Coffins and caskets are both used for burials in Australia. They both go into a burial plot in chosen funeral homes, and both can play a meaningful role in your farewell. The main difference between the two is the shape, price and the opening mechanism of the flat lid.
Deciding between the two depends on a range of factors. This could include selected funeral services, today's prices and personal preferences- as well how these interact with your funeral budget, what type of funeral service you'd like and any existing prepaid funeral plans.
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. Whilst coffin designs vary, they often 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 coffin price in Australia. Regular price will depend entirely on the coffin designs and size. Today's 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, and generally, 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. On the other hand, 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, or come in various colours. Caskets also contain extra internal features like cushions and interior trims which coffins don't have. All of this adds up. So, while the regular price of a coffin can range from $300 - $10,000 in Australia, you'd expect to pay more for a casket- in the region of $1,500 to $15,000.
Coffin designs 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, depending on what type of funeral plans you have in place.
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 it's likely you'll want to avoid 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 and regulations on the materials or funeral plans you can put in place with this .
To help align coffin choices with any prepaid funeral plan, the deceased's wishes, family preferences or budget- 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?
What is your funeral costs budget?
These answers will help guide your coffin and funeral arrangements. As well as keep your casket/ coffin choice proportional to the rest of your funeral costs.
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 therefore a good alternative for more of a sustainable funeral, 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, this doesn't have to make them boring or impersonal.
You and your family have the option to make personal, customisable decorations to these coffins. And, if your trying to spread the payout of funeral insurance or a funeral bond to cover the cost of your funeral- the need to pay less for a coffin can save money for more meaningful funeral services.
Pictured: a basic cardboard coffin sold by Daisybox which can be decorated by hand
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. This makes a budget coffin less environmentally friendly, and could conflict with the deceased's wishes or values to minimise this impact.
Wicker coffins are another good alternative if you and your family want to pay less, and also have less of a harmful impact on the environment. 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.
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.
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. Whilst representing a more expensive option, a prepaid funeral plan enables higher costs like this to be broken into smaller payments over time. If a nicer coffin is a priority for you, planning ahead in this way can safeguard this end of life wish, without placing financial burden on your family.
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 Casket- $800 - $3,000
Wicker casket - $1,000- $1,500
Steel caskets - $2,000
Wood veneer casket - $3,000
Hardwood Casket - $4,000 - $10,000
Bronze and copper casket - $3,000 - $10,000
Funeral costs and details depend on a range of personal and financial factors. One way to save your family this stress and overwhelm of mounting payments, if is making use of a prepaid funeral plan provider. This allows you to safeguard your preference on a coffin vs casket, as well as select design or material options based on environmental values.
Whether you choose a pre paid funeral, funeral insurance, a funeral bond or nothing at all- it's important to have funeral discussions in advance with your loved ones. Prepaid funeral plans can be a useful way to make these difficult decisions ahead of time, and minimise funeral costs by budgeting and paying in advance. Or, if you're planning a cremation and funeral now, there are providers to help.
Safewill Cremations offers support on the organisation of all end of life planning for your loved ones. Our team of compassionate experts will support you each step of the way- providing guidance on coffin vs cremation choices, as well as urn options.
We're available on 1300 730 639, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to discuss your options at your time of need. Reach out now to enquire how we can help you today, or in the future tomorrow.