Funeral costs have gone through the roof, and for those who are not careful, unscrupulous companies in the funeral industry may try to make a fat profit off your grief.
Between paying for embalming, the burial plot, burial vault, headstone, and the funeral service itself (among many other ancillary services), average funeral costs in the U.S. now exceed $10,000, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.
However, one of the biggest drivers of total expenses for traditional funerals is the cost of the casket. This guide will explore four separate questions:
- What a casket (or coffin) is
- The types of caskets that exist
- The costs of various caskets
- The best place to buy a casket (as well as Federal regulations that will help you save money on your casket purchase)
Let’s dive in.
What Is A Casket?
A casket is a box or container used to hold the body of someone who has died. They come in many different shapes, sizes, and materials. Caskets are generally made out of wood, metal, fiberglass, or plastic.
Caskets vary significantly in design, with more affordable caskets being very simple in design while high end caskets can be elaborately designed with expensive ornamentation that can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
The type you choose will depend on your taste and other factors, such as how much money you want to spend and what your religious beliefs dictate.
The History and Significance of a Casket
The history of caskets dates back to a time when the body was not buried but instead placed in a burial chamber. The first coffins were made from stone and then later evolved into wood.
Metal caskets followed after that, with steel being widely used around World War I for military purposes due to its durability and strength. Casket materials have continued to evolve over time.
Caskets are now made out of metal, hardwood, fiberglass/plastic, and other materials that are usually chosen based on the family’s preference or religious beliefs about embalming and funerals.
What Is The Difference Between A Casket And A Coffin?
A lot of people use the words “Casket” and “Coffin” interchangeably. If you’re planning a funeral, or buying one for yourself or a loved one, it’s important to understand the difference between these two words.
Though their definitions overlap in many respects, there is a distinct difference between a casket and coffin: coffins are usually constructed to hold only dead bodies, while caskets can be used both as storage boxes (for the deceased) and as traditional receptacles (to bury or cremate them).
So when someone refers to a casket, they may actually mean either a coffin or another type of box such as an urn.
Types of Caskets
Traditionally, there have been three main types of caskets: solid wood (e.g., pine caskets), metal (e.g., copper caskets), and cardboard. However, these days, funeral providers are also making caskets out of biodegradable materials, such as bamboo, in order to make these items more environmentally sustainable.
Let’s go through each type of casket.
Wooden caskets are usually made from hardwood. This type of material has been used for thousands of years because it’s long-lasting and very sturdy.
The most common types of woods used in creating these caskets include oak, maple, cherry, mahogany, ash tree, walnut, and birch. These materials have beautiful grains on the outside which make them appealing to people who want a more natural-looking casket than one made from metal or plastic. Wood is also easily carved, so high-end caskets with intricate designs are often made out of wood.
Metal caskets are made from metals, such as steel, aluminum, copper, and bronze. These types of caskets have been around since the mid-19th century, when people began making burial vaults to ensure that bodies were never exposed during a funeral service or other memorial event.
They have become quite popular these days because they offer strength and durability while remaining more affordable than materials like hardwood.
Metal is also reasonably lightweight compared with other materials but still provides enough support to avoid collapse under pressure.
Green Caskets (Biodegradable Caskets)
If choosing an environmentally friendly option is important to you, then you should consider purchasing a casket made of natural, biodegradable materials that decompose over time.
These “green” caskets are made of natural materials such as bamboo, wicker, or cotton. They’re not only excellent for people who want to be eco-friendly, but also for those with allergies to certain types of wood, like oak, which can contain chemicals that cause allergic reactions.
It’s said that these coffins align your soul with nature while also returning your body to the earth. These coffins also lack toxic chemicals, such as formaldehyde, which is often found in traditional caskets made from metal or cardboard.
Choosing An Alternative Container
Finally, the least expensive option (although one that has a wide range) is a cardboard-covered casket, which can cost anywhere from $250-$4,000.
These caskets are made of corrugated cardboard and can be customized with anything from flowers to photos, artwork, or beads. They have been popular recently because of their low cost.
