Royal London and SunLife Cost of Dying Reports 2018

Royal London and SunLife Cost of Dying Reports 2018 main image

Two annual reports have been released in the last week shining the light on funeral costs and our attitude to funeral planning, namely the:


Both reports are highly respected by the industry for providing an insight into the good, the bad and the ugly of the funeral market place. Comprised from the results of consumer surveys and information collected from funeral directors, they provide greater understanding on how funeral costs have changed over the past 12 months, the affect regional pricing has on funerals, our attitude to pre-panning our funerals and the impact funeral costs have on the family. 

What is the average cost of a funeral? 

Although there are similarities with the reports, one of the biggest differences is that the Royal London Funeral Cost price Index states that funeral costs have remained stable at £3,757, whereas the SunLife Cost of Dying Report shows a 4.7% increase on last year’s prices to £4,271.  

The SunLife report also adds that costs have increased every year for the 15 years it has produced the report and if costs continue to rise at a similar rate, the average cost of a funeral could be as much as £5,120 in just 5 years. 

Both reports show how location can affect the price you pay for a funeral, with London as you may expect being the most expensive place to die. Interesting enough though the SunLife report shows the South West as being the most expensive place for a cremation funeral. 

Top 3 most expensive regions for a funeral (UK average £4,271)

  • London - £5,880
  • South West - £4,685
  • South East & East - £4,469

Top 3 most expensive regions for a cremation funeral (UK average £3,744)

  • South West - £4,365
  • London - £4,222
  • Yorkshire & the Humber - £4,079 

Top 3 most expensive regions for a burial funeral (UK average £4,978)

  • London - £7,538
  • South East & East - £5,097
  • South West - £5,006

At the other end of the scale, the cheapest funeral costs including those for burials were reported in Northern Ireland, with Wales being the region flagged as having the cheapest cremation costs. 

Are our attitudes to funerals changing? 

It has taken some time but it would appear that our attitudes to funerals are finally changing, driven partly by costs but also by personal beliefs and values. 

In the SunLife Cost of Dying Report, 64% of the funeral directors surveyed reported a drop in the number of religious funerals arranged, with 82% saying they had seen an increase in the number of ‘celebration of life’ services. 

Although direct cremation which is a cremation without a funeral service is fast becoming more mainstream and offered by most funeral directors, both reports noted a rather low uptake for this type of no fuss funeral option. 

What’s most disappointing about the low numbers of people choosing direct cremation is that both SunLife and Royal London believe it is due to lack of awareness rather than choice. In fact only 47% of the people surveyed by SunLife said they were aware of this low cost cremation only funeral, which demonstrates an urgent need for greater transparency of the funeral options available. 

With continued rising funeral prices including those for more personal wishes such as memorials, catering, funeral notices and flowers, SunLife reported that 39% of respondents said they had cut down on funeral costs: 

  • 13% chose a cheaper coffin
  • 11% spent less on flowers 
  • 10% held the wake or reception at home 

How are we paying for funerals?  

The people surveyed in the SunLife Cost of dying report have all gone through the process of arranging a funeral or administrating an estate within the last four years. When asked about paying for the funeral, 62% confirmed that some form of financial provision had been left by the person who had died: 

Unfortunately only 59% of those who had made financial provision left sufficient funds to pay for the whole funeral costs. On average families had to find £2,559 to make up any shortfall, showing either a lack of awareness when it comes to actual funeral costs or perhaps a lack of informed pre-planning.  

What kind of funeral do you want?  

The message that comes across from both the SunLife and Royal London reports is that we are still not openly talking about dying and putting funeral plans in place, which is subsequently leaving families throughout the country in emotional and financial hardship. 

When it came to making the funeral arrangements, those respondents in the SunLife survey who actually knew some of the personal wishes of the deceased were sadly quite low: 

  • 54% knew whether the funeral should be burial or cremation
  • 26% knew whether the service should be religious or non-religious 
  • 32% knew the location of the preferred cemetery
  • 29% knew the preferred funeral director
  •  27% knew what to do with the ashes
  • 26% knew their preferred funeral music and readings
  • 25% knew of their preferred charity for donations 

Which all goes to show that we either need to pre-plan our funeral, or as a minimum, be more open about our wishes so our families aren’t left in the dark. Let’s face it, arranging a funeral has to be one of the most upsetting things to do, so shouldn’t we all take responsibility for making it easier for the people we love?

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