Welcome to the SunLife Cost of Dying Report 2022
For the first time since we started researching funeral costs in 2004, the cost of an average funeral in the UK has gone down.
9 minute read
How much does a funeral cost in the UK today?
The average cost of dying is £8,864 – down 4.3% since 2020.
The average cost of a basic funeral has also gone down. At £4,056, it’s dropped 3.1% since 2020.
In this year’s report, we explore how COVID-19 has changed the funeral industry, the continuing rise of the direct cremation, and what funeral trends are emerging – plus much more.
We’ve also included plenty of tips and advice on how to organise a funeral and keep costs down.
So read on to see some key take-outs from the 2022 report, or download it in full here.
Our new methodology
In our last report, we changed the way we calculate the average cost of a funeral to reflect the higher number of cremations vs burials in the UK. To give a consistent comparison of funeral costs over time, we’ve also updated the previous years’ figures to reflect this change in our calculation.
1. The cost of dying explained
What is the cost of dying and how has it changed?
The ‘cost of dying’ is the total cost of a funeral – including professional fees, the funeral service, and optional extras like the party or wake.
The cost of dying
(This includes the funeral, plus professional fees and send-off costs)
2021 - £8,864
2020 - £9,263
-4.3% How much the cost of dying dropped between 2020 and 2021
2. Funeral costs in the UK
How much does a basic funeral cost?
The average cost of a basic funeral has gone down for the first time since our research began. At £4,056, it’s down 3.1% since 2020.
The cost of a basic funeral
2021 - £4,056
2020 - £4,184
-3.1% How much the cost of a basic funeral has dropped between 2020 and 2021
How much does a burial, cremation and direct cremation cost?
While the cost of a basic funeral may have dropped, the most affordable type of funeral – direct cremation – has risen in cost to £1,647 (+6% since 2020).
At £4,927 (-2.1%), a burial is still the most expensive option. And a cremation costs £3,765 (-3.1%) on average.
|2021 average funeral cost: £4,056 (-3.1%)||2020 average funeral cost: £4,184|
|Burial: £4,927 (-2.1%)||Burial: £5,033|
|Cremation: £3,765 (-3.1%)||Cremation: £3,885|
|Direct cremation: £1,647 (+6%)||Direct cremation: £1,554|
Other costs included in a basic funeral
There are other costs that can make up the cost of a funeral
The most dramatic change this year is the fall in professional fees. At £2,325, they’ve gone down 8.7% since 2020, making up 26.2% of the total cost of dying.
A send-off is the added optional extras that can make a funeral more personal to the deceased and their loved ones, like the catering, memorial, wake and flowers.
This year, send-off costs have dropped to £2,484 (-1.9%). This is probably because organising a farewell in 2021 was more difficult – if not impossible – for many due to COVID-19.
Funeral costs by UK regions
Despite the overall drop in costs, the cost of dying has still risen in four regions across the UK – London, North East England, North West England, and Yorkshire and the Humber.
At £5,358, London is still the most expensive place to die. And at £3,056, Northern Ireland is once again the most affordable place to die.
|The most expensive places to die|
|London £5,385 (+2.3%)|
|South East & East England £4,825 (-3.6%)|
|Yorkshire and the Humber £4,302 (+0.7%)|
|East and West Midlands £3,942 (-12.2%)|
|The most affordable places to die|
|Northern Ireland £3,056 (-5.2%)|
|North West England £3,840 (+1.4%)|
|Scotland £3,873 (-4.7%)|
|South West England £3,907 (-6.1%)|
|North East England £3,915 (+2.3%)|
|Wales £3,540 (-4.8%)|
3. The future of funerals
What type of funeral are people choosing?
Overall in 2021, 25% of funerals were burials, 57% were cremations and 18% were direct cremations.
Type of funeral (2021)
57% of funerals are cremations
25% of funerals are burials
18% of funerals are direct cremations
Type of funeral (Feb 2020 - July 2021)
49% of funerals are cremations
27% of funerals are burials
24% of funerals are direct cremations
The rise of direct cremations
A direct cremation is the most affordable choice for a funeral, because it’s a cremation without a service.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions in 2021, this type of funeral has become an ever more popular – and practical – option.
Among those who organised a funeral between February 2020 and July 2021 (during the pandemic), 24% described the funeral as a direct cremation – 6% more than the national average during the last four years.
4. Funerals and COVID-19
Saying goodbye during a pandemic
In 2020 and 2021, funeral services changed drastically due to the pandemic.
85% of people who organised a funeral between February 2020 and July 2021 said it was affected by COVID-19 and social distancing measures.
53% of people said the funeral they organised was affected a lot by the pandemic.
Here's how Covid-19 has affected funerals:
83% of funerals had fewer attendees
79% of funerals had social distancing applied
75% of funerals had no hugging or comforting
56% of funerals had no wake
47% of funerals had no singing
27% of funerals had no limousines
25% of funerals took longer to organise
20% of funerals had no flowers
14% of funerals had to take place virtually
How is the funeral industry coping?
97% of funeral directors say they’ve been affected by the pandemic.
But only 53% say they’ve felt supported by the government – almost the exact same figures as our previous report.
When we asked funeral directors what they think the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be on the funeral industry, the most common answers were:
- Funeral services and gatherings will be smaller
- Direct cremations will continue to gain popularity
- People will continue to record and stream funerals for remote viewing
5. Paying for a funeral
Who's paying for funerals?
