Certainly wood is one of the most common materials used to make caskets. However, there are other options that might be considered, depending on what you really want. You'll want to consider environmental aspects, as well as the versatility and customization options for any type of casket.
Disadvantages and Cautions
The biggest disadvantage to a wood casket is that it deteriorates quickly. If you've anticipated this, you may be thinking of looking into a sealer or burial vault. These are generally not recommended, and have had no proven effect on the deterioration of remains. Similarly, wood caskets placed in a mausoleum will never be waterproof, sealer or no sealer, so you don't need to bother with one.
Darryl Roberts, a whistle blower from the funeral industry, made this argument in testimony to a Senate subcommittee: "What the industry does not tell the consumer is that wood caskets will deteriorate very quickly in the ground. If they do tell the consumer, they will then attempt to sell a better sealer vault to protect the casket and remains from deterioration. Sealer vault or not, wood will rot quickly once in the ground and will crack apart when put in a mausoleum."
Advantages to purchasing a wood casket are that they are pre-made and look nice. Even Roberts admits that wood caskets are "the most beautiful of all offered by the industry."
Wood Casket Pricing
Industry insiders claim that caskets carry 'extortionate pricing'. The prices of wood caskets can come with a heavy markup. For example, a Houston TV station found that some funeral homes were calling their caskets 'lowest priced', while still charging six times the wholesale price.
The Interfaith Funeral Information Committee and Arizona Consumers Council's website, Funerals and Rip-offs calls protective seal caskets (a kind of wood casket) "the funeral industry's most frequent, most lucrative, most cruelly deceptive tactic."
Purchasing a Wood Casket
The good news is that there are some vendors out there who do sell reasonably priced caskets. You should know that most caskets really cost no more than $300 to make. Although it's unlikely that you'll find a funeral home willing to pass on the entire profit available to them from marking up caskets, you really don't have to spend thousands of dollars to get a suitable casket.
Check the construction of the casket and determine whether you think it's going to last through the funeral service. That is how long most caskets are needed, and is really the only reason they have any value. Of course, we want to show respect for our loved ones who have passed on, but any casket is going to decay sooner than you might wish.
The best way to ensure that you're getting the casket you want is to plan your funeral in advance. If you're prepared, you have the option to build your own casket. Despite some negatives, a wood casket is a traditional and elegant way to bury a loved one.