Funeral costs soar by 10 times the increase in the cost of living in a year – forcing families to cut corners on their loved ones’ send off

SunLife’s 2016 Cost of Dying report reveals funerals have more than doubled in price in little over a decade

  • Funerals now one of the UK’s fastest rising costs, outstripping inflation, wages and pensions1
  • Average funeral now costs £3,897, with the total cost of dying a staggering £8,802 per person
  • Families spending 28%2 less on the send-off than they were 5 years ago to cover rising funeral costs
  • SunLife launches funeral calculator to help understand costs and ‘what to do when someone dies’ tool to help bereaved families

SunLife’s annual Cost of Dying research shows that the cost of dying is the fastest rising of any fixed cost in the UK – rising much faster than any cost of living such as rent, food, utilities, insurance or clothing1.

The overall cost of dying which includes death-related costs such as probate, headstones and flowers in addition to the basic cost of a funeral - has risen by 8.3% to £8,802.

The funeral - which makes up 44% of the cost of dying - has soared by 5.5% in a single year. The average funeral in the UK now costs £3,897 which is more than double what it was when SunLife first started tracking funeral prices in 2004.

To put this in perspective, if the cost of a funeral had risen in line with the cost of living it would now cost £2,5403 - £1,357 less than the actual figure

London remains the most expensive place to die, with the average funeral costing £5,529, which is 42% more than the national average of £3,897. 


Average Price


Difference from national average (%) Change from 2015 (%)


from 2004


1 Wales £3,627 -6.9 +2.0 +123.5
2 South East & East of England £4,090 +5.0 +13.5 +93.9
3 London £5,529 +41.9 +9.1 +121.2
4 East and West Midlands £3,878 -0.5 +5.7 +88.1
5 Yorkshire and the Humber £3,834 -1.6 +8.0 +93.3
6 Scotland £3,716 -4.6 +3.4 +91.1
7 South West England £4,011 +2.9 +6.1 +96.4
8 North West England £3,381 -13.2 +3.8 +91.5
9 North East England £3,744 -3.9 +2.6 +137.0
10 Northern Ireland £3,277 -15.9 +2.3 +106.2
  National average £3,897   +5.5 +103.0

Cutting corners on the send-off

SunLife’s research found that 40% of people organising a funeral said it cost more than they expected and more than a third (38%) of those said it cost a lot more.

As a result, one in twelve people organising a funeral said they had to cut back or change some of the ‘send-off’ costs they had planned for their loved one:

  • 30% had to cut back on limousines for immediate family
  • 27% on the memorial (headstone, urn, bench etc.)
  • 26% had to make cutbacks to the catering
  • 17% cut back on flowers
  • 15% had to find a cheaper venue.

Sunlife has launched a new funeral calculator to help you work out what provision you will need to make to cover the cost of your own funeral.

Back in 2008, the average spent on the send-off was £2,097, which was almost a third (31%) of the total cost of dying. Now it is £1,976 which is just 22% of the total and a drop of 28%2. In comparison, the proportion spent on the funeral has gone up from 38% of the total cost to 44%.

  2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Cost of Dying (£) 6,698 7,098 6,801 7,248 7,114 7,622 8,427 8,126 8,802
Funeral (%) 38.1 38.5 42.0 42.6 46.2 45.3 42.6 45.4 44.3
Send-off (%) 31.3 30.4 25.7 25.7 27.0 26.3 21.8 24.6 22.4
Professional services (%) 30.6 31.1 32.3 31.6 26.8 28.3 35.6 29.9 33.3

Graham Jones, director at SunLife said: “The ‘send-off’ is the only part of the overall cost that is discretionary and has been around £2,000 for the past 10 years, which means as a percentage of the entire cost of dying, it has been slowly dropping for a decade. This suggests that families are being forced to cut back on the extras due to the rising fixed costs.”

Are we making sufficient provision?

The fact that the cost of dying is far outstripping the cost of living does seem to be affecting behaviour, as the number of people that have made at least some funeral provision is rising.

This year, more than three in five (62%) put at least some money aside compared to 59% last year and just over half (54%) in 2009.

And while this is definitely encouraging, it still means that 38% are still making no provision to pay for their own funeral. Of those that do make some provision, one in five are not leaving enough to cover the full cost, up from one in six last year.

One in seven people (13%) who have organised a funeral in the past four years admitted it caused them notable financial concern with the average shortfall standing at £2,334. Of these:

  • 10% had to sell belongings to cover the cost
  • 24% had to put the balance on a credit card
  • 10% had to take out a loan
  • 18% had to borrow money from a friend or relative

Lack of conversation

The Cost of Dying also reveals that as a nation we are still reluctant to talk about death and dying, and this means that the vast majority of those organising a funeral do not know all the preferences of the deceased.

