Many different types of coffins and caskets are available, manufactured by a wide variety of companies. So, if you’re looking to buy a casket, it’s easy to become overwhelmed.
What should be a simple decision can quickly become very complicated.
Not to mention, the funeral industry can sometimes be shady – who should you trust?
That’s why we’ve created this comprehensive (and visual) guide to all the major types of caskets available, including their pros and cons. We have also broken down the factors you need to be considering when choosing a type of casket.
We trust this guide will help you find the most suitable type of coffin or casket to meet your or your deceased loved one’s circumstances and needs.
Related Article: 7 Best Caskets: Buyer’s Guide & How to Choose One [2023 Guide]
In This Article
The Different Types of Caskets and Coffins That Are Available
Where else could we start?
Traditional wooden caskets are the rectangular American-style caskets you see in the movies. They are the “go-to” option in the United States. They are usually made of pine, oak, or mahogany before being finished with stain or paint.
There are two subtypes of wood caskets; “veneer” and “solid wood”. When shopping for a casket, the cheaper ones will be veneer, while hardwood caskets will cost more.
Veneer caskets are cheaper because while they use a thin layer of premium wood on the outside, on the inside, they are constructed from a more affordable material like fiberboard.
But don’t let the cost fool you. In our experience, they are usually externally indistinguishable.
- A wide variety of types to choose from
- Are customizable
- Are relatively affordable when compared to metal caskets
- Decompose quicker than other types of caskets
- Contribute to deforestation
Price: Around $1,200 to $3,000
Traditional Coffins (UK Style)
Across the pond, traditional UK-style coffins are hexagonal-shaped burial containers with a tapered end at the head and foot.
Like traditional caskets, coffins are usually made from wood. They are used sparingly in the USA but are very popular in Britain. The closest type of casket widely available in the USA is probably a “pine box” style casket – although the shape is different.
Wooden coffins are cheaper than traditional caskets and made from more inexpensive, unfinished materials.
If you’re on a budget or live in a region where they are popular, a coffin can be a good burial option. Personally, I’m not a fan of the style, especially considering so many other types of caskets are available.
- Cheaper than most caskets
- Traditional in some regions
- Harder to find (especially in America)
- Like wood caskets, they contribute to deforestation
Price: Around $500 to $1,200
Next are metal caskets. These are similar in build and style to wood caskets, except, as the name suggests, they are made from metal.
Unlike wood caskets, metal caskets are durable. They last underground for a long time and will better preserve the deceased’s body.
Subject to environmental conditions, while a wood casket may collapse in decades, metal caskets can last for up to a century.
Of course, with an increase in quality comes an increase in cost. Many people would consider metal caskets to be a “premium” option. I’m one of those people.
The type of metal used and its gauge can also affect the price. Most metal caskets are made of 18 or 20-gauge steel, but more durable stainless steel is an option as an upgrade. Bronze and copper caskets and even gold-plated are also available from many vendors.
Like most caskets on our list, metal caskets are available in “half couch” and “full couch” type configurations. While half couch caskets only show the bottom half of the body, full couch-lidded options show the whole body.
- More durable than wood caskets
- Decompose slower than most other caskets and coffins
- Comparatively expensive
- Contribute to pollution from mining of the materials
- Heavier to carry
Price: $1,200 to $5,000+
Composite Board Caskets (Fiberboard Caskets)
Corrugated fiberboard caskets look similar to wooden coffins. The main distinguishing factor is that they are built from the much more affordable fiberboard.
Frequently, fiberboard caskets will have a wood or cloth veneer. When they are covered in cloth, they are known as “cloth caskets”, and give off very comfortable vibes.
In rare cases they will be painted – although my view is that this can look much worse than most other options.
Composite board caskets are less expensive than many other types of coffins as they are made from more affordable materials. However, they are understandably less durable.
