How To Choose a Casket

Choosing a casket for yourself or a family member can be an important decision. You may wonder why a casket, which gets buried in the ground or sealed in a crypt, can cost so much. Materials matter, of course, but caskets have emotional associations. Traditionally, a casket is the focal point of a funeral. Some think of it as a final gift to their loved one. Others prioritize shelter of their loved one after burial. Many opt to keep it simple. It’s all a matter of personal preference.

Caskets come in a wide range of materials, colors, sizes and prices. From a plush, fabric-lined bronze casket to an eco-friendly basket casket, the casket you choose may reflect your traditions, culture and personality.

In this article you will learn:

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What is a casket?

A casket is a container that holds the body of a person who has passed away. It's used during a visitation before a funeral or memorial to allow family and friends an opportunity to say a final goodbye to their loved one. After the service, the casket is transported to the cemetery and buried in the ground or placed in a mausoleum.

Though caskets are typical when a family chooses traditional burial, a family who chooses cremation may want a service with the loved one present before the cremation. In that case, a family may rent a nice casket for the service; the loved one would be cremated afterward in another container. The family may also opt to purchase a casket built especially for cremation that can be displayed at a service and go into a crematorium.

How much does a casket cost?

The cost of a casket ranges widely and depends on the materials used to build it and how much it's customized. Ranging from $350 to upwards of $60,000 or more, caskets are available to fit every taste and budget.

  • A cardboard casket for cremation may cost only a few hundred dollars.
  • A simple wooden casket for cremation or burial can often be purchased for less than $1,000.
  • Popular styles of traditional caskets usually cost between $1,500 and $4,000.
  • An elegant bronze casket may cost $60,000 or more. 

You can purchase caskets from casket stores, big-box stores and online retailers, but most families choose to get their caskets from their funeral homes. It's more convenient and generally comes with a quality assurance from the manufacturer used by the funeral home. Your Dignity Memorial® advisor can help you find a casket that fits your needs.

The average cost of a casket is a little more than $2,000, according to the Federal Trade Commission. 

What to consider when choosing a casket

Whether you’re interested in understated or ornate, there are several factors in addition to style to consider as you make your decision. These include:

  • Personal wishes: If your family is more traditional, you might decide to go with a classic steel, bronze or wood casket. If you're environmentally conscious, there are other options. Think about whether you or your loved one takes a less-is-more or a more-is-more approach to life. A casket can be sleek and simple or beautifully adorned and detailed. A casket can reflect individual preferences and personality.
  • Budget: The casket may be one of the more expensive aspects of a funeral, so considering your budget is important. Caskets come in a wide range of prices, and how much you want to spend is up to you. Talk with your funeral director about what you’d like to spend—he or she can help you find a casket that meets most budgets.
  • Cemetery requirements: Cemetery rules about burial containers vary from location to location. Most cemeteries require some kind of casket, though green cemeteries may not. Have your funeral director check the requirements of the cemetery where you or your loved one will be buried or interred before you purchase a casket.


Casket materials 

Caskets are made from all kinds of materials.

  • Cloth-covered caskets are the most economical option. Made from pressed plywood and covered with cloth, this type of casket is an affordable choice.
  • Laminate caskets are made from plywood covered in a hardwood laminate. These caskets offer the look of wood for a lower price than veneered or solid wood.
  • Veneered wood caskets are made from high-density fiberboard with a wood veneer. These caskets look like solid wood without the price.
  • Steel caskets are available in various thicknesses, from 16 gauge (the thickest) to 20 gauge (the thinnest). Often finished with a glossy exterior, steel caskets are more resistant to the elements than wood.
  • Stainless steel caskets are made with the strongest and least corrosive type of steel. These caskets are more economical than copper or bronze.
  • Solid wood caskets are fashioned from solid wood such as mahogany, walnut, maple, cherry, oak, poplar or pine. The price depends on the variety of wood. Solid wood caskets offer a stately, warm and traditional look.
  • Copper or bronze caskets are typically more expensive than other caskets. Copper and bronze are naturally rust resistant so they are superior in strength.
  • Sustainably produced caskets are designed to easily decompose when buried. Common materials include cork, wicker, banana leaf, recycled cardboard, organic cotton and hemp.

The leading factor in the choice of a casket is color. Our families often choose a particular casket because it comes in their loved one’s favorite hue, such as purple, pink or blue.

Casket features

Not only can you choose the material a casket is made of, you can also personalize the casket in so many ways. Some of the more popular options for personalization* include:

  • Lid: Choose between a partial opening (half couch) or full opening (full couch) to allow family and friends to see their loved one during a viewing, visitation or open-casket funeral.
  • Lining: Different caskets have different linings. Some have a simple tan crepe; others might have a luxurious champagne velvet, shining pink satin or even camouflage print.
  • Exterior ornaments: Finishing touches can include handles, designs, corner pieces and emblems. If your loved one served in the military, you might choose to honor them with a service-specific emblem. Corner pieces come in a number of designs, from crosses to golf clubs to gardening tools. They are often removed before burial or interment and kept by family members as keepsakes.
  • Memory box: Throughout life, we collect many treasured and meaningful memories. Some caskets include a memory box where you can place your loved one’s precious mementos.
  • Engraving: An engraving might feature a Bible verse, artwork, poems, emblems or song lyrics.
  • Embroidery: Various interior lid embroidery options are available to help you creatively remember a life lived.
  • Wraps: There are companies that will wrap a casket with a high-resolution image or design printed on vinyl. The design often conveys a loved one’s favorite hobby, sports team or band.

*Options vary by location and availability.

Wide shot of fountain, private gated estates and cemetery grounds outside at Palm in Las Vegas.

Why is a burial vault needed?

When a casket is buried in the ground, the need for a burial vault or outer burial container is dependent on cemetery regulations. A burial vault protects the beauty of the cemetery by preventing the ground from settling over the burial location. Though a vault may help prevent sinking of the grave, no outer burial container can guarantee full protection from the elements.

Can you be buried without a casket?

A casket isn’t always necessary for burial. Like burial vaults, the requirement depends on the individual cemetery. Some cemeteries allow for natural burial, which is when a body is placed directly into the earth.

Choosing a final resting place

Choosing a casket is just one part of making final arrangements. A Dignity Memorial advisor can also help you choose a final resting place. Making plans in advance protects your loved ones from having to make decisions for you in an emotionally stressful time, and it gives you the peace of mind of knowing that your wishes have been communicated. We will walk you through the process and make sure your service honors your customs and traditions. 

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