022

Shopped around for the best price

15%in 2023

11%in 2022

Chose not to embalm

13%in 2023

13%in 2022

Didn't use a hearse/limousine

11%in 2023

12%in 2022

Chose a direct cremation

9%in 2023

7%in 2022

Didn't use order of service cards

8%in 2023

10%in 2022

Chose a cheaper cremation time

6%in 2023

5%in 2022

Asked the funeral director to use fewer pall bearers

4%in 2023

4%in 2022

Planning a funeral

Planning a funeral can be a stressful experience at any time, even more so when you’re grieving. But there are still ways we can give our loved ones a special send-off while keeping the stress to a minimum…

Advice from funeral organisers

  • Get as much help as you can from friends, the celebrant, etc. to plan your service
  • Make the service as personalised to the deceased as you can
  • Speak to the deceased beforehand
  • Write a list of all you need to do, and work through it as best you can so it doesn't feel overwhelming

Advice from funeral directors

  • Have a chat with the family and ask what their wishes are
  • Talk to multiple people and find a funeral director you can feel comfortable with
  • Don’t worry about having the service in a week and a half – we are seeing delays and it’s more prolonged than it used to be
  • Don’t try to please everybody

Funeral wishes

Let's talk about funeral wishes

Once again, most of us aren’t talking about death and funerals.

Over half (54%) don’t even know if their loved one wanted a burial or cremation – that’s 5% more than in 2022.

In fact, 1 in 5 (19%) don’t know any of their loved one’s funeral wishes – that’s an increase of 1% since 2022. And only 1% know all their loved one’s funeral wishes.

What did people know about their loved one's funeral wishes?



Whether their loved one wanted a burial or cremation

46%in 2023

51%in 2022

If they wanted a religious or non-religious service

34%in 2023

37%in 2022

Whether they wanted their ashes scattered, interred or disposed

27%in 2023

28%in 2022

Their preferred funeral director

26%in 2023

26%in 2022

Their preference for any music/readings

25%in 2023

25%in 2022

The location of their preferred cemetery or burial ground

24%in 2023

27%in 2022

Their preference regarding who should arrange the funeral

21%in 2023

20%in 2022

Their preferred charity for donation

20%in 2023

21%in 2022

Who to invite to the funeral

15%in 2023

15%in 2022

Which type of coffin or casket

14%in 2023

14%in 2022

Their preferred venue for the wake or post-funeral gathering

13%in 2023

11%in 2022

What type of flowers they wanted

12%in 2023

12%in 2022

I didn't know any of their preferences

19%in 2023

18%in 2022

Are we planning ahead?

Despite the fact that we’re talking about funerals less, organising one prompts 66% to start thinking about their own funeral – up 2% since 2022.

The number of people who speak to someone about their funeral preferences has dropped by 7% since 2022. And the number of people making a will has dropped the same amount, now at 24%.

However, the number of people pre-paying for their funeral has risen to 21% (up 3% since 2022).

Infographic showing table of different percentages entitled 'How people are planning for their own funeral'

The data is as follows:

  • 26% Ive spoken to someone about my funeral preferences
  • 24% I've made a will
  • 23% I've got money set aside specifically to pay for my funeral
  • 21% I've already pre-paid for my funeral
  • 19% I've got life insurance specifically to pay for my funeral
  • 14% I've made a record of my wishes in writing
  • 12% I've chosen the funeral song
  • 7% I've bought my burial plot
  • 1%, Other
  • 21% Nothing yet

Attitudes have shifted

Much like we’ve seen in previous years, half of all funeral services were described as a celebration of life in 2023.

28% of people said the funeral was traditional – but when asked directly, 53% said the funeral was religious.

How would you describe the tone of the funeral service?



Celebration of life

50%in 2023

49%in 2022


42%in 2023

41%in 2022


28%in 2023

31%in 2022


10%in 2023

9%in 2022


9%in 2023

6%in 2022

What trends are funeral directors seeing?

Over 9 in 10 (92%) funeral directors say they’ve seen trends or changes in the funerals that they’re organising.

Using social media platforms such as Facebook to invite people – instead of more traditional newspaper notices and the like – was the most common theme mentioned by funeral directors.

This replaces streaming the funeral service as the top trend, which we saw surge during the pandemic. At 31%, it still remains high in the list – but is down from 69% in 2021, at the height of COVID-19 restrictions.

What changes are funeral directors seeing?



Using social media to invite people

43%in 2023

28%in 2022

Sharing web links/video apps so people can watch online

31%in 2023

37%in 2022

The type of music chosen for the send-off

23%in 2023

21%in 2022

Attendees wearing more colourful clothing

16%in 2023

13%in 2022

Special requests that are personal to the deceased

10%in 2023

4%in 2022

Personalised coffins

8%in 2023

6%in 2022

Taking video recordings of the funeral

7%in 2023

6%in 2022

I haven't seen any changes or trends

8%in 2023

14%in 2022

What are we doing with our loved ones' ashes?

Just under half scatter their loved one’s ashes. Nearly a third (30%) keep them, and over one fifth (21%) bury the ashes.

The most popular place to scatter a loved one’s ashes was in a garden of remembrance. Around a tenth of people chose either the beach, a park, at sea, a woodland, or a river or lake – with 2% saying they scattered them at a sports venue.

Infographic entitled 'Where did you scatter your loved one's ashes?' showing percentages of most popular locations.

The data is as follows:

  • 31% Garden of remembrance
  • 11% The beach
  • 11% Local or national park
  • 10% At sea
  • 10% Woodland
  • 9% River or lake
  • 7% At home
  • 2% Sports venue
  • 10% Somewhere else

The nation's favourite funeral songs

Just like in previous years, ‘Abide With Me’ remains the most played song at funerals.

But when we asked people what song they’d like played at their own send-off, the number one spot was taken by ‘My Way’ by Frank Sinatra.

The future of the funeral industry

Regulation of the funeral industry

In 2021, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) ordered funeral directors and crematorium operators to make prices clear for customers or risk court action.

9 in 10 (90%) of funeral directors support the new CMA order (+2% since 2022). And over 3 in 5 (61% – a 2% drop since 2022) think the funeral industry has improved as a result.

Infographic entitled 'How supportive are you of the new CMA regulations?' with percentages of results.

The data is as follows:

  • 72% Very
  • 18% Quite
  • 2% Not very
  • 3% Not at all
  • 5% Don't know

Infographic entitled 'Have the introduction of regulations improved the funeral industry?' with percentages of results.

The data is as follows:

  • 31% A lot
  • 30% A little
  • 33% Neither/nor
  • 2% Worsened a little
  • 2% Worsened a lot
  • 3% Don't know

What are the challenges facing the funeral industry?

Today, funeral directors are most worried about:

  • Increased competition (particularly from online direct cremations)
  • Affordability due to the cost-of-living crisis
  • The rise of direct cremations affecting business
  • Individuals who buy a direct cremation for themselves without understanding what it entails and how it may impact their family

Find out more about funeral planning

Our collection of funeral planning articles can help with arranging a loved one’s send-off, getting your own affairs in order, or supporting someone at a difficult time. Plus our tools are perfect for thinking about and recording what you’d like once you’re gone:

Download the latest report

For even more insight into this year’s funeral costs and trends, download our latest report.

We’ve been tracking funeral costs since 2004 at SunLife. If you need any past reports – or have any questions about this one – please get in touch with our press office.

Download the full PDF report