Direct cremation in 2024

  • A simple cremation only without ceremony
  • Flexibility to say goodbye your way
  • A modern alternative to a funeral service
  • 60% cheaper than the average cost of a funeral

In this guide: We explain what is meant by direct cremation, how it works and why families choose this simple cremation only option

What is a direct cremation?

Updated 23rd May 2024

Direct cremation is a simple cremation with no funeral ceremony and no mourners in attendance. The deceased is taken from  the funeral directors to the crematorium, where the cremation takes place in a simple coffin.

Typically 60% cheaper than a traditional funeral, a direct funeral offers a low-cost alternative to those looking to save money and say good bye ‘their way’.

How does a direct cremation work?

The direct cremation process is very simple - this is how they work:

  • Your loved one is collected by the simple cremation funeral provider and cared for until the time of the cremation
  • They complete the documentation required and provide guidance for the family
  • The deceased is placed in a simple coffin and transported to the crematorium
  • The crematorium, date and time of the cremation are usually chosen by the service provider
  • The ashes are returned to family or scattered in the garden of remembrance

Is direct cremation a good idea?

As I predicted in my Linkedin article back in 2018, direct cremations now account for around 20% of funeral services, so a growing percentage of the population think this type of simple funeral is a good idea. But it’s not the best option for everyone.

If you want to save money on funeral costs and avoid the formality of a funeral service at the crematorium, then direct cremation could be a good idea for you. However, if your family aren’t happy with the prospect of such a simple cremation, a more traditional funeral maybe a better option.

Which is why it’s important to speak to family before making your decision.

What's the difference between a traditional cremation and direct cremation?

The main difference between a traditional cremation and direct cremation is the funeral service. Whereas a traditional cremation funeral includes a service at the crematorium, a direct cremation is just a cremation with no service and no one in attendance.

*If you're viewing this page on a mobile phone, scroll right to see the full table. 

What you get Direct cremation Traditional cremation
Professional support Yes Yes
Collection of the deceased Yes Yes
Family viewing No Yes
Coffin A simple coffin Choice of coffin
Choice of Crematorium No Yes
Choice of Cremation Date No Yes
Transport to crematorium A suitable vehicle A hearse
Funeral Service No Yes
Wake or reception When & where you choose On day of cremation
Return of ashes Yes Yes
Typical costs Cost between £995 to £2,000 Cost between £3,000 to £5,000
Request more information Prepaid plans & prices Traditional prepaid plans & prices

Pros and cons of direct cremation

Direct cremation is worth considering if you don’t want the ceremony and cost of a formal service however there are pros and cons. For example, avoiding the upset of attending the crematorium may seem like a good idea, but not so great if your family prefer a service.

Therefore understanding the pros and cons of a simple funeral will help you decide if it’s the right choice for you.

The pros

  • Direct cremation costs are typically 60% cheaper than a traditional funeral
  • Avoids the formality and upset of attending the crematorium
  • Gives family freedom to say goodbye their way in a more relaxed environment
  • Ashes can be returned to family or scattered on the garden of remembrance

The cons

  • No visiting the deceased at a chapel of rest
  • Crematorium may not be local to you
  • No funeral service

How much does a direct cremation cost in the UK?

According to the Sunlife cost of dying report 2024, the average cost of a UK direct cremation in 2023 was £1,498, more than 60% cheaper than a traditional funeral. With prices starting from £895, direct cremation costs depend on the time and place of collection, whether the ashes are returned and the funeral company you choose.

You can arrange a simple funeral for a loved one who has recently died, or arrange and pay for your services in advance, removing some of the worry from family when the time comes.

Arranging a direct cremation for someone who has died

As the demand for direct cremation has grown, in addition to funeral directors, there are a number of dedicated companies throughout the country offering these services.

Specialist companies like Distinct Cremations and Pure Cremation to name but two can provide direct cremation services for someone who has recently passed away. They will talk you through the process over the phone and advise you of the cost. You can then decide if you would like them to go ahead and arrange for them to collect your loved one. 

Planning for the future with a prepaid plan

Cremation only funeral plans let you pay for your direct cremation services in advance and typically cost around £1,500. If you want put plans in place in advance but prefer to spread the cost, monthly direct cremation plans are also available. 

Top 8 reasons for choosing direct cremation

  1. Don’t want family going through an upsetting service at the crematorium
  2. Don’t believe in funerals
  3. Family dispute would make a funeral service difficult to attend
  4. Save money
  5. Prefer to leave money to family than spend it on funeral costs
  6. Family would rather have a party than a funeral service
  7. Family live abroad so unable to attend a funeral
  8. Few people or no one to attend a funeral

Prepaid direct cremation plans & prices


Are no fuss funerals respectful?

No fuss cremation only funerals are respectful however it’s important to talk to your friends and family to let them know you’re considering a direct funeral. It might take a couple of conversations to help others understand what else they can do to say goodbye.

Perhaps a celebration of life or memorial service in more relaxed environment rather than the crematorium; arranged at a time to suit everyone. Or a family gathering at a special happy place to scatter the ashes.

In fact a recent study into funeral choices and grief by Centre for Death Society and Bath University suggests that families should reject the convention of a traditional funeral if it is unlikely to ease their grief.

And don’t forget, choosing a simple cremation without a funeral service means you are in good company. You may recall that David Bowie famously had a direct funeral and was cremated without a service in January 2016. But did you know that John Lennon also adopted a similar approach with his direct funeral way back in December 1980.

Can you attend a direct cremation?

Direct cremation is typically an unattended cremation, however some companies allow a small number of people to attend the crematorium. If family and friends are allowed to attend a direct cremation, it is usually limited to between 8 and 12 people and may incur an additional cost.

Do you have to have a funeral?

You don’t have to have a funeral in the UK or use a funeral director. However, the law does require you to dispose of the body safely; usually through burial or cremation. For example, direct cremation without a service is one option, or perhaps a natural woodland burial.

It’s worth mentioning that you can take care of everything yourself however this will include care of the deceased whilst the relevant arrangements are being made. Therefore some help from specialists such as providers of direct funerals or a funeral director may be advantageous.

direct cremation adWhat should I do now?

We hope this guide has been useful in helping you decide if a simple funeral is for you.

If you are considering planning for the future, our prepaid direct cremation and traditional funeral plans guides explain how plans work. 

You can find out more about prepaid options here, alongside our reviews of the leading providers.

See prepaid plans 

Did you find this information helpful?

Frequently asked questions

  • What is the cheapest funeral I can have?
    • One of the cheapest funeral options you can have is direct cremation, if you’re happy to have a cremation without a service.

      Alternatively you could arrange everything yourself without paying for the services of a funeral director. In fact, legally you can even be buried in your own back garden if you wish, however there are stipulations and your family may have difficulty in selling the property in the future.

      Another cheap option which avoids paying for a funeral altogether is donating your body to science; although there are no guarantees that your body will be accepted when the time comes. Therefore it could help to have an alternative plan in place to ensure the basic funeral costs are covered – which is where direct cremation could help.

  • How much does it cost to be cremated?
    • Cremation costs which include cremation services with family in attendance at a crematorium vary depending on where you live in the country. Ranging from £600 to over £1,000, they are not cheap and currently average more than £800 across the UK, so it is a bit of a postcode lottery.

      For direct cremation, some UK providers will charge you a fixed price as they use one crematorium. This means they have greater control over costs and are better equipped to offer low cost funerals.

      Others will use local cremation services at a crematorium that's nearby, so fees may vary depending on where you live. Providers will also use crematoriums at quieter times, which also cuts down on funeral costs.

  • Can I choose the crematorium?
    • The crematorium is usually chosen by your direct cremation provider. Some companies use a specific crematorium and will transport the deceased there. Other providers of direct cremations operate through nationwide crematoriums.

  • What is a simple cremation?
    • A simple cremation is a term often used to describe direct cremation; a cremation with no funeral service. However, it can also mean a cremation with a simple, short, non-religious service at the crematorium. Both options are available. You just need to decide if you want a service or not.

  • What’s included in a direct cremation?
    • A direct cremation typically includes collection and care of the deceased, support for the family and completion of relevant paperwork, a simple coffin, an unattended cremation and either returning the ashes to family or scattering them in the garden of remembrance.

  • How much does a direct cremation cost?
    • Direct cremation costs in the UK start from around £995. There is usually a starting price which covers the basic direct cremation costs and then you pay more for additional services such as collection of the deceased from home or out of hours.

  • Can you have a direct cremation in Scotland?
    • Yes you can have a direct cremation in Scotland although some companies only collect from mainland UK.

  • Do the Co-op offer direct cremation?
    • Yes, the Coop do offer direct cremation services, along with other leading providers.

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