What Is A Hearse

A hearse is a large vehicle used to carry the body of a deceased person in a coffin/casket at a funeral, wake or memorial service. The term originated in the 17th century when people referred to a horse drawn carriage that carried the casket in a funeral procession as a hearse. The horse drawn hearse became motorized in the 20th century. This article will help the reader understand what is a hearse and other important information about the hearse and its role in a funeral, wake or memorial service.

What is the Meaning of a White Hearse?

A white hearse is rare in many cultures and symbolizes “new life”. It is meant to represent the physical death of a person, who has now transitioned into a spiritual new life in heaven. White and gray hearses are rarely seen during funeral processions in many cultures.

Why Do Many Cultures Use the Black Hearse for Funeral Processions?

Many hearses are black in the western culture. This is because of the symbolic meaning that black has with death and mourning. The color black alludes to the grave times of those following the black hearse in a funeral procession. This is also the reason why many people wear black at funerals as a sign of grieving and sadness.

What Family Member Follows the Hearse in a Funeral Procession?

The hearse that is carrying the body of the deceased member of the family is the first car in the funeral procession, wake or memorial service. The family member following the hearse in the second car is the spouse or significant other of the deceased family member. The third car in the procession carries the children of the deceased member of the family.

What is the Bar on a Hearse?

The decorative S shaped metallic bar installed on the rear covered panel is called the landau bar. The landau bar depicts the folding roof structure on a landau carriage. The bar has been commonly used on hearses in the United States and the Philippines since the 1940’s.

What is a Funeral Train?

A funeral train serves two purposes of carrying the coffin and family members. They are normally reserved for the higher class in a country like leaders and other notable people. Funeral trains allowed more people to attend the funeral ceremony.

How Many Seats Does a Hearse Have?

Traditional hearses only have two seats with one seat meant for the driver and the other seat left unoccupied. However, the Mercedes V class can be adapted as a hearse and can carry up to 6 passengers with the casket.

What are the Three Types of Hearses?

There are three types of hearses that can be seen carrying the casket or coffin of a deceased person. These include; a limousine, horse and carriage and a motorcycle hearse.

What Kind of Vehicle is a Hearse Made Of?

Hearses are professionally built on either a Cadillac or Lincoln chassis. These vehicles are dedicated and built for luxury and safety.

What Happens During a Funeral Procession?

A hearse is the first car in the funeral procession. It is responsible for carrying the deceased person in the family. Chauffeured driven limousines drive the spouse or significant other, children and other immediate family members. Other guests and funeral attendees will follow behind the front cars forming a train to the funeral service and the place where the body will be laid to rest. A police escort often accompanies the hearse and other vehicles, particularly in larger funeral processions. For more information on funeral processions, check out this post.

How Many Pallbearers Pull the Casket/Coffin From the Hearse?

Six pallbearers is the standard of men who will pull the casket/coffin from the hearse. If the deceased is larger in size/weight, the requirement may go up to eight pallbearers. Honorary pallbearers are those who impacted and inspired the decease in some way during life. They are mentioned during the funeral service but are not required to carry the casket with the other pallbearers. Find out more about pallbearers in our in-depth look at What Does a Pallbearer Do at a Funeral.

Is It Considered Disrespectful to Pass a Hearse During a Funeral Procession on the Highway?

Generally speaking, overtaking a hearse or trying to pass a funeral procession in any way is considered disrespectful to the deceased. Even if you have the right of way on the street or highway, passing a hearse and funeral procession is shown as a sign of disrespect to the family and their grief for the deceased member of the family.

Does a Hearse Smell After Carrying a Dead Body?

Hearses are thoroughly cleaned after each body is taken to its final resting place. They are usually kept immaculate on the inside and outside as a sign of respect for the family and the deceased family member.

These are the answers to many common questions like what is a hearse? What is the meaning of a white hearse? Do many cultures use the black hearse for funeral processions? What family member follows the hearse in a funeral procession? What is the bar on a hearse? What is a funeral train? How many seats does a hearse have? What are the three types of hearses? What kind of vehicle is a hearse made of? How many pallbearers pull the casket or coffin from the hearse before a funeral, wake or memorial service? What happens during a funeral procession? Is it considered disrespectful to pass a hearse during a funeral procession on the highway? Does a hearse have a smell after carrying a deceased body?

So the next time you are driving on the highway and see a hearse leading a funeral procession, you will understand more about this important vehicle that carries the casket or coffin of the deceased family member. If the hearse is white, it signifies a “new life” and if the hearse is black as it commonly is, it signifies mourning and death.

Remember to show respect and pull over to the side of the street or highway and allow the procession to pass by before coming back onto the highway. This shows respect to the deceased family member in the coffin and the grieving family members


Readinform is a Wisconsin based writer for funerals explained. They have come to understand the struggles of death and loss. Through life experience they have gathered the knowledge to help others and answer questions related to the funeral industry. When not writing readyinform focuses on learning new things and exploring the differences society offers.

Recent Posts