Shipping Large Items: Tips and Cost-Effective Shipping Guide

Ecommerce shipping presents both challenges and opportunities, particularly shipping large items. Today’s consumer is increasingly discerning and expects to be delighted with each stage of their transaction with your company.

A survey from 2019 found that 77% of global survey respondents have abandoned a purchase due to unsatisfactory shipping options, and over 50% have actually stopped shopping with a certain retailer because they weren’t happy with shipping options. Getting shipping right is crucial to keeping customers loyal, but there is certainly a cost associated. 

Secure, fast, and economical shipping is more important than ever, but that can get complicated when it comes to shipping large items. Here’s what you need to know before you ship large items. 

Factors to Consider When Shipping Large Items

In order to compare options and figure out your best shipping choice, it’s helpful to review a few fundamentals. There’s a lot that goes into deciding who to ship your heavy items with, and how. For example, did you know that size matters just as much as weight? Here are a few things to consider as you plan your large package shipping. 

Dimensional weight

Dimensional weight is a fairly new concept, and it actually measures the “theoretical” weight of your package. At one time, shipping companies were losing money on large but extremely light packages. Now, USPS, FedEx, and UPS all use this measure based on how much volumetric space your package occupies. Using that information, shipping companies will calculate how much it would weigh by applying their own minimum density number, and then charge you for whichever is more expensive (the actual weight or dimensional weight).

If you believe your packages actually weigh less than the dimensional weight, you’ll want to gather quotes from companies to find out what your actual costs will be instead of doing your own calculations based on the true weight. 

What Is an Oversize Package?

In addition to weight, you need to understand if your package is just large, or if it’s actually considered oversized. Boxes that exceed the size and weight limits for standard shipping are called oversized boxes and require a particular service known as oversized shipping. This form of shipping requires special equipment that helps companies handle large, heavy, or awkwardly-shaped packages safely. 

Fragile items

Is your item fragile? If so, it may need a little extra care and you’ll want to choose a carrier that prides itself on handling fragile shipments. Though faster transit times are desirable, you definitely don’t want to risk your package being damaged during parcel shipping. 

Origin and destination of the package

No matter how heavy your package is, carriers will look at the origin and destination of the package to calculate shipping zones. The further away your package needs to go, the higher the zone, and the higher the zone, the more shipping will cost.

For more insights on shipping zones, read this informational post

Shipping Carriers

Every carrier has its own rules and its own way of doing things. You should know that which carrier you choose will heavily impact your costs. Some carriers are more reasonable than others when it comes to weight, size, and fragility. 

Type of Services

Shipping has gotten more sophisticated over the years and there are several services to consider. Will you be shipping internationally? Do you offer next-day shipping or 2-day shipping? Do you plan to ship overnight for morning delivery? You’ll need to determine what is best for your customer and for your business – while weighing the costs associated. 

Best Practices for Shipping Large Items

Even though a lot of what goes into the cost of shipping large items is dictated by the factors above, there are some things you can keep in mind. A few tips: 

  • Make sure your large boxes are securely packaged and ready to go. This will ensure they not only arrive using the least expensive method, but also safely. 
  • UPS suggests using certain boxes for items over 70 lbs. That’s because boxes that have stitched or stapled seams are much stronger than those that are glued.
  • In the event that your items need to be placed on a pallet, ensure that they are new and in good condition. If you’re sending items that are over 150 lbs, or internationally, ensure they will be properly secured to pallets with poly or steel straps. 


The type of packaging you’ll use to ship large items makes a big difference in the condition they arrive in. If you want your items to arrive in good shape, you need to make sure they’re packaged the right way. Here are some details about packaging types that can help direct your decisions. 

Why You Need Good Packaging

Did you know that a shipping company can refuse your goods if they don’t feel like they can safely transport them? Before your heavy package gets to a shipping company, you need to ensure that it can withstand being dropped, the vibration from conveyor belts, compression from stacking, and temperature and humidity changes. That may seem like a lot to consider, but if you do, you’ll get much better results with your large package shipping. 

Elements of Good Packaging

Is a simple cardboard box enough to hold your item? Your best bet is a corrugated box with supports inside. Don’t just reuse an old box. Always use a new corrugated box that can support the weight of your item. Wrap the item in a protective material such as bubble wrap, and then fill in gaps with air pillows. Many people try to use paper products, but these will compress as weight shifts and may not support your package as you’d planned. 

Furthermore, try to center the object as much as you can within the box. This will prevent it from shifting during transit. We suggest holding items in place with styrofoam if possible. Take things a step further by putting extra fragile items into a second, smaller box, and then placing that item within the larger box with more padding in between. 

An additional measure is to use water-activated tape rather than common packing tape. This tape bonds with the cardboard and is better at keeping your box sealed through the shipping process. 

If you can shake the box and don’t feel much movement, you’re ready to ship securely. 

What Carrier Should You Use for Shipping Large Items?

As we’ve already mentioned, several variables go into choosing a carrier. Size and weight are two major factors, but the shipping company you use matters too. Here’s some information on several options for shipping large items. 


The most critical information when it comes to UPS is that you can generally ship large parcels through their small delivery network, but if your box is big enough to be over “Maximum Limits”, it must be shipped via UPS’ freight services. UPS charges an oversize fee for any package that is more than 165” in combined length and girth. This fee will also apply to any package that weighs more than 150lbs or longer than 103”. It’s currently between $95-115. You can also count on UPS freight services for exceptionally large or heavy packages, and they offer several options in terms of timing, even getting your package there the next day


A package is considered oversized when its length is over 96” or 130” in length and girth combined. FedEx will also apply a dimensional weight calculation, but you should note that you’ll face a minimum 90 lbs billable weight. You can choose from US and international ground shipping, as well as US Express service, though a $90 overage surcharge applies for each package. Peak shipping times tend to carry additional fees so keep that in mind. 


People sometimes forget that the US Postal Service is a legitimate option when it comes to sending large packages. Customers should plan to pay a specific, standard Parcel Select oversized price when you have a box whose length is more than 108 inches, but the combined length and girth is less than 130 inches. If your package is even larger than this, you’ll have to work out pricing directly with USPS, and not all locations will be able to accommodate larger packages. For very heavy items, you’ll probably pay more than with a private carrier, and you may experience shipping delays if you choose an option that doesn’t provide guaranteed delivery times. 

Third-Party Logistics (3PL) Providers

A 3PL partner will make it their responsibility to ship your packages, which can really take a load off your mind. An effective 3PL understands the nuances of your items and packaging, several different shipping options, etc. They know the best ways to ship heavy items, including optimal providers and the lowest rates. They may also be able to take advantage of volume discounts and consolidated freight with other clients. 

Shipping Large Items Without LargeCosts

Shipping large items come with several challenges but is a necessary part of doing business. Oversized packages are harder to prepare, pack, ship, and store – and so carriers charge a premium for transporting them.

Having a thorough understanding of individual carriers can help you to make the most educated and cost-effective decision. If you don’t have the bandwidth to consistently do this research, consider working with a reliable 3PL solution. Doing so can save you substantial time and effort when it comes to large package shipping.

Print Bind Ship offers a free consultation where we can get to know your company and your shipping and fulfillment needs. We offer custom advice that’s unique to your business on how to best ship large packages. Just reach out to us to start a conversation.