If you want to lower your total funeral cost and avoid the high costs associated with caskets bought from funeral homes, then biodegradable caskets made out of an outer shell of cardboard may be the best option for you.
What about cremation? Many families are under the impression that cremation is the best way to save on funeral costs.
A cremation casket is a container that holds the body before it’s cremated. It can be made of wood, metal, or cardboard, and is usually designed to look similar to traditional burial caskets, with handles, hinges, and sometimes even an exterior finish.
Cremation casket costs vary, but most funeral homes will offer them for less than $1,000 if you purchase one from them (instead of buying your own).
How Much Does A Casket Cost?
Casket prices vary widely, depending on the material of the casket and where you purchase it from (i.e., whether from a funeral home or from an online provider).
Typical Costs Of A Wooden Casket
Solid wood caskets are the most traditional type of coffin available, and depending on your budget, they can cost anywhere between $500 and $3,000. This is an average price range, but if you’re looking for a fancy wooden casket with intricate designs and unique features, costs can easily exceed $12,000.
Depending on your budget, wooden coffins fall into the general “cheap” category because they aren’t made from expensive materials, so their prices tend not to fluctuate too much throughout time.
Wooden coffins are considered classic choices because they have been around for years, so many people are familiar with their appearance and might even prefer them over other items.
How Much Does A Metal Casket Cost?
Metal caskets are a more modern type of coffin, and they can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the brand and style.
They tend to be pricier than wooden coffins because metal is an expensive material that requires special equipment for processing etc. Metal caskets are often referred to as “high-end” items because they come in various stylish designs and finishes.
When choosing this type of coffin, many people look for options with unique features such as built-in speakers, so loved ones can enjoy music during memorials/funerals, LED lighting perfect for nighttime funerals, etc.
Some other things worth considering include whether you want handles (many cheap models don’t have them), ventilation systems (to prevent molds from growing on your body), or additional add-ons like pillows, etc.
Cremation Caskets And Their Cost
Cremation caskets are different from wooden or metal ones, as they tend to be smaller, more affordable, and made from biodegradable materials such as cardboard.
You can buy a coffin for direct cremation for around $200-$500. These are average costs for models with no additional features or designs; however, if you prefer, high-end options with intricate or personalized designs are available as well.
Where Should I Buy A Casket?
The average cost of a funeral is now over $10,000 and it’s no surprise that people are looking to save money.
One of the most impactful ways to save on funeral expenses is to choose wisely where you purchase your casket (and if you plan ahead, you’ll have more options than you might expect).
Do I Have To Buy A Casket From A Funeral Home?
First things first. It’s important to remember that buying a casket from the funeral home will almost always cost more than buying one on your own.
Since funeral homes of course do not manufacture their own caskets, they have to purchase the coffins themselves. On top of this, they have to mark up the cost of the casket for their business’s overhead costs (rent, utilities, insurance, salaries, etc.).
The funeral director at your local funeral home will not doubt have a great pitch for why you should use them for all of your funeral services, but in the end, doing your own funeral planning will reduce your total funeral and burial expenses tremendously.
What Is The Funeral Rule?
Many people wonder whether or not they can buy their own casket. The answer is yes!
In all 50 states, there are no laws saying you must purchase a casket from the funeral home and only after a person dies.
In fact, funeral providers are legally obligated to use a casket purchased elsewhere with no additional fee, according to the Funeral Rule from the Federal Trade Commission.
Buying A Casket Online
A great way to cut out the middleman, avoid the funeral home mark-up, and to more easily compare prices is to purchase a casket online from a retailer like Walmart or Costco.
While the price of their caskets may be low, the biggest thing to watch out for is shipping costs. For a metal casket especially, shipping costs can be prohibitive and may make it better to buy from a local funeral provider.
Now that you have a better understanding of what caskets are and how much they cost, it’s essential to take time to think about your final wishes.
It is up to each person and their family members or loved ones to decide which type of burial option, whether a traditional funeral or cremation, will best suit them during this difficult time in their life when trying to plan for funeral arrangements following someone’s death.