In fact, just 1% of those who had organised a funeral in the past four years fully understood their loved ones’ send-off wishes. Only 37% knew which funeral director to use, and just 59% knew the deceased’s preference for burial or cremation. Staggeringly, 22% didn’t know any of the deceased’s wishes.

Of those surveyed, more than half (53%) said it would have been much easier to organise their loved one’s funeral if they had had a ‘conversation’ with them about death and dying, yet 29% still haven’t done anything about their own end of life plans.

To help make discussing death easier, SunLife has created My Perfect Send Off a free online tool to record your funeral wishes.

Graham Jones, Director at SunLife concludes:

“We all know that death will eventually come to us all, and therefore, we will all need to pay for a funeral, yet it is something that, as a nation, we are uncomfortable talking about or planning for.

“Unfortunately, this reluctance to talk death is not only causing financial issues, but emotional ones too. Our report shows that just 1% of those organising a funeral knew the preferences of the deceased which means at a difficult time, many of us our forced to make decisions about a loved one’s funeral not knowing if it is what they would have wanted.

“95% of those organising a funeral said it was easier when they knew the preferences of the deceased, yet almost a third of those people still haven’t done anything about their own end of life plans, so it is vital that we change our attitude towards death.

“Talking about it won’t make it happen, but if we don’t, we will end up putting a huge financial and emotional burden on those left behind.”

Claire Henry, Chief Executive of the Dying Matters Coalition said:

“It is ironic that despite our increasing willingness to share all sorts of information about our daily lives on social media, many of us are still unwilling to talk about death. So we are really pleased to be working with SunLife to create a range of useful online tools, calculators and content to help people engage with the subject of death and dying in a much more positive and practical way.

“We hope these tools will raise awareness of this issue and help people to start those important conversations’. Making and sharing plans not only gives us peace of mind, but it also makes life easier for our loved ones as they will be safe in the knowledge that they are giving us the perfect send-off.”


To record your funeral preferences for free, visit

For a step by step guide on what to do when someone dies, visit

Use our free funeral costs calculator to work what financial provisions you will need to make

For information on how to start saving for your funeral visit


1 Funerals have risen 5.5% in one year, pensions by 2.5%, inflation is 0.5%. Since 2004; Funerals have increased by 103%, Rent has increased by 38%, Food 40%, Utilities (Housing) 70%, insurance 76%, Clothing -24% Source: National Statistics: Consumer Price Inflation

2 Decrease from 31.3 of total cost to 22.4% is 28%.

3 Compound interest of inflation 32.3%

For a full copy of the report, additional data, further information or commentary on the findings please contact:

Rachel Mason, SunLife PR Manager

0117 3225431 or 07920 537480.

About the research

The annual ‘Cost of Dying’ report has been one of the most significant pieces of ongoing research in its field for the last ten years. The report was commissioned by SunLife and prepared by Critical Research. The quantitative side of this project consisted of an online survey carried out between April 2016 and May 2016 which was asked to 1,509 consumers. This was supported by 100 telephone interviews of Funeral Directors from across the sector. The questions asked were the same set of questions used in previous years of this project.

The following terms relate to the following costs:

The 2016 total cost of dying referenced in this report is the sum of the average costs for order sheets, venue hire, additional limo(s), funeral flowers, death notice, funeral notice, memorial, catering, viewing of the body, embalming, live music, recorded music, and administration of the estate, plus the average cost for funeral, cremation or burial.

The statistical regions used by the UK’s ONS (Office of National Statistics) comprise the Government Office Regions for England, plus Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. These constitute 12 regions.

With the inclusion of Northern Ireland (to ensure UK coverage and not just GB), the following regions have been aggregated for research purposes to derive 10 regions:

  • South East with East of England
  • West Midlands and East Midlands

The research was therefore spread across the following regions:

  • Region 1 Wales
  • Region 2 South East and East of England
  • Region 3 London
  • Region 4 East and West Midlands
  • Region 5 Yorkshire and the Humber
  • Region 6 Scotland
  • Region 7 South West England
  • Region 8 North West England
  • Region 9 North East England
  • Region 10 Northern Ireland

As well as that, there are some instances where ‘North’ has also been included. This is because in some instances, North East England’s base size was quite small and so a merged region gives more reliable information.

About SunLife

SunLife rebranded in 2014 but has been around since 1810, making it one of the oldest financial services companies in the UK. The company is a direct-to-consumer financial services provider, offering a range of straightforward and affordable products across insurance, savings and protection.

The company’s ambition is to ‘democratise financial services’ – giving everyday customers access to products that can give them a brighter financial future.

About Dying Matters:

Dying Matters is a coalition of 32,000 members across England and Wales which aims to help people talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement, and to make plans for the end of life.

Members include organisations from across the NHS, voluntary and independent health and care sectors; social care and housing sectors; a wide range of faith organisations; community organisations; schools and colleges; academic bodies; trade unions; the legal profession and the funeral sector.

About Critical Research:

Critical Research is an independent market research company, specialising in financial research.