The ‘cost of dying’ outstrips inflation as funeral costs increase 5.5% in a year

15th September 2016

Funerals now one of the UK’s fastest rising costs, outstripping inflation, wages and pensions with an average funeral now £3,897, with the total cost of dying reaching a staggering £8,802 per person

Families are spending 28% less on the send-off than they were 5 years ago to cover rising funeral costs.

Insurer SunLife’s annual Cost of Dying research shows that the cost of dying is the fastest rising of any fixed cost in the UK – rising much faster than any cost of living such as rent, food, utilities, insurance or clothing.

The overall cost of dying which includes death-related costs such as probate, headstones and flowers in addition to the basic cost of a funeral – has risen by 8.3% to £8,802.

The funeral – which makes up 44% of the cost of dying – has soared by 5.5% in a single year, a rise more than 10 times the increase in the cost of living.

The average funeral in the UK now costs £3,897 which is more than double what it was when SunLife first started tracking funeral prices in 2004. To put this in perspective, if the cost of a funeral had risen in line with the cost of living it would now cost £2,5403 – £1,357 less than the actual figure. London remains the most expensive place to die, with the average funeral costing £5,529, which is 42% more than the national average of £3,897.

Region Average Price


Difference from national average (%) Change from 2015 (%) Change

from 2004


1 Wales £3,627 -6.9 +2.0 +123.5
2 South East & East of England £4,090 +5.0 +13.5 +93.9
3 London £5,529 +41.9 +9.1 +121.2
4 East and West Midlands £3,878 -0.5 +5.7 +88.1
5 Yorkshire and the Humber £3,834 -1.6 +8.0 +93.3
6 Scotland £3,716 -4.6 +3.4 +91.1
7 South West England £4,011 +2.9 +6.1 +96.4
8 North West England £3,381 -13.2 +3.8 +91.5
9 North East England £3,744 -3.9 +2.6 +137.0
10 Northern Ireland £3,277 -15.9 +2.3 +106.2
National average £3,897 +5.5 +103.0

Cutting corners on the send-off

The research found that 40% of people organising a funeral said it cost more than they expected and more than a third (38%) of those said it cost a lot more.

As a result, one in twelve people organising a funeral said they had to cut back or change some of the ‘send-off’ costs they had planned for their loved one:

30% had to cut back on limousines for immediate family

27% on the memorial (headstone, urn, bench etc.)

26% had to make cutbacks to the catering.

17% cut back on flowers

15% had to find a cheaper venue.

Sunlife has launched a new funeral calculator to help you work out what provision you will need to make to cover the cost of your own funeral.

Back in 2008, the average spent on the send-off was £2,097, which was almost a third (31%) of the total cost of dying. Now it is £1,976 which is just 22% of the total and a drop of 28%2. In comparison, the proportion spent on the funeral has gone up from 38% of the total cost to 44%.

Graham Jones, director at SunLife said: “The ‘send-off’ is the only part of the overall cost that is discretionary and has been around £2,000 for the past 10 years, which means as a percentage of the entire cost of dying, it has been slowlydropping for a decade. This suggests that families are being forced to cut back on the extras due to the rising fixed costs.”

“Talking about it won’t make it happen, but if we don’t, we will end up putting a huge financial and emotional burden on those left behind.”

Claire Henry, Chief Executive of the Dying Matters Coalition said: “It is ironic that despite our increasing willingness to share all sorts of information about our daily lives on social media, many of us are still unwilling to talk about death.

So we are really pleased to be working with SunLife to create a range of useful online tools, calculators and content to help people engage with the subject of death and dying in a much more positive and practical way.

“We hope these tools will raise awareness of this issue and help people to start those important conversations’. Making and sharing plans not only gives us peace of mind, but it also makes life easier for our loved ones as they will be safe in the knowledge that they are giving us the perfect send-off.”

1 Funerals have risen 5.5% in one year, pensions by 2.5%, inflation is 0.5%. Since 2004; Funerals have increased by 103%, Rent has increased by 38%, Food 40%, Utilities (Housing) 70%, insurance 76%, Clothing -24% Source: National Statistics: Consumer Price Inflation

2Decrease from 31.3 of total cost to 22.4% is 28%.

3Compound interest of inflation 32.3%

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