- Inexpensive compared to wooden or metal caskets
- Can be customized with decorative finishes
- Less durable than metal or wood caskets
- Will decompose faster
- Don’t look as good as most other options
Price: Around $600 to $1,200
Going even cheaper and less durable again, we have cardboard caskets.
These are popular for tight budgets, but you’d expect them to look better. My experience is that pictures online (including the one above) are flattering compared to how they look in person.
However, one thing to consider with cardboard caskets is that they are a more eco-friendly option.
Yes, trees have to be cut down to make them. However, recycled cardboard is an option. In any case, they contribute to less deforestation than wood caskets and degrade quickly in the ground.
- Lightweight and easy to transport
- More eco-friendly than traditional caskets
- Not durable (at all)
- They don’t look great
Price: $300 – $900
Woven Wicker Caskets (Biodegradable Caskets)
Woven wicker caskets are a more environmentally friendly option than others on our list; they are a beautiful, natural type of green burial casket.
Unlike wood, metal, and cardboard, wicker is not a material but a technique through which materials like willow and bamboo are woven to build sturdy burial containers.
They are constructed using the same technique used to make classic picnic baskets.
Wicker caskets are biodegradable and usually decompose in 3 to 5 years underground.
Unfortunately, they have yet to catch on everywhere because of this. Some cemeteries won’t accept them because they don’t consider them suitable containers for burial.
In that case, your best bet is to find a natural burial cemetery.
- Unique – you don’t see them every day!
- Look great
- Sturdy (most woven caskets are rated for up to 300 pounds)
- Better for the environment
- Decompose fast (also considered a positive by some)
- Sometimes of lower quality (they are often handmade, so imperfections are not uncommon)
- Not accepted by all cemeteries
Price: Around $1,200 to $2,000
Most caskets and coffins on our list are used for burial, but burial is not the only time a casket might be required:
Cremation caskets hold the deceased’s body in a cremation chamber.
Naturally, the material used to make a cremation casket must be able to burn. In most cases, this will be wood, but many green/biodegradable caskets can also be used.
Interestingly, pine caskets used for cremation are also used for burial for those of the Jewish faith.
Cremation caskets don’t need to be fancy, there is no requirement for a good seal, and more premium materials like steel are unsuitable. These factors combined make them a very affordable choice.
- Affordable (cremation is also more affordable than burial – although not if you intend to buy a cremation diamond!)
- You can keep the ashes as a keepsake
- Typically only used for cremations (not burials)
- Cremation is not acceptable in all cultures/religions
Price: $800 – $2000
Making your own coffin or casket is also an option – and one that many people choose to do, especially in countries like New Zealand and the rural United States.
While DIY coffins can appear cheaper than traditional options, this is only when you look at the actual dollar value involved. The economic benefits become negligible as soon as you consider the time investment needed to make your own casket.
Of course, this should be balanced against the fact you get a complete, personal, custom casket to be buried in. Something you can truly call your own.
In America, under the Federal Trade Commission’s “Funeral Rule”, cemeteries must accept a DIY coffin or casket if provided, as long as it meets minimum requirements for durability.
Here’s a great video on making your own coffin. As mentioned above – it isn’t easy – but it can clearly be very satisfying:
- A coffin that is entirely personal to you
- Cheaper than commercial options (in terms of materials)
- It can look as great as you can make it
- Not accepted by all cemeteries/state laws
- May not be as durable as other types
- Significant time investment is usually involved
Price: As much or as little as you wish to invest.
See Through Casket (Clear Caskets)
“An open casket on steroids”.
Transparent caskets are a unique, eye-catching style of casket that allows mourners to see the body from all angles. They are usually made out of acrylic.
Not many manufacturers make caskets of this type, so they are probably something you will want to buy long in advance of the burial.
Some people can find see-through caskets to be distasteful, but ultimately they are still an option if that’s what you’re looking for.
