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How to ship large boxes and oversized packages affordably and safely

Jake Rheude

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ECommerce is an indispensable part of almost every retail business, but it comes with unique challenges, especially if you’re trying to figure out how to ship large boxes, oversized packages, and bulky products.

That said, the challenge is full of potential gains. Even if you have brick-and-mortar stores, giving your customers an online option will increase sales. For eCommerce businesses that sell large or heavy products, shipping can be expensive because of the fees and surcharges that come from large goods. Fortunately, there are ways to save money when you ship overweight or oversized packages. Here’s your guide to the cheapest ways to ship bulky and heavy products.

handcarts are key when you think about how to ship large boxes

How to ship large boxes and oversized packages

The problem with shipping oversized packages has as much to do with the dimensions as the weight. A product can be feather-light and still be subject to extra shipping charges. It all has to do with dimensional weight.

Dimensional or DIM weight is a way of determining the price to ship a package based on the dimensions. Dimensional weight is calculated by multiplying the package height x length x width, then dividing by the carrier’s DIM factor. UPS, FedEx, and USPS all use DIM factors to determine the DIM weight of oversized packages. 

If you are shipping an oversized package, DIM weight can increase your shipping charges. When a box weighs 10 pounds but the DIM weight comes out to 15 pounds, you’ll be charged for shipping 15 pounds. If the DIM weight is less than the actual weight of your package, the shipping cost is based on the actual weight.

DIM weight example that is impacted by how to ship large boxes

How to reduce DIM weight charges

There are several ways to reduce dimensional weight charges, however.

  • Packaging. Placing your products in boxes that are too large can lead to extra shipping costs. Pack each order in the smallest possible box to securely ship it. Many large products ship in the product packaging without overboxing. Review your packaging for ways to box your item more efficiently. Some large products may be cheaper to ship if you ship them disassembled. 
  • DIM factor. If you are a high-volume shipper, you may be able to negotiate lower shipping rates. You can also negotiate your DIM factor. A higher DIM factor will lower your DIM weight charges.
  • Ship by USPS. The US Postal Service has a DIM factor of 166. FedEx and UPS both use a DIM factor of 139 for commercial shipping accounts. A 50-pound package with dimensions of 24” x 24” x 30” would lead to DIM weight pricing at 125 pounds for FedEx and UPS. USPS would only charge you for 105 pounds. However, even with the higher DIM weight, UPS and FedEx would charge less to ship this oversized package to Zones 5 through 8. USPS is a better deal in Zones 2 through 4. To see how DIM weight pricing compares for different carriers, use Red Stag Fulfillment’s DIM weight calculator.
  • Work with a 3PL. One final tip is to reach out to Red Stag Fulfillment if you regularly ship items that are billed by DIM weight. We’re a 3PL that works with heavy, large, oversized, and luxury goods.  That means our carrier negotiations focus on these types of shipments, so we leverage our high shipping volume to get better DIM pricing for businesses just like you.

Tips to ship large boxes

There is an art to shipping oversized packages in the smallest possible boxes. Your 3PL may be able to help. For example, Red Stag Fulfillment uses technology that calculates the optimal box size for each order. That way we’ve protected your products and ensure they get to your customers safely.

Here are some other tips for controlling costs with large boxes:

  • Choose a secure box. Heavy and large items need sturdier boxes because they can move with more force during transit. Additional layers of materials or reinforced cardboard limit potential damage to your products.
  • Add strong infill. Match infill to your product’s size and weight, too. That means foam, custom-fitting elements, or multiple layers of materials add cushion. Don’t neglect corners, which are often the most at-risk elements of a large box.
  • Use heavy-duty tape. It can be easy to overlook tape when thinking of how to ship large boxes. However, stronger tape can keep boxes from opening and reinforce their frames, keeping the box rigid and stronger.
  • Test multiple options. When changing packaging or products, you must test shipping options. Going through multiple options and tests with real carriers can help you find a better-fitting box and the right mix of protection to keep goods safe.

A better-fitting box doesn’t just save you money on DIM weight pricing. You’ll also save by using the optimal amount of infill. Plus, when products are packed in the right-sized box, they are less likely to slide around and get damaged during shipping.

You'll need a variety of boxes for shipping large products

Moving items closer to customers before an order

Another good way to save on shipping heavy or oversized packages is by reducing the number of shipping zones. Every major US carrier divides the country into shipping zones. Zones are calculated from the point of origin to the point of destination. Zone pricing adds in the factor of how far the parcel has to travel. The more shipping zones a package crosses to get to its destination, the higher the shipping cost. 

The price difference when you ship small items across more shipping zones might be just a couple of dollars. However, for heavy and oversized packages, extra zones can add 50% or more to the shipping cost. That can amount to a lot of money when you’re shipping large boxes.

Red Stag Fulfillment has tackled the shipping zone problem by choosing two warehouse locations that provide national fulfillment to 97% of the US in two days or less. Our eCommerce fulfillment centers in Salt Lake City, UT, and Knoxville, TN, are within a few shipping zones of most US addresses.

Red Stag Fulfillment fulfillment warehouse locations used with how to ship large boxes

Cheapest ways to ship heavy boxes

If your products are heavy, there are additional ways to reduce shipping costs. You will almost certainly want to choose delivery by ground rather than delivery by air. USPS Parcel Select offers competitive commercial shipping rates on parcels up to 70 pounds. FedEx Ground also has commercial discounts with a 70-pound weight limit.

Unfortunately, things are getting more expensive this year. Here is some info you need to know about carrier 2023 general rate increases.

For even heavier items, try UPS Ground. The service accepts packages that weigh up to 150 pounds. For very large and heavy items such as furniture, FedEx Freight might save you money on shipping.

Oversized packages come with fees when considering How to ship large boxes

Heavy products need to ship in stronger cardboard boxes to stay secure in transit. This can add extra weight and extra cost. You can save by palletizing and shipping products in bulk to a pickup location. This can either be at your brick-and-mortar store or a third-party receiving location. Offer your customers a price incentive for taking care of the last mile to their homes. Both you and your customers will save money on shipping.

Negotiated shipping prices are crucial for shipping large or heavy boxes economically. If your business doesn’t have enough volume to qualify for discounted rates, check with your eCommerce fulfillment partner. Some fulfillment companies (including Red Stag Fulfillment) have volume shipping discounts with major carriers that they can pass on to their customers.

What about items without a box?

Many products come with their own packaging, so you might not need an additional box. In these cases, what you need to do is ensure that goods have proper labels. This can mean any required notices based on what’s inside – like certain batteries – and proper shipping labels. Barcodes need to be scannable, so they should be protected from damage, too.

When shipping without a box, you’ll use the product’s existing dimensions and physical weight for DIM and standard pricing. That can thankfully make it easy to predict your pricing because these are unlikely to change for that product.

However, you need a reliable 3PL to keep goods safe and secure during storage. Damage to a product’s packaging can change dimensions, and there’s no way to check a product before it goes out the door. That means if it breaks in a warehouse, you’re facing return and refund costs. When you’re shipping large boxes and products, the cost of return shipping alone can eat away your margins.

So, find a partner you trust. Check that they apply labels correctly. And review warehousing and carrier selection processes to ensure you’re moving goods affordably while minimizing the risks of return logistics costs.

Request for Proposal RFP

How to ship large boxes economically 

One of the best ways to ship heavy and oversized packages cheaply is to work with the pros. When you’re choosing a fulfillment company, ask about their experience working with large products. At Red Stag Fulfillment, we pride ourselves on being the heavy, bulky, and oversized shipping experts. (But don’t worry, we’re shipping out many smaller items, too, and are happy to provide expertise for all of your products.)

Large Box & Oversized Package Shipping FAQ

What is the cheapest way to ship a 20 lb package?

The cheapest way to ship a 20 lb package depends on the following factors:

  1. Whether it can be disassembled to fit into a smaller box.  
  2. Whether you can try to negotiate lower shipping rates, if you ship frequently. 
  3. Which shipping zone you’re in to compare carrier prices. For instance, if shipping the 20 lb package in Zone 2, using USPS may be the cheapest option based on DIM weight charges.

For products like bags of pet food, disassembly may not be an option. However, for items like dumbbells, kettlebells, or books, the same principle applies. But, for small kitchen appliances, check if any parts can be safely disassembled for more efficient and economical shipping.

What is the cheapest way to ship large packages?

The cheapest way to ship large packages will generally be USPS priority mail. USPS offers a large flat rate box that is made for shipping gifts, computers, laptops, etc. There are also board game boxes. If the item being shipped weighs more than 70 pounds then looking into consolidated freight may be the cheapest option. UPS will generally be more expensive. For example, if we want to ship a 50 pound package from the Raleigh NC area to Knoxville TN, then shipping by USPS would cost an estimated $22.80 versus UPS which would cost $47.74. 

How much does it cost to ship 300 lbs?

The cost to ship heavy items will vary, however one person on Reddit reported that UPS would charge them $720 to ship 300 lbs. And more specifically, another person on Reddit reported than an item almost 300 lbs (240) would cost $600 to ship a copying machine-like item from Texas to Tennessee, and that item would need to be palletized to ship. Once an item exceeds 70 lbs, then the shipping costs increase significantly. 

We’re happy to help you find ways to ship your oversized packages cheaply. Just give us a call!

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