One of the most common pieces of advice on how to save money on a funeral is to buy a casket online. Funeral homes mark up items like caskets, urns, and other burial effects by hundreds or even thousands of dollars—an amount of money that can seem insurmountable when you’re already facing such a devastating loss. Because the FTC’s Funeral Rule requires that funeral homes accept these items from a third-party vendor, you can shop around for caskets online.
However, buying anything online comes with a risk. Because you’re talking about an item that comes with a hefty price tag (and requires immediate shipping), it’s important to get things right. If you’re hesitant to buy a casket online because of the dangers of internet shopping, here are a few tips to ensure a safe transaction.
- Pick a Name You Trust: A specialty item like a casket isn’t going to be sold everywhere, but there are a few big names that provide options: Walmart and Costco are among the bigger ones. Because these companies pride themselves on their reputations and have a streamlined buying/shipping platform, you usually get great service and a better buying experience.
- Look for Company Information: You don’t have to shop at the big stores to get the best deal. Smaller online casket retailers can be just as good, and with lower prices and better service. However, before you buy anything online, research the company. Is their location and contact information easy to find on their website? Do they encourage you to contact them with customer service questions? A company that’s hesitant to let you find them is one that you should avoid.
- Check with the BBB: One way to quickly vet an online company is to check their standing at www.bbb.org. The Better Business Bureau should have records if a company has been the recipient of complaints. Because there are ways to game the system, however, you should also check other online sources. Yelp or a quick Google search of the company’s name should provide some insight into its reliability.
- Ask about Shipping Guarantees: A casket that arrives a day after the funeral is no good to anyone. Because casket purchases require immediate delivery and coordination with the funeral home, always double check their shipping and return policies. (Check the rates for these things too. A cheap casket with a hefty shipping fee won’t save you any money in the long run.)
- Check the Company’s SSL: For most online purchases, a company’s SSL (or Secure Sockets Layer) is what keeps your billing information safe. You can check for this by using a computer you have security features installed on, or by looking to see if the ‘s’ appears on the end of the http when you visit the site. Vendors that allow you to pay via PayPal can also be used, as the third-party payment processing adds a layer of protection.
- Use a Credit Card with Fraud Features: Most credit card companies offer cards you can use for online shopping, as they come with an extra layer of fraud protection. Any big-ticket item you buy online should be purchased with one of these.
Another great piece of advice is to talk with the funeral home you’ll be working with. While most don’t love the idea of you purchasing your casket online, they do understand that money is tight and that it’s in their best interest to give you a positive burial experience. Because they’ll have worked with retailers in the past, they can tell you who is reputable and who they prefer working with.