Picking out a casket for yourself or a loved one can be a daunting task. Before you pick out a casket, you should know what your options are.
You have the option of purchasing from the funeral home or a 3rd party (i.e online, from Costco, Walmart, a local craftsman, or one you built). By law, the funeral home may not deny you, penalize you, or charge you a fee for sourcing a casket from a 3rd party, which is often less expensive. Read more on the topic: Can I Bring My Own Casket?
The prices listed below are just guidelines. Casket prices vary greatly depending on where you purchase them as well as the source and quality of the materials used.
See the article Casket Terminology You Should Know for more information on casket design and terminology.
Metal Caskets are machine built and are usually offered in the following materials with average/estimated prices:
$ Standard/Carbon Steel*: $1,200-$2,500
$$ Stainless Steel: $3,000-$10,000
$$$ Copper**: $3,000-$10,000+
$$$$ Bronze: $3,000-$10,000+
*Steel/Carbon Steel thickness is expressed in gauges. 16 gauge is thicker than 20 gauge steel.
**Copper and Bronze are often stated by weight. For example, a 32-oz. copper casket means that the copper used weighed 32-oz. per square foot.
Buyers should pay attention to the details to know whether the casket is solid copper, bronze, etc. or just plated. This will cause a large difference in price between options.
Wood caskets often include a hand-crafted aspect and vary greatly in selection. Pricing with each category can also vary due to where the wood originated and quality of the wood that is selected.
$ Common Hardwoods* such as Poplar, Cottonwood, & Pine: $900-$2,700
$$ Standard Hardwoods such as Oak, Maple, & Cherry: $2,200-$4,500
$$$ Premium Hardwoods such as Walnut and Mahogany: $5,000-$10,000
*Often times these woods can be finished to appear like Standard or Premium Hardwoods. Buyers should pay attention to whether the casket is finished like a particular wood or is constructed of a particular wood, as this will influence the cost of the casket.
Rental Caskets are coffins intended to be displayed at a funeral, but, in many cases, they are not ultimately used in the creamtion or buried. However, consumers may choose to use a cremation casket for a burial, providing a cost savings over a traditional wooden or metal casket.
Rental caskets are common when a person is to be cremated but the family wants to conduct a traditional funeral service in which the body is displayed in a casket before transferring to a simpler container for the cremation.
The main difference between rental caskets and standard caskets for burial is that they are often made up of lighter weight materials. They can appear as luxurious as the heavier version used for burial.
While rental caskets are sometimes sent directly to the crematorium with the deceased’s body, more often their purpose is only for display of a body at a funeral service. In this case, prior to the cremation being conducted, the body is transferred to a simpler “cremation container," also called an "alternative container" in which it will be cremated.
Eco-Friendly Containers for Green Burial
A burial shroud is a covering wrapped around the deceased before burial or cremation. It is most commonly made of white cotton, linen, or wool. They can be customized according to personal preference with different patterns or materials.
Shrouds have been around for centuries and are cited as the first type of funeral “product” in history. Many major religions around the world historically use shrouds in their funeral practices, such as Judaism, Buddhism and Islam.
However, a shroud is not exclusively for religious use. As green burial practices began to become increasingly popular in the 21st century, burial shrouds made an extremely popular come back. A burial shroud can be used by itself or it can be used with a casket.
Burial shrouds can range in price, typically around $195-$1,000.
Cardboard caskets, also called "alternative containers", serve the same purpose as a traditional casket and are frequently used for cremation and green burials. Since they are made from biodegradable cardboard, they are considered eco-friendly. A cardboard casket is much more lightweight than a traditional metal or wood casket.
Although they are lightweight, they are able to hold a body without caving in or breaking. Cardboard caskets can be decorated with paint, markers, or crayons as well as by digital printing allowing families to participate and personalize the casket. Cardboard caskets are considered to be one of the least expensive funeral container options.
Prices for cardboard caskets can range from about $50-$100 on the low-end to $300-$500 on the higher-end.
Eco-friendly caskets are biodegradable caskets that can be made from a variety of natural materials such as willow (wicker), bamboo, banana leaf, or unfinished woods. These caskets are often constructed by hand and are not usually mass produced.
They generally have a flat top and are sturdy. These caskets are usually rounded, but can also come in traditional casket and coffin shapes. Many eco-caskets also have handles woven onto their sides for easier transportation.
Eco-friendly caskets come in the materials natural color, usually a shade of brown. However, they can be dyed for decorative purposes. The casket pictured on the left is an example of a wicker casket.
Eco-friendly caskets are often less expensive than traditional wood or metal caskets.
Biodegradable urns are made from natural materials. They can be used for in-ground or water burials after cremation, though you should check with the manufacturer to understand whether it is best used in the ground or water. These urns are typically made from salt, clay, or paper.
Biodegradable urns can be customized with different pictures, designs, colors and shapes. The price can range anywhere from $50-$500, and depends on the materials used and the craftsmanship involved.
Outer Burial Containers
Burial Vaults and Liners
A burial vault or liner is usually made of concrete but can also be made of steel or plastic. It is placed in the grave prior to lowering the casket for in-ground burial. It is a container that surrounds the casket, providing additional infrastructure between the casket and the earth and ground maintenance machinery. Its primary purpose is to prevent ground caving or reduce soil settlement allowing for easier ground maintenance.
A vault is a more comprehensive, expensive, and sometime decorative container that covers the full casket. A liner is a simpler container that will satisfy the cemetery requirement at a lower cost. It may cover the top and sides only or have a simple lid placed on top.
Contrary to popular belief, a burial vault or liner is not required by law. It is the cemetery that requires the use of a burial vault or container to prevent the ground from sinking. If required by the cemetery, inquire on your options since there is a significant difference in price between a vault (average $1,195) and a liner (ranging from $400-$800), and a liner will always satisfy the cemetery's requirement.