8 minute read

The Cheapest Way to Ship Large Packages in 2023

Explore cost-effective freight shipping methods, understand freight classes, and discover how in-house delivery with Circuit for Teams can optimize your shipping process.

The Cheapest Way to Ship Large Packages

Even though you’re looking for cheap freight shipping, you still want your shipment to arrive safely and in one piece! Here’s how to do so affordably.

Want in on a little secret? One of the cheapest ways to ship large packages is with in-house delivery and help from shipping software and route planning tools like Circuit for Teams.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could ship a package or even all packages through the standard post service?

As a business owner, you’ve probably come across your fair share of oversized or heavy items — and you know that shipping them can definitely be more complicated than shipping standard packages.

Even though you’re looking for cheap parcel and freight shipping, you still want your shipment to arrive safely and in one piece!

Key takeaways

  • Freight shipping refers to goods too large for traditional mail, transported by truck, train, ship, or aircraft.
  • Shipping prices are influenced by dimensional weight, special handling needs, distance traveled, and the chosen shipping method.
  • Standardized pricing is based on factors like density, handling ease, and liability, with classes ranging from 50 (cheapest) to 500 (most expensive).
  • Using freight brokers, comparing rates with major carriers like USPS, FedEx, and DHL, and considering in-house delivery with tools like Circuit for Teams can lead to savings.
Circuit for Teams is a simple software for optimizing routes with multiple drivers. Click here to start your free 14-day trial.

What’s considered freight shipping?

How do you understand what freight shipping is? Well, let’s first explain what freight is.

Freight are goods that are too large or heavy to ship through the traditional mail. Freight shipments are usually transported in bulk by truck, train, ship, or aircraft.

So, cargo shipping and freight shipping are when you transport large merchandise, goods, and cargo by land, sea, or air.

Some common types of freight and truckload shipping include:

  • Less-than-truckload (LTL). Less-than-truckload, also known as less-than-load (LTL), is designed for relatively small loads or quantities of shipments — between 150 pounds and 15,000 pounds (which is small compared to the other types!). You must always check with the carrier as they each have their own rules and limits for the dimensions of LTL freight. With LTL, your freight carrier combines the loads of several customers to get the goods to their destinations.
  • Full truckload (FTL). Full truckload means you’ll have a dedicated truck for a single shipment. Typically, loads weighing more than 15,000 pounds will use them. You may find this shipping mode can be costly. But your shipment will arrive faster with the bonus of reduced freight damage.
  • Partial truckload (PTL). Partial truckload is a hybrid between LTL and FTL. It can be more cost-effective than FTL because you don’t have to pay for a dedicated trailer. It also lets you send larger loads than what’s allowed in LTL. You can usually choose PTL if you’re shipping 5,000 pounds to 38,000 pounds of goods.
  • Expedited. Expedited shipping makes sure that your goods are delivered faster than regular transit times. Your freight is most often transported by truck or air. Trucks carrying expedited shipments move directly from pickup to delivery with barely any stops along the way.

What affects freight shipping prices?

freight shipping price list

There’s so much more to shipping than just the weight of the freight. Understanding freight shipping prices can be a huge stumbling block for many business owners. Don’t get bogged down overthinking it, though. Here are some factors you’ll need to consider:

  • Dimensional weight. This refers to your package’s “theoretical” weight. Carriers like UPS, FedEx, and USPS will often calculate how much your package weighs based on how much space it occupies. They’ll then charge the higher price between the actual or dimensional weights. So, if you’re shipping a large box that’s pretty light, make sure you get quotes from carriers for the exact cost.
  • Special services. You probably know this, but goods that need special handling — like perishables, fragile items, or hazardous materials — will cost you more.
  • Origin and destination of the package. Aside from size and weight, how far your shipment will have to travel also affects shipping rates — the farther the distance between your package’s origin and its destination, the higher your shipping costs.
  • Shipping method. Your transport mode used to deliver your shipment affects its price, too.

What is freight class and how does it affect shipping cost?

Does freight pricing sound complicated? Don’t worry, there are controls, such as freight classification, to help.

Freight classification gives you and your carrier a standardized and uniform pricing structure for freight shipping. It also simplifies many elements of the shipping process for different types of cargo.

You’ll find more about the standard freight classification from the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) guidelines.

How to determine your freight class 

Your given freight class is based on three factors: density and stowability, ease of handling, and liability.

  • Density and stowability. How easy your freight is to stow due to its size and weight.
  • Ease of handling. What kind of care your cargo needs when it’s in transport.
  • Liability. The value of the items you send and how risky they are to transport. (Sending clothing will be safer than carbonated drinks.)

So, how difficult or easy your item is to ship is what determines its weight class.

After your shipment’s evaluation, it’s typically grouped into one of the standard 18 freight classes. And your freight classification factors heavily on the shipping cost.

Class numbers are between 50 and 500. The higher the freight class, the more expensive your goods are to ship.

50 is the lowest class and usually the least expensive. Shipments classified as 500 will cost you the most.

To figure out your freight class, you just need to contact your freight broker (more on that below). This freight class shipping calculator can also help.

The cheapest way to ship large packages

cost of shipping freight

Have you calculated how much it’ll cost to ship your freight — and it’s making you wince? Don’t worry.

Below are some of the cheapest ways to ship large packages.

Compare rates with freight brokers 

A freight broker is an individual or company that acts as your intermediary between customers who have goods to transport and authorized shipping carriers.

In fact, they’re responsible for facilitating most of the goods transported in North America. (Since most freight shippers don’t have contracts with shipping companies.)

Freight brokers can help you find reliable freight companies with the best rates that you might not be aware of. They also generally offer competitive rates because of their strong relationships with carriers.

Freight brokers also have more hands-on customer service. So they’re a great option if you’re new to shipping freight or an occasional shipper.

FreightPros, Redhawk Logistics, and Echo Global Logistics are just a few examples of freight brokers. You can do a quick online search to find a local freight broker near you.

Cheap freight shipping with FedEx, UPS, and DHL 

One of the cheapest ways to send large packages is through freight shipping services. But it’s also a good idea to check and compare prices with USPS, FedEx, and DHL.

You may get a lower price depending on the weight and class of your products. Or take advantage of faster services.

  • USPS. The United States Postal Service (USPS) has several shipping services and mail types. Plus some overnight shipping options. There are two ways to ship large packages with them:

You can use their flat-rate boxes for products weighing less than 70 pounds. USPS offers small, medium, and large flat-rate boxes — the bigger the box, the higher your shipping price. Your packages are shipped through Priority Mail and typically delivered within one to three days. Flat-rate shipping with USPS is the cheapest option for sending this package weight.

Not all packages fit in a nice flat box. For this, USPS has Retail Ground shipping. The weight limit is still 70 pounds, and the price starts at $8.20 with the delivery time from two to eight days.

  • FedEx. FedEx also offers you a couple of heavy and oversized delivery services. FedEx Ground shipping has a weight limit of 150 pounds and a size of up to 108 inches in length and 165 inches in length plus girth. Your delivery time will be one to seven days.

You can use the FedEx rates tool to calculate your shipping cost.

If you’re shipping pallets of heavy packages, then you’ll want to check out FedEx Freight. Your shipping cost is calculated by the overall weight and size of your pallet. FedEx also has a nice website setup where you can check the freight class for your shipment. You can also create a Bill of Lading (BOL) and get quotes for LTL freight shipping or air freight.

  • DHL. DHL is an excellent option for your international shipping because the company co-owns and partners with several different airlines around the world. DHL’s Air Freight service offers same-day delivery and several other options, including Urgent Air Freight (one to two days) to Air Economy (five to seven days).

If you’re looking to transport something valuable, DHL also offers special cargo handling, temperature-controlled environments, and day-definite international shipments.

In-house delivery with help from Circuit for Teams 

In some cases, it might be even more cost-effective for your business to get its own delivery vehicles and manage deliveries with the help of routing software like Circuit for Teams — especially if you want to get last-mile delivery done right.

One of the advantages of in-house delivery is that you have complete control of the customer service experience. You can also change and personalize it to meet customer expectations as your business grows and evolves.

Maximizing eCommerce shipping for small businesses

In today's bustling eCommerce landscape, small businesses often grapple with the complexities of shipping — especially when it comes to large packages. With a myriad of options available, from USPS Priority Mail to UPS Ground, it's crucial to understand the nuances of each to save money and ensure timely deliveries. While this may not be considered “freight shipping,” it’s still useful information for small businesses to have. 

Understanding your options:

  • First class. Ideal for lightweight and bulky items, this option is cost-effective but might take a few more business days compared to other methods.
  • Priority mail express. If next-day delivery is essential, this USPS service is your go-to. It's slightly pricier but guarantees swift delivery.
  • Media mail. Perfect for shipping educational materials, this option is budget-friendly but may take longer.
  • Parcel shipping. This encompasses a range of services suