In the old days, people buried their loved ones in shallow graves with nothing to keep their bodies from decomposing. If they had any money or possessions, it was common for strangers to dig up the graves and steal what they could find.
Families did not appreciate this, and this started the tradition of using an outer burial container to protect the casket and body.
In this guide, we’ll dive in deeper and answer the below questions, among others:
- Do you still need an outer burial container these days (if you are not worried about theft)?
- Are they still needed for alternative burials (green burial or a natural burial) or for buying your loved one’s ashes after they have been cremated?
- What is the difference between a grave liner and a burial vault (two common types of outer burial containers?
- Which one should you use for your circumstances?
- And finally, how much does a burial vault cost?
Let’s dive in.
Burial Vaults 101
The burial vault is what protects the casket from pressure and weight, as well as prevents it from sinking into the ground. Burial vaults can be made of reinforced concrete or steel; they are typically heavy-duty to ensure their durability.
Burial Vaults Vs. Grave Liners
While burial vaults and grave liners are both outer burial containers, they are certainly NOT the same.
The image above should help you compare the two.
Burial Vault FAQs
Before we get into the costs, let’s go over some additional frequently asked questions about burial vaults, so you’re well-versed in which one suits your situation the best.
What Is A Burial Vault Made Of?
A burial vault is a sturdy container that surrounds the casket to protect it from damage. Vaults are made of concrete, steel, or reinforced fiberglass. Vaults are meant to prevent water seepage, gas (decomposition byproducts) seepage, and other issues that could cause the ground over the grave to sink.
Why Are Burial Vaults Needed?
Burial vaults are recommended to anyone who wants to protect their loved one's grave from sinking or other issues that could cause problems in future years.
Note that "burial" vaults can also be used to protect cremation urns (vase-like containers that hold a person's cremated remains.
What Are Outer Buriial Containers?
An outer burial container, also known as a burial vault or a grave liner, is often made from metal and can be found at your local hardware store. They will not last as long but come with a smaller price tag.
How Much Do Burial Vaults Weight?
Burial vaults can be any size, but they are typically six feet long and two to three feet wide.
Burial vaults are typically heavy-duty and will range in weight depending on how durable they are. A typical burial vault for a family plot could weigh anywhere from 800 pounds to 1,000-1,500 pounds.
How Long Do Burial Vaults Last?
Burial vaults are typically built to last a lifetime, but the metal ones will rust over time. The concrete ones can crack due to pressure, so that the container won't be as strong. Burial vaults have a lifespan of about fifty years.
Should I Get An Extra One For Family?
If you have a large plot, buying an extra burial vault or two may be wise. This is because they are heavy, and your caskets will need the support of being inside them. If there's not enough room for one on both sides, it might also mean that the ground can't hold as much weight, and you'll have to buy more from a different location.
Section 2 of 3
Buying A Burial Vault
Where Can I Purchase A Burial Vault?
If you have a funeral service, your local funeral home will likely have burial vaults for purchase. If you purchase anything from a funeral home, don’t forget your rights under the funeral rule (a Federal law designed to protect grieving consumers from unscrupulous business practices from funeral providers).
You can also check with your local cemeteries to see if they have any available on site.
If this is not possible, several places online sell them at different price points depending on the quality and materials used in manufacturing.
Many websites sell burial vaults online, but you’ll find them to be more expensive than what they cost in person. You can also buy a set of two for $2200 from Amazon Prime with free shipping and handling.
Remember that cheaper does not always mean better when purchasing a vault that needs to last for years after being placed underground!
What Do I Need To Know Before Buying A Burial Vault?
When purchasing your burial vault, it’s essential to ensure that you’re getting the right one for your needs. If your plot is large, it might be wise to buy more than just one burial vault because they are heavy and will need more support from each other. It’s also important to know that most of these vaults have a lifespan of 50 years before needing replacement or repair.
What should I do if I'm not sure what size to get?
If you’re unsure of the appropriate size, consider buying one larger than required and cut it down. This can be done by using a concrete saw or handsaw. If your burial vault is too big for the plot, fill in any excess space with dirt.
What Type of Vault Should I Get?
You’ll want to install a concrete burial vault if you’re installing it into hard ground. However, the steel ones are typically better for softer ground because they flex and accommodate more weight.
Steel burial vaults can be cheaper than concrete ones, but they won’t last as long. They also come with heavier shipping and handling fees because of their weight. Steel is typically better for softer ground because it’s flexible and more accommodating.
Section 3 of 3
How Much Does A burial Vault Cost
The average price of most burial vaults cost between $700 and $1,000.
If this is too expensive, you’ll likely be able to find an alternative container made of X for $500 or less.
How can I save money on a burial vault?
Buy used or recycled.
Instead of buying a brand new one, consider checking local legal notices for unclaimed bodies that have recently been buried. If the deceased’s family members do not claim them within 90 days, then they become null and void (like they never existed). After 90 days, funeral homes will often sell recycled/ used caskets and other items.
According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of a traditional funeral in the U.S. is now over $10,000 (including the cost of the burial plot). Funeral planning in advance is a fantastic way to save money on funeral costs.
Burial vaults cost between $1,000 and $2,500. If you’re on a budget, we would recommend going with a basic grave liner to save money for more visible parts of your loved one’s funeral and burial.
Other burial costs include the opening and closing of the grave, the plot itself, the casket, and the headstone (or grave marker). These costs can add up significantly, and this does not even include the cost of the memorial service or the fee you will pay to the funeral home for their services and rental of their location.
Be sure to check with your local cemetery, as cemetery requirements can vary. Most cemeteries require that a burial vault completely fits inside the grave. Local laws may also govern this, so don’t forget to check those (or ask local funeral homes, as they should be familiar with local requirements).