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How to shop for a casket or urn

By Erica Lamberg
Shopping for caskets and urns is emotional - even when doing so in advance. Mayron Oliveira / Unsplash

Shopping for and purchasing a casket or urn is emotional even when done in advance; it's all the harder when you have to plan an immediate funeral. If your loved one left detailed wishes, let them guide you – but if they didn't, here are points to consider. 

Step 1: Know your rights

Federal Trade Commission rules say you can provide the funeral home with a casket or urn you purchased elsewhere. The funeral provider cannot refuse to handle a casket or urn you bought online, at another casket store or retailer, or somewhere else — nor can they charge you a fee for doing so. Furthermore, you do not have to be present when a casket or urn is delivered to the funeral home.

Step: 2 It’s not wrong to be cost-conscious

The casket or urn is just one expense – often a big one – in the entire cost of a burial. Overspending on the casket can lead to debt for a funeral. Adhere to your loved one’s wishes, but also be prudent planning; a family discussion about cost is perfectly normal. 

According to the Funerals Consumer Alliance, funeral homes may try to wrap the cost of the funeral service into the sale price of caskets — with a mark-up up to 700% percent or more. Your selected funeral provider may suggest the convenience factor, but according to the Consumer Alliance, caskets are often still substantially marked up. If your goal is to save money on a funeral, it’s not enough to just find a cheaper casket. The Consumer Alliance does note that some funeral homes have lowered their casket prices to compete with other casket retailers, but may raise fees for other services to compensate for the lost casket revenue. It may be worth your time to consider alternatives.

Step 3: Consider independent or online casket or urn retailers

Don’t be embarrassed to tell the funeral home you will be providing your own casket or urn. According to AARP, the average cost of a casket from funeral homes is $2,400. Amazon will deliver a no-frills $740 casket with free shipping for Prime members. You can do a quick Internet search to find retailers who may have a brick and mortar showroom or retailers that have an online gallery for shopping for both urns and caskets. Most retailers will deliver directly to your funeral provider.

Step 4: Understand what determines the price

According to the Funeral Supply Association of America, several factors that affect the cost of caskets include the construction material – wood, metal, cloth-covered or fiber board; design (square corner, round corner); interior materials and paint finish.  

With regard to urns, the shape, size, finish and materials will impact the price. Price is also dependent on any decorative designs.

Step 5: Consider input from your loved one’s circle of family and friends

Share the research you’ve done about purchasing the casket or urn with those close to the person you’ve lost. You may find comfort is having other points of view in this difficult decision. The funeral director you’re working with should be a helpful resource.

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