Why Are Coffins So Expensive? Where To Buy Cheap Coffins

Most modern caskets and coffins are ridiculously expensive. On average, a box for disposing of a deceased human will cost between $2000 and $5000, with some exceeding $15,000. Why are coffins and caskets so expensive and where can you buy a cheap coffin?

The reason coffins are so expensive is capitalism. To maximize profits, manufacturers and funeral homes artificially inflate prices. There’s very little competition in the casket and coffin industry to make things worse. Cheap caskets and coffins are available if you can find them.

This article will explain why caskets and coffins are so expensive and where to buy a less expensive box for disposing of a deceased loved one. But first, I’ll explain the difference between a casket and a coffin.

Why Are Caskets and Coffins So Expensive?

Caskets and coffins are so expensive because of corporate consolidation and arbitrary markups. The American casket industry is dominated by a small number of corporations that are allowed to charge whatever they want. 

Also, funeral homes typically charge massive markups in excess of 200% to maximize their own profits.

Corporate Consolidation

Every year in America, the largest and most profitable corporations find ways to grow larger and dominate even more of their industry. 

Disney now owns a plurality of the entertainment industry. Delta is one of the largest airlines despite being objectively mediocre at best. Amazon has its fingers in a shocking number of industries. 

This trend is called “corporate consolidation.” Here’s a YouTube video to know more about this trend:

The point of this article isn’t to argue the merits of corporate consolidation because it’s plain to see that it’s objectively bad for everyone but the super-rich. But corporate consolidation is one of the primary reasons caskets and coffins are so expensive.

As of 2019, 88% of the American casket industry was represented by two corporations:

  • Batesville Casket Company, which is a subsidiary of Hillenbrand Inc.
  • Matthews International Corporation

Batesville’s annual revenue is an estimated $2.1 billion, while Matthews International commands $1.5 billion. None of the eight manufacturers beneath it even reach the $150 million mark.

Batesville Casket Company of Batesville, IN, is by far the industry leader in the American casket industry, with revenue above $2.1 billion before the Trump pandemic. Its parent company, Hillenbrand Inc., owns large portions of the composites, injection molding, and materials handling industries.

Matthews International Corp. of Aurora, IN, is in a distant second place in the casket and funeral services industries, with sales above $1.5 billion. Along with funeral services, they have diversified into industrial automation and “brand visibility solutions.”

Both conglomerates have faced allegations of price-fixing and strong-arming funeral homes to buy their caskets.

It’s a basic tenant of capitalist economic theory that competition within an industry improves quality and drives down prices, but there’s very little competition in the casket industry. Both industry leaders sell directly to funeral homes, and from what we can tell, their prices are almost the same.

Very Little Competition

There’s even less competition in the casket industry than you might expect in an industry controlled by two massive conglomerates. Hillenbrand Inc. and Matthews International Corp. are both publicly traded corporations, and the same financial institutions own them. 

According to CNN Business, about 25% of Hillenbrand Inc. and Matthews International Corp. are owned by BlackRock Fund Advisors (14.21% and 14.95% respectively) and the Vanguard Group (11.01 % and 10.71%, respectively). 

Other than BlackRock and Vanguard, both casket industry leaders have Geode Capital Management LLC. and Dimension Fund Advisors LP. in their top 10 shareholders.

BlackRock is the world’s largest financial asset manager and is most famous for establishing massive rental home slums in the USA and lobbying failed Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton to privatize social security

The Vanguard Group mostly deals in mutual funds. Their only real controversies are the typical complaints lodged against a massive multinational corporation. 

It’s difficult for those who don’t work in the financial industry to gauge how much control shareholders have over multinational conglomerates. But having a plurality of the shares of the two industry leaders of the casket industry can’t be good for consumers. 

At least they don’t share any board members.

Funeral Home Markups

It’s an open secret in the funeral home industry that the main way funeral homes make money is through the sale or rental of caskets, flowers, and other goods and services used during a funeral. 

And to make their money, they arbitrarily inflate the price of everything they sell. But in the case of caskets and coffins, they take this too far.

Funeral homes will openly admit inflating caskets’ costs by between 200% and 500%, meaning they charge between two and five times what each casket costs them. So a casket that cost under $500 to produce, and was sold to a funeral home for around $1,000, will be sold to a grieving customer for between $2,000 and $5,000. 

And with the pandemic giving every for-profit business an excuse to price gouge, it’ll only worsen.

There’s a brutal and parasitic brilliance to funeral homes inflating prices. If anyone doesn’t want to take time to haggle or shop around for a better deal, it’s a grieving spouse, adult child, or parent. 

They want to get the disposal of the body done as quickly as possible and to hand over as many parts of the process as possible. However, a viable alternative is a cremation, which costs about as much as the cheapest coffin for the entire process.

It’s an open secret in the funeral home industry that their business model relies on taking advantage of people on one of the worst days of their lives. Casket price gouging is only part of it. 

From embalming to package deals, most of the services they offer are completely unnecessary. The dead don’t care.

For the record, funeral home trade groups argue that their business model is fully legal and ethical and that price gouging and fixing allegations are unfounded. They’re only doing what they have to do to remain economically viable.

Where Can You Buy Cheap Caskets and Coffins?

You can buy cheap caskets and coffins online and from “brick and mortar” retailers. It’s also legal and relatively easy to build your own. Under US federal law, funeral homes have to let you use your own casket. Check out our casket buying guide to learn where to buy affordable caskets.

