8 in 10 go with the first funeral director they find

Even though funeral costs have risen by 128% over the past 17 years, and now stand at £4,184 on average, most people still don’t shop around for funeral services.

New data released from SunLife’s Cost of Dying Report 2021 reveals that just 18 per cent of people get more than one funeral director quote, while just 4% compare two or more.

SunLife’s findings follow the publication of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)’s final report into the funeral industry, which ordered funeral directors and crematoria to make prices clearer.

 During its two-year investigation, the CMA noted that on initial contact with a funeral director, “costs and options are generally neither requested by the customer nor offered by the funeral director” and that prices are not always clear. This means that many people are in effect, choosing a funeral director without knowing how much the funeral will cost.

Ian Atkinson, Marketing Director at SunLife said:

“Clearer funeral pricing will obviously make it easier for people to compare prices. But organising a funeral is a stressful and emotional time, and as we can see from our own research, the last thing on most people’s minds is to start comparing funeral director’s prices. So, unless the person has organised a funeral before, they are more than likely going to end up either just going for one they’ve heard of or doing a quick search online and picking the first on the list.

“This means many people could well be spending more than they need to– or not getting the service they want – because they are not making comparisons with other funeral service providers nearby.”

According to SunLife’s Cost of Dying Report 2021 an average standard burial funeral now costs £5,033, and a standard cremation funeral costs £3,885, but a direct cremation – where the body is taken away and cremated and the family is free to hold a service separately if they wish – costs much less – £1,554 on average.

And SunLife’s data suggests that more people would opt for the cheaper alternative if they knew they could; of the 41% of people organising a funeral who were not aware of direct cremations, 19% said they would have considered it for the deceased had they known it was an option.

Ian adds:

“When we buy car or home insurance, we tend to get two or three quotes before committing to a policy, but when it comes to funerals – which often cost thousands more – most of us go with the first quote we get, often with no idea if what we are paying is competitive.”

Funeral directors are often criticised for rising costs, but many are actively encouraging people to shop around to make sure they are getting the best deal, and to consider cheaper alternatives – like direct cremations – to keep costs down.

 SunLife’s research shows that 93% of funeral directors now offer direct cremations, and 55% say they actively promote them, in most cases (37%) because they offer a more affordable option.

Ian concludes:

“We have been tracking funeral costs since 2004, and we publish these figures in our Cost of Dying report each year to help raise awareness of the rate at which they are rising, and how covering the cost can be a real burden to loved ones if the deceased hadn’t made any provisions.

“Currently, just 51% of people leave enough money behind to cover the entire cost of their funeral, while 35% don’t leave any specific provision.

“The best thing people can do to ensure their families are not hit with funeral bills is to plan ahead – our funeral planning guide can help – https://www.sunlife.co.uk/funeral-plans/help-with-funeral-costs/. We need to be talking about funerals with friends and family, so we get the funeral we want at a price we can afford.”

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