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All Things Shipping | October 19, 2021

How E-commerce Merchants Are Cutting Costs Shipping Heavy Items

One unique and often expensive challenge e-commerce merchants face comes in the form of shipping heavy items. Figuring out the right packaging, limiting dimensional weight, and deciding on shipping insurance are just a few of the factors that come with shipping bigger and heftier products.

However, there are steps e-commerce businesses are taking to limit the cost of shipping heavy items.

While it may seem like the weight of your business is on your shoulders, the weight of your packages don’t have to crush your bottom line. 

How Major Carriers Measure Heavy Items

When shipping heavy packages for your e-commerce business, it is important to note how major carriers measure heavy items. Each of the four major national carriers in the U.S. have their own rules when it comes to the weight and size of their shipments. 

To avoid any oversize charges you’ll want to take these into consideration.

USPS Package Weight Limits

USPS has the lowest weight limit for an individual package of all the major carriers. Most services abide by the 70 lb limit and anything beyond that will face some substantial upcharges. 

You’ll also be charged more if the package you’re shipping is longer than 108 inches or when the combined girth and length is less than 130 inches.

UPS Package Weight Limits

The weight and size limits are greater when shipping heavy packages with UPS. An individual package can weigh up to 150 pounds. The size of the package can be up to 108 inches long and 165 inches in girth and length combined.

If your package weighs any more than this, you can still ship with UPS though there will be an Over Maximum Limits charge.

FedEx Package Weight Limits

With FedEx services such as FedEx Ground, FedEx Home Delivery, and FedEx Express international services, the maximum weight will be 150 lbs with a maximum length of 108 inches and 165 inches when you combine length plus girth. 

If you plan on shipping with FedEx Express in the US, the only difference is that the maximum length can be 119 inches. Same as UPS, you can ship heavier packages but be aware of an  additional charge in shipping price.

DHL Package Weight Limits

Of all the major national carriers, DHL has the largest weight limit for shipping heavy items. The weight limit set is 70kg which translates to 154.3 lbs. The  limits when it comes to the dimensions of the package is smaller which is set at 120 cm (47.2 lbs.)

Anything larger or heavier than these limits can possibly face an additional fee of $89 per package.

Top Tips For E-commerce Businesses Shipping Heavy Packages

There are some things to keep in mind or actions to take when looking to cut costs shipping heavy packages for your e-commerce business. 

1.) Package Tightly To Avoid Dimensional Weight Charges

  • If the packages you’re shipping to your customers are awkwardly shaped, you may run into dimensional weight charges. The more space your package takes up inside of a carrier’s truck/vessel, the fewer total items that carrier can deliver. Because of that, the price you pay will depend on the volumetric space of your package. The dimensional weight and actual weight will be taken into account and whichever is greater will determine your shipping cost. To put it plainly, be sure to package your items tightly but securely to avoid paying for unnecessary space.

2.) Keep Inventory Near Customers

  • The further your package has to travel, the more it will cost. This is typically true of any parcel, but it is especially the case for heavier items. One step your business can take to lessen this cost is using a warehouse or fulfillment center close to your customer base. This will help minimize the distance your packages have to travel to reach your customers door steps and possibly lessen the cost of shipping your heavy items.

3.) Use Longer Transit Times

  • If using a warehouse or fulfillment center isn’t in the best interest of your business at this time, then your next best option will most likely be to use shipping services with longer transit times. Just be sure to let your customers know what to expect in terms of wait time. 

4.) Avoid Penalties By Using The Right Carrier

  • As mentioned above, different carriers have different limits for heavy parcels. If you’re shipping packages above 70 pounds, your best option might be to use UPS or FedEx. If your package weighs less than 70 pounds you may be better off using USPS. This will likely be a case-by-case basis as you’ll see below.

5.) Choosing The Best Shipping Insurance

  • Choosing to insure your package can be extremely beneficial, especially if the heavy item you’re shipping is expensive. You can get insurance through the carrier you’re choosing to deliver your package or through a 3rd party insurance provider. Shippo has partnered with ShipSurance to provide users with up to a 50% discount on shipping insurance for heavy packages or any packages for that matter. However, you do have the option of not insuring your package if you’re trying to cut costs and are willing to accept the risk.  

6.) Use Fixed Price Shipping Services When Possible

  • We all remember the ads. “If it fits, it ships for a low flat rate.” That is the motto of the USPS flat rate packages which were introduced years ago. The USPS Flat Rate service does not take weight into account, so if you have a heavy item that fits into one of their branded packages, you might be able to save on shipping. You will have to use the USPS branded packages but you can order them for free. You can also check out our guide to find out when it would be cheaper to use Flat Rate rather than Priority Mail. UPS also has a similar service called UPS Simple Rate and FedEx has their own version of this service called FedEx One Rate. 

7.) Decide If Signature Will Be Required On Delivery

  • Requiring signatures when delivering heavy items is often a good way to ensure that someone is there to take care of the package and to avoid theft. It is an additional security measure, but it is optional, and these services usually cost close to $5 per parcel. If you’re shipping out a lot of items using this method, the cost can add up so it might be something you want to avoid. However, you could also include this cost as part of the items’ total price or pass that shipping cost onto your customers. This will all depend on what’s best for your individual e-commerce business.

Carriers Compared When Shipping Heavy Items

The most cost-effective way to ship large packages will ultimately vary depending on the size, weight, and distance the package will need to travel.

For example, let’s take a look at a parcel that measures 30 inches in length, width, and height and weighs 45 pounds and is going to be traveling from Chicago to New York. 

Using Shippo, you’ll find that your cheapest option would be to use UPS Ground. 

Taking that same example, if we change the package size to 8 inches on each side and the package only weighs 15 pounds your cheapest option would be to use USPS Priority Mail. 

Typically, your least expensive option for shipping heavy packages will be with UPS. However, if you have volume discounts from USPS or pre-negotiated rates with them, then that might be the cheaper option. The best method to ensure you get the least expensive rate on your heavy package is to compare rates from multiple carriers.

That also includes comparing rates from regional carriers as well as international carriers if your e-commerce business ships to countries beyond just the U.S. Because of supply chain delays being felt around the world, you may see even better rates when adding regional and international carriers into your carrier-mix.

Shipping Heavy Items With Shippo

After you weigh your package, you’ll want to weigh your options when it comes to shipping. 

With Shippo, you’ll have access to the best rates with the most carriers no matter how heavy your packages are. You simply have to input the dimensions and weight of your item as well as origin and destination of your package to begin comparing discounted rates from the most trusted names in the shipping industry. 

You’ll also have access to features like:

  • Shipping Insurance
  • Signature Confirmation
  • Fixed Price Shipping Services
  • Partnerships with fulfillment companies 

Sign up for free today and begin creating discounted shipping labels in minutes.

Hasan Nabulsi is the Content Marketing Manager at Shippo.

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