All Things Shipping
Jul 10, 2020

The Basics: Cost-Effective Ways to Ship Large Packages

Shippo Snippets:

  • 77% of surveyed shoppers have abandoned a purchase due to unsatisfactory shipping options
  • The region, your timing and the size of your large items all factor into the cost
  • Shipping boxes that feature stitched or stapled seams will be far stronger than ones that are glued

The Story:
E-commerce shipping comes with both costs and opportunities. Of course, it has to be paid for, whether it’s covered by your business or you pass the costs along to your customers. But, it also allows you the opportunity to surprise and delight them, as one of the final pieces of the transaction. Think of it as another opportunity to wow them and build loyalty at the same time. 

It’s also a big expense and it doesn’t get any cheaper if you’re shipping large items. No matter the size, you’ve got to keep your shipping expenses to a minimum for all the obvious reasons, but secure, fast, and economical shipping is now more important than ever.

A 2019 survey from BigCommerce found that “77% of global survey respondents have abandoned a purchase due to unsatisfactory shipping options,” while “another 58% have actually stopped shopping with particular retailers as a result of a negative shipping experience.”

And it makes sense. If you do shipping right, you build a stronger rapport with customers. If you charge too much or take too long, and it may well have a negative effect on the bottom line.

If you’re an online store selling large items—say, things that won’t just fit into a larger USPS priority box—how do you send your products the right way? And, what’s the cheapest way to ship large packages?

Best Practices for Packing Large Packages

Before you can start comparing rates and finding the best way to ship large boxes, it’s helpful to review some packing best practices from the experts. 

Making sure your large packages are buttoned up and ready to go will not only ensure they arrive at the destination in the cheapest way possible, but they get there unharmed.

UPS recommends specific types of boxes for packages over 70 pounds. Boxes that have stitched or stapled seams will be far stronger than ones that are glued. If your items need to go on a pallet, their guidance suggests new pallets, in good condition. And, if you’re sending items internationally that are over 150 pounds and on pallets, they should be properly secured with poly or steel straps. 

Which Carriers Offer the Best Rates for Large Packages?

Depends. Obviously, each shipping carrier brings its own benefits and special services to the mix, and real-time prices and ETAs may vary and are dependent on the factors of your individual situation. What you’ll read below are examples for reference.

The cheapest way to ship heavy items for your business is going to depend on just how large your packages are, how much they weigh, and where they’re going. 

Most major carriers offer some sort of parcel service, but naturally, all have different rates and limits.

Carrier examples:

USPSLarge packages for USPS top out at 70 pounds for parcel select. There are two different rates for large USPS packages, machinable and non-machinable. For a clearer idea of some of USPS’s rates (and the discounts you can get by using Shippo), give our USPS shipping calculator a spin. 

“Machinable” just means that the postal service’s machines can handle your packages and non-machinable is more expensive because your items won’t run on existing belts and other machinery.

Another way to see possible rates is by creating a free Shippo account and inputting your package details there. For example, a machinable package weighing 35 pounds, 17 inches by 27 inches by 17 inches using USPS Parcel Select would run $51.00 to ship within the same postal zone.

If the large items you’re shipping are larger, but still light (under 20 pounds), you might want to consider Priority Mail because your items will be subject to balloon priority pricing.

UPS – Package sizes can flex and items can be shipped up to 150 pounds

Shipping a 35-pound package within roughly the same package dimensions, San Francisco to Los Angeles would cost $30.20. 

UPS offers a fair amount of flexibility with timing, which helps in getting your packages there faster, but at a premium. 

The 35-pound package could get to LA overnight for $145.65. Shipping this package across the country, to Washington DC, would cost $60.68 for ground and $212.56 for next-day air.

Have even bigger packages to ship? For that, UPS offers freight shipping.

FedExFedEx will let you price out shipping all the way up to 2,200 pounds. 

Shipping a 35-pound package from San Francisco to LA will run you $130.35 for Express Saver shipping and $417.36 for Overnight. 

A 150-pound package would cost $336.17 for Express Saver and $1,038.24 to overnight. 

Want to ship the same packages across the country? With our example, a 35-pound package will run $111.98 for ground and $521.57 for overnight while 150 pounds will cost $231.10 for ground and $1,358.06 for overnight.

DHLPackage weight is capped at 154 pounds for express parcel service, which will get your package there the next possible business day. 

Regular parcel service has weight limits of 25 pounds with delivery times of 2-8 days. DHL rates are only available online to regular shippers and will vary with frequency and distance. Like UPS, DHL also offers freight shipping for truly oversized packages.

So, what is the cheapest way to ship large packages? 

If you’re shipping mostly locally or regionally and speed isn’t absolutely vital, USPS is a strong solution. And, you’ll also save some cash if your packages are machinable with the postal service. Other carriers also offer a variety of options for heavier items, especially those that need to reach their destinations super fast.

As mentioned, rates are publicly available through each carrier’s respective site. Or, you can utilize a shipping software program to help you compare and contrast rates, along with several other benefits.


Explore Shippo for shipping solutions that are both efficient and cost-effective. 


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