Funeral costs and consumer rights

Costs_ consumer_rights

Most people plan and shop around for big life events – taking on a mortgage, planning a wedding or civil partnership, even buying a pram. Yet many people don’t shop around for a funeral even though it could set them back thousands of pounds.

At a distressing time, funeral costs can add further worry to individuals and families. Funerals have been called ‘the ultimate distress purchase’. They are often planned in haste, under stress and few want to bicker over costs. Each year, Sun Life produce a headline-grabbing Cost of Dying report that tells us that the cost of dying (like everything else) has gone up.

SunLife Cost of Dying report 2017


Every year we’re shocked by this, talk about funeral poverty a bit and do nothing about it. Tedious. It would be so easy for government to tackle this by providing a state funeral for all for the price of a small increase in national insurance contributions. (See more about my Masters if you’re interested in that.)

Funeral costs

ReAssured produced this infographic in 2018 to illustrate the cost of funerals:
Cost of funerals infographic (2018)

It doesn’t have to be this way. A cheap funeral can be a richer funeral. Simple funeral arrangements may be sweeter. Lighting a candle may be more meaningful than a firework display.

It’s OK to check cremation costs versus burial costs. It’s OK to question whether you want flowers for funerals. It’s OK to phone around and compare the cost of funeral directors or the price of coffins or buy your own online for the funeral director to use. It’s OK not to use a funeral director or a funeral parlour. You don’t have to have a cremation service at all.

Check out your options for organising a funeral. It’s not cheap or disrespectful to do things differently. It’s much wiser than spending a lot of money for a ceremony that at best doesn’t do much for you and at worst puts you in debt.

Get it right for you and yours and the person you are honouring by doing something that feels like YOU.

Funeral arrangements can be as simple or lavish as you want (and can afford). Funeral costs can be very low if you organise the funeral yourself. You can make the coffin, use your own transport, bury the body on your own land (if you own it) and organise the celebration at home. In that case your only costs would be cremation costs or burial fees.

Currently, most people opt for a funeral director to take care of the body in their funeral parlour, provide a hearse and make the cremation or burial arrangements. Many funeral directors and celebrants provide services free for the death of a child.

The figures below are just for guidance: funeral costs can vary widely from one part of the country to another so check these out locally.)

  • Registering a death – check with your local Registrar for current cost of an certificate.
  • Crematorium fees – these vary from around £750.
  • Funeral director – a direct cremation (no service) can cost as little as £2,000. The funeral director’s fees to take care of the body, organise the funeral, provide a coffin and transport and deal with paperwork are usually around £3-4,000.
  • Burial lair – Costs for burial ground vary widely. My local burial ground is £600 for a lair which has space for 3 family/friends, tiered. You have to live in the area or have a connection to it to be allowed to buy since burial ground is becoming more scarce.  In some parts of the UK, a lair costs double for a non-resident; other areas have a flat rate. Many burial grounds no longer sell title deeds to a lair in advance of a death because land is at a premium.
  • Burial fees – around £5-600 including gravedigging in churchyard – cost may be more in other cemeteries. Burial in a churchyard is less if the service is held in church. If you’re claiming a funeral payment it will cover burial not cremation.
  • Coffin – from £150 for a cardboard coffin direct from the supplier up to thousands.  A cardboard coffin customised with your design and delivered to your door will cost around £300.
  • Hearse – funeral directors will provide a hearse to transport the coffin and a car or cars for the family – it’s part of the servce. They can source and will charge extra for special vehicles – cadillacs, horse and carriage, motorcylce hearse. You can use your own estate car or van or hire a car.
  • Celebrant – £150-200 for a service including meeting and drafting script and overseeing the ceremony. Ministers charge £160. There’s nothing to stop you from leading the ceremony yourself.
  • Organist – around £50
  • Flowers – from around £60
  • Memorial headstone – from around £400
  • Catering – entirely up to you. Do it yourself at home and invite people to bring a dish. Often people go to a local hotel and spend around £6.50 a head for sandwiches and a cuppa.

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