66% of people made provisions specifically to pay for their funeral before they passed away – up 2% since last year.
But only 63% put enough aside to cover the whole cost of the funeral.
How are we paying for funerals?
In 2021, 17% of families experienced notable financial concerns when paying for a funeral. On average, they had to find £1,800 to cover the overall costs.
Most of them found the money by delving into their savings and investments, borrowing from a friend or relative, or by using a credit card.
How people made up the funeral cost
Took money from savings or investments
Used a credit card
Borrowed money from a friend or relative
Paid the funeral director in instalments
Borrowed money from a loan provider (e.g. a bank)
Applied for subsidy from government or local authority
Only 17% of people got more than one quote when organising a funeral – down 1% since 2020.
But remember – even if your loved one specifies which funeral director they want, you can still shop around for more affordable options.
How you can cover funeral costs
1 in 5 people said certain funeral costs surprised them. The most common culprits were flowers, embalming, the funeral director and the coffin.
If you find yourself struggling to pay for a funeral, you can read our Help with funeral costs article for more guidance.
Cutting costs: tips and advice
Even though the cost of dying dropped in 2021, 50% of people still tried to cut back and keep funeral costs down.
When we asked how they cut funeral costs, the most common answers were:
How people cut funeral costs
Chose a cheaper coffin
Spent less on flowers
Had a home wake
Didn't use a hearse/limousine
Chose not to embalm
Shopped around for the best price
Didn't use order of service cards
Chose a direct cremation
Chose a cheaper cremation time
Asked the funeral director to use fewer pall bearers
89% of funeral directors also said people spent more money than they needed to, especially on flowers, the coffin and limousines.
6. Planning a funeral
Funerals continued to change in 2021, with virtual services and smaller gatherings becoming the norm. But there are still ways we can give our loved ones a special send-off…
Funeral planning tips and advice
When we asked people who organised a funeral how to make the process easier, they said:
- Get a few quotes from different funeral directors
- Don't put too much pressure on yourself
- Talk to your loved ones and ask for help
- Stick to your budget
And when we asked funeral directors the same question, they said:
- Don't worry about what others may think
- Get advice early, but don't rush into anything
- Get into the finer details later
Lets talk about funeral wishes
Just like in 2020, most people still aren’t keen to talk about death and funerals.
Only 1% of people knew all their loved ones’ funeral wishes – and 19% didn’t know any of their wishes at all.
Of those who knew their wishes, 62% had been told directly, 18% were told by family and friends, and 16% found out from the will.
How people knew about their loved one's funeral wishes
62% from the deceased directly
18% from the deceased's will
16% from family/friends
13% from the deceased's pre-paid funeral plan
8% from the deceased's letter of intent
5% from the deceased's solicitor
3% from last wishes website
2% don't know
Are we planning ahead?
The number of people who’ve started to think about their own funeral has gone down by 1% in 2021 to 61%.
And the number of these people who’ve made a will has dropped even more – from 38% in 2020, to just 33% in 2021.
How people are planning for their own funeral
33% I've made a will
31% I've spoken to someone about my funeral preferences
24% I've got money set aside to pay for my funeral
17% I've made a record of my wishes in writing
15% I've pre-paid for my funeral
14% I've chosen the funeral song
7. Trends and traditions
Attitudes continue to change
Even with disruption from COVID-19, plenty of us still want to give our loved ones a more upbeat send-off.
Almost half of all funeral services were described as a celebration of life in 2021.
And 17% of people who organised a funeral said they encouraged something different or unusual – from colourful dress codes to light-hearted speeches.
65% of funeral directors have seen a drop in the number of traditional religious festivals – 2% higher than the previous year.
How would you describe the tone of the funeral service
A celebration of life
Technology and funerals
90% of funeral directors say they saw new trends emerge in 2021 – such as the use of web links, apps and video to record and stream funeral services.
This new use of technology has made it possible for people to attend their loved one’s funeral digitally if government restrictions are in place.
What do funeral directors say is the biggest new tech trend?
69% sharing web link/video apps so people can watch online
43% inviting people via social media
20% taking a video recording of the funeral service
The nation's favourite funeral songs
In 2021, ‘Abide With Me’ was the song most played 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 ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’.
So why not let your family know what song you’d like for your funeral, and ask them what they’d like for theirs? It’s one of the easiest ways to make a send-off more memorable.
8. The future of the funeral industry
According to funeral directors, the biggest problems facing the funeral industry are:
- More competition
- Worsening reuptation
- Rising costs
- Certain companies lowering standards
- Direct cremations becoming more popular
- A lack of transparency
What can be done?
40% of funeral directors say they want to see more regulation of the funeral industry – 15% more than in 2020.
What changes do funeral directors want to see?
40% more regulation
18% cost transparency
12% bring prices down
8% people being more knowledgable about a funeral
5% ensure the same standards for everyone
3% greater funding from the government
3% improve doctor processes
2% reduce regulations and red tape
18% don't know
How to get help with funeral costsRead the full article here
Sep 10, 2020
How to arrange a funeralRead the full article here
May 21, 2019
Download the latest report
At SunLife, we've been tracking funeral costs for 16 years, so we have historical data from 2004 onwards. If you require any past reports, please get in touch with our media contact.Download the full PDF report
1Our average funeral cost is now weighted by the proportion of burials and cremations in the UK. We’ve updated the previous years’ figures to reflect this change in our calculation.