Buying a Casket or Urn

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Buying a casket when a friend or relative dies

Most mortuaries and funeral homes offer caskets to contain bodies and urns or other containers for cremated remains, also known as cremains. However, a growing number of people choose to make or supply their own as a fitting tribute to the deceased person.

Information the funeral home must provide. As part of a crackdown on price gouging and other practices that preyed upon vulnerable consumers, the Federal Trade Commission passed a comprehensive Funeral Rule in 1984. The law requires funeral directors to present complete, itemized price lists for everything from preparing a body to caskets and other containers. It also prohibits some practices that used to be common, including:

  • Telling consumers they must purchase a casket or other container when the body will be directly cremated.
  • Requiring that certain goods or services be purchased as a condition for other goods and services.
  • Charging an additional fee or surcharge to consumers who purchase a casket or urn elsewhere.

Purchasing a casket. Caskets or coffins that contain a body for burial have been the subject of great consumer controversy, because they traditionally carry the biggest markup in cost of all funeral goods and services.

Those purchasing a casket for a deceased friend or relative know the complicated feelings it can evoke: a mix of pride and guilt tempered by the reality of affordability. Some salespeople, well aware of the guilt potential, will do their best to steer shoppers toward the most expensive models -- hiding the lower-priced ones or displaying them unattractively.

Most funeral establishments also carry caskets that may be rented and lined with inexpensive liners during viewing of the body instead of being purchased. These are often relegated to a far corner in the display room. Or a funeral director may fail to mention the rental option to grieving survivors.

Cost. Even with legal controls regulating the most predatory practices, caskets range widely in price, from $500 or less for simple wooden ones to $40,000 or more for elaborate carved or gold-leafed models. Most cost several thousand dollars.

Most state laws require that caskets displayed in a showroom be tagged with prices, a description of their composition, and identifying model numbers. Catalog entries must also contain this information.

  • Caution: Shoppers should be skeptical of sales representatives who insist that the law requires any special device on a casket, such as a sealer or liner. Ask for the citation of the law, and check it yourself.

There are also independent casket makers and artisans who specialize in making low-cost or unique caskets. Locate them online by searching for casket and purchase or go through a local branch of the Funeral Consumers Alliance.

Buying an urn for the cremated remains of a friend or relative

There's no legal or other technical requirement that cremains must be stored or transported in an urn. Crematories can ship them to survivors in simple cardboard boxes. However, if cremains are to be interred in a mausoleum, the establishment might specify allowed sizes and materials of urns there.

Many people choose to supply or buy an urn to contain cremains and then display them:

  • Inside their home, on a mantel or bookshelf or as an architectural detail.
  • As pendants or keepsakes that contain only a small portion of the cremains.
  • Outside, as a garden ornament or sculpture.

Cost. Commercially manufactured urns -- typically made of wood, glass, ceramic, stone, marble, or metal -- can vary in price from several dollars to many thousands of dollars, but most range from $250 to $1,000.

You can purchase an urn at the funeral home or crematorium, or you can buy one locally or use any container that seems appropriate, but you can also browse online galleries to get an idea of price ranges and styles and kinds of cremation urns available. To find examples, do an online search for cremation and urn.

Barbara Kate Repa

Barbara Kate Repa, a lawyer and journalist, has devoted her career to editing and writing about legal issues for consumers. See full bio

almost 2 years, said...

We've been planning for my fathers arrangements for 2 years now. We called Costco and Walmart to buy our caskets, but were not happy with the quality we were going to receive.... After calling several casket online retailers that sell caskets only made overseas, we found a company that sold the same US caskets as our funeral home. The only difference seemed that the price for one of the models we liked was $2600 less expensive. After calling 2 or 3 times to we decided to try out ordering an Aurora casket for our father. Everything turned out as reviewed when placing the order. We first received a casket order confirmation followed by a casket order receipt email. We were relieved that everything worked out as promised and do not have any complaints regarding our casket purchase. Thanks, John Scath

almost 2 years, said...

My father is preplanning his funeral and is trying to decide one a casket. Thanks for the advice that a casket is labeled in a showroom with their price. Hopefully, we can get a nice casket that isn't too much.

about 5 years, said...

hi, havea couple questions. Do you accept time payments for 12 months or so? Also what size is needed for a person 55 ft 2in @230 pounds. I am trying to take care of my own funeral expenses and I prefer to buy on line. Limited income stops me from paying full amount up front. Thanks for your time. Ear

over 5 years, said...

There are so many options for purchasing caskets now that funeral homes do have to be competitive. But we still want to pay the lowest price for the casket of our choice. The internet is a great resource for finding the lowest price. If you add "discount" or "clearance" to your online search for a casket, you will find sites like that are trusted businesses on the web. You will find all price ranges of funeral caskets from these sites, and they will work directly with your funeral parlor.

over 5 years, said...

