How much does a burial cost?

cardboard coffin covered with flowers and handwritten messages

How much does a burial cost?

In 2022, the average cost of a burial in the UK was £4,794 (SunLife). This includes the cost of a funeral, plus the burial plot and interment fees. It doesn’t include things like the venue, flowers or a headstone.

Several things affect the overall price of a burial. These are:

The cost of these things can vary a lot depending on where you live and the kind of burial you want.

In this article, we’ll break down these costs and look at ways to save money on a burial.

What’s the average cost of a burial plot in the UK?

A burial plot is a piece of land where a person is buried. Most burial plots are in churchyards, cemeteries or woodland burial sites.

How much does a burial plot cost? The price you pay is affected by several things, including where you live and the location of the plot.

Burial plots in London, for instance, are much more expensive than in some other areas of the country. And you’ll usually pay more for a plot in a private graveyard than a council cemetery.

Another big factor is whether the person who has died wanted to be buried locally. It’s common for council cemeteries to charge local residents a much lower fee than people who didn’t live in the area.

The lowest burial plot costs we found in the UK were for Belfast City Council, where they start from £305 for residents. In other areas of the UK, costs are much higher. In Coventry, for example, burial plot costs start from £2,567.50 for residents. In the London Borough of Lewisham, burial plot prices start from £3,592 for residents.

Burial plots for children (under 18 years old) usually cost a lot less. Many councils offer them free of charge for local residents.

How does buying a burial plot work?

Burial plots are rarely actually sold. It’s more common to pay for an Exclusive Right of Burial. This means nobody else is allowed to be buried in the plot for a set period – usually between 50 and 100 years.

In this way, buying a burial plot is like paying for a leasehold on a house. You buy the right to use the land for a long time, but once the lease runs out it returns to the landowner – the cemetery.

When this happens, someone will have to decide whether to extend the lease. If they choose not to, the headstone will be removed and other people might be buried in the same grave.

What’s included in burial plot costs?

When you lease a burial plot, the Exclusive Right of Burial is always included. You also have to pay for interment, which means digging and refilling the grave. And the cemetery may charge a fee to look after the grave. This fee is often called a ‘grave maintenance fee’.

Interment and maintenance fees aren’t always included in burial plot costs. You’ll need to pay for the coffin and headstone separately, too.

How much does a coffin cost?

There are lots of different kinds of coffins. Some cost a lot more than others.

If you don’t want a lot of fuss, you could choose a cardboard or wicker coffin. These designs are inexpensive and can look elegant yet simple. A cardboard coffin costs about £280, while a wicker coffin costs around £500.

For a traditional wooden coffin, you can expect to pay anything from £600 to £2,000 or more. It depends on the type of wood and the style you want. You’ll pay more for elaborately carved decorations, metal handles and other finishing touches.

Learn more about choosing a coffin.

How much does a burial headstone cost?

Headstones are quite expensive.

In 2022, the average cost of a memorial was £1,064 (SunLife). A memorial means a headstone or another type of monument that pays tribute to a person who has died.

The cost of a headstone depends on the design and material you choose, as well as its finish. Generally speaking, the bigger and more elaborate the headstone, the more you’ll pay. For instance, a simple burial plaque costs less than a large, kerbed headstone.

You also need to consider engraving fees to add a message onto the headstone. Many memorial masons charge by the letter, so longer messages can be quite a lot more expensive.

Read more about typical headstone costs.

Can you save money on a burial?

Yes. There are lots of ways to save on burial costs. Bear in mind that you might have to compromise on your funeral plans, though.

Weigh up the cost of cremation vs burial

Lots of people choose to be buried for religious or personal reasons. If the person who has died said they wanted to be buried, then you’ll probably want to honour their wish.

However, if cremation is an option, you may want to consider it.

Why? Because cremation is almost always less expensive than burial. In 2022, the average cost for a funeral with a cremation was £3,673 (SunLife). That’s more than £1,000 cheaper than the average for a burial.

Pay for a burial plot in advance

Burial plots are becoming more expensive, especially in urban areas. So if you’re planning your own funeral, you might want to pay for a burial plot now (known as ‘purchase in reserve). This way, you could save your family from paying higher costs later on. But bear in mind that if you do buy a burial plot in advance, you’ll usually pay a reservation fee on top of the price of the plot.

Choose a simpler coffin or headstone

Ask yourself: is an expensive coffin or headstone really important to you? If you’re willing to choose something simpler, you could save a lot on burial costs.

And remember that you don’t have to pay for an elaborate headstone straight away. You could start with a simple grave marker and then replace it with a headstone when you can afford to.

Choose a council cemetery

Burial plots in council cemeteries tend to be cheaper than those in private burial grounds – so long as the person who has died lived locally. However, costs can vary a lot, so be sure to do your research.

Things can get more complicated if you have special religious needs. Depending on where you live, you may have to choose a private cemetery if you want the burial to follow the laws of your faith. For instance, some council cemeteries have separate areas for Muslim burials, while others don’t.

Consider a woodland burial

A woodland burial aims to be as eco-friendly as possible. In a woodland burial, the person who has died is buried in a green space among wildflowers or trees.

Although these kinds of burial plots can be quite expensive, woodland burial costs can work out cheaper than usual. This is because people must be buried in affordable, biodegradable coffins – and without elaborate headstones.

So if you like the idea of an affordable, eco-friendly funeral, a woodland burial could be a good option. You can read more about woodland burials here.

Consider a direct burial

A direct burial is a type of unattended funeral. This means the person who has died is buried without a funeral service. If the person is cremated instead, it’s known as a direct cremation.

Unattended funerals are becoming more popular. Between 2018 and 2022, the number of people choosing a direct cremation rose from 2% to 18% (SunLife).

This is partly because unattended funerals are so affordable. A direct burial costs much less than a funeral with a service – and a direct cremation is even cheaper.

It might seem odd that there’s no formal ceremony. But remember that you’re free to say goodbye in your own way at a later date. Lots of people who choose a direct burial or cremation follow it up with a memorial service. This can be an informal ceremony where people share stories and celebrate the life of the person who has died.

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Photo by The Good Funeral Guide on Unsplash