© 2016 AIP Publishing LLC. In this paper, we report a theoretical investigation of surface acoustic waves propagating in one-dimensional phononic crystal. Using finite element method eigenfrequency and frequency response studies, we develop two model geometries suitable to distinguish true and pseudo (or leaky) surface acoustic waves and determine their propagation through finite size phononic crystals, respectively. The novelty of the first model comes from the application of a surface-like criterion and, additionally, functional damping domain. Exemplary calculated band diagrams show sorted branches of true and pseudo surface acoustic waves and their quantified surface confinement. The second model gives a complementary study of transmission, reflection, and surface-to-bulk losses of Rayleigh surface waves in the case of a phononic crystal with a finite number of periods. Here, we demonstrate that a non-zero transmission within non-radiative band gaps can be carried via leaky modes originating from the coupling of local resonances with propagating waves in the substrate. Finally, we show that the transmission, reflection, and surface-to-bulk losses can be effectively optimised by tuning the geometrical properties of a stripe.