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.
When you visit a funeral home or showroom to shop for a casket, the funeral director should show you a list of caskets the company sells, with descriptions and prices, before showing you the caskets.
How to Choose Caskets
Industry studies show that the average casket shopper buys one of the first three caskets models shown by the funeral director, generally the middle-priced of the three.
So it’s in the caskets 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 caskets price list, ask to see them – but don’t be surprised if they’re not prominently displayed, or not on display at all.
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.
Caskets Types and Qualities
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. Pine caskets are a less expensive option, but funeral homes rarely display them. 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 body.
Also, you should know that under the Funeral Rule, funeral directors who offer direct cremations:
– 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 casket available for direct cremations.