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(4-Minute Read)

Whenever consumers engage in funeral planning, they are typically assisted by cemetery or funeral home professionals who walk them through what can be a frustratingly opaque experience. Death care is riddled with nuances, vernaculars, and shortcut terms that confuse inexperienced consumers. For example, consider the term disposition. Cemetery professionals use that as a euphemism for burial. It’s a sophisticated way to remove the cold-sounding bluntness of “burial” but an utterly confusing characterization. And there’s more.

While cremation has gained broader acceptance in the American death care culture, traditional burial, while declining, is still the choice of over 40% of American funerals. During the planning experience for those funerals, consumers select a casket and an outer burial container.

On its surface, it’s a straight-up purchasing decision: you’re simply selecting a product. However, not all outer burial containers are created equally. A grave “vault” is manufactured to provide maximum casket protection, while a grave “liner” provides more limited protection. Since protecting the casket is a profoundly emotional consumer consideration, making a choice can inevitably trigger uncertainty. So, understanding the differences between various outer burial containers before spending hard-earned money is a critical decision point during the planning process. The following information in this blog is intended to eliminate confusion, help you understand specific nuances, and choose the best option for you or your loved one.

A grave liner is the simplest of outer burial containers. As a lightly reinforced concrete box placed inside the grave, it produces only limited ground support and stabilization and minimally protects the casket. Contrast that to a grave vault (also called a burial vault). This more heavily reinforced concrete structure provides extensive casket protection while preventing the settling of the final resting place of your loved one. An honest and simplistic appraisal is that grave vaults are more robust and offer significantly more protection than liners.

Since grave liners provide sub-optimal protection, they are prohibited at Arlington. However, some cemeteries may permit them because they are less expensive than grave vaults. But it’s essential to understand the reasons for those cost differences. Grave vaults are more costly due to features not found in grave liners that affect manufacturing processes and costs. Some of those features include: (1) The use of higher quality materials (reinforced concrete, polymer blends); (2) Higher tensile strength to withstand the pressure of burial; (3) Complex engineering to produce improved sealing against moisture and environmental elements; (4) Labor costs due to more specialized labor expertise; (5) Quality Control standards requiring more rigorous testing processes; and, (6) Warranties to ensure longevity. While these are not all-inclusive cost factors, they help explain why grave vaults are more expensive than grave liners and why a consumer might want to select a grave vault over a grave liner even when a cemetery permits grave liners.

Determining the value of a grave vault rather than a grave liner is strictly an individual choice. Yet there are compelling reasons to make that choice. For instance, some consumers may value the added casket protection and long-term preservation that a grave vault provides. That protection provides the peace of mind that their loved one’s remains are safe and secure. From a different perspective, burial vaults can also offer customization options that allow surviving family and friends to honor the deceased with decorative features and other personalized methods that deepen the memorialization process. Finally, cultural, religious, or family traditions may shape the decision to opt for a grave vault.

Without question, there are differences between grave vaults and grave liners. A consumer would be well advised to deeply consider those beliefs and traditions they value most before purchasing one or the other. Ultimately, the decision to purchase a grave vault or a grave liner depends on the individual preferences, values, and budget of the family involved.