- Unique and eye-catching
- Allow for a more personal goodbye
- An open casket can usually do the job
- May not be appropriate for all cultures or religions
Price: $6,000 minimum
Oversized and Undersized Caskets
Traditional caskets are mass-produced to fit the average range in sizes of the human body.
Some people fall outside that average range. Whether they be taller, shorter, larger, or smaller, oversized and undersized caskets are specifically built to accommodate them.
Naturally, oversized caskets are wider and taller than traditional caskets. They are usually more expensive to account for the more significant amount of material required to build them and for any reinforcement needed to keep them sturdy.
You would expect undersized caskets to be cheaper because they require fewer materials to build, but this isn’t usually the case. While traditional caskets can be made in batches of thousands, benefitting from economies of scale, undersized coffins don’t have this benefit and are often custom-built.
While sad to acknowledge, undersized caskets are the type of casket typically used when burying children or infants.
- A good option when the deceased won’t fit a traditional casket
- All the pros of the casket type that is being over or undersized
- Can be more expensive than standard caskets as they are less common
- Oversized caskets are more difficult to transport because they are heavier
Price: Widely varies depending on size and materials used
Picture Coffins (and Customizable Caskets)
Picture Coffins are usually traditional UK-style coffins with high-quality photos or images on their exterior.
They are a great custom option for honoring the deceased without breaking the bank. They are usually made of wood or cardboard; however, picture caskets made from metal are also available.
Realistically, any casket or coffin can become a “picture” or customized casket if you can find someone who offers the service.
- All the pros of the “base” casket that is being modified or decorated
- A personal option that doesn’t have to be expensive
- May not be suitable for all individuals or situations
- Considered “too whimsical” by some
Price: The price of a base casket + $200 to $500 for customization
Sometimes people want a nice casket for the funeral or viewing but don’t care about the container they are ultimately buried in.
Rental caskets are an excellent option for these people, being a type of coffin used temporarily during the funeral service before being returned to the funeral home. They are not used for permanent burials and cannot be cremated. Like a Russian doll, the “actual” casket for the burial is hidden within the rental casket (see the image above).
Not all funeral homes offer rental caskets, but there is never any harm in asking the funeral director.
- A good option for a viewing/wake without spending a large amount of money
- All the pros associated with the type of casket rented
- You still need to buy a casket for the burial (usually a cardboard/cheap wooden container)
- Some people are uncomfortable with the idea of more than one deceased person having been placed in the same container
Price: Usually around $600, but are often offered as part of a funeral arrangements packages.
Double Caskets (Couples Caskets)
It is common for husbands and wives to have burial plots next to one another at cemeteries.
It is less common for husbands and wives to be buried in the same coffin. But it happens. Very occasionally.
Double Caskets, also known as twin caskets, are caskets that are designed to accommodate the remains of two individuals. They are usually larger than normal caskets but not so large that they won’t fit in a single burial plot.
In theory, twin caskets are touching. In reality, everything needs to go right for them to be practical. Both persons being buried in the coffin:
- Need to have consented to sharing a casket before they died,
- Need to die at around the same time.
Clearly, the chance of a twin casket being used is slim. These are not caskets you can buy off the shelf – you would need them to be custom ordered.
If you want to be buried with your loved one, my opinion is that stacked or adjacent burial plots are a better option.
- Allows couples to be buried together in very specific circumstances
- Can be buried in a single plot (minor cost saving, offset by casket cost)
- Need to be custom ordered
- Very expensive
Price: $3,000+ due to the need to be custom ordered.
Ghanaian Fantasy Coffins
Do you want to be buried in a hot chili pepper or a giant fish?
If you’re anything like me, probably not.
But some people do, and it’s an option if you have the cash.
Ghanaian fantasy coffins are a special type of casket originating from Ghana. They are handcrafted to represent the interests and hobbies of the deceased.
While striking and unique, you can’t buy these just anywhere. If you genuinely want one, you will have to get one custom-made in your own country or import one. In any case, it will cost you a lot for what some may consider a novelty.
