The funeral hearse is one of the most visible symbols of a funeral home and, at the same time, one of the main costs of the funeral business. For this reason, it is unavoidable that, at the time of purchase, a great number of doubts arise. We will help you to resolve them by giving you some tips that will surely make your purchase process easier.
The symbol of every funeral home: its funeral hearse
The funeral hearse is one of the most visible signs of the excellence and quality of funeral homes. It also symbolises respect and recognition for the deceased, who makes his last journey in a luxury vehicle. The curious thing is that historically this has always been the case. Traditional horse-drawn hearses were decorated with ostrich feathers if the deceased was from the bourgeoisie or aristocracy. The more feathers on the carriage, the richer the family.
Over time, the horses were replaced by engines, but this has not changed the concept of the funeral hearse as a luxury vehicle. That is why today most funeral hearses are made by Mercedes, Jaguar, Cadillac, Lincoln, Volvo, Dodge or Chrysler. None of these companies sell funeral hearses directly for marketing reasons, so the models have to be adapted by specialised workshops.
The funeral hearses require a large investment, but they are also symbols that distinguish the funeral homes. The characteristic sought is sobriety dressed in restrained elegance, which is why most of the vehicles sold are still black. But some brands are already opting for corporate colours such as grey, metallic or even white. One of the companies that has best implemented this strategy is White Lady Funeral, part of the Australian group InvoCare, operated solely by women and totally recognisable by its fleet of white vehicles.
Tips for buying a funeral hearse
Funeral hearses are vehicles with a particularly long chassis with the right measurements to transport the coffin and wreaths. It is important to stress this point because if you insist on converting a Panda, a Corsa or a Mini into a funeral hearse, the bodywork will probably be more expensive than the car itself. Most of the funeral hearses used in Spain are Mercedes Benz E-Class, and this is not only due to the prestige or technical characteristics of the vehicle, its enormous length also has something to do with it.
How much does a funeral hearse cost? The Mercedes Benz E-Class costs approximately 70,000 euros, to which the bodywork must be added, which can be between 25,000 and 60,000 euros more. Therefore, a funeral hearse can cost almost twice as much as a conventional car.
3. Urn-holder and fastening system
It is very important to have a good system for securing the coffin to the car to avoid possible accidents. The most advisable thing to look for is an integrated urn-holder in the platform that is adaptable to any type of coffin. In the same way, a sliding fastening system will help you to avoid overexertion because it makes it easier to insert and remove the coffin from the cabin.
4. Wreath bars
Some funeral homes choose to provide a second vehicle to transport the floral ornaments. This is not the most economical option, nor is it preferred by most customers, who prefer their loved one’s last journey to be surrounded by flowers. For this reason, it is important that your funeral hearse has wreath-holder bars with external anchorage points distributed on the sides.
Funeral hearses are usually equipped with petrol or diesel engines with a power of between 260 hp and 612 hp in petrol models and between 160 hp and 330 hp in diesel models. Plug-in hybrid models with 320 hp are also available, although if you are considering this option, you should consider what type of funeral home services you usually offer. When it comes to intra-city transfers, plug-in hybrids are economical, environmentally friendly and quiet – perfect for driving around a cemetery. In fact, the Ford Mondeo Hybrid is one of the most popular models among funeral homes. If you’re a long-distance commuter, it may not be the best choice (at least for now) given its range and fuel consumption on long journeys.
Other options: rented or used funeral hearses
Economic uncertainty and the constant changes in environmental legislation, especially with regard to traffic restrictions within cities, mean that many companies are considering alternative formulas to the purchase of their fleet of funeral hearses.
Renting, or long-term hire of the funeral hearse, is an interesting option for those who do not want to make a large initial investment and, in exchange for a fixed fee, forget about the costs of maintenance and servicing of the vehicle, which are borne by the lessor. In the case of leasing, funeral homes pay to rent the funeral hearse with the option to purchase it, usually within two years. In this case, the funeral homes pay the maintenance costs of the vehicle and can decide whether they wish to return it and exchange it for a new vehicle or purchase it for a residual price of the initial cost. Companies such as Funespaña have opted for leasing as an option for acquiring their fleet of funeral hearses.
If you opt for a second-hand funeral hearse, remember that these vehicles usually have a useful life of 10 years due to the high mileage they support.
The purchase continues to be the favourite option for most funeral homes due to the attractive offers and payment facilities offered by the concessionaires and also due to the state aid and subsidies for the renewal of the vehicle fleet offered by some countries.
The usual option is for funeral homes to purchase brand new vehicles, but there is also a second-hand market. If you are going to resort to this type of purchase, remember that a funeral hearse has a high mileage because it is constantly on the move to provide services that include long-distance transfers and, therefore, it usually has a useful life of approximately 10 years.