If you are pre-planning your own funeral or have to plan the services for someone you recently lost, you may find yourself in the unique position of having to pick out a casket or coffin. Since this is not an item that people purchase every day, you may not know where to begin choosing the right type of casket.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Different Types of Caskets for Burial or a Viewing
- Different Types of Caskets for Cremation
- Where Can You Buy Caskets Online?
- Frequently Asked Questions: Types of Caskets
If you are planning your own end-of-life services, shopping for a casket can be a thoughtful process. Hopefully, you have months or years to research the different types of caskets.
You also have time to bargain shop to find the highest quality product at the lowest price. Even though funeral homes sell caskets, you may be able to find less expensive options from online retailers or big-box stores.
On the other hand, purchasing a casket for someone you recently lost can be much more difficult. Instead of making your decision based on facts, you may overlook such essential factors as price or quality and make a decision entirely based on emotion.
If you’re unsure where to start with choosing and buying a casket, keep on reading. Below, we discuss caskets used for viewing and burial, as well as caskets that can be used during the cremation process.
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.
Different Types of Caskets for Burial or a Viewing
As you begin your search for different types of caskets, you may be astonished to see the wide range of casket prices. While cremation caskets start at $500, some viewing or burial caskets may cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Here are some of the types of caskets most commonly used for burial or viewing.
1. Metal caskets made of standard steel
As you begin your search for a casket, you may be surprised to see that many are made of metal. They come in a variety of colors and with many different features, such as small drawers or personalization options.
Metal caskets are marketed as being “durable,” and they are rated by how thick of material is used in the construction. A 16-gauge metal casket is more durable than an 18-gauge casket. The 16-gauge choice would also be more expensive than the thinner option.
If you purchase a metal casket, you may have the option of buying one with a gasket or a seal. While a metal casket with a rubber gasket may slow down the amount of water that seeps inside the casket, having a casket with said rubber gasket does not preserve the body. It is worth noting that it is illegal for casket purveyors to make that claim when selling a sealable casket.
2. Copper or bronze caskets
The reason copper and bronze caskets are listed in a separate category than metal caskets is that there is a difference in how to determine the quality. Instead of purchasing a casket based on its gauge, one chooses a copper or bronze (or gold!) casket based on the weight of the material, such as 32 or 48 ounces per square foot.
Some people choose copper or bronze caskets because they do not rust as metal caskets do. Even though this is true, a copper or bronze casket will eventually oxidize and break down and not last forever.
3. Stainless steel caskets
Stainless steel caskets are more durable than standard steel caskets. They are also more resistant to corrosion.
Stainless steel caskets can also be covered with a wood veneer, so the family can achieve the look of a wood casket while having the durability of a metal casket.
4. Wood caskets
Wood caskets can range in price depending upon the type of wood used and the quality of the construction. The highest-priced wood caskets are made from mahogany, walnut, or cherry. Medium-priced options are oak, birch, and maple.
Finally, the lowest-price wood casket options are pine, poplar, and willow. This should be used as a general guideline, as other factors help determine the price.
5. Cloth-covered fiberboard or pressed wood caskets
One of the least expensive options for a casket is made from fiberboard or pressed wood.
These caskets do not look like inexpensive furniture made of pressed wood. They are covered with a durable fabric to make them an economical as well as an attractive option.
6. Half-couch lidded casket
Although oddly named, a half-couch lidded casket is the most common type purchased for visitations.
The term “half-couch” means that the casket’s lid is divided in half. The top half of the casket can be opened during the visitation to allow those attending to see the top half of the body inside.
7. Full-couch lidded casket
A full-couch lid means that the lid can only be opened as one entire unit. If a family chooses a full-couch lidded casket for a loved one’s visitation, the whole body will be on display.
A full-couch lidded casket is also appropriate for funerals where there will be no viewing of the body. This choice may be based on personal preference or decorum, in the event that the body is not in good enough condition to be viewed.
8. Eco-friendly caskets
Eco-friendly caskets can be purchased in a variety of materials, all of which will eventually disintegrate. They do not have metal handles or hinges and are made of untreated wood, woven fibers, or even cardboard.
Make sure you discuss this option with your cemetery if you want to have an eco-friendly end of life. Some cemeteries require that the caskets be placed in a vault, which would negate any of the environmentally-friendly practices used when choosing the casket.
9. Personalized coffins
Whether you purchase a stainless steel or mahogany casket, you probably will have the option to personalize the casket in some way. Some people choose to have a favorite team or character displayed on the outside of the casket. Others may personalize their casket by having an image of a favorite hobby placed on the outside.
At a minimum, you can choose the color of the casket’s interior to show support of a favorite team or country.
10. Fantasy coffins
Fantasy coffins are the ultimate in personalized caskets. They are not typically used in the United States, but perhaps you could start a trend if you wanted one created for your own funeral. Fantasy coffins are unique structures built to look like anything in your imagination. Do you want a casket shaped like the Batmobile? Perhaps you would like a casket in the shape of your favorite type of fish. These are examples of fantasy coffins.
Fantasy coffins appeal particularly to the people of Ghana, but you never know when they will become trendy in the United States.
Different Types of Caskets for Cremation
A casket is simply a receptacle designed to hold a body. Even though the word casket may conjure images of shiny, wood boxes while polished handles, these are not the only types of caskets.
Here are some casket options for people who will be cremated.
