Why Do Caskets Cost So Much?

Caskets are the single most expensive element of a funeral service: their prices can run higher than the funeral director’s fee and the gravesite combined. This may surprise many families who have recently lost a loved one. Why is the casket so expensive, and are there ways to honor their family members in a more affordable price range? Here we offer a look into the funeral industry, and the three biggest factors behind the high price of caskets.

casket expensive

Caskets are the centerpiece of a funeral service.

Both visually and emotionally, the casket is at the heart of the look and feel of the service. Families see the casket as an opportunity to honor their loved one and communicate something about their values. Some may seek to honor a sensibility rooted in history and tradition with a wooden casket, while others would prefer a metal casket in a bright color for a more modern look. The wide variety of offerings in materials and details allows for a great deal of customization.

The cost of casket materials can also vary widely. The least expensive caskets are made of simple pine, but can also be carved from a more luxurious wood such as mahogany or cherry. This upgrade in the quality of the wood is reflected on the price tag. The same is true with thicker gauges of steel and semiprecious metals such as copper or bronze, which are used as casket materials as well. Decorative add-ons inside the casket can also affect the price. Many choose to include a plush mattress or headrest in the casket to enhance the look of peace and rest in their loved one.

Funeral homes try to sell the most expensive caskets.

Funeral homes are businesses just like any other, and they are invested in increasing their profit margin. To maneuver families into choosing a more expensive casket, their showrooms and sales pitches often highlight the highest priced casket options. For example, research has shown that families often choose one of the first three caskets they are offered. Funeral home directors use this knowledge to offer their most expensive caskets up front.

Families looking for a more affordable solution may only be shown caskets in strange colors or materials. Funeral homes may not even display a full range inexpensive or moderately priced caskets in their storerooms, leaving families to potentially feel that those options don’t exist. They may also discourage families from comparing prices with other retailers or looking at online options, or offer a package “discount” that does little to reduce the price of the casket.

Casket prices often include a huge markup to the consumer.

This is the most important factor involved in the price tag on a casket. At a funeral home, the listed price of a casket is often over three times the wholesale price. Every add-on is also sold at an up charge: a simple gasket seal that costs a few dollars to produce and install may be sold to the customer for several hundred dollars. Grieving families can sadly become an easy target: they often lack experience in the funeral industry and don’t realize that they have other, less expensive options.

For example, many do not know that the supposedly “protective” add-ons that offered by funeral homes for a hefty price tag don’t provide any meaningful benefits. The Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule specifically stipulates that funeral homes can not make promises about protective features preserving the body, as there is no evidence that supports such claims.

Families should know that they have many options when comparing casket prices. Funeral homes are required to accept caskets purchased from other retailers without charging any extra fees. Online retailers are a more affordable alternative, allowing families to compare a variety of inexpensive options and have the casket shipped directly to the funeral home. Caskets can still be a beautiful and respectful tribute to a loved one without standing in the way of a funeral budget.


Funeral HomesDaniel Adler