Coffins and caskets are both used for burials in Australia. The main difference between the two is the shape, and the opening mechanism. When you think about burial you typically picture a coffin - which is a six-sided container that is wider up the top around someone’s shoulders and tapers in at the bottom. Coffins have a hinge along the side which allows you to flip open the whole lid, and it has handles on either side to carry it.
A casket on the other hand, is typically a rectangular shape with no variation in width. They usually have a lid that is split down the centre, so the lid can be opened to expose the top half of the body during open-casket viewings. Since they tend to be on display during funeral services caskets are usually constructed with extra features like cushions and interior linings which can make them more expensive than traditional coffins.
PICTURED: a casket is typically rectangular shaped, whereas a coffin is wider at the shoulders and tapers in towards the bottom.
There is no universal price for a coffin in Australia. How much you pay will depend entirely on the type of coffin you purchase. Prices range from around $300 for a simple cremation capsule up to $10,000 for high end caskets. The price you pay will also vary according to where you make your purchase. The more money you spend the more elaborate customisations you can have.
Caskets tend to be slightly more expensive than coffins because of their style and construction. The hexagonal shape of a coffin means less material is needed to construct them, which impacts the overall price. Caskets also tend to have a higher profile as they are often built with raised lids, which can make them more expensive for manufacturers to make.
Since caskets are often put on display during funeral services they are typically manufactured to a higher quality. They are usually made out of better quality wood and have more detailed exteriors including polished metal handles. Caskets alos contain extra internal features like cushions and interior trims which coffins don’t have. All of this adds up. So, while a coffin can range from $300 - $10,000 in Australia, the typical price range for a casket is from $1,500 to $15,000.
Coffins come in all different shapes and sizes. When choosing what type of coffin you would like you’ll need to consider a number of different factors. The most important consideration will be whether or not the coffin will be used for a cremation or whether it will be buried or placed in an above-ground burial or crypt. If you have opted for a cremation then there is probably no point spending $10,000 to have the coffin go up in flames. Likewise, if you are opting for an above-ground burial there are certain rules So when you start looking at coffin choices you should ask yourself the following questions:
Is the coffin for a cremation or burial?
Are there any requirements to suit the burial type?
What environmental impact do you want to have?
How much money do you want to spend?
The answer to these questions will help you decide what type of coffin suits your needs.
Cardboard coffins/ Cremation Capsules
Price: $300 - $700
Cremation capsules or cardboard coffins are the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly option for burial services. Cremation capsules come as a flat-pack made out of cardboard or fibreboard with cotton rope handles. They are primarily used in direct cremations as they are not on display to the public so they don’t need all the bells and whistles some caskets come with. They also have the fastest-burning time of any coffin or casket, and consequently release around 90% less emissions than MDF coffins or timber coffins and caskets.
Cardboard coffins are also an environmentally friendly option for traditional burials, as they are often 100% biodegradable, meaning they break down in the earth much quicker than other coffin types. While they are the most budget-friendly option, these coffins don’t have to be boring. These types of coffins can be customisable as they can be decorated with pens, crayons, markers or dried flowers.
Pictured: a basic cardboard coffin sold by Daisybox which can be decorated by hand
Price: $800 - $1,200
More traditional coffins are constructed out of a plywood or medium density fibreboard (MDF). They are typically constructed in a similar flat-pack style to cremation capsules or cardboard coffins with plastic handles. MDF coffins were introduced as a cost-effective alternative to hardwood coffins. The benefit of using MDF coffins is that they can be used for cremation or traditional burial. However these coffins are constructed using a binding agent which contains formaldehyde - a toxic substance which contaminates the soil upon being buried or the atmosphere when burned.
Price: $1,000- $1,500
Wicker coffins are another environmentally friendly alternative to traditional coffins. They are made using natural fibres and constructed using an ancient weaving technique used to manufacture outdoor furniture. Wicker coffins can be constructed out of willow, rattan, rush, reed or bamboo and don’t use adhesives, glues or varnishes as a binding agent. They also offer a carbon neutral option for cremation.
Price: $2,000 - $4,000
Mid-range coffins are usually constructed out of MDF and occasionally out of steel. Compared to cheaper coffins they have extra embellishments like metal handles, tiered lids and varnished finishes.
Price: $6,000 - $10,000
Luxury coffins are often hand-constructed out of solid wood or solid copper or bronze. Popular choices are mahogany, walnut, cherry, maple or oak. They have tiered lids and bronze, copper or other metal-plated handles. They tend to be lined with finer materials like velvet or silk with lace linings.
Caskets tend to follow the same style guide as coffins - with their materials and construction reflective in the price. Unlike coffins however, mid-range caskets are more likely to be made from steel or metals than wood.
Cardboard Cremation Caskets - $800 - $3,000
Wicker caskets - $1,000- $1,500
Steel caskets - $2,000
Wood veneer caskets - $3,000
Hardwood Caskets - $4,000 - $10,000
Bronze and copper caskets - $3,000 - $10,000