Often the biggest percentage of profit a funeral home can make is from the sale of a casket. The FTC funeral rule was brought in to try and protect consumers when funeral homes were marking caskets up by as much as 500%. But times are changing - funeral homes are now being hit so much harder by the fact that the general public is now more aware of this rule, and the online casket market has impacted on their sales. But the funeral industry as a whole is hurting as customers demand lower prices, and turn to cremation. Every customer who chooses cremation means a further loss in profit. The funeral homes are now starting to price-match casket retailers because they can't afford not to. Obviously if you opt for cremation you do not need a casket, and even for the purposes of a service can rent a casket at a much reduced cost. We have a detailed consumer guide to buying a casket at US FUNERALS ONLINE. If you have decided upon cremation, you can expect to pay anything between $495 and $1395, depending upon where you live. Unfortunately funeral homes in rural areas can still get away with charging more. Most cremation companies include the basic alternative container in their package, but if not this fee is usually around $50. If you want a low cost, no-fuss cremation visit DFS Memorials, which is a network of family-owned funeral businesses that guarantee to offer you an affordable cremation or burial package.

over 5 years, said...

I live in another state and pan to be creamated in the state i live in. I am going to be buried in Chiago with my parents. How do i find a funeral home where i live that will creamated me and except my homestead insurance for the expenses

over 6 years, said...

If you are planning cremation, you don't have to go through a funeral home in many areas. Some places are a "direct crematorium" where there is no viewing unless you choose to have it at a separate location. The cost for my mother this summer was $1500 for the cremation and the certified death certificates we needed (no mark up...they charged what the state charges). We had a family gathering at the grave site which had been purchased by her father-in-law for the family back in 1940. The opening and closing were the only other costs.

over 6 years, said...

It reinforced the decision I made with my husband's cremains. They were returned to me in a simple plastic box. Since I had chosen to inter the majority of his ashes, I used that box rather than buying something that won't be seen again. The same decision was made 5 months later when my mother died. We kept it simple.

over 6 years, said...

What a good article! I am glad to see that word it getting out. When my Husband passed away, one piece of advice that I remember from Penn and Teller's Bullsh*t programs from about 10 years ago was that when you needed to go to a funeral home or elsewhere to make arrangements for a loved one's death, make ABSOLUTELY sure that you take along a non-family member (a person without emotional attachment to the deceased) who will help you keep focused on common sense and stay on-budget. I was very impressed with the Neptune Society, although my husband and I were aware of our wishes in regards to cremation/burial, I was unaware of all the different decisions that needed to be made. My friend expecting to help me keep focused, but I was quite focused already. My husband's ashes are just inside my front door on an antique washstand. Some of his favorite gadgets are with him.

over 6 years, said...

After my father's ashes came to me in a box ~ I chose to build a stained glass container to house the box. The lid was tacked on in four places, to gain easy access to the original said box. The glass was personalized with a tropical scene that would later, flicker with candle light in his best friend's study. My father's ashes were sent out on waves from the beach not far from his Hawaii home. Friends in canoes trailed, with leis strewn with his ashes. What a send off ! ! This to say, class can come in glass. easily put together by a loved one.

over 6 years, said...

Hello nuggetann, Thank you for your comment! Here is an Ask & Answer page that you my find helpful in answering your question: ( ). I hope that helps! Take care -- Emily | Community Manager

over 6 years, said...

I recently went through a very trying time with a big Funeral Chapel in Lubbock, Tx. When I requested a complete itemized list of the total bill he immediately got huffy. Needless to say I expected this after reading the on-line information. IHe asked what I wanted and I told him the price was much to high.He asked what I thought it was worth to bury my daughter and I replied your price is at least $3,000.00 to high.He was quite agravated but I did not agree with his price. Especially since he had sent 3 statemnts and each one had a different cost. I will pay him but not what his 3 rd statemnt was for . He did give me an adjusted price. I'm still not happy with the cost but it would cost to much to hire a Lawyer and there's no guarantee he would be of any help. So I will pay him. But, I'm going to check funeral cost at several different places, because I won't live much longer and I owe it to my family to leave them with this information. Beware beware beware people. I

over 6 years, said...

This was very helpful to me. I have read alot about what goes on in various papers but was surprised that you were very up front on everything. My granddaughter knows about you being she lives in Galax and said you were all so nice. The only thing that was not mentioned was the cost of cremation. This is what I need right now, is the cost. Thank you again.

about 7 years, said...

Our firm, the Natural Burial Company, offers kits, biodegradable coffins and urns, and other natural funeral supplies. Funeral directors have access to a number of natural options these days. Federal law requires any funeral home to accept a casket purchased or made somewhere else without charging the family for accepting it. A list of funeral directors offering natural services can be found at