A Guide to Buying a Casket
One important part of making funeral arrangements is the buying of a casket or coffin. It's usually also the biggest, largest buy linked to a funeral. Unfortunately, when they feel highly emotional, most people are motivated to make a decision about buying a casket, and this means that their purchasing decisions are not always the most rational. A casket that used to cost between $2,500-$ 3,000 to buy but today you can buy a regular metal casket for about $995.

We should also point out that there is no state law (in any jurisdiction) stipulating the use of a casket for a burial. State cremation law typically specifies that an “suitable, rigid, combustible” container has to be used for cremation.

What is the difference between a ‘casket’ and a ‘coffin’?
While the terms "casket" and "coffin" can be used interchangeably, the word "casket" is used more frequently in the U.S., while the word "coffin" is used more frequently outside the U.S. The term "coffin" originates from about the 16th century and is most widely associated with a six or eight-sided wooden box. The term casket came into use some time in the mid-19th century and refers to a rectangular four-sided box that typically has a split lid for viewing purposes.

Do I have to buy a casket from a funeral home?
In most states the simple answer is no. However, until a few years ago funeral caskets were only sold by Funeral Homes, the 'Funeral Rule' of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the advent of e-commerce changed that. Funeral homes used to mark a large number of caskets, often as high as 500%. Many new companies have started up in the last few years and are selling funeral caskets over the Internet and through showrooms in local areas. The' Funeral Law' of the FTC notes that funeral homes must use a funeral casket that you purchased from somewhere and that the funeral home is unable to charge you extra money for it.

What types of caskets are there?
The two main types of caskets sold for traditional funeral purposes are metal or wood. There are ‘green’ caskets or coffins made from a number of other natural products.

  • Metal Caskets
  • Wooden Caskets
  • Fiberglass caskets
  • Oversize caskets
  • Do-it-yourself (DIY) caskets or coffins

Understanding the ‘Funeral Rule’ & how this affects purchasing a casket
You should be aware of the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Funeral Law before making a trip to a funeral home or casket showroom. The General Price List (GPL) is fundamental to the Funeral Regulation. According to the Funeral Law funeral directors are obligated to send a copy of the GPL to anyone who makes a personal request for information about the establishment's goods and/or services. Such information is not simply presented to the customer in a bound folder in the funeral home office, but a copy of the GPL must be issued to the user to take home.
While the FTC Funeral Rule is federal law, there are a few states where the funeral directors' state licensing board has still managed to enforce state legislation dictating that third-party casket sellers can't operate unless they're a licensed house. In Louisiana, Oklahoma and Virginia, a casket can only be offered by a licensed funeral director.

A funeral home would not be refusing to use a casket that was bought elsewhere. You are not allowed to add a "handling fee" if you order yourself a casket. You have the right under Federal Law to buy your casket anywhere you want. Nonetheless, you may experience frustration at the funeral home, because they may lose a significant percentage of income on this transaction.

Wherever you decide to buy a funeral casket, try to think about what the funeral casket is about, it's about offering the deceased a dignified means to be carried before a funeral service, whether it's a burial or a funeral. It is also important to remember that the dead body can not be preserved forever by any funeral casket. The Federal Trade Commission's Funeral Law bans any arguments that special features can help preserve the body with terms such as "seals," "protective" and "gasketed" caskets, and they only appear to make the funeral casket cost more.
When members of the family shop for funeral caskets of a deceased person, this is definitely a time of great emotion. Someone precious and dear to them has just passed away and several preparations are to be made. They don't want to invest a lot of money because they want to bury their loved one in a funeral casket they know is fitting and deserving of.

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Interested in Pre-Planning Purchase of a Casket for Your Loved One?

Sacred Space Cremation and Burial Society has an amazing array of caskets for you to choose from, serving veterans, all service members and their families throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.  We maintain relationships with several churches and community centers that can be used for a traditional gathering, and our prices are reasonable, family-friendly and offer tremendous value.  Contact us today for more information on how we can provide an affordable casket for your loved ones. Call us anytime at (408) 863-2513.   

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