A hearse is a vehicle that takes people on their final ride.
Everyone has questions about the death industry. It’s natural to wonder about macabre curiosities (and sometimes practical necessities) such as hearses.
How many people can ride in a hearse? Do you have to “pay” for the use of a hearse? Do you have a special driver’s license to drive a hearse?
Continue reading and you will find the answers to these question and more.
What Is a Hearse?
A hearse is a vehicle used to carry the body of a deceased person in a casket at a funeral, wake, or memorial service. The hearse also takes the casket out to the cemetery or mausoleum.
How to pronounce hearse
Hearse is pronounced like “her” with a soft “c” sound at the end:
hurce / hərs / herce
When was the first hearse invented?
The first hearse was built in 1909.
Why is it called a hearse?
The word “hearse” comes from the French word herce, used to depict the framework that supports candles over a bier or altar.
Who rides in the hearse?
Typically, it’s the driver and the funeral director in the hearse – along with the casket.
Why do hearses have curtains?
For the sake of privacy, a hearse has curtains.
What are the things on the side of a hearse?
The decorative S-shaped metallic bar is called a landau bar. The landau bar depicts the folding roof structure on a Landau carriage. Since the mid-1940s, landau bars have been used on hearses in the US.
Do you have to rent a hearse for a funeral?
You don’t “have to” rent a hearse. If you or someone you know has a vehicle that can safely transport the casket, you can use that instead of the hearse.
A pick-up truck with a long enough bed works well. But, be mindful if you want to transport the body to the cemetery yourself, you’ll need to know your state’s laws on body transport. You will also need to secure the necessary documentation and permits that you will need.
Bear in mind that a transporter’s license is necessary to transfer a body in a few states. This means that only a licensed funeral home or crematory will be able to complete the transport.
Can you use your own car as a hearse?
If you wanted to take your loved one’s casket to the cemetery yourself, it is allowed. Of course, your vehicle has to be big enough to hold the casket safely and securely.
How much does a hearse cost for a funeral?
The average cost of the hearse is $175 to $400. Each of the funeral homes that I have worked for charged $350.
Can you rent a hearse for other events? Like a Halloween party?
You probably cannot rent a hearse from any reputable funeral home for a party. There are rental companies that have hearses for rent for parties and other fun activities. Just do an online search for your area; availability will vary.
How fast can a hearse go?
The fastest recorded speed for a hearse was 115.6 miles per hour. But… don’t try that at home!
A hearse drives as fast as a “normal” car.
Do hearses smell?
Hearses do not smell “like death” or have any bad odor in them at all.
What does a white hearse mean?
A white hearse is more modern than the traditional black hearse. The funeral home that uses a white hearse stands out. White also signifies a new life for the deceased.
What do you call a hearse driver?
A hearse driver is called a chauffeur or (wait for it)… a hearse driver.
What should you do when you see a hearse?
Always be considerate when you see a hearse. Here are the essentials to know:
- Be respectful.
- Yield the right of way.
- Never cut into a procession.
- Pull over and allow the procession to go by.
- Watch for the last driver in the procession.
Whether watching or participating, learn more about funeral procession etiquette here.
Can you get a horse-drawn hearse?
Yes, but they are not as common as they used to be, and they will be much more expensive than a contemporary vehicle hearse. Do a quick web search for “horse-drawn hearses near me.”
Surprising Facts About Hearses
1. There are many hearse superstitions that people still believe.
Perhaps understandably, people can be very superstitious about death, funerals, and even hearses. You’ll still hear these things said:
- If you see a hearse, it means impending death for you or a loved one.
- Did you see your reflection in a hearse’s paint? Then you will die soon.
- Some people believe that seeing a hearse being pulled by two white horses means that someone in the neighborhood will die shortly.
2. Hearses are cleaned thoroughly between each use.
You are likely to never see a “dirty” hearse. Funeral homes are meticulous with all of their cleaning. If you smell anything in a hearse, it is likely to be the pleasant smell of a cleanser or air freshener.
3. Hearses only carry one body at a time.
Because of the length and width of a casket, only one casket can fit in a hearse at a time.
4. The first hearse was made in Cincinnati.
The first company to manufacture hearses was the Crane and Breed Company. They were based in Cincinnati, Ohio.
5. No major American automobile manufacturer builds hearses at their factory.
Car manufacturers do not have a “hearse” division. Hearses are handwrought by companies that use the bodies of existing cars and customize them into the hearses you see today.
The largest manufacturer of hearses in the United States is Accubuilt, Inc., of Lima, Ohio. Accubuilt constructs 60 percent of the hearses in the USA, often under the S&S Superior Coach Company label.
6. There is a specific way the casket goes into a hearse.
A casket always goes in “feet” first, so the body will have its feet pointed towards the front of the car.
7. You don’t need a special license to drive a hearse.
Hearses do not require special licenses, only a standard state-issued driver’s license. Most funeral homes will require a high school diploma or GED, but these requirements may vary by state.
8. How much does a new hearse cost?
The typical price tag on a hearse can run you around $30,000, though some high-end models can run over $60,000 while others can be in the low $20,000 range.
9. A hearse has 4 doors… but only sits 2 people. Well, 3 people.
The funeral coach will sit 2 people, the driver, and a passenger. Due to the arrangement of the back section and how the hearses are altered post-production, the hearse has 4 doors, but only 2 seats.
Plus space for a casket.
10. Is there more than one name for a hearse?
Yes, a hearse is also known as a funeral coach or simply a coach.
A Practical Guide to Using a Hearse for the Funeral
Hearses are an integral part of planning a traditional funeral. Most people choose a hearse to lead the funeral procession – also known as a cortege – on the day of the funeral. A hearse commands respect. People will stop and take notice of a hearse.
Any vehicle that is large enough can be used to transport a casket. But a hearse is specifically built for that purpose. It’s the perfect size, the perfect height, and the easiest to use for casket transportation.
Not only that, but hearses are easily identified and are treated seriously. They convey a sense of somber dignity. Even if you are having a cremation burial, you can rent a hearse to transport the cremated remains.
The hearse is equipped to transfer the casket from the funeral home to the funeral service, then from the funeral service to the cemetery or mausoleum.
This is all included in the price of the rental from the funeral home. They provide the hearse, the driver, and everything involving transportation. If you would like to give your loved one the dignity of a funeral procession led by a hearse, then this is a good and honorable choice.
Discuss hearse rental and transportation with your funeral director. They will make sure to take care of you and anything you need.
Now you know much more about hearses than you knew before. It’s an important part of the funeral process.
Learn More: Funeral Planning Guide
1 thought on “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Hearses”
-Feet first. In an Emergency room/ Trauma center, the gurney is pushed ‘head first’ so Nurses can assess the patient and hook up monitors on the run, facing forward – not running backwards.
-Perhaps unloading the casket head first allows the awkward weight of the torso to be distributed to the pall bearers first, with the lighter foot end last.
-Old West slang has someone who’s not expected to survive an encounter or stubbornly refusing to leave a dangerous place as “leaving here feet first”.