Why are cremation/funerals so expensive in the UK?

Why are cremations/funerals so expensive in the UK?
Cremations, Funeral Service

Why are cremations and funerals so expensive in the UK?

It’s a question which gets asked a lot in the UK. People are understandably shocked at some of the prices currently on offer for funerals and cremations, particularly from some companies who have been caught out ripping people off with high costs and hidden extras.

In this guide we’ll look at why cremation/funerals can be so expensive in the UK, and why it’s so important to shop around for the most affordable options.


What’s included in a cremation or funeral?

Before you start looking at prices it can be helpful to know what you’re paying for with regards to Funerals and Cremations. It may seem obvious but there is more involved than the act of cremation or burying someone.

Here’s what to expect:

A Funeral Director : This is the name for a company who will help you through the process of arranging a funeral , from start to end. Most people think these are interchangeable with a Coroner but they’re not. The two may work together, but a coroner’s job is to establish the cause of death, and a funeral director’s role is to deal with the deceased, their family and friends.

A Funeral Director will usually have a network of local offices or be part of a national company who can do everything from help you find the cheapest crematorium , deliver flowers, transport the coffin and arrange catering for the wake.

A Crematorium : A crematorium is a place where you’ll take your loved one to say goodbye and, if you like, scatter the ashes or keep them at home. Some crematoria provide monuments for this purpose but these can cost up to £2000 . Most people prefer to use beach stones or simple urns instead.

A Grave- or Cemetery – Care Company : If you don’t want to tend your loved ones grave yourself, you’ll pay for this service to be carried out by a dedicated company, who will visit regularly and keep the area tidy at an average price of £100 per annum .

If you have the cash available it’s possible to pay for your own grave and save this cost, or buy a family crypt and use that instead.

Additional Options

Catering : After the funeral director has taken his cut (more on that later), you’re left with a percentage of the total fee to cover catering at the wake . Expect to pay around £500 for 100 people, with prices going down with larger numbers.

Flowers : Most people send flowers to the wake, with the average cost being £50 . If you want to save money on flowers there are alternatives -we’ll cover these in more detail later in this guide.

Home Visit : Some funeral directors will visit your family at home to deliver the death certificate and discuss their plans for the funeral. This is more common with less traditional services, where it’s harder to plan in advance . A typical home visit costs around £75 plus travel expenses.

Pallbearers : These are members of the deceased’s family and friends who will carry the coffin at the funeral. Expect to pay around £50 each.

Viewing : Also known as the wake , this is when friends, family and others can pay their respects to the deceased at a set location. At crematoria it’s usually in the chapel of rest , while funeral homes will provide facilities for viewing too.

You’re unlikely to need any flowers or catering here unless you have a particularly large number of attendees, but it’s a good idea to add 10% on top of your catering estimate for this .

The deceased : You may think that the cost of the service you’re buying should cover the cost of the coffin; however, you’ll find after taking out costs like travel to and from the back and flowers that there is very little left over.

The cheapest coffin you can buy in the UK is around £100 , but this is likely to be made from chipboard, which may not satisfy religious or personal preferences. The average cost of a coffin is closer to £2000 . If money is tight, there are ways to make your own – again, we’ll cover these later in theguide.

Cremation Services fees 

Services fees : In addition to costs above, you’re going to have to pay a fee for the funeral director’s services too . This ranges from 5% for a direct cremation service with minimal facilities, up to 25 -30% for a full traditional funeral . If your family is low on cash or doesn’t want a fuss made, you might want to look at other options.

Cremation or Burial : If your budget is very limited, it may be worth having a direct cremation service with no ceremony – this means that there will be less for the Funeral Director’s to do, so they’ll have lower fees . It also saves on costs like flowers and catering, and there is generally no need for a service at the crematorium either.

DIY Funerals: Although you can’t conduct a funeral without a Death Certificate, it’s perfectly legal to arrange and carry out your own funeral . This includes buying the coffin and taking care of the flowers yourself , as well as organizing catering (although this can be harder to do in practice).

DIY funerals are becoming increasingly popular, and could save you hundreds of pounds . If you’ve ever thought about arranging your own funeral it’s definitely worth considering.


How much does cremation cost?

Why are cremations and funerals so expensive in the UK? Cremation is an increasingly popular choice in the UK, with around half of all funerals now opting for cremation rather than burial. Cremations are far less expensive than burials, though this is somewhat offset by fees associated with arranging a cremation (costs can be up to £800). The cost of cremations tends to vary according to where in the UK you are, with prices averaging somewhere between £350-£850.

Cremation services in the UK do not charge by weight, but they will consider how big or heavy a body is when calculating their prices. Cremation rates are based on the size of your casket plus your choice of cremation urn or casket.

Here are some cremation costs for the UK’s most popular cities, as of 2019:

Birmingham – £681* Belfast – £718* Brighton and Hove – £739 Bristol – £849 Cambridge – £805 Cardiff – £765 Coventry – £685 Derby / Leicester / Nottingham /Sheffield – £734 Hull – £650 Leeds – £690 Liverpool – £759* London (North / South / City) – £755 Manchester – £695 Newcastle upon Tyne – £655 Norwich / Ipswich / Chelmsford / Peterborough / Luton/Southend-on-Sea – £682 Plymouth, Torbay andExeter – £749 Portsmouth and Southampton- £747 Salford – Stockport – £667 Wakefield / Wigan – £660

*An additional fee of around £720 will be charged if a cremation is to take place on a Saturday or Sunday.

Cremations in London can cost up to several thousand pounds, depending on the time and day of the service.

An “urgent” cremation – one that takes place within two days of a person’s death, as opposed to a standard ceremony – will cost £815* in Birmingham, compared to £1,365* in London. In Manchester it costs £805*, while in Liverpool you would pay around£755*.

The cheapest cremations in the UK are found in Belfast, where a standard service will cost £718* or an urgent one just £650*

A full funeral package including hearse, ceremony and burial plot can come to more than £10,000 – sometimes much more.

Why are cremations and funerals so expensive in the UK?

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