When it comes to choosing a coffin, it can be difficult to know where to start. We’ve put together this guide to help you understand your options, from material to cost.
Different types of coffins explained
For centuries, coffins were traditionally made from wood. But more recently, coffins made from a range of alternative materials have become available, including metal, cardboard, wicker and even bamboo.
When you’re choosing the material, think about the kind of funeral you’re planning. For example, a solid wooden coffin is usually appropriate for a traditional church service, while a bio-degradable wicker coffin is a popular choice for natural burials.
Solid wood coffin
Solid wood coffins are usually made from oak – although redwood or other FSC-certified timber options are available. This type of coffin has metal handles and carved decorations. You can also add engravings, decals and even choose painted wooden coffins to make them more personal.
Chipboard and veneer coffin
Chipboard and veneer coffins are a low-cost alternative to a solid wood coffin, although they can look very similar. They usually feature metal or replica metal handles and are a lighter option compared with the traditional version.
Made with stainless steel, steel bronze or copper, a metal coffin is more durable than a solid wood coffin. However, they can also be more expensive because of the cost of the metal.
Also known as wicker coffins or basket coffins, these are often hand-woven by artisan craftsmen. Other biodegradable materials include banana leaf, seagrass, rattan, wool and bamboo. Wicker coffins are usually around the same price as veneer and chipboard coffins, and less expensive than solid wood. They’re also a good choice if you want to have an environmentally friendly ceremony.
Cardboard coffins are also biodegradable, as well as lightweight and reasonably low cost. They give you the opportunity to add personalised designs – either from an existing selection or by creating your own.
How much does a coffin cost?
In the UK, a coffin costs anything from around £280 for a cardboard coffin, up to several thousand pounds* for a personalised solid oak or metal coffin.
The material you choose can make a big difference to coffin costs. So if you’re looking for a lower-cost option, you could choose wicker, chipboard and veneer, or cardboard. You could also choose not to have a coffin and to use a shroud instead.
It’s a good idea to decide on your budget and always keep it in sight. Remember that it’s more important to reflect the person whose funeral it is than to feel pressured to purchase the most expensive option. In fact, choosing a lower priced coffin is the most common way for people to save money on funeral costs (SunLife 2023).
Ordering a coffin direct
If your funeral director can’t offer you the type of coffin you’d like, you can order it yourself and have it delivered to the funeral home. However, it’s important to make sure you choose the right size and that the material is suitable for either the burial or cremation you’ve chosen.
Choosing the right coffin size
To make sure you order the right size coffin, you’ll need to know the approximate weight and height of the person who has died. In some cases, a custom coffin might be what you need.
Choosing to have no coffin
In the UK, there’s no legal requirement to use a coffin at a funeral. However, the law does require that the body is covered when it’s in a public area and most crematoriums will expect you to use a coffin or a shroud. Choosing a shroud means simply laying piece of fabric over the body, and this can be decorated with flowers and other mementoes.
Get help with choosing a coffin
If you need help with how to choose a coffin, your funeral director will be able to talk you through the options. You can find a funeral director near you with our online search tool.