14 August 2017

Funeral debt soars to an all-time high as funeral costs increase

5 min read

Meera Khanna, Consumer PR Manager
Meera Khanna

Corporate PR Manager - Protection


  • Average cost of a funeral in the UK rises to £3,784, an increase of 3% from 2016
  • Funeral poverty reaches an all-time high of £160 million with those struggling to pay funeral costs taking on an average debt of £1,680
  • Postcode lottery for funeral costs continues with prices ranging from £3,036 to £6,516

The Royal London National Funeral Cost Index 2017 reveals the average cost of a funeral has increased to £3,784. Funeral debt has also risen to £160 million.

One in six (16%) said they struggled with funeral costs, with people taking on an average debt of £1,680. Amongst those who struggled, one in four said they borrowed money from family and friends (26%) and a further one in four (23%) went into debt by taking out a loan or going into their overdraft to pay funeral costs. A record number of people were also selling their possessions to repay funeral debt, with one in ten (10%) of those struggling with funeral payments taking this approach.

For a second year, Kensal Green in London is the most expensive location in the UK for a funeral with an average cost of £6,516, an increase of 1% from 2016. Belfast retains its place as the cheapest location with the average cost of a funeral at £3,036.

The research also found lower cost funeral options such as direct cremations - a no frills funeral - continue to be popular. Of all the cremation funerals held, 10% did not include a ceremony or service. However, those who choose to have a ceremony or service saw an increase in costs, with the amount spent on discretionary funeral items such as catering and venue hire rising. The combined spending on venue and catering has increased by 10% from £765 in 2014 to £840 in 2017.

Commenting on the findings, Royal London’s funeral cost expert, Louise Eaton-Terry, said:

The decline in funeral inflation we identified last year was a temporary respite, as our latest research shows funeral costs are on the rise again. With thousands of bereaved people struggling to pay funeral costs and taking on nearly £1,700 in debt to ensure their loved one has a decent send-off, it is clear that Government action to tackle funeral poverty is long overdue.”

“The Scottish Government is leading the way with its commitment to providing help and guidance on funeral costs for consumers. We want Westminster to follow Scotland’s lead and do more to address the issue of rising funeral debt.

Institute of Cemetery & Crematorium Management’s chief executive, Tim Morris, said:

Increases in funeral costs are evident by the increases in Local authority arranged Public Health Funerals, number of new breed funeral directors providing a direct option and crowd-funding appeals on social media.

“The Scottish Government's Ten Point Plan designed to alleviate funeral poverty, the Department of Work & Pensions consultation on reform of the Social Fund and the introduction of an Inspector of Funeral Directors in Scotland indicate that a crisis has been identified.

“Unfortunately only the Scottish Government has acted in respect of the shortage of burial space crisis that affects circa 25% of the population. This additional driver of funeral poverty requires urgent attention in England & Wales.

Royal London is calling for:

  • Policymakers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to follow Scotland’s lead and do away with the fees charged by doctors to bereaved families for certifying a death, currently at £164;
  • Department for Work and Pensions to widen its review of the Social Fund Funeral Expenses Payment to include the inadequate level of the payment and the length of time it takes to process claims; and
  • The funeral sector to respond to the latent demand from consumers for simpler and cheaper funeral options, by providing more access to direct cremation type services.

Most expensive locations for funerals

2017 location 


Cremation Average
Kensal Green


£3,223 £6,516


£3,423 £6,141
Beckenham £7,529 £3,572 £5,551


£3,398 £5,346
Golders Green £7,275 £3,244 £5,260
Wandsworth £7,106 £3,172 £5,139
Islington £6,827 £3,173 £5,000
East Finchley £6,827 £3,163 £4,995
Manor Park (London) £6,577 £3,333 £4,955
Leatherhead £6,232 £3,572 £4,902

Least expensive locations for funerals

2017 location Burial Cremation Average
Belfast £3,128 £2,943 £3,036
Paisley £3,326 £3,034 £3,180
Glasgow West £3,326 £3,061 £3,194


£3,437 £2,995 £3,216
Amersham £3,284 £3,148 £3,216
Bridgwater £3,104 £3,338 £3,221
Swindon £3,155 £3,353 £3,254
Burton on Trent £3,288 £3,223 £3,256
Yeovil £3,294 £3,263 £3,279
Alford £3,382 £3,183 £3,283

- ENDS -

For further information please contact:

Meera Khanna, Corporate PR Manager - Protection

Notes to editors:

  • Royal London’s National Funeral Cost Index is an annual study. The 2017 Index is available here: www.royallondon.com/about/media/research-and-consultation-responses/
  • The Royal London National Funeral Cost Index is published in partnership with The Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM) – the organisation which represents professionals working in burial and cremation authorities and companies throughout the UK.
  • Royal London commissioned two surveys from YouGov which took place between May and June 2017. The first was made up of 2,029 nationally representative UK adults aged 18+ who had organised a funeral within the past five years. The second was made up of a random sample of 1,006 UK adults aged 18+ who had organised a funeral within the past five years and used the services of a funeral director.
  • The Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM) collected costs for 284 UK crematoriums and two cemeteries close to the crematoriums to allow us to analyse the comparative costs of cremation and burials. Fieldwork for ICCM took place between April and June. Fieldwork for ICCM took place between April and June 2017.
  • Yourfuneralchoice.com provided data which is based on mystery shopping of funeral directors to gather information and prices for a comparable ‘simple funeral’ to include collection/care of the deceased, a basic coffin, hearse, and to manage a simple service at a crematorium. Prices based on this research do not include third party costs which fall outside of the funeral directors immediate control or minister/celebrant fees.

About Royal London:

Royal London is the largest mutual life, pensions and investment company in the UK, with funds under management of £117 billion, 8.8 million policies in force and 3,745 employees. Figures quoted are as at 30 June 2018.