The cost of caskets and other financial considerations
Prices for caskets can range very widely: from $400 to $12,000 depending on material and construction.
Besides the exterior materials, other options that affect cost are the casket lining, whether there is a half-couch lid (so that the casket can be half open), and any interior or exterior features.
Green caskets are an eco-friendly option that generally costs less.
Most funeral homes will allow you to use a rental casket, which is a permanent casket with a removable casket lining.
After a loved one has passed away, you and your family will have to select the casket in which they will be laid to rest. Looking for the right one to honor the person you loved can be stressful and emotional for some. There are often many casket options to choose from, which can be overwhelming, and the selection can also feel very final. Be prepared for some difficult emotions, and take the time you need to make the right choice.
It’s a good idea to have some general knowledge about caskets before you begin your search, so you know what to expect, what your options are, and what you can expect to pay. While this may not ease your grief, it can remove some of the burden by allowing you to make an informed selection, so you can concentrate on important things like being there for the ones you love and memorializing the person who is gone.
The difference between a casket and a coffin
Although you will sometimes hear these words used interchangeably, a casket is not the same as a coffin. Caskets are rectangular and have a hinged lid, while coffins have a removable lid and have a tapered shape. Caskets generally also create the appearance that your loved one is in a bed, with an inner casket lining that creates a softer look than that of a coffin.
It is likely that you will be looking for a casket. In the US, caskets are used much more often, and they are the only option when it comes to funerals and wakes in which the person is on view, known as open-casket ceremonies.
How much do caskets cost?
Unless your loved one left specific instructions as to what type of casket they would like to be buried or cremated in, it’s your job to choose which is best, not only for your loved one, but for your budget. Caskets in the lower range can cost anywhere from $400 to $1,000. These are known as “cloth covered” and are made of pressed plywood which is then covered in cloth.
From there, caskets (before extra decorations and emblems) can go as high as $12,000, depending on the material used in the construction. The most expensive caskets are made of solid copper or bronze. Caskets in the mid-range are made of steel, solid wood, veneered wood, or laminate.
Why are some caskets only half open?
There are two kinds of casket lids. Some have a full lid that opens all at once, called a full couch, while a half couch comes in two pieces that open separately. Most families choose based on how they want their loved one to be on view: their full body or just their upper half.
If you’re opting for burial and would prefer a casket that will break down naturally and not release toxins into the earth, there are eco-friendly options available. These caskets are made of “low-impact” materials like bamboo, hemp, teak, organic cotton, banana leaf, or recycled cardboard, among other environmentally safer substances. An eco-friendly casket can be buried in any cemetery, but green cemeteries, known as natural burial grounds, generally require them.
A funeral home is required to use the casket of your choice without any extra charges.
Green caskets and green burials tend to be less expensive in the long run. For example, a recycled cardboard casket can run as low as $150, while a wicker casket can cost between $900 and $1,500.
If you want a green casket and your choice of funeral home doesn’t offer them, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule, you have the right to bring any outside products into the funeral home. They are required to use the casket of your choice without any extra charges.
Be aware of added costs
If you opt for a traditional casket, it’s important to know that this is likely to be the most expensive part of the funeral. The reason for this is all the features that a traditional casket can include, making even a very basic casket cost quite a lot.
There are usually three options for the interior lining of a casket: polyester, satin, or velvet. All of these materials are leak-proof, and they vary in price, with velvet being the most expensive.
Exterior and interior features
Caskets can be decorated in many different ways. You can choose to include embroidered emblems on the inside, as well as ornaments and specific handles on the outside. All of these features will cost extra, but some families feel strongly that they are necessary to properly honor their loved one.
What’s a memory tube?
A memory tube is a small glass tube that screws into the exterior of the casket and contains all necessary information about the person inside. They are installed in a casket in case there is an issue with it in the future, such as if it’s unearthed or becomes dislodged from its final resting place by extreme weather or another accident. In this unlikely event, the memory tube can let authorities know whose casket it is without having to disturb the body.
Note that although memory tubes aren’t required in every state, their purpose is to prevent the pain caused to the family if their loved one were to be exhumed and identified. Florida and Louisiana now require memory tubes, as natural disasters such as hurricanes have been known to disrupt cemeteries and mausoleums in those states. Your funeral director will let you know if a memory tube is required.
You can rent a casket
Whether it’s a matter of budget or fulfilling the wishes of your loved one, you’re not required to buy a casket. Rental caskets are an option. A rental casket is lined with removable materials, including a wooden box and fabric lining, so that the body does not come in contact with the exterior casket. During the viewing, it will be indistinguishable from a purchased casket, and afterward the body is removed inside its wooden box for either burial or cremation. Most funeral homes have caskets to rent.
Between the cost of a casket and the desire to honor your loved one in the most respectful way possible, choosing the best option isn’t easy. Know that you don’t have to do it alone. Whether you bring a family member or a friend, it’s a good idea to have someone at your side to help in the decision. No one expects you to be thinking completely clearly at this point, so having someone with you can make a big difference in how you approach this part of the process. Take it slow, and remember that what is most important is that you take care of yourself and your friends and family while you choose how best to memorialize the person you all loved.
You may be eligible for free bereavement support. Empathy can help with everything from funeral planning to estate administration, with step-by-step guidance and real-time expert support. Many people get free premium access to Empathy as a benefit with their life insurance claim. We partner with New York Life, Guardian Life Insurance Company, Bestow, Lemonade, and other leading carriers. When you make your life insurance claim, talk to your representative about whether Empathy is a benefit they offer.
Common questions about caskets
Caskets are rectangular and have a hinged lid, while coffins have a removable lid and have a tapered shape. Caskets generally also create the appearance that your loved one is in a bed, with an inner lining that creates a softer look than that of a coffin. In the US, caskets are used much more often.
This is a choice made by families, based on how they want their loved one to be on view: their full body or just their upper half. The technical term is half-couch vs full-couch.
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