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From a casket retailer’s point of view

We’re featuring a guest blog post from a relatively new entrant into the field of direct-to-consumer casket sales, often known as a “casket retailer”. Caskets have been one of the most expensive components of many funerals, and discount retailers have stepped in. Consumers have the right to buy a casket from a retailer instead of the funeral home under the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule.

It’s important to compare funeral home prices on services, too. Buying a discount casket, itself, won’t necessarily realize you a great savings unless you also choose a funeral home that has reasonable service prices too.


Choosing the right casket at the best price

The story of our journey into casket manufacturing, and how to pick the right casket for you

By Elizabeth Siegel, Founder of Titan Casket

A FAMILIAR STORY OF THE OVERPRICED FUNERAL

Like many American families, we knew little about the funeral industry until we started planning farewells for families and friends. Starting in 2016, we unfortunately found ourselves in the position of both planning funerals directly and supporting others as they went through the planning process. Like many American families, we found the process overwhelming, frustrating, and exceedingly expensive (!). We knew there had to be a better way.

FINDING A BETTER WAY TO BUY A CASKET

Later that year, we had a long dinner with an old friend, who happened to be in the casket business. During appetizers, we started asking him about how we could help make the farewell process easier for families like us. He told us about the FTC’s Funeral Rule, that mandates per federal law that consumers can choose to supply their own casket, without being charged any additional fees by the funeral home. He also told us how very few customers take advantage of the rule, as the large casket manufacturers such as Batesville and Aurora will never sell directly to the consumers. During dinner, we started drawing parallels to other industries where new direct-to-consumer brands such as Warby Parker (glasses) and Casper (mattresses) had disrupted industries for the benefit of consumers. By the time dessert had arrived, we had started planning a new business to supply caskets direct to consumers – Titan Casket.

We are certainly not alone. We quickly found several reputable online sources of caskets such as Amazon, Costco, and Walmart. We found our niche among them by building in the US (versus overseas), and we were off and running. From day one, we realized that the cost savings of buying can be significant, as funeral homes were regularly charging several times more than online retailers, for the same (and sometimes worse) quality. They also often would badger our clients about buying online, and we grew strong backbones in fighting back on behalf of our clients, directly with the funeral homes and via filing complaints with state funeral boards. For us, our mission is helping families get the funeral they envision, whether they transact with us or not.

COMPARING PRICES BETWEEN BUYING A CASKET FROM THE FUNERAL HOME VERSUS BUYING A CASKET ONLINE

Our passion is sharing what we found, and driving awareness of the significant price savings customers can take advantage of by buying online, direct from a manufacturer. Pricing varies widely between funeral homes, but the following are examples of the price differences you might expect to see for five major casket categories:  

  • Budget Wooden Caskets: A high quality unfinished pine box is an ideal choice for Jewish or eco-friendly burials, as they are built with wood screws and contain no metal. While simple in design, pine boxes still require great skill and care to be built correctly. A well-made pine box can be purchased from an online retailer for as little as $799. The same casket would retail at a funeral home for $1099-$1499.  
  • Non-Gasketed Steel Caskets: Steel caskets come in a wide range of styles and colors. An entry level steel casket, which is sturdy and beautiful but with simple details and finishes, can be found online for $849-949, and in a funeral home for $1099-$1399. While many funeral homes pressure consumers to buy a gasketed casket, their functionality is limited and we generally do not recommend them. The gasket is there to protect the casket, not the body.
  • Gasketed Caskets: That being said, the most popular casket on the market today is the standard steel gasketed casket, which can be found in any combination of colors, hardware, and finishing details.  Starting around $999 online, a standard steel casket retails starting around $1499-$1999 at a funeral home. If you choose a gasket, you should not pay an upgrade charge of more than $100.
  • Oversize Caskets: Standard-sized caskets have an interior of about 24 inches. Often, your funeral director will determine that an oversize casket is required. Oversize caskets start at 28 inches and can go up to 44 inches and beyond. A 28” casket can be purchased online for as little as $1,399, with the same style available at funeral homes for $2,899 – $3,199.
  • Speciality Caskets: Higher end and specialized caskets are also available from many retailers. The options are endless, and caskets honoring a special element of a loved one’s life can also be found.  For example, a high end military casket can be found online for $1,699, or from a funeral home for $3,099 -$3,599.

We hear from clients that they are relieved to have discovered the Funeral Rule and to know that they are free to shop around for a casket. As part of a product network of independent casket manufacturers, we feel that we can provide consumers with the best of all worlds: the specialized knowledge and experience they would get from funeral homes, and the pricing advantages typically associated with larger retailers.

CONCLUSION

Funeral planners deserve to feel confident in their decisions as they go down the list of funeral expenses. Caskets are often at the top of that list: they are one of most expensive funeral items to purchase, and make the biggest impression. While families wish to honor their loved one with a casket that suits both style and budget, they too often believe that they have no choice but to buy their casket at an extreme markup directly from the funeral home. By shopping around and making an educated decision, families can feel confident in their purchase and better able to focus on celebrating their loved one.