The chassis of funeral hearses (aka funeral coaches) in America are mostly made by Cadillac, Buick, and Lincoln, although no company has a dedicated hearse division. Since the 1990’s most hearses are modified Cadillac sedans. Notice that I only said, chassis. This is because other companies are involved in completing the process.
The word “hearse” comes from the Middle English “herse,” which referred to a type of candelabra commonly placed on the top of coffins. Sometime in the 1600s, it became common to refer to horse-drawn carriages that carried these caskets as hearses. These horse-drawn carriage hearses stayed common until the early 1900s when motorized hearses began to take over. It was fairly common for these early motorized hearses to serve as both a funeral coach and an ambulance. It wasn’t until the 1970s that government regulations became stricter and the ambulance we all know today became the norm.
Anyways, most hearses are completed by vehicle conversion companies such as Southwest Professional Vehicles. In 2017, Southwest Professional Vehicles purchased Accubuilt, Inc. which was one of the world’s largest builders of hearses. For much of its 20th-century history, Cadillac was the dominant manufacturer of the chassis used by Accubuilt. chassis used by what has become Accubuilt. Accubuilt had such a strong reputation that GM took on the warranty for many of their hearses as if GM built the entire car itself. Other hearse makers include Eagle Coach Company and Binz. Binz hearses are built using a Mercedes-Benz chassis.
These conversion companies convert the chassis to a hearse by first removing fluid lines, electrical systems, etc. The chassis is then sawed into two pieces and then fitted together on a longer chassis. A fiberglass mold is also added that connects the front and back halves back together again. After this, the fluid lines and electrical systems are re-attached. Next, a platform is placed in the rear of the hearse to hold the casket with rollers added so the casket can easily be rolled in and out.
Since most hearses are driven short distances with very little stopping and starting, the lifespan of the car is pretty long. Many hearses older than 30 years are still being used to this day.
You might be wondering if it’s possible to purchase a hearse and what the price would be. The good news (or bad) is you can buy a hearse. A brand new one will cost you between $50,000 and $70,000, while a used one can be purchased for as little as a few thousand dollars.
- Neil Young‘s first car was a hearse, which he used to carry around his band’s musical equipment.
- There is a horse-drawn hearse outside of the Disney haunted house attraction.
- Motorcycle hearses are popular are often used for motorcycle enthusiasts who have passed away.
- Some funeral homes don’t own hearses, they rent them.
- Some hearses in Japan are modified to resemble a small Buddhist temple.