A casket often is the single most expensive item you'll buy if
you plan a traditional, full-service funeral. Caskets vary widely
in style and price and are sold primarily for their visual appeal.
Typically, they're constructed of metal, wood, fiberboard,
fiberglass or plastic. Although an average casket costs slightly
more than $2,000, some mahogany, bronze or copper caskets sell for
as much as $10,000.
Purchasing a casket from a funeral home
When you visit a funeral home or showroom to shop for a casket,
the Funeral Rule requires the funeral director to show you a list
of caskets the company sells, with descriptions and prices, before
showing you the caskets. Industry studies show that the average
casket shopper buys one of the first three models shown, generally
the middle-priced of the three.
It is in the seller's best interest to start out by showing you
higher-end models. If you haven't seen some of the lower-priced
models on the price list, ask to see them, but don't be surprised
if they're not prominently displayed, or not on display at all.
Purchasing a casket from third-party
Traditionally, caskets have been sold only by funeral homes. But
with increasing frequency, showrooms and websites operated by
third-party dealers are selling caskets. You can buy a casket from
one of these dealers and have it shipped directly to the funeral
home. The Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to agree to use a
casket you bought elsewhere, and doesn't allow them to charge you a
fee for using it.
The purpose of the casket
No matter where or when you're buying a casket, it's important
to remember that its purpose is to provide a dignified way to move
the body before burial or cremation. No casket, regardless of its
qualities or cost, will preserve a body forever. Metal caskets
frequently are described as "gasketed," "protective" or "sealer"
caskets. These terms mean that the casket has a rubber gasket or
some other feature that is designed to delay the penetration of
water into the casket and prevent rust. The Funeral Rule forbids
claims that these features help preserve the remains indefinitely
because they don't. They just add to the cost of the casket.
Most metal caskets are made from rolled steel of varying gauges;
the lower the gauge, the thicker the steel. Some metal caskets come
with a warranty for longevity. Wooden caskets generally are not
gasketed and don't have a warranty for longevity. They can be
hardwood like mahogany, walnut, cherry or oak, or softwood like
pine. Manufacturers of both wooden and metal caskets usually
warrant workmanship and materials.
Many families that opt to have their loved ones cremated rent a
casket from the funeral home for the visitation and funeral,
eliminating the cost of buying a casket. If you opt for visitation
and cremation, ask about the rental option. For those who choose a
direct cremation without a viewing or other ceremony where the body
is present, the funeral provider must offer an inexpensive
unfinished wood box or alternative container, a non-metal enclosure
- pressboard, cardboard or canvas - that is cremated with the
Under the Funeral Rule, funeral directors who offer direct
- may not tell you that state or local law requires a casket for
direct cremations, because none do;
- must disclose in writing your right to buy an unfinished wood
box or an alternative container for a direct cremation; and
- must make an unfinished wood box or other alternative container
available for direct cremations.