The cost of a funeral can be a surprise to many people, as very often costs more than
originally thought. This is a difficult time, as while coping with grief, there can also be strong
feelings on what a funeral should be like and what a good send-off should be, but this can
be so expensive, and sometimes be just completely unaffordable.

The impact of Covid-19 Crisis on funerals and costs

The annual Royal London National Funeral Cost Index Report looks at the year-on-year change in funeral costs.  However, there was some quite different variables to look at in the 2020 report, which looked at the impact the pandemic has had on those that have sadly had to organise a funeral.

It reports, the Covid-19 crisis resulted in many people having to reconsider the funeral plans for their loved ones. The lockdown restrictions limited social gatherings to only those from the same household, and large gatherings at all events, including funerals, were advised against by government guidelines.  With these rules, funeral gatherings were much smaller and restricted to the deceased nearest and dearest. 

More than three in five (61%) people who arranged a funeral said they had scaled back plans for their preferred funeral because of the pandemic. This included reducing the number of guests and not being able to have a wake or celebration of life. For some, it meant not being able to have the funeral in a religious building. 

Not being able to arrange the funeral as they would have liked has also impacted on loved ones’ grieving process. Three in five (60%) people who have arranged a funeral with these limitations said Covid-19 has made it more difficult to grieve.

However, loved ones did say they had plans to have another gathering as lockdown eases, to help with the grieving process and give the deceased a proper send-off. Future included holding a wake, celebration of life or having a religious gathering.

While scaling back on the funeral has affected the grieving process, it has made the cost of a funeral more affordable as families are forced to have more simple funerals because of Covid-19 restrictions. Three in ten (30%) said that lockdown made the funeral cheaper.

What was the average cost of a funeral in Great Britain in 2020? 

The research has shown, in 2020, the average cost of a funeral was £3,837, an increase of 1.4% (£51) from 2019.

The increase is due to a rise in costs for burial, cremation, and funeral directors’ fees. Overall inflation (as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI)) in this period was 1.0% which means that funeral cost increases were above the rate of general inflation.  While the overall cost of a funeral increased by 1.4% between 2019 and 2020, the cost of a burial funeral rose by 1.5% to £4,383 and the cost of a cremation funeral rose by 1.2% to £3,290.

Here are average basic funeral costs in 2020, by region.

Region Average Basic Cost
South East England £3,705
London £5,032
South West England £3,658
East of England £3,882
Wales £3,667
West Midlands £4,079
East Midlands £3,572
Yorkshire and the Humber £3,819
North West England £3,703
North East England £3,696
Scotland £3,569
Northern Ireland £2,962

A direct cremation is another option.  There is no funeral service and remains are returned to loved ones to be kept or scattered.  The average cost of a direct cremation in 2020 fell by 5% to £1,626.  

Additional costs on top 

Here are some, optional but common costs, that are additional to the basic funeral costs. 

Additional Options  Average Cost
Memorial  £910
Catering  £408
Car Hire (limo) £313
Venue hire  £245
Flowers  £184
Order sheets/service cards  £88
Death notice  £82
Total additional costs  £2,306 

Financing funerals during the coronavirus pandemic

For those who have unfortunately arranged a funeral during lockdown, what impact has Covid-19 had on their financial situation? 

  • Around two in five (39%) said that Covid-19 has made their financial situation worse with 13% saying it has got much worse, and 25% saying slightly worse. 
  • Research also shows that Londoners’ finances were hit the hardest in the UK – with more than half (51%) of saying their financial situation has worsened. As many have had to scale back plans and the number of guests attending the funeral, it comes as no surprise that for many, Covid-19 made the cost a funeral more affordable. 
  • Three in ten (30%) said that restrictions made the funeral cheaper, compared to just 4% that said it was more expensive.
  • For a third (33%) of people the pandemic made no difference to the cost.
  • A further one in seven (13%) said that they would have preferred to pay more for the desired funeral for their loved one. 
  • Those who had their financial situation negatively impacted by Covid-19 were asked what method they used to pay for their arranged funeral.  It found that nearly one in ten (9%) applied for state support.
  • A third (33%) of those who arranged a funeral used savings, and one in five (21%) used a funeral plan.
  • A further 23% had to borrow money from friends or family to pay for the funeral, and nearly one in ten (9%) had to take out a loan, or go into debt, to cover the cost.

Also Read: What does the Funeral Planning Authority do?

Ways to reduce the cost of a funeral 

Many people can be financially vulnerable when planning a funeral for their loved ones.  Here are some coping methods by which funeral costs can be lowered and funeral debt can be avoided. 

  • Shop around (especially for extras like flowers & catering) and use a funeral cost comparison website.
  • Have a home wake and ask family and friends to bring food to the wake rather than using an outside caterer. 
  • Do not use a hearse or limousines
  • Choose not to have a minister or celebrant
  • Choose an early morning cremation slot to reduce costs
  • Choose a direct cremation or direct burial
  • Asked the funeral director to use fewer pall bearers
  • Keep the deceased at home until the funeral
  • Do not use a funeral director 
  • Choose an eco-friendly coffin or bamboo shroud instead of an expensive traditional coffin. 
  • Pick out a natural burial ground, such as woodland.  This can be much cheaper than a traditional cemetery. 
  • Create an online memorial where family and friends can donate to a charity, rather than buying a headstone for instance.

Sources: Royal London National Funeral Cost Index Report 2020 and Sunlife (2020) Cost of Dying Report. 

Also Read: What is a pre-paid funeral plan?

Also Read: Advantages to Pre-paid Funeral Planning

Also Read: Disadvantages to Pre-paid Funeral Planning