Your Guide to Funeral Planning | 12.04.2022

What is a Hearse: Coffin Transportation Vehicle?

What is a Hearse: Coffin Transportation Vehicle?

Reviewed By: Scott Ginsberg

Cross Checked By: Joshua Siegel

3 min read

If you are organizing a funeral for a loved one, you are likely to come across the word ‘hearse’ as something that has to be included in the planning. A hearse is a vehicle that is used for coffin transportation at a burial or cremation.

What is a Hearse?

A hearse, also known as a hearse van, is a vehicle that is used to carry a deceased person’s body to the burial or cremation site. The usage of the word ‘hearse’ in this sense began around the year 1650. While in earlier times a horse-drawn carriage was used for the task, a hearse can now refer to a car or other motor vehicle too.

The hearse is specifically designed to be longer in the back than the average passenger vehicle to accommodate a body, somewhat similar to the shape of a limousine. Transporting the coffin in hearse to the cremation or burial site has been a long-standing tradition, not just in the United States but in many countries around the world. Most hearses in the United States have curtains in the windows, but in other countries there are no windows.

History of the Hearse

The funeral hearse was originally a specific construction - a wooden or metal frame that would stand over the coffin and also hold the casket cloth known as a pall. Eventually the term ‘hearse’ came to represent the entire receptacle or vehicle which is carrying the coffin. While the very first hearses were hand-drawn, with time they evolved into horse-drawn carriages, and eventually motor vehicles. 

Motorized hearses came into the picture in the early 20th century, with petrol-run hearses becoming prevalent around 1920. Today, in North America, a hearse is usually a luxury automobile, most commonly Cadillacs or Lincolns. Although there are certain types of vehicles which are used as a hearse more commonly, pretty much any vehicle carrying a coffin can be referred to as a hearse.

The Making of a Hearse

A hearse is not made by the company that makes the base car for the hearse. So even though many Cadillacs and Lincolns are used to make hearses, the extension and customization of the car that is necessary to turn it into a hearse is actually carried out by separate entities which are the hearse manufacturers. Some well known hearse manufacturers in the US are Eagle Coach Company, Federal Coach Company, and Platinum Funeral Coach Company.

How to Buy a Hearse

If you only need a hearse for a funeral, you do not need to buy it. You can avail a lease option either directly from your funeral home, or lease a hearse through a hearse dealer. Many hearse dealers also list all their products online including make, color, and price making  it a smooth process to get a hearse for coffin transportation on lease. Opt for a high-volume hearse dealer to ensure you get a good price and timely service.

On the other hand, if you are specifically looking to buy or invest in a hearse van, either for your own funeral home or for other functionality, you can get one from a hearse manufacturer. While Cadillacs and Lincolns are the most common, there are other companies such as Rolls Royce that also manufacture base models for a hearse van. Lastly, most hearse dealers also offer various financing options to help ease the financial burden of organizing a funeral.