The Funeral Rule

Given the US Congress’s failure to pass the Build Back Better Act or preserve basic voting rights for minorities, it’s difficult to imagine the federal government acting to protect the people from corporate exploitation. 

But there’s a regulation on the books protecting the families of the deceased from exploitation by funeral homes.

On April 30, 1984, the Federal Trade Commission instituted “The Funeral Rule.” 

The Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to allow customers to supply their casket and is supposed to prevent price gouging and manipulative business practices. It also criminalizes the misrepresentation of regulations on the disposal of the dead.

If you or someone you know has recently lost a loved one, it’s important to make informed decisions, be knowledgeable on funeral costs and pricing and general funeral rules. Knowing your rights is the best weapon against exploitation by the death-industrial complex.

Variuos caskets displayed in a casket store.

Cheap Caskets

Unless you’re willing to use a cardboard casket or build your own, a casket will cost at least $500 plus shipping, with brand name Batesville caskets available for between $1000 and $1,500. That isn’t exactly cheap, but it does represent massive savings. And they can be at your funeral home overnight.

Several smaller manufacturers specialize in producing quality caskets at discount prices. 

Titan Caskets offers caskets that, at least over the internet, are very similar to those produced by the industry leaders based in Indiana. And Titan’s funerary boxes start at $1,099 for a standard-sized casket.

Batesville and Matthews mostly sell directly to funeral homes, but Titan caskets are offered through Costco, Walmart, and Amazon. And these retailers offer inexpensive or free overnight shipping!

But what if you want an authentic Batesville casket? 

At least one online retailer offers Batesville caskets at reasonable prices. DiscountCaskets.com offers Batesville caskets beginning at $1,560. They also offer Batesville’s most expensive casket, the “Batesville Promethean Bronze,” for just $59,500.

You can even find traditional wooden caskets for much less than a funeral home will charge with a little more looking. One such producer is The Old Pine Box. Their caskets and coffins start at $1,249.

But what are the absolute cheapest commercially available caskets? Cardboard caskets. 

Cardboard caskets are made for cremation and eco-friendly burials. There are some genuine local laws against using them in built-up areas with high water tables. Pricing isn’t readily available for the suppliers we found, but sources say they cost around $150 for a pack of three.

One of the cheapest options for acquiring a casket or coffin is to build your own. Funeral homes are required by the Funeral Rule to let you supply your coffin. You can make your own from scratch or buy a casket kit for less than $1000.

How Much Do Caskets and Coffins Cost?

The average price of a casket or coffin is between $2,000 and $5,000. Some may be as cheap as $600 or as expensive as $15,000. The most expensive casket currently on the market costs $217,000 and is entirely made of 14 Karat gold.

Whether you choose a traditional-like coffin or a more modern casket, you’ll most likely spend between $2,000 and $5,000. Those made of sheet metal, steel, or aluminum are typically less expensive than wood. Sheet metal can be worked with hydraulic presses and tack welded together. 

Still, wooden funerary boxes must be built by trained craftsmen. 

The most expensive casket on the market is a solid 14-Karat gold casket produced by a Malaysian company. The most expensive ever built was the $825,000 casket built for Michael Jackson.

More information on how much caskets cost can be found here on my website.

The Difference Between a Casket and a Coffin

Both caskets and coffins are boxes used for disposing of a deceased human, usually through burial. 

The difference between them is their shape and cost. Caskets are more rectangular, whereas coffins are typically elongated hexagonal boxes. Coffins require less material, so they’re generally cheaper than caskets.

Caskets and coffins are both forms of funerary boxes, or containers, made to store and dispose of human remains. There are other types of funerary boxes, which include:

  • Urns, which are used for holding cremated remains. 
  • Ossuaries, which are used for holding skeletal remains.
  • Sarcophagi, which are used for holding the remains of absurdly rich people.

Caskets are geometrically simpler, being rectangular prisms and larger than coffins. The standard size of a casket is 84” (213.36 cm) long, 28” (71.12 cm) wide, and 23” (58.42 cm) tall. A standard-sized casket can fit a person up to 6’ (1.83 m) 10” (25.4 cm) and a maximum weight of 350 lbs (158.76 kg). 

Caskets for larger or multiple people are available but usually have to be custom-made.

Coffins are designed to be more “form-fitting” than caskets, with no standard size. The widest point on a coffin will sit at the shoulders of the deceased, with the head end being next widest and the foot end being the narrowest. 

The word “casket” originally referred to any box with a hinged lid. 

The term was usually applied to jewelry boxes or chests. Manufacturers and other businesses involved in the funeral industry started using the word “casket” to describe funerary boxes in the Victorian era. 

Colloquially, the word “coffin” is most often used to describe any box used to bury a person, especially in the United States. Ironically, most people who choose to be buried are buried in caskets.

Village carpenters or undertakers traditionally made coffins. The simpler geometric form of caskets makes them easier to mass-produce, causing them to become the dominant form of a funerary box gradually.

Caskets typically use more material than coffins and therefore are typically more expensive.


Caskets and coffins are expensive because they can be. The manufacturers and funeral homes can charge whatever they want, and most consumers will pay for it. However, if you decide to go with cremation, you can avoid this expense.


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Alex Noel

Hi there! I'm Alex Noel and live in Indianapolis, Indiana. I started this website to share my experience. My goal is to provide Americans a more fulfilling goodbye.

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