Building a Hearse

When was the hearse invented?
The transportation of the deceased from one place to another has necessitated equipment for an untold number of years. However the first motorised hearse can be attributed to a number of inventive undertakers in the early 20th century where they fitted a custom built hearse body to an existing vehicle chassis. This early form of coachbuilt hearse is not too far removed from the manufacturing processes we see today.
How is a hearse made?

It’s best to answer that in this video.

How long is a hearse?
That very much depends on the model and manufacturer. Our 3 door Passat Hearse for example is just 5.523m long (just over 18 feet), making it perfect for some of the tight, winding, rural roads you can find in Ireland. Our 5 door E Class Hearse is our longest model at 6.045m (under 20 feet). Other manufacturers have models which can get to almost 6.5m in length!
How tall is a hearse?

That also depends on the model and manufacturer. Our 3 door Passat Hearse is 1.83m tall (around 6ft) and our 5 door Mercedes is 1.88m in height. Our vehicle style however, is more European and the more traditional British style with high line roof, and vertical windscreen can be much taller.

How much is a hearse?

Big question! How much is a new hearse? It depends on what exactly you need. Our 3 door Passat starts at just £65,000, with our vehicles based on a Mercedes chassis coming in at over £100k. As you are getting a vehicle custom built to your requirements, you can scale up and down depending on what you need. Towards the higher end of the market, there are luxury hearses available for hundreds of thousands, and the used vehicle market is very active with hearses being bought and sold for all budgets.

How does a hearse work?

Best to take a look at our features page for a comprehensive answer.

Hearses and their Features

Why does a hearse have flashing lights?
The front strobe lights behind the grille on a hearse are to signify to oncoming traffic that a funeral procession is coming. This can be particularly important during the winter in the UK and Ireland as dull and damp days can make driving conditions more difficult.
Why does a hearse have landau bars?
In North America in particular, landau bars are incredibly common. A landau bar is an ornamental S-shaped metallic bar you usually see on the rear side panel of the hearse. This was once a mechanical feature on the landau carriage, with its fold-down roof, however its now purely an aesthetic feature.
Why does a hearse have windows?
The large glass panels on the sides of hearses in many parts of the world contrast with the covered- off American style. Often the coffin and wreaths are on display throughout the funeral so mourners can pay their respects.
Why does a hearse have roof racks?
The original hearse (where the name originates from) was a type of candelabra frame which adorned the top of the coffin and had ornamental spikes with candles on top. This aesthetic carried over to the horse drawn carriages, and then to motorised hearses. By then however, it became common for flowers and wreaths to be placed on the top of the hearse. As the vehicles evolved, so did the wreath rack, and it became for in keeping with the new style vehicles. Flowers and wreaths are much less common on hearse roofs nowadays, but the style remains.
Does a hearse have cruise control?
Yes, all our hearses retain the mechanical, electrical and technical features from the base vehicle!
Does a hearse have a special low gear/gearbox?
Many people think this, due to how hearses drive at such low speeds during funerals. However the answer is, no. The vast majority of hearses have automatic transmission, which does make it easier to drive a lower speed. Traditionally, hearses have also been built using vehicles with larger engines to ensure that at low speeds, and the additional weight, there is a seamless journey. But with the increase in engine technology, and a decrease in the weight of materials needed to build a hearse, we are able to use more fuel efficient vehicles to manufacture our hearses.
Does a hearse have a back seat?

It depends. 5 door hearses usually have back seats to allow for passengers, and 3 door hearses don’t. 5 door hearses with rear seats are much more common in the UK than Ireland where 3 door Hearses still make up the majority.

Are hearses fuel efficient?
Absolutely. Our hearses show little noticeable difference in fuel efficiency from their base vehicle, a benefit of the more European design which is more streamlined and aerodynamic. With hybrid electric vehicles it’s even better, with regular charging meaning that trips to the fuel station are dramatically reduced.
Can a hearse carry 2 coffins?
As our hearses are built to the specification of the funeral director, it means that your hearse can be made to hold two coffins on upper and lower levels.
Are hearses hard to drive?
Our hearses are 750-1100mm longer than a standard estate car, and some other manufacturers vehicles are even longer still, meaning that the turning circle can change. Also, hearses are quite a lot more expensive than their counterpart car, add that to the fact that there are usually a lot of onlookers, it means that driving a hearse can be a high-pressure job. However, the ride quality of our hearses is second to none. They go through extensive testing to ensure that they are as smooth, elegant, and luxurious to drive as their base vehicles.
What types of hearses are there?
The most popular hearse globally is based on the Mercedes-Benz E Class, but there are a number of base vehicles to choose from. Our range based on the Volkswagen Passat is increasingly popular, and we have had success in the past using Vauxhall and Ford vehicles before they were discontinued. Manufacturers also use Nissan, Tesla, Volvo, Bentley and even Maserati for hearses. We have found that the E Class and Passat models suit our customer’s needs, but there is a larger selection than ever before for funeral directors. Once the base vehicle is decided, there are seemingly endless possibilities to customising your hearse.
How long will a hearse last?
It all depends on the owner! Hearses can last 20, 30 years plus if they are well maintained and looked after, however, much like passenger cars, their value tends to drop significantly after a few years, until they become a “classic” car and it starts to rise again. Most funeral directors, invest in a new hearse or fleet every 3-5 years as it represents the best value in minimal outlay when they trade in, or sell their previous vehicle.

Hearses and the Law

Can a hearse go on the motorway?
Yes, a hearse can drive on all legal routes. All our vehicles have approval for legal use throughout the UK and Ireland meeting all requirements and IVA testing standards.
Does a hearse need an MOT?
Yes. Like any other car, a hearse needs to have an MOT, NCT or equivalent when at the appropriate age.
Does a hearse have to obey traffic laws?
Yes. Despite being a special-purpose vehicle, a hearse must follow all traffic laws. However, for larger funerals there may be arrangements in place with local police for special circumstances.
How fast can a hearse go?
A hearse retains the driveability of the base car so there is no drop in performance. They are not classified as commercial vehicles, like vans, so therefore can drive up to 30mph in residential areas, 60mph on single carriageway roads, and 70mph on motorways.

Hearse etiquette

Why does a hearse drive slow?
The transportation of the deceased from the funeral home or family home to the final resting place is a significant journey steeped in culture and tradition. Many places have the cortege walk behind the hearse for at least part of the journey. In many places it is customary for neighbours and local people to stand outside and pay their respects as the hearse drives past, so driving slowly allows those to do so in a dignified manner.
How does a hearse drive so slow?
This is due to the skill of the driver. It isn’t an easy job to drive at low speeds, in a steady comfortable manner while people walk behind and an undertaker walks in front. While the hearses themselves have excellent drivability, it still takes a true professional to conduct a final journey in a such a dignified way.
Is it rude to pass a hearse?
During a funeral it is expected that drivers show respect by allowing the procession to take place unhindered. However it is fine to overtake a hearse on a motorway or dual carriageway if needed.
What should you do when a hearse passes you?
It is traditional to stop, remove your hat (if wearing one) and bow your head while a funeral procession passes by to show your respect for the family of the deceased. Sometimes small gestures can go a long way in what can be the most difficult day in many people’s lives.

If you don’t find the answer to your question here, feel free to contact us on +44 28 2582 2525 or send us an email at or

We’re always happy to help and inform.


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