- Personalized to represent the interests and hobbies of the deceased
- Not widely available
- Very expensive
- Can be considered a “novelty”
Price: $4,000+, not including shipping.
While not technically caskets, burial shrouds are an eco-friendly alternative to cover a body before it is buried.
They are commonly used by Muslims, who do not use burial containers. However, they are also gaining popularity with non-Muslims with the rise of green cemeteries.
With burial shrouds, the body will be wrapped in a cloth made of a material like cotton or wool before being buried.
- A green option
- Very affordable
- Required by some religions (like Islam)
- Most traditional cemeteries will not accept burial shrouds as an acceptable alternative to a casket
Price: As low as $100 for a shroud of reasonable quality
Military Coffins are traditional US-style caskets customized to honor and pay tribute to military members. They are distinguishable by their insignia and emblems and are often draped in flags.
One thing to be careful of with military caskets is that they are mostly just jazzed-up versions of standard metal caskets.
In my experience, they don’t have any special features that would justify a significant premium on price – but that doesn’t mean the funeral home won’t try!
- Designed to honor and pay tribute to individuals who have served in the military
- Customizable with military insignia, emblems, and other decorative elements
- Durable – usually made with solid materials
- Only appropriate in particular circumstances (you don’t want to be accused of stolen valor)
- They are often arbitrarily expensive in comparison to what you are getting
Price: $1,500 to $5,000+
Choosing A Type of Casket or Coffin For Your Circumstances:
Clearly, there are many types of caskets to choose from. If you’re still having trouble picking one that meets your specific needs, here are the factors you should consider and questions you should ask yourself:
Do You Actually Need a Casket?
There is no legal requirement to be buried in a traditional casket – or any casket, for that matter.
So, given that caskets are one of the most significant funeral expenses, you may wish to consider being buried without one. Cremation is also an option to consider.
An entire industry of natural cemeteries is built around arranging funerals without caskets, with alternatives like shrouds being used instead. They focus on green, eco-friendly burials. Not only will you save money, but you will do a good thing for the environment.
If being eco-friendly is important to you, but you still want to be buried in a casket, I recommend a wicker or cardboard casket. You should also avoid being embalmed if possible, which ends up leaking toxic chemicals into the earth when the body is buried.
Related article: Can You Be Buried Without a Casket? [Natural Burial Rules]
How Much Are You Willing to Spend on a Casket?
We’ve provided estimated price ranges for each different type of casket above. As a rule of thumb, the simpler the design and the more affordable the materials, the cheaper the casket or coffin.
However, even with the most budget option, a traditional casket will likely set you back at least $800. From there, prices can go as high as an eye-watering $10,000 for the highest-quality models on the market.
When you’re looking to buy a casket or coffin, my suggestion is that you have a budget in mind in advance. Funeral homes will often try and upsell you, so having a number you can stick to can be helpful.
It is important to remember that subject to limited exceptions, funeral homes are legally required by the Federal Trade Commission to accept a “BYO Casket”. If you find a casket or coffin you like online, you can have it delivered to your funeral home, and they can’t reject it.
Funeral homes often charge a decent markup on caskets, so this can be a great way to keep costs low.
What’s the Best Material for a Coffin or Casket?
The best material for a casket depends on your personal needs and preferences. Broadly speaking, there are two different circumstances:
- You want a casket that will stand the test of time and protect the body, or
- You want a casket that will decompose quickly and allow the body to become one with the ground.
If you want a casket that will last for many years, I recommend choosing a premium metal option (such as stainless steel) with a high-quality lockable sealing gasket. These can often last for decades underground.
If you want an eco-friendly option that will decompose fast, I recommend a biodegradable cloth, cardboard, or wicker coffin. A burial shroud is also a great option to consider.
Some caskets are suitable for specific religions and cultures, but not others.
