Grave Matters: Why Are Caskets So Expensive?

In the United States, the cost of a traditional funeral is between $8,000 and $10,000 on average, and that doesn’t include the cost of the burial plot and other cemetery fees. A casket alone runs an average of $2,500, making it the biggest single expense of saying goodbye to a loved one. The price of caskets has skyrocketed over the past 30 years — a 250% increase — outpacing the inflation rate for other consumer products by more than double. So why exactly do caskets cost so much? Is it simply the cost of the materials, or are funeral homes taking advantage of grieving customers who aren't in the mood to shop around? When it comes to the price of a casket, there are a lot of variables. Caskets normally run as low as $900 for a no-frills casket to $6,000 for a high-end one. There are two types: metal and wood. A wood casket of mahogany, hickory or walnut is going to cost far more than pine or oak. For metal caskets, the less expensive models are made of 20-gauge steel, while the priciest are constructed from semiprecious metals like copper or bronze. Then there are other considerations like the material inside of the casket. A crepe interior is going to be less expensive than velvet. The real problem is this: In the United States there are two large casket manufacturers — Batesville and Matthews — and they control 90% of the distribution, selling exclusively to funeral homes. Because of that structure, they mark up their caskets 300% to 400%. What many people don't know is that they don't have to buy a casket from their local funeral home. In fact, it's a federal law that funeral homes must accept all outside caskets, including ones that are bought online or from Costco. Companies like Titan Casket think that if consumers knew how easy it is to buy a casket online, more people would buy them outside of the funeral home. Titan, for example, provides free shipping for all of its caskets and can reach any destination within 1-3 days. Overnight Caskets guarantees free overnight shipping to all 50 states. Both Titan and Overnight sell their products through Costco.