Caskets are often the single most expensive component of a traditional full-service funeral. They vary widely in style and price and are sold primarily for their visual appeal. They are typically constructed of metal, wood, fiberboard, fiberglass, or plastic. An average casket costs around $2,500 – $3,000, but you can spend $10,000 or more for an upscale one, or you can purchase a standard metal casket for as little as $995. And there is no state law (in any state) that stipulates that a casket must be used for a burial; CLICK HERE for information about natural burial.
When you visit a funeral home or showroom to shop for a casket, the Funeral Rule requires the funeral director to show you a list of caskets they sell, with descriptions and prices, before showing you the caskets. Since the average casket shopper buys one of the first three models shown, generally the middle-priced of the three, it is in the seller’s best interest to start out with higher-end models. If you haven’t seen some of the lower-priced models on the price list, ask to see them — but don’t be surprised if they’re not prominently displayed, or not on display at all.
Traditionally, caskets have been sold only by funeral homes. But more and more, showrooms and websites operated by third-party dealers are selling caskets. You can buy a casket from one of these dealers and have it shipped directly to the funeral home. The Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to agree to use a casket you bought elsewhere, and doesn’t allow them to charge you a fee for doing so. Furthermore, due to the competition on casket sales and declining profits for funeral homes, many funeral homes will price match online casket prices. If you can find a lower price from another source for the casket model your funeral home is offering, it may worth bringing that information to the funeral home to see if they will offer you a better price.
Many online casket retailers will deliver next day across the United States. As with any online purchase, you should ensure that you are dealing with a trustworthy and reputable company, and that you have some assurances about after-sales service. The last thing you want is to order a casket online and have problems with delivery! However, many people are ordering caskets online every day because the amount of money that can be saved on the overall cost of a funeral is significant.
Retail giants Costco and Walmart both now sell caskets online. Costco offers a limited selection supplied through Universal Casket Company, with standard 3-day delivery or expedited shipping, at prices starting at $1,149. Walmart offers an online range of caskets starting at $995. Another on-line vendor with an extensive list of caskets is BestPriceCaskets.com.
Wherever you’re buying a casket from, it’s important to remember that its purpose is to provide a dignified way to move the body before burial (or cremation). No casket, regardless of its qualities or cost, will preserve a body indefinitely. Metal caskets are frequently described as “gasketed,” “protective,” or “sealer” caskets to indicate that a rubber gasket or some other feature is designed to delay the penetration of water and prevent rust, and may even come with a warranty for longevity. But these features do NOT help preserve the remains indefinitely (and The Funeral Rule forbids claiming that they do); they just add to the cost of the casket.
Wooden caskets generally are not gasketed and don’t have a warranty for longevity. They can be hardwood like mahogany, walnut, cherry or oak, or softwood like pine. Pine caskets are a less expensive option, but funeral homes rarely display them. Manufacturers of both wooden and metal caskets usually offer warranties for workmanship and materials. There are also a number of fiberglass caskets on the market, which are extremely lightweight and are most commonly used for infant burials. There is a misconception that fiberglass caskets are of inferior quality but this is not necessarily so; they can be exceptionally strong, and come in a variety of finishes, including faux wood and faux marble.\
In the Jewish faith, a burial container or coffin should be as simple and natural as possible, with no metal. For this reason basic pine coffins are generally used, and they should contain no ornate fittings or fancy handles. Usually the handles are made so that they can be removed before burial, ensuring that the deceased can be buried in as simple a box as possible.
A standard casket width measures 24 – 27 inches wide. As the obesity epidemic sweeps the U.S. there is an increasing demand for oversize caskets, which can be between 28 and 31 inches wide. Goliath Caskets is a specialized oversize casket manufacturer that makes caskets up to 51 inches wide.
You can also consider constructing your own burial container or coffin. You do not have to be a master woodworker, as there are even simple DIY kits available today. Building your own coffin can save considerably on the cost of purchasing one. It also allows for a very personal experience, not only the effort put into the construction, but also the choice of hand decoration. Hand made coffins are particularly common with home burials.
Cremation gives families the opportunity to avoid the cost of buying a casket. Even if you choose to have visitation or a funeral, you can rent a casket from the funeral home then have the deceased transferred later to the burial or cremation container. For those who choose direct cremation without a viewing or other ceremony where the body is present, the funeral provider must offer an inexpensive unfinished wood box or “alternative container,” which is a non-metal enclosure (usually pressboard, cardboard, or canvas) that is cremated with the body. Under the Funeral Rule, funeral directors may not tell you that state or local law requires a casket for direct cremations, because none do. By law, all that is required is a “rigid, combustible container.” Funeral Directors must disclose in writing your right to buy an “alternative container” for a direct cremation and have that option available.