11. Rental caskets
We know it sounds strange, but rental caskets are available for those families that want to have a visitation or viewing of their loved one before he or she is cremated.
Typically, the deceased is placed inside a cremation casket first that is made to sit inside a traditional casket. Once the viewing is held, the cremation casket is removed, and it and the body are cremated. The casket is then available to be re-used by another party.
12. Cremation caskets
If a deceased is going to be directly cremated, there is no reason to purchase an expensive casket. However, you will need to buy a relatively inexpensive one that will be used during the cremation process.
Cremation caskets can be made of pressboard, heavy cardboard, or canvas. They still may cost hundreds of dollars, but they are much more affordable than even the simplest type of casket.
Where Can You Buy Caskets Online?
You may have not even considered buying caskets online, but you most certainly can. Some families have found that they can save a lot of money on a casket when buying from an online marketplace.
Here are some websites that sell caskets directly to the family of the deceased.
Trusted Caskets sells caskets directly to the consumer. Even though the company offers one- to two-day delivery, it is suggested that you call to make sure it’s available in your specific area.
Trusted Caskets also offers the Best Casket Price Guarantee. The guarantee states that if you can find the same casket cheaper from another source, the company will beat that price by five percent.
Fast Caskets offers delivery to all 50 states. The company sells both metal and wood caskets and offers service 24/7.
Fast Caskets has been offering online casket sales for over 10 years.
Overnight Caskets has several brick-and-mortar locations scattered throughout the U.S., which helps them guarantee on-time delivery. In addition, the company is staffed 24 hours a day, which means that you can contact them quickly after your loved one’s passing.
Overnight Caskets sells wood and metal caskets as well as burial vaults.
Best Price Caskets
Even though Best Price Caskets doesn’t offer 24-hour service like the previous two companies, Best Price Caskets offers next-day delivery anywhere in the U.S.
Best Price Caskets offers a wide array of caskets and urns at a discounted price to the consumer.
You’ll appreciate the Titan Casket website. Families can build a custom casket for their loved one. Online chat is available if you have a quick question about the process.
Titan Casket’s goal is to offer designer caskets as inexpensively as possible.
Natural Burial Company
If you are preplanning your own funeral (or the funeral for a loved one), you might consider looking into natural burial options. The term “natural burial” typically refers to burial without embalming in a casket made of natural materials without the use of a vault.
Please understand that most cemeteries do not permit natural burials in the U.S., but the movement to promote such practices is growing. Therefore, we recommend that you first locate a natural burial cemetery before choosing a casket.
Yes, you can buy a casket through Costco. Unfortunately, there aren’t many to choose from, but the company offers high-end caskets at prices that are hard to find elsewhere.
Frequently Asked Questions: Types of Caskets
Our goal is to offer families a frank discussion about caskets. Here are some answers to questions you probably have but were too embarrassed to ask the funeral home director.
What is the best material for a casket?
Some would say that hardwood caskets are the best. Those made out of mahogany, cherry, oak, or maple tend to be popular for high-end caskets.
Others prefer caskets made of metal because they can be purchased with a seal and won’t break down over time.
Still, others want their caskets to break down as quickly as possible. So those families choose caskets made from bamboo or other natural materials.
What is the best material for a casket? People have differing options on this subject.
What is the cheapest type of casket?
While one would think that caskets made of natural materials (such as bamboo) would be the cheapest option, cloth-covered caskets are probably the least expensive. Cloth-covered caskets are made of fiberboard and covered with a heavy-duty material.
Remember–you can buy your casket from an online retailer if you wish to save money on the casket. Funeral homes must permit you to use an outside source. Just make sure the casket can be delivered in plenty of time for the body to be placed in the casket before the service.
What are common casket alternatives?
When most people think of a casket, they think of a somewhat elaborate wooden or steel rectangular box with metal handles. However, you can purchase much simpler alternatives if you wish.
Some families are choosing a natural burial and buying caskets made of bamboo or another woven material. Still, others are choosing to lay their loved ones to rest in a burial shroud.
An alternative casket might appeal to you, but please note that they are not allowed at many cemeteries. Search for a natural cemetery near you before making any purchases.
How much do caskets usually cost?
Caskets start at around $800. However, the Federal Trade Commission says that the average price of a casket is slightly higher than $2,000. High-end caskets made of mahogany, bronze, or copper typically cost more than $10,000.
If you want a high-end casket but worry about not being able to afford such a luxury, check out online casket stores. Most offer 24-48 hour shipping.
Other Things to Consider When Purchasing a Casket
We already mentioned that people in the throes of grief tend to make purchasing decisions based on emotion rather than logic. This may cause people to overspend on the casket simply because they want to have a “good send-off” for the one they love.
If money is of concern, it may be best if you purchase a casket well in advance of needing it. Although most funeral homes will not store your casket until you need it, you will be able to choose a particular model.
Make sure you read the fine print if you choose to pre-purchase a casket. This document should spell out what happens if the casket model you selected is no longer in stock, or whether your family will have to pay a difference if the casket is sold for a higher price at the time of death.
Although federal laws in place regulate the funeral industry, you may look for other expenses on your itemized bill that may be optional.
Funerals can be expensive. Choosing a less expensive casket may help you save on funeral costs. Talk with your funeral home director to see what other costs can be trimmed to make a loved one’s funeral more affordable.