Everything You Need to Know About Shipping a Coffin

You can get a new/empty coffin shipped to any public or private address within the United States.

Coffins containing human remains can also be shipped throughout the United States, as long as you follow the state and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations.


Where New/Empty Coffins Ship

You can get a new/empty coffin shipped to any location within the United States. However, the coffin company you use may have restrictions on where they are able to ship coffins. Therefore, it’s important to pick a coffin company that ships to your location.

The location and timeframe of shipments depend on the coffin company. When selecting a coffin company, make sure you take into account where you are shipping the coffin and how quickly you need it to arrive.

Most coffin companies ship to the following types of locations:

  • A funeral home, cemetery, or church
  • An airport, where the coffin will be stored until you pick it up
  • A personal residence

Most coffin companies also guarantee 2-3 day deliveries within the 48 continental United States and 5-7 day deliveries to Hawaii and Alaska. However, some of the smaller coffin companies may not ship to all 50 states, or may take up to 3-5 days within the continental United States and 7-10 days to Hawaii and Alaska.


Where Coffins with Human Remains Ship

To ship a coffin containing human remains, you must first obtain a burial transit permit. The burial transit permit is a record of the deceased’s personal information and cause of death, as well as your contact information and the release documentation needed to transport the remains.

The laws for shipping a coffin with human remains varies from state to state, so it is important that you understand the laws in states you will be shipping through when you prepare to ship a coffin.

For example, embalming is required any time a body crosses state lines in Alabama or Alaska. Contrarily, a body only needs to be embalmed when leaving California, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, and New Jersey via train or airplane. 

If you are shipping a coffin with human remains across state lines, it is typically best to contact a funeral home to assist you. When you contact the funeral home, you will need to provide them with the following information:

  • Your name, address, and relationship to the deceased
  • Name, address, and social security number of the deceased
  • Date and time of death
  • Current location of the deceased
  • Attending physician’s name and phone number
  • Final shipping destination for the coffin and deceased

Once you have provided the funeral home with this information, they can help you understand your shipping options and set up the shipment.


Cost to Ship a New Coffin

The cost to ship a new coffin within the United States is typically $0-$500, depending on the shipping company. The cost to ship the coffin is also higher if you require expedited shipping, are shipping an extra-large coffin, or  the coffin is going to a location outside of the coffin company’s normal transportation routes.


Cost to Ship a Coffin with Human Remains

The cost to ship a coffin containing human remains is more expensive than the cost to ship a new or empty coffin because it requires more preparation, packaging, and paperwork.

Within the United States, the cost to ship a coffin with human remains is typically around $5,000. If you are shipping the coffin internationally, it typically costs at least $10,000.

In addition to the transportation fees, most funeral homes also charge fees to assist with shipping or receiving a coffin with human remains. The fee for overseeing the shipment of coffins with human remains is usually $1,000-$3,000, while the fee for receiving a shipped coffin with human remains tends to be $800-$2,500.

If you are shipping a coffin with human remains, you will likely have to pay both of these fees, along with any transportation fees.


Shipping a Coffin via Air

If you are shipping a coffin a far distance, it is typically quickest to ship the coffin via air. The three main airlines in the United States that specialize in funeral shipments include American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and Southwest Airlines

If you are shipping a coffin with human remains, the exact cost of the shipment will depend on the distance and weight of the coffin.

In addition to the cost of transportation, you will need to pay for the use of an air-tray. An air-tray is a special container required for flying coffins with human remains.

The air-tray is designed to be air-tight and robust so that it can both protect the deceased during freight, and protect the health and safety of the airline and TSA staff.

If you are shipping a coffin with human remains, you cannot arrange the air transportation yourself. The air transportation will need to be arranged by a funeral director or specialized transport company that is a “known shipper” approved by TSA.

This means that you will likely be dealing with two funeral homes if you decide to ship human remains: one to be the “known shipper” at the start of the transportation and one to organize the funeral on the destination side.


Shipping a Coffin via Rail

Shipping a coffin by train is typically more cost-effective than air, but it can take longer if you are shipping over a long distance. In the United States, most coffins are sent via Amtrak.

Amtrak requires a funeral director to be present on either end of the journey to oversee the coffin. In some of the smaller train stations, the funeral director is also responsible for bringing workers to load or unload the coffin from the train. 


Tips for Shipping a Coffin via Road

There are no state or federal regulations for transporting a new or empty coffin via car.

Shipping a coffin with human remains via car tends to be the most cost-effective option. If you need to move a coffin with human remains a short distance, most funeral homes will transport the coffin on a per-mile basis of $1.00-$4.00 per loaded mile.

Some states have regulations concerning transporting a coffin with human remains over state lines. Therefore, if you are planning to drive across state lines, make sure you check the state laws before you go.  


How a Coffin and Body Are Prepared for Shipment

When a new coffin is shipped, it is typically wrapped in bubble wrap and protective plastic. Thick Styrofoam padding is then placed on the corners of the coffin, and it is placed snuggly in a crate for transport.

When a coffin with human remains is transported, the deceased is typically embalmed, and then the coffin is shipped on dry ice to keep the body cold. The body is shipped inside the coffin for protection.

Once the body and dry ice are placed in the coffin, the coffin is typically sealed shut, and either placed in a crate or shipped as it is, depending on the transportation method.


How the Funeral Rule Influences Coffin Shipments

The Funeral Rule was enacted by the Federal Trade Commission in April 1984 and amended in 1994. It was designed to protect consumers during their interactions with funeral providers.

The Funeral Law stipulates that when planning a funeral through a funeral home, you have the right to buy a separate coffin from a different location. It also states that if you purchase a coffin from a third party vendor, you do not have to be present when the coffin is delivered to the funeral home.

For more information on purchasing coffins in the United States, see The Location of Coffin Manufacturing in the United States (link to other article once it is online).


Writer: Taylor Steed

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