Buying a Casket
5 Tips for Finding the Right Casket at the Right Price
The right casket can be a meaningful final resting place for your loved one. But choosing a casket can be overwhelming. With so many options, at so many different prices, how should you decide which casket is best for your family’s needs?
We’re here to help. The following tips will help you understand what’s out there, how to decide between them, and what’s right for you.
1. Look beyond the funeral home
Funeral homes used to be the consumer’s only option for buying a casket. In 1984, however, the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule mandated that funeral homes must allow patrons to use caskets purchased somewhere else. This ruling, as expected, opened up the market to a wide variety of retailers offering caskets for sale. Funeral homes may not charge an additional fee for using these caskets, although some tack on other charges to make up for the lost revenue (read more about hidden funeral costs.)
That being said, your funeral home is still a good place to start shopping. You can browse the caskets that they have on offer, and see what style you prefer. The markup at funeral homes, however, can be as much as 500%, so many people are looking elsewhere to make the actual purchase. The funeral home will, of course, do their best to convince you to buy from them, but you can often find equal or better quality at a much lower price.
Alternatives to purchasing your casket at a funeral home include:
Independent casket retailers. Showrooms that display a wide variety of caskets, independent retailers often have more diversity in style and price than funeral homes. Even if you don’t end up buying from one of these establishments, it can be a good place to assess your options and get baseline prices – and they sometimes will match a lower price found online or at another store.
Big box stores. Costco and Walmart both sell caskets online. Costco works through Universal Casket Company and offers both expedited and standard shipping, but only members can purchase caskets. Walmart has a variety of options as well, without the membership prerequisite, manufactured through Star Legacy. Note that both Costco and Walmart only deliver to certain states, and Walmart does not deliver on weekends.
Online retailers. Many specialty stores also provide online casket sales. While some customers feel uncomfortable purchasing a casket without seeing it in person, online vendors frequently offer the best price and selection. Some customers find a brand and style that they like in a store, then search for a better price online to circumvent this issue. Bestpricecaskets.com is often cited as a top vendor in this space.
Note that some states have powerful lobbies that prevent anyone but a licensed funeral establishment from selling caskets in spite of the Funeral Rule. Make sure to check the regulations in your state as part of your casket research.
2. Explore your options
The right casket is out there for every budget and personality. With so many options for purchasing caskets, it’s easier than ever to explore all of your options and find the right fit for your loved one.
Types of caskets include:
Metal caskets. Made of bronze, copper, or standard or stainless steel, metal caskets are both tasteful and durable. Bronze and copper caskets are priced by weight per square foot, while steel caskets are priced by gauge, or thickness. Steel caskets are generally the least expensive option, starting around $1,000, while copper and bronze begin at $3,000 and reach upwards of $10,000.
Wooden caskets. A traditional choice, wooden caskets come in many forms, including solid hardwoods like pine, walnut, cherry, elm, or cedar; hardwood-laminated plywood known as laminate; wooden fiberboard painted with a wood veneer; and cloth-covered plywood. Prices vary widely depending on the type of wood, construction, finishes, interior, and more.
Fiberglass caskets. A newer alternative, fiberglass caskets are lightweight but still strong. Finish options include faux wood and faux marble.
Green caskets. A few companies now offer environmentally conscious caskets suited for a more “green” burial. These include biodegradable caskets made of materials like banana leaf, bamboo, rattan, and seagrass, and caskets made from pine trees killed by the pine beetle epidemic. Sold by companies including Final Footprint and Nature’s Casket, green caskets can be thoughtful options for environmentally conscious customers.
3. Ask lots of questions
The FTC’s Funeral Rule also mandates that funeral homes provide a comprehensive list of their goods and services called a General Price List, or GPL. This document must include every option available to the consumer, along with its current price, and the customer must be able to take a copy of the list home – NOT just flip through a binder at the funeral home.
Look through this list thoroughly, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Casket purchases are notorious for being overpriced and manipulative. Ask about options like alternative finishes or interiors, different colors or styles, or the differences between models. You can also enquire if a funeral home or store will match a price that you’ve found online, or provide any complimentary upgrades for purchasing your casket through them.
4. Don’t buy what you don’t need
Selecting a casket is a personal choice that should reflect the wishes of your loved one. What some people find extravagant, others consider a fitting tribute.
Don’t allow anyone, from your family to the funeral director, pressure you into purchasing something that doesn’t feel appropriate for your circumstances. There is no right answer other than your personal preference.
No matter your style, don’t be sold into features that don’t deliver what they promise. The most commonly cited example of this is the “protective” casket. These caskets include rubber gaskets that supposedly keep out air, water, and biological entities, preserving the body inside. Whether they actually work, however, is suspect; at the very most, they may delay an inevitable result. Consider if that feature is something that you really need for your loved one, or if it is an expense that you could skip.
5. Trust your instincts
Like any major purchase, buying a casket should involve research, diligence, and a clear idea of what you want and need. But don’t forget to listen to your gut. If a service provider or retailer doesn’t feel right, look for other alternatives. Similarly, if you find something that feels like the perfect fit for your loved one and your family, trust that instinct. With so many choices available today, finding the perfect casket is very much in reach.