Funeral costs have more than doubled in 14 years – rising on average by 6% a year, way above the normal rate of inflation of around 2%.
By 2018 the average cost of a funeral across the UK was around £4,300; cremations average about £500 less than that, and burials about £500 more. Relatives can spend a further £2,000 on things like flowers, catering and other expenses. For those on low incomes, this is a massive chunk of their salary – more than they spend all year on electricity and gas, food and clothes.
Those figures come from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), whose job is to keep businesses trading fairly. It says “for a considerable number of years the largest firms of funeral directors have implemented large annual price increases without reference to underlying operating cost”. These rises were, it says, “a matter of policy”.
Comparing prices is probably the last thing bereaved relatives feel like doing. The CMA found that barely one in seven asked more than one firm to quote, and fewer than one in 20 went online to find the best deal. One funeral director told the CMA that a funeral is the “ultimate distress purchase made by inexpert and emotionally vulnerable clients under time pressure”. In other words, we are ripe for exploitation.
The CMA found that people can save as much as £1,000 by looking for the cheapest firm locally, but admits that can be difficult as prices are not displayed clearly, making comparisons difficult. It will be a year before the CMA’s final report is published. It could impose remedies on the funeral business to make it more competitive.
Meanwhile, if you have to organise a funeral, think carefully about what you can afford and find a local firm who can do the job at reasonable cost. Ignore how kind and sympathetic they seem – that is their job. Be as hard-nosed about buying a funeral as you would any other £5,000 purchase, and avoid the funeral RIP off.
For more information, click here to see the CMA’s advice document or go to moneyadviceservice.org.uk and search “paying for a funeral”