For example, while a Ghanaian fantasy coffin might be appropriate in secular circles, it will not be a good fit for Muslims who must be buried in shrouds. Nor would it be suitable for Jewish people who must be buried in simple wooden coffins.
Christians usually have more flexibility. However, I suggest discussing your options with your pastor and/or funeral home before deciding. Depending on your denomination, there may be biblical points to consider.
What Casket Features Should I Be Looking For?
Half Couch vs Full Couch: If you are going to have an open casket funeral, you need to consider whether you want to see the deceased’s entire body or just the lower half. If the latter, a half-couch casket is the option for you where the legs are covered. Otherwise, a full-couch casket will allow you to see the whole body.
Casket Cushioning/Lining: Some cheaper caskets can look great from the outside but are let down by their interior. Most caskets have an interior cushioned lining that ensures the deceased looks comfortable during the funeral service or viewing. I do not recommend cheapening out on the interior.
Handles: Will you have a funeral procession? If so, you need to consider how many pallbearers will be carrying the casket and ensure it has enough handles to accommodate. Most caskets have 6 handles – but this doesn’t apply in every case. You should be able to find this information on the product page of any casket you are looking to buy.
Coffin Size and Weight Rating
It is rare for someone to end up with a casket that is too small for them, but it does happen.
So it is essential when viewing coffins and caskets online to enquire about their dimensions and weight ratings.
Most caskets will fit people weighing up to 300 pounds and less than 6 foot 8 inches in height.
Once you go larger than this, you will typically need to be looking for an oversized casket.
The final consideration to put some real thought into is how personal you want the casket to be.
Most of the time, people, especially loved ones, want something traditional. This can be comforting.
But at the same time, there are many unique options out there, and not every person wants their funeral to be the same as the last person that was buried.
Personally, I find wicker caskets to be a great middle ground. They are beautiful and not seen every day, but they are still clearly recognizable as caskets.
Where to Buy a Casket?
Once you have found the type of casket you want, you will need to consider where you can get it.
There are many casket providers online. Here are the ones we have had the best experience with.
Note: We always recommend doing casket research online before making a choice. Buying a casket from a funeral home will come at a significant markup. Most providers will ship a casket in 1 – 2 days, and you can save a good chunk of money.
Titan Casket sells caskets and other funeral-related products and services at reasonable prices. They offer free shipping and guarantee shipping times to ensure you receive what you purchase on time.
Trusted Caskets are our favourite casket retailer if you are based in California, where they guarantee two-day delivery. Trusted Caskets will also communicate directly with your funeral home to ensure the casket is accepted (as required by law) and there are no issues. Their caskets are high quality, and while pricier than Titan Casket in our experience, they are still a great option.
Matthew Aurora Caskets are a more premium option. Unlike Titan and Trusted caskets, you cannot purchase Matthew Aurora Caskets online. Instead, you will have to order one through your funeral director. While they are pricier, they are almost unmatched in quality. That said, they do not entirely reflect their value compared to more budget brands on this list.
Costco and Walmart are just two big box retailers that now have casket offerings.
If you want a traditional US-style casket and are on a budget, you can’t go wrong. Costco and Walmart manufacture and sell so many coffins that they’ve nailed down what is essential to people and what features are unnecessary. And, because you will have a Costco or Walmart in your local area, you don’t need to be concerned about shipping times.
Other places to buy caskets that we do not typically prefer due to service or value include:
The Bottom Line
There are many types of caskets to choose from.
If you’re still having a hard time choosing a type that’s right for you, I suggest discussing with your funeral director or even just leaving a comment below (I promise I’ll respond quickly!).
If you’re in a rush, there’s merit in considering what’s popular. It’s usually popular for a reason.
You can rarely go wrong with a mid-tier wood or traditional metal casket from one of the brands we’ve listed above.
If you have any further questions about types of caskets or anything else beyond life, please feel free to get in touch or leave a comment below.