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.
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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.
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.