A casket can be one of the most costly parts of a funeral and burial. When you’re choosing a casket for your loved one’s burial, you might be tempted to splurge on something more elaborate. But is the cost of a more fancy casket really worth the cost?
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Below, we’ll outline the average cost of caskets in the United States, from more simple burial caskets to more detailed viewing caskets.
Whether you’re planning your own funeral and burial, or you’re shopping for a casket for your loved one, you should be prepared with as much information as you can.
Average Costs of Caskets
Caskets are more than just wood or metal boxes. For many, they represent a loved one’s final resting place and hold great importance. For others, a casket is an unnecessary expense. The type of casket you choose for yourself or a family member depends in large part on those beliefs.
Here are the types of caskets you’ll need to consider when you’re shopping around.
- Cremation caskets: A cremation casket costs an average of about $500. They range in price from under $100 to over $3,000. Cremation caskets are the containers that are cremated along with a body.
- Biodegradable caskets: Biodegradable or "green" caskets average about $1,500. They’re made of natural materials that easily break down when buried, including seagrass, willow, and bamboo.
- Steel caskets: The average cost of a steel casket is around $2,000. Steel caskets are highly durable, and they can also look very appealing.
- Bronze and copper caskets: The average bronze or copper casket costs about $3,000. However, these caskets can range in price over $10,000. A bronze or copper casket is as durable as steel but can look more attractive.
- Wood veneer caskets: Wood veneer caskets cost, on average, about $3,000. A wood veneer casket is constructed from softer wood and finished with a strengthening veneer.
- Hardwood caskets: Hardwood caskets range in price, but average around $4,000. A hardwood casket is made of strong natural woods like maple, oak, and mahogany.
Breaking Down the Cost of a Casket
With all those prices in mind, you might be wondering what makes caskets so costly. Below, we’ll break down the cost of a casket in-depth.
The primary factor that determines a casket’s price is the materials from which it’s made. We often assume that a more elaborate style equals a higher cost. But when it comes to caskets, the style plays less of a role than the materials.
For example, an elaborate steel casket will typically still cost less than a less elaborate mahogany casket.
Adult-sized caskets require a significant bulk of material to construct, whether that material is steel, wicker, or wood. More exotic materials, including certain hardwoods, are often imported from far away, adding even more to the price tag.
Although the casket’s primary materials play a larger role, a casket’s design still impacts its cost.
An intricately-carved hardwood casket will cost more, for example, than a plainer hardwood casket.
You can find caskets that are relatively plain or more detailed. The more detailed the carving or design on the casket, the more expensive you can expect the casket to be.
In addition to the casket itself, the price of a casket includes details like the liner. A casket liner can be made of inexpensive materials, like polyester fiber, or more expensive ones like pure cotton or silk.
You can also add other details like interior decorations. Most casket sellers and funeral homes offer some level of customization or personalization for their caskets.
All of these added details, no matter how small or large, will add to the price tag of a casket.
If you’re familiar with sales, you’ll be familiar with this final aspect of casket pricing. Caskets often pass through multiple middlemen before reaching their final prices.
From the manufacturer to the primary seller, to the funeral director, and finally to you, the price of the casket can be marked up multiple times along the way. The biggest markup usually happens at the funeral home itself. If you want to avoid the middle-man, try buying a casket online instead.
5 Tips for Saving on a Casket
So with all of those costs in mind, how can you save money when you’re buying a casket? Here are some tips to get you started.
Understand casket pricing regulations
First, it’s important to understand your rights when it comes to casket shopping. If your first stop is the funeral home (which it usually will be), you might feel pressured to purchase a casket then and there.
But you don’t have to buy the casket from the funeral home directly. In fact, there are regulations in place that prevent funeral homes from having that type of restriction.
If you so choose, you can purchase your casket from anywhere you’d like. The funeral home must allow you to use that casket rather than buying one of their own.
Ask to see lower-priced models
When you enter the funeral home’s casket showroom, you’ll likely notice that the display caskets are high in price. It’s in the business’s best interest to display their high-end merchandise front-and-center to try to intrigue buyers.
But if you know that you’d like to skip the higher-cost caskets and buy something lower in price, you can ask to see the funeral home’s more affordable options. Chances are, they have many more caskets waiting in the back, and many caskets that are more within your budget.
Choose a green casket
As touched on above, the lowest-cost caskets on the market today (after simple cremation caskets) are biodegradable options.
Biodegradable caskets can look great and save you a good deal of money. They come in materials such as bamboo, willow, and seagrass, and you can often customize them as you see fit.
With the “green burial” movement taking off in recent years, many funeral homes across the country offer biodegradable casket options. If you don’t find biodegradable caskets in your area, you can also order one online.
Forgo the casket
Another option for saving money on a casket: don’t buy a casket at all. Depending on the burial laws where you live, you might be able to forgo the casket altogether.
Of course, this choice depends largely on your comfort level, whether it’s your own burial or the burial of a loved one. You or your family have to be slightly more comfortable with the presence of a deceased body in order to forgo the casket altogether.
If you choose to do so, though, you can purchase a relatively inexpensive burial shroud. These usually cost about $200 or less, depending on the size and material.
Just as with any large purchase, you’ll save money by shopping around. As mentioned above, the funeral home you work with might make you feel like buying a casket from them is your best option. And if you want to streamline the entire process, that may be the case.
But if you’d prefer to put in some extra work and save money as a result, you can shop around for better-priced caskets.
Look at sellers in your local area, as well as those within an hour of your location who offer delivery. You can also buy a casket online, but you’ll need to factor in the cost of shipping.
How to Handle the Cost of a Casket
Caskets are undoubtedly expensive, but as demonstrated above, there are multiple ways to save money on your purchase. The biggest reason that people spend more than they have to on a casket is that they’re in a rush.
When you’re planning a funeral, you usually want to get the process over with as quickly as possible. As a result, you might make purchases that are unnecessarily costly.
One way to avoid this pitfall is by planning ahead for your funeral or your loved one’s funeral. In your end-of-life plan, you can even list what kind of casket you want. You can put aside money for your casket to save your family even more stress, or even purchase your own casket ahead of time.
In the end, the cost of a casket is often unavoidable. But with the tips above, you may find ways to limit the expense.
Post-planning tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, you have more than just the burial to think about. Handling their unfinished business can be overwhelming without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.