Funeral prices

Fran Hall 4 Comments
Fran Hall

Our recent blog post about Simplicity Cremations, the offshoot of Dignity Funerals, elicited this response from a disapproving reader:

‘This rattled me. “Dignity’s prices are too high and they are the cause of funeral poverty. Big bad dignity”. “Dignity lower their prices and offer a low cost cremation option. Big bad Dignity”.
Seems to me that someone has a bee in their bonnet and constantly looks for the negative.
Simplicity Cremations offers almost zero funeral director contact. The deceased is washed and dressed but that’s about it. A funeral director will arrange the Crem forms and dr’s fees but it stops there. There’s no face to face contact. Families arrange their own officiant, flowers, music and so on. The £600 odd pounds you’re quoting seems to only really cover the admin side of things, collecting and dressing the deceased, transport and a coffin. Seems fair enough.’


Let’s have a look at how the other arm of Dignity PLC (the owners of Simplicity Cremations) prices the services they offer clients.

Somehow, we don’t think that a figure of £600 odd pounds for the ‘admin side of things, collecting and dressing the deceased, transport and a coffin’  is considered ‘fair enough’ by the Dignity management when it comes to charging those families who prefer ‘face to face contact’. Or the bereaved people who do what most people in this country do, go into their local funeral director rather than going online to make arrangements.

Dignity Funerals Ltd is the company which, at the last count, has 831 high street branches (all trading under their original names) It is the company that conducted 39,700 funerals in the first six months of this year.  Or an estimated 12.1% of all the funerals carried out in Britain.

And apparently, Dignity’s methods of pricing their high-street-facilitated funerals are remarkably different from those used for their on-line business.

You will be faced with a bill of significantly more than ‘£600 odd pounds’ for ‘the admin side of things, collecting and dressing the deceased, transport and a coffin’ if you walk into one of their high-street branches.

That ‘face to face contact’ seems to bump up the prices by several thousand pounds.

We collected some current price lists from Dignity branches in the London area and the South East and North of England.

Here’s what we found.

The prices shown are for Dignity’s ‘Full Service Funeral’ – i.e. a funeral on a day and time that you choose (rather than them telling you when you can have it), with a choice of coffin and the option of having the person dressed in their own clothes (rather than a ‘suitable basic gown’), the option to spend time with them at the funeral home, assistance in organising floral tributes, obituaries, service stationery and donations, and the freedom to add limousines if you want.

Or, in other words, what most people would expect a funeral director to offer.

London  South East England  North England
‘Our Service to You’* £1,705* £1,655* £1,470*
‘Our Service to the Person who has Died’* £1,045* £1,020* £1,015*
‘Your Appointed Funeral Director’* £ 720* £ 700* £ 725*
‘Our Hearses’* £ 720* £ 720* £ 620*
‘Our Limousines’ £ 252 (from) £ 252 (from) £ 175
‘Traditional’ coffin range £ 150* – £1,250 £ 150* – £1250 £ 150* – £1,250
Cardboard coffin £ 660 £ 660 £ 660
Willow coffin £1,015 £1,015 £1,105

If your eyes are glazing over at all the figures, we’ve added them up for you below. And we offer some prices from GFG Recommended Funeral Directors for comparison. (We hadn’t intended to do so, as this post is meant to be about the Dignity prices charged by different arms of the business for very similar services, but we thought comparisons with the prices of some independently owned businesses might be informative.)

We included the components with stars against them in the results table above, i.e. the charge for meeting and making the funeral arrangements, the charge for collecting and caring for the person who died, the peculiar additional charge for ‘Your Appointed Funeral Director’ (we’ve never come across a separate fee for having a funeral director appointed to you before?), and the charge for a hearse. We used the lowest priced coffin in the Dignity range, just to keep it simple, although we think that probably very few families pick the £150 option when presented with the coffin brochure, and we didn’t include embalming, even though the Dignity blurb states ‘…. as members of the National Association of Funeral Directors we recommend the peace of mind that embalming brings.’

We then checked the prices for the same or comparable service listed by independent funeral directors in the same parts of the country on our Recommended list.

Oh, and remember, these are figures for just the funeral director fees.

Cremation or burial costs, medical certificates if required (in England and Wales), and the fee for a minister or officiant will be in addition to the figures shown. Also, flowers, orders of service, limousines, placing of obituaries or other optional extras will all be extra costs. It would probably be wise to budget at least a further £1,000.

Here we go:

If you are in the London area, the Dignity price we were given is £4,340

For comparable services, Leverton & Sons would charge £2,310

From Compassionate Funerals, comparable services would cost £2,159

If you are in South East England, the Dignity price we were given is £4,095

Comparable funeral director services from Albany Funerals would cost £2,245

From Holly’s Funerals, comparable services would cost £2,131

If you are in the North of England,the Dignity price we were given is £3,980

Comparable funeral director services from Barringtons Independent Funeral Services would cost £2,150 (and include a limousine)

From Saint and Forster Funeral Directors, comparable services would cost £1,690)

Now, we know that there’s the fabled ‘face to face contact’ involved with all of the prices above. And a hearse. And visits to the chapel of rest if you want them. And a funeral director too. And staff to carry a coffin.

But what we are trying to illustrate is the VAST chasm between the prices charged for the‘admin side of things, collecting and dressing the deceased, transport and a coffin’ by the same company.

Just as a reminder, Dignity’s Simplicity Cremations ‘Attended Funeral’ costs £1,895 including cremation and doctors’ fees.

The lowest Dignity Funerals Full Service Funeral price we found cost £3,980 WITHOUT cremation and doctors’ fees.

That ‘face to face contact’, flexibility in arrangements, visits to the person who died and providing a hearse and staff at the funeral appears to add something in the region of three thousand pounds to the price.

(Now, in case anyone’s interested, the most recent Dignity Investor Presentation reports £120,100,000 revenue from their funeral services in the first 26 weeks of 2018, with Underlying Operating Profit of £42,100,000

Forty two million pounds. In six months.

The Investor Presentation is downloadable here.)

We’re sure that Dignity will be at pains to tell us that they offer a Simple Funeral for £1,995 plus third party costs.

We know this.

We also know that if you opt for a Dignity Simple Funeral: 

You will not be able to decide the date and time of the funeral, they will choose it.

You will not be able to choose a different coffin.

The person who died will not be dressed in their own clothes.

You will not be able to add a limousine if you want one.

There will not be a funeral procession.  

Payment of third party costs will be required at the time of making the arrangements, with the balance due 48 hours before the funeral.

See ‘Some important points about the Simple Funeralhere.

This restricted service is possibly not what most people would expect in return for paying a funeral director almost £2,000 for their service. Even with the face to face contact (and ‘motorised hearse’) you get with Dignity’s Simple Funeral.

You could ditch the face to face contact and the hearse, pick the day and time of your choice, have a similar coffin and save yourself around a thousand pounds (which you’d need to find for the third party costs on top of the Simple Funeral fee) by opting for a Simplicity Cremations Attended Funeral with that all-in price of £1,895.

Though this probably won’t be offered to you if you are a bereaved person who goes into a high street branch of Dignity. It’s only available online. From a company with a different name.

(Or, you could choose to use an independent funeral director instead. Ideally, one that we recommend. Look again at the prices for full, unrestricted funeral services from independent companies above.)

But to go back to the original point of this post, and to directly address the person who objects to our opinion and thinks we constantly look for the negative:

No, on balance, and with the greatest of respect, dear disgruntled reader, we don’t think it’s ‘fair enough’.

We don’t think it’s fair at all for a funeral provider to be subsidising costs for some bereaved people and charging much, much higher prices, for remarkably similar services, to other bereaved people.

Which is what appears to be happening here.

Incidentally, if you’ve read this far, you might want to have a browse through comments from some long-suffering Dignity PLC shareholders here and here, – many have seen the value of their shares crash since last year and are nervously watching the so-called ‘price war’ between Dignity and Co-operative Funeralcare, wondering how this will impact on the value of their holdings.

Some of the more optimistic appear to be hopeful that, under the lead of Paul Turner, Dignity’s new ‘Transformation Director’, the company’s performance will pick up, and the value of their holdings will start heading up from today’s level (around £10.50 a share) back towards the giddy heights of £24.60 a share just last November.

The Dignity transition programme is expected to be largely completed over a three year time frame according to that Investor Presentation. So possibly a scenario for ‘Hold’. (Or ‘Hope’.) Time will tell.

Meanwhile, according to some former and current Dignity employees, there’s a rather gloomier picture on the inside, read reviews here

Now, where’s that bonnet?


  1. Fran Hall

    £660 for a cardboard coffin !! Why, when you can buy a solid oak cabinet from a certain furniture outlet that has more wood than your average coffin. And there’s no veneer in ‘ere !! Is this where the big price difference is generated?

  2. Fran Hall

    As long as the whole business of the various ways you can get a dead relative out of the hospital or house and through the doors of a crematorium or into a hole in a cemetery remains a mystery to the general public, so the charges from undertakers who wish to charge a lot are going to remain higher than they need to be. And many will charge higher than they need to because …………. if they can make a bigger profit they will. It’s a captive market. And it’s a business. That’s how businesses work unless there are downward price pressures from customer choice. Some undertakers are like the hospital branch of a WH Smiths. Very pricey because the customers can’t get anywhere else. And there are enough customers who pay the high prices with their own money or from the future inheritance for their to be no incentive to lower the profit margin.

    We’ve had relatives die at home and in hospital – and what have family members done? Phoned an undertaker because that’s the only thing we know to do. And it might have accidentally turned out to be a Dignity undertaker and it might not have been.

    I read an article in the magazine produced by the Natural Death Centre the other day about D I Y funerals – that was really useful. But it’s really the first time I’ve seen some of the different ways round the “package holiday” approach offered by most undertakers. Once people understood better the costs of the various bits without the “middle man” then there would start to be more pressure on prices and request to buy some bits of the package and not others.

    The crematorium fees that Tim placed on another thread on here the other day were enlightening too. But a member of the public is just not easily going to find that info.

    Knowledge is power, as they say, and all these charges beyond death are more than a lot of people would pay for a replacement secondhand car. And they’d know a good deal more about the car. This “beyond death” business is very secret, the customers have no knowledge and therefore no power.

    And people are their own worst enemy as well because it’s a taboo subject and people would feel it looked bad to compare prices and companies for funerals in the way that one might do for a tin of beans or a mobile phone.

  3. Fran Hall

    Dignity: 831 high street branches, 39,700 funerals in the first six months of this year. So 1.84 funerals per branch per week, call it one every three days. So each client is having to pay for three days arranger’s salary, three days rent and rates, three days utilities and so on. I suspect that the average for all corporate and non-corporate FDs isn’t too different. One reason why funerals cost what they cost?

  4. Fran Hall

    yes – there are a surprising number of funeral directors around for the number of uk deaths per annum. Also, higher cremation fees charged by private sector crematoria will make it tougher for the directors who don’t own a crematorium.

    There’s a table on the ICcm website ( list of crematoria by date of opening) which show some of the older crematoria are currently privately owned.

    What are the legal and market changes over the decades which have led to so many private crematoria? It has to be an influence on total funeral prices. You can afford to have a pretty idle undertakers shop if you’ve got high profit on the cremation element to eat into.

    But funeral directors are businesses like any other. Profit is allowed and there is a risk of losses too.

    Yes, funeral poverty is a terrible issue but that’s not to be solved by expecting almost to regulate the amounts funeral directors charge?

    But yes. It should all comply with competition regulations.

    Local authority cremations still look appropriately priced. Maybe local authorities should be given a duty to help people find an affordable funeral method via clear supply of info on the Internet.

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