Casket materials are primarily stylistic. There is no casket material that can preserve a body forever and no material that improves a casket's basic function.
Caskets are commonly available in the following materials (listed from least to most expensive):
Caskets are also available in alternative materials, such as bamboo, willow, woven banana leaf, and pressed cardboard, among other materials.
To learn about caskets made from alternative materials, see our article Green Caskets.
Casket features are entirely stylistic. There are no casket features that can preserve a body forever and no features that improve a casket's basic function.
Common features of caskets include:
- Half couch or full couch, which refers to whether the lid comes in two pieces (half couch) or one piece (full couch). In the case of a viewing, visitation, or an open casket funeral, either the upper half of the body (half couch) or the entire body (full couch) will be on display.
- Interior liners, or fabric lining the inside of the casket, which may be marketed as puncture-resistant and leak-proof, and are generally made out of polyester, satin, or velvet
- Commemorative panels, which are embroidered interiors of the casket lid
- Internal lift hardware, which will tilt the inside of the casket up so that in the case of a viewing, visitation, or open casket funeral the body may be viewed at an angle
- “Memory tube,” which is a small glass tube that screws into the casket. In the event that something should happen to the casket (should the casket become dislodged from its space in a mausoleum or crypt, or unearthed from the ground), the identity of the deceased can be easily known without having to exhume the remains.
- Exterior features, such as handles or ornamentation
Many caskets feature a rubber gasket or some kind of sealer, which provides an air-tight seal between the lid and body of the casket. According to the Federal Trade Commission's Funeral Rule, caskets described as "gasketed," "protective" or "sealer" caskets are designed to protect the casket, not the body, and are features that are never required by law. In fact, a casket that is hermetically sealed increases the rate of body decomposition. And if a casket is to be entombed in a mausoleum or crypt, the cemetery will actually break the rubber seal to prevent accelerated decomposition. The Funeral Rule forbids claims that caskets or special casket features can preserve a body forever.
Caskets are one of the most expensive purchases of a funeral, and can range in price from $700-$20,000, with average caskets costing between $2000 and $5000. If you will be purchasing a casket from a third-party or online retailer, it’s important to remember that the cost of delivery for the casket may be quite high, and typically ranges from $300-$600.
If you would like to have a traditional casket at a viewing or funeral service but would not like to purchase the casket, you might consider using a rental casket from the funeral home. To learn more about rental caskets, see our article Rental Caskets.
Choosing a casket is entirely a matter of personal choice. Before viewing caskets at a funeral home or casket showroom, you may want to ask for a price list so you can get a sense of the types and prices of the caskets offered, or figure out how much money you’d like to spend before you visit the showroom.
When shopping for a casket, it’s important to remember that you’re being sold a product. Research has shown that when a customer is offered three caskets to choose from, he or she will most often select the casket that is priced in the middle, regardless of how high that price may be. Ask to see a complete casket price list before you are shown any of the caskets; many casket showrooms have less expensive caskets for sale but not for view on the showroom floor. The FTC's Funeral Rule ensures your right to see a complete price list before viewing any caskets.
Where to purchase caskets
Caskets can be purchased from funeral homes, casket showrooms, and online retailers. Remember that the FTC’s Funeral Rule guarantees that a funeral home may not refuse or charge a fee for using a casket you purchased elsewhere, including a casket you may have built yourself.
To purchase a casket online, use our resource Guide: Purchasing a Casket.