This guide will explain the kinds of coffin, and how much they tend to cost, as well as the differences between coffins and caskets. It will also discuss potential alternatives to coffins, such as shrouds.
Coffin vs Casket
Coffins and caskets are vessels you might use for the person who’s died
They make it easier to transport them to their final resting place. This means they are often present at end-of-life events, like funerals.
For some people, coffins and caskets also have ceremonial or faith-based meanings. They might incorporate designs related to their beliefs about the afterlife.
There are some differences between coffins and caskets
Coffins tend to have six sides, and look a bit like a stretched-out diamond. The funeral director will usually nail the lid into place, meaning it cannot be easily opened.
Caskets are typically rectangular, and often have a hinged lid - meaning you can open and close them with your loved one inside. This makes them a popular choice for more traditional wakes, where you can usually see the person who’s died.
Caskets tend to be more expensive than coffins
This is because caskets are usually more complicated to design. They also tend to have harder-wearing exteriors, like metal or solid wood, which can be more costly.
Types of coffin
Wood is a common material for more traditional coffins
A solid wood coffin has thick wooden ‘walls’, often oak or mahogany. This tends to be more expensive, costing anywhere from £500 to £10,000.
If you’re on a tighter budget, you could choose a veneered wood coffin. Veneered wood has a solid wooden exterior, but a cheaper and lighter fibreboard interior. These cost around £300-£900, depending on the style and type of wood.
For a less traditional style, you could opt for a hand-woven bamboo coffin. These are often more sustainable than other forms of wooden coffin, as bamboo is very fast-growing. These usually cost around £300-500.
Thinking outside the box
In Ghana, coffins are often elaborate, and custom-made “fantasy coffins” are growing in popularity. These are coffins that look like everyday objects, like cars or coffee beans, and tend to reflect the job or personality of the person who’s died.
Cardboard coffins are growing in popularity
Manufacturers make these out of a particularly hard-wearing type of reinforced cardboard. These can cost around £200-300, as cardboard is a more affordable material.
You can often print a design on cardboard - like a wood grain effect, or even a colourful floral print. This means cardboard coffins are typically more customisable than other types of coffin.
Cardboard coffins are a popular choice for natural funerals or woodland burials, as cardboard is a biodegradable material. But it’s important to make sure you’re using non-toxic inks, as some inks can damage the environment.
There are some alternative styles of coffin you could consider
Some coffin-makers can make coffins from plant fibres, like seagrass or banana leaf. These can be more sustainable than other coffin materials, provided the coffin-makers harvested the plants from sustainable sources.
Knitted coffins are usually made of natural felt, which can give your loved one’s coffin a unique texture. They tend to be biodegradable, and are appropriate for cremations and burials. Because of the amount of work involved, knitted coffins can cost around £800-1000.
Alternatives to coffins and caskets
You do not have to have a coffin or casket for the person who’s died
However, under UK law, the person who’s died must be placed in something to cover their body. For some people, finding a coffin or casket for their loved one is an important process. Other people will prefer that their loved one does not have a coffin or casket, or might want to consider alternatives.
A shroud is a large piece of material that you can wrap your loved one in
This can be a useful way of transporting them to their final resting place. It can also help prevent you seeing them after they’ve died, if this is something you’d prefer.
Shrouds usually contain only natural fibres, like cotton. This means they're common in eco-burials, which sometimes rule out more traditional types of coffin or casket.
There are no right or wrong answers for funeral vessels
Your funeral director should be able to talk through your options, and help you find the right vessel for your loved one.
Arrange a direct cremation
If you’d prefer to arrange a direct cremation, you can have a memorial at any time, anywhere you wish, perhaps at home or your loved one’s favourite pub.