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The main difference between a casket and a coffin is that caskets have four sides and coffins have six. Though the terms “coffin” and “casket” are often used interchangeably, coffins are, for the most part, rare in the U.S., and most funeral homes only offer caskets.
Here’s what to know about caskets and coffins, and how to choose one if you’re planning a funeral for yourself or for a loved one.
Costs of caskets versus coffins
Caskets tend to be larger and more expensive than coffins, though coffins are often harder to find.
As low as $1,000 online, though you may be responsible for shipping costs.
$2,000 on average when purchased through a funeral home.
As high as $5,000 to $10,000, depending on the material. Mahogany, copper and bronze are the most expensive casket materials.
Around $1,000 to $2,000, typically from alternative funeral homes or as a build-your-own kit.
» Learn more: How much a funeral costs and how to pay for one
Key differences between caskets and coffins
Caskets are four-sided and can be wooden or metal. They have a hinged lid and rails on the side for transportation.
Coffins are six-sided, usually wooden and have a removable lid.
Caskets are used in most funerals in the United States and often used for both cremation and burial. Because they hinge open, they can also be used for viewings.
Coffins haven’t been popular in the U.S. since the 1800s. Because of this, they’re often considered antique and historic, and modern funeral homes rarely sell them. They’re more often associated with historical and fictional settings such as the “Old West,” vampires and Halloween.
» MORE: How to plan a funeral in 6 steps
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How to choose a casket or coffin
Determine your budget. A casket or coffin will likely be the biggest expense when planning a funeral, so factor in total costs when choosing one. Personalization, gaskets (rubber sealants) and more premium materials will raise the price.
Decide what type of casket you want. Caskets can be made of wood or metal, and they are often tailored for either cremation or burial. Cremation caskets are usually much simpler and less expensive than caskets used for display. Caskets can be simple or very ornate, and they can reflect the personality of the deceased. Six-sided coffins, sometimes called “hexagonal coffins” or “toe pinchers” due to their tapered shape, are generally harder to find because they aren’t available in most funeral homes.
Compare options. Visiting multiple funeral homes and comparing models can give you a better sense of the potential range before choosing the right casket or coffin. Funeral homes may not have all of the options on display, so communicate your preferences and ask to see additional models if you don’t see what you’re looking for. If you're researching coffins online, specify “burial” to get better results; most coffins for sale online are Halloween decorations.
Factor in extras. Add-ons to a casket or coffin may include floral arrangements, fabric linings and vaults to house the casket or coffin underground. Talk to your funeral home to make sure that you’re aware of any extra costs.