Caskets vs Coffins – What’s the Difference?

Over the years, both coffins and caskets have been used in burials. In the past, coffins were more prevalent, but caskets are generally easier to find today. Though the words coffin and casket are typically used interchangeably, they are very different. Those looking into the options will want to understand the differences before making any decision.

The Shape

The biggest difference between a casket and a coffin is the shape. Coffins were traditionally made with six or eight sides to be shaped like the human body. They’re wider at the top and narrower at the bottom, which does help save on materials. Caskets, on the other hand, are rectangular, so they have a more simple design. They do use more materials due to the way they’re constructed.

The Materials

Coffins are traditionally made from wood and lined with fabric to make a softer area inside where the deceased will be placed. Caskets can be made from wood or metal and are also lined with fabric. The type of wood used can vary, from inexpensive to more ornate, depending on personal preferences. The type of fabric can also differ based on the preferences of those who are planning the funeral.

Rails Versus Handles

It is important to have a secure way to move the coffin or casket to carry it from the funeral to the cemetery. Coffins have handles on the sides for the pallbearers to use when carrying it to where the body will be laid to rest. Caskets, on the other hand, generally have rails instead of handles. The rails are on all four sides for ease of carrying and allow more people to carry the casket at once.

The Way the Lid Attaches

Another difference to be aware of is how the lid is attached. For a coffin, the lid is simply laid on top. It is flat and not attached to the main body of the coffin. A casket, on the other hand, has a hinged lid to allow it to be easily opened. In general, the lid on the casket is domed. Some caskets will have a split lid to allow for the deceased to be viewed during an open casket funeral without the whole casket being opened.


The pricing can vary between coffins and caskets. Due to using less materials and generally being less ornate, coffins tend to be less expensive. Average costs for coffins range up to $3,000. Caskets, due to the material used and their shape, are more expensive. These start at around $2,000 and can cost as much as $5,000 depending on what materials are used and the overall design.

Though coffins were the exclusive choice for many years, today those who are planning a funeral have the choice of coffins or caskets. There is no right choice for what to purchase, so funeral planners can opt for either one. When making a decision, consider the various factors such as the materials used to help pick out which one is the better option and to stick with a budget.