Underestimating the cost of care

Most people will tell you that a place in a nursing home is expensive, but when Which? asked people to estimate the cost of care in their region more than half the population gave a figure which fell short of the average cost[1]. Nobody wants to think about themselves or their loved ones needing care, but the reality is that around a third of people will use some form of local authority funded social care in the last year of their life. As life expectancy increases, more of us are having to cope with the physical and mental health problems old age brings and need the help of carers of some kind.

How out of touch are we?
On average the people surveyed by Which? underestimated the cost of care by the equivalent of £12,000 per year. Worryingly, 10% of people underestimated by £737 per week which is equivalent to £39,000 per year. The table below is taken from the research and shows how accurate estimations of care costs were across England:


What it costs,
on average*

What people estimated**

How much people underestimated by,
over a year

East Midlands




Yorkshire & Humberside




North East




West Midlands




East of England




South West




North West




South East









How much might care cost us?
While the actual cost of care varies from region to region, the Which? research shows that one in ten older people with care needs will face care bills of more than £100,000. But the only 10% of adults over age 55 say they have put aside money to pay for care needs in later life. What you’ll actually pay for care will depend on what funding is available from your local authority (this varies from region to region) and the results of any means-test undertaken. For more information on funding care in later life, take a look at our Care Funding Factsheet.

Why plan for care funding?
Planning ahead can ease the transition into residential or nursing care. It will help to understand what level of fees is affordable, and how you’ll cope with the fee increases that result not just from the inevitable inflation but also from increasing care needs. But it is a complex area and there’s a wide range of considerations. So, unless your circumstances are very simple, you might want to engage the services of a professional financial adviser who specialises in care funding. To see how specialist advice helped one family to fund a care home place, please read our Case Study.



[1] Millions underestimating the true cost of care, Emma Callery, Which? 31 October 2018

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