In UK 1 in 15 Funerals Have a Non-Traditional Personalized Hearse

September 29, 2014
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Funeral directors say the choice of hearses has expanded to reflect the interests or job of the deceased. Photograph: Alamy

Builders and plumbers want to cut corners by taking their final journey in a white van, while farmers fancy a send-off on a horse-drawn cart, tractor or even a specially manufactured Land Rover hearse and matching limousine.

Unusual hearses – once a niche market – are setting a trend for send-offs with a difference as almost a quarter (23%) of Britons say they want to make their last journey in a personalised vehicle, according to new research from the UK’s biggest funeral director.

The choice of hearses has expanded to cater for the growing number of requests reflecting the interests or job of the deceased, says the Co-operative Funeralcare, and ranging from customised “motorbike” hearses for bikers, tractors and trailers for farmers and even milk floats and white vans. The company, which has a network of more than 900 funeral homes across the UK, carried out a study into alternative hearses which are now used in almost 40,000 funerals every year.

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In 2013, 573,452 funerals took place across the UK, and the Co-op’s research among mourners shows that one in 15 funerals (around 38,230 funerals) featured a non-traditional hearse.

In preference to the traditional motorised black hearse, funeral directors have reported demands for Rolls-Royces and pink Cadillacs and even a tandem bicycle alongside traditional hearses, while JCB diggers, camper vans, pickup trucks, a skip lorry and double-decker buses have also headed up funeral processions.

But spiralling, above-inflation funeral costs mean the cost of customising will be too much for many people. The most authoritative work on the subject from the University of Bath now puts the total “cost of death” at £7,600 and rising by about 7% a year. That figure breaks down into the “non-discretionary” or essential costs of funeral directors and fees for cremation and an officiating minister, put at £3,456. These costs are up by 80% in the nine years since the survey was first undertaken in 2004.

The costs of the unusual vehicles vary depending on what is chosen – often hired from third party providers – and the distance it will travel, Co-operative Funeralcare said. The vehicles typically cost between £700 and £950, against £350 for a traditional hearse.

The soaring costs of funerals has led to an surge in the number of companies marketing pre-paid funeral plans, with the Post Office being the latest entrant to the market earlier this month. There is also a growing number of people opting to go down the DIY route when it comes to organising a loved one’s send-off. If you are willing to work out how to collect the body, complete the paperwork and meet the basic fees and costs, there are ways to arrange a funeral without a director for less than £1,000, according to a recent report.

[H/T: The Guardian]

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