How To Choose The Right Outer Burial Container: Burial Vaults and Grave Liners

Burial vaults and grave liners are outer burial containers that enclose a casket in a grave. In the case of ground burial, most cemeteries require either a burial vault or a grave liner, in addition to the casket.

Burial vaults and grave liners are used to support the soil around the casket and ensure that the soil above and around the casket will not collapse, which ultimately serves to minimize cemetery maintenance and keep the cemetery grounds looking nice.

Basic features of burial vaults and grave liners

Both burial vaults and grave liners are outer containers that contain a casket if it is buried in the ground. A burial vault completely contains the casket, and functions almost like a casket for the casket. A grave liner only covers the top and sides of the casket and allows the bottom of the casket to be in contact with the earth.

Outer burial container materials

Burial vaults and grave liners are often made of concrete and lined with plastic or metal, though they are also available in steel, bronze, and copper.

Burial vaults and grave liners for cremated remains (urn vaults)

If you will be burying cremated remains in a cemetery, the cemetery may require that a burial vault or grave liner be used. Though cemeteries have varying regulations, for the most part burial vaults and grave liners for cremated remains are much smaller than for burial (as they only need to contain an urn, rather than a casket), and are therefore more affordable.

To learn about the products you'll need if you're planning a cremation, see our article Cremation Products.

Where to purchase burial vaults and grave liners

Burial vaults and grave liners can usually be purchased from the funeral home you’re working with, or from the cemetery you’re working with. However, be aware that the selection of outer burial containers may be very limited (many funeral homes only carry a single model). If you are interested in purchasing a grave liner and the retailer you are working with only sells burial vaults, or vice versa, consider contacting another retailer.

Because cemeteries are not covered by the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule, the cemetery may charge a fee for using a burial vault or grave liner you purchased elsewhere.

Though you can purchase burial vaults and grave liners online, be aware that outer burial containers are often very heavy, which can lead to very high shipping fees.

Burial vault and grave liner costs

Burial vaults are often much more expensive than grave liners. Grave liners usually cost between $700 and $1000, while burial vaults usually cost between $900 and $7000, though they can cost as much as $10,000 or $13,000.

Personal advocacy

Though you are not legally required to purchase a burial vault or grave liner, most cemeteries require these products. If you are not interested in purchasing an burial vault or grave liner, consider burying the remains in a green burial ground, which does not require outer burial containers.

For the most part, cemeteries and funeral homes encourage the sale of burial vaults over grave liners. The reason for this seems to be because burial vaults are more expensive than grave liners, and are thus a more profitable sale. However, both burial vaults and grave liners serve the same purpose: to protect the earth around the casket. Therefore, if you would rather purchase a grave liner than a burial vault, you should not feel pressured to purchase a more expensive vault.

Asking for a complete list of burial vault and grave liner prices before you are shown any items may help you make your selection without feeling pressured by the salesperson. If you are interested in purchasing a grave liner and the retailer you are working with only sells burial vaults, consider contacting another retailer.

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