While the average cost of a basic funeral has risen by 3.4%, a basic cremation has fallen by 5% to £1,626
The average cost of a basic funeral has risen by 3.4% to £4,417 in the past year, but grieving families could reduce this bill by more than half by opting for a budget cremation, according to a new report from over-50s specialist SunLife.
While funeral costs are soaring, SunLife says that the cost of a direct cremation - which takes place without a service - actually fell by 5% to £1,626 in 2019.
The annual SunLife Cost of Dying Report found that just 4% of funerals are direct cremations, even though they are the cheapest option. This is probably because most people don’t know what they are. You can read our full guide here.
With a direct cremation the body is taken away, cremated and the ashes returned to the family without a funeral service. They can then choose to have a celebration of their loved one’s life if they wish.
In 2019, only 23% of the funerals organised were burials, while 77% of them were cremations.
The average cost of a basic funeral with a burial was £4,975, while a basic cremation was £3,858.
The report found that 44% of people who had recently organised a funeral were not aware of direct cremations.
However, once they knew what they were, 19% said they would have considered it for the deceased and 42% said they would consider one for their own funeral.
Ian Atkinson, marketing director at SunLife, says: “Some people do not like the thought of not having a service in a crematorium, thinking perhaps it is not a 'proper' send-off, but this view is changing more and more. We may well start to see more and more people having direct cremations in the future as people realise how much cheaper they are and how they’re able to have the complete flexibility to have a personal service of their own wherever they wish.
“The cost of direct cremations is also falling, and the main reasons could be the rise in competition and families looking for a good low-cost funeral option. Funeral directors are responding to changes in consumer demand, with more customers shopping around and looking for a good lower-cost option.”
London is still the most expensive place to have a funeral, with an average basic funeral cost of £5,963.
It is followed by the South East and East of England (£4,881), Yorkshire and the Humber (£4,656), the Midlands (£4,582) and the South West (£4,522).
At the other end of the spectrum, Northern Ireland had the lowest average basic funeral cost at £3,489.
The biggest increase in the past year was in the Midlands at 9.6%, while costs went up by 9.4% in Wales.
Prices went down by 3.5% in the South West and 3.3% in the North West.
SunLife says that one in eight families have trouble finding the money to pay for a funeral because of financial problems, with many getting into debt as a result.
Some 22% were forced to borrow money from friends and family, while 25% had to put it on a credit card.
Many were also forced to take out loans or sell their belongings to cover the cost.
The government is cracking down on unscrupulous funeral firms that pressure customers into buying pre-paid plans.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched an investigation into the funeral market last year, while there are also plans for the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to regulate the pre-paid funeral plan sector.
Under the proposed changes, funeral firms that mislead and use high-pressure sales methods could face fines and criminal charges.