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Funeral costs down for the first time in almost 20 years

Funeral costs down for the first time in almost 20 years main image

For the first time since reports began in 2004, the Sunlife cost of dying report 2022 shows that funeral costs have dropped by 3.1% to £4,056. What’s more, the total cost of dying, including funeral costs, professional fees and additional expenses like the wake, flowers and memorial are down by 4.3% to £8,864.  

But what has caused this reduction and can we expect it to continue?

What is the cost of dying in 2022?

The cost of dying in the UK has reduced by £399, from £9,263 in 2020 to £8,864 in 2021. These latest figures comprise of:

  • Funeral costs - £4,056
  • Professional fees - £2,325
  • Send off costs - £2,484

The largest percentage of these fees by far is the cost of the funeral. Having increased every year since Sunlife started tracking it back in 2004, the average cost of a funeral is now £4,056.

The price you pay will depend on whether you prefer a cremation or burial. The average cost of a cremation in the UK is now £3,765, down 3.1% from the previous year. Burial costs have also reduced by 2.1%, now averaging £4,927.

However, the price you pay doesn’t just depend on the type of funeral you prefer or the services you include. It also depends on where you live.

How much does a funeral cost in the UK in 2022?

Historically, funeral costs in the UK have always varied by region, and 2022 is no different.

At £5,358 and £4,825 respectively, London and the South East of England are the most expensive regions to die, although the good news is that prices in the South East have reduced over the past 12 months.

Yorkshire and Humberside and the East and West Midlands are also on the list of most expensive places to die, however encouragingly, the latter has seen a drop of 12.2%.

The most affordable place to die in the UK is still Northern Ireland at £3,056, accompanied by Scotland and Wales as well as the South West, North and East of England.

Overall, out of the 10 regions listed, 6 showed a reduction in funeral costs but the remaining 4 still saw a price increase in their area.

What affect has Covid-19 had on funerals?

Whilst it’s encouraging that funeral costs have reduced, one of the main reasons prices have dropped is the impact Covid 19 has had on the way funerals have been organised throughout the last 18 months.

With restrictions on the number of attendees and type of funeral service allowed, its little wonder costs have reduced. These limitations have also impacted demand for funeral flowers, stationery, cars, catering and the hire of venues for the wake, helping to bring the overall cost of the funeral down.

One of the biggest changes throughout the last year has been the increase in families choosing direct cremation: a cremation without a funeral service.

With costs averaging £1,647, direct cremation accounted for 18% of funerals in 2022 and 24% since the start of the pandemic in February 2020.

Although covid 19 in part has driven this increase, some families are now favouring the option of holding a celebration of life at a later date. The report also highlights a greater awareness of cremation only funerals, with 64% saying they knew about this alternative to a traditional funeral.

It’s encouraging that more people are aware of the options available when it comes to arranging a funeral. A sign that direct cremation is here to stay.

How are we paying for a funeral?

Although costs reduced throughout 2021, 17% of families struggled financially to pay for a funeral. Here is a breakdown of the main ways those surveyed funded their funeral costs:

  • Savings and investments – 38%
  • Credit card – 22%
  • Borrowed money from friends / family– 27%
  • Paid by instalments – 17%
  • Sold belongings – 16%
  • Got a loan – 10%
  • Government help – 7%

How can we cut the cost of a funeral?

In addition to looking at how the cost of dying has changed over the last 12 months, the Sunlife Cost of Dying report also asks participants for tips and advice, especially on how to reduce funeral costs further. Suggestions for keeping costs down include:

  • Choosing a cheaper coffin
  • Spending less on flowers
  • Having the wake at home
  • Not using a hearse or limousine
  • Not embalming
  • Not using order of service cards
  • Choosing a direct cremation
  • Opting for a cremation at a cheaper time
  • Using fewer pall bearers

One of the key ways we can save money is to shop around, yet less than 1 in 5 people got more than one quote when arranging a funeral. Hopefully the work being undertaken to make funeral costs more transparent will help this situation going forward.

What percentage of us are planning ahead?

When it comes to talking about our funeral wishes, we are still a reluctant nation. Only 62% of those surveyed said they knew their loved ones wishes, whilst 55% didn’t know whether the deceased would have preferred a cremation or burial.

And as far as making plans for our own funeral, the results show that we are still far from prepared, as only:

  • 33% have made a will
  • 31% have shared their wishes
  • 24% have set aside money to pay for the funeral
  • 17% have recorded wishes in writing
  • 15% have prepaid their funeral costs
  • 14% have chosen their funeral music

Even though costs have reduced, paying for a funeral is financially challenging for many UK families. So, the more you can do yourself to relieve this burden from your family, be it a prepaid funeral plan, life insurance, savings, or just sharing your wishes, the better.

What is the future of funerals?

So, what about the future of funerals? Well, the growth of direct cremation funerals appears set to continue as families look for new ways to cut costs and say goodbye. The number of people attending the funeral may also reduce as watching the service online has become more accepted throughout these Covid times.

And whilst tradition may still lay at the heart of many funerals, technology inevitably will change the way we do things. With 9 in 10 funeral directors stating they saw new trends emerge in 2021, such as the use of web links, apps and videos, technology is making it possible for us to celebrate the life of our loved ones, even when we can’t attend the funeral.

What is the ‘Sunlife cost of dying report’?

The Sunlife Cost of Dying report tracks the cost of funerals on an annual basis. Launched in 2004 by leading UK insurance company Sunlife, the research is based on a survey of 1,616 adults who have planned a funeral in the last 4 years and a panel of funeral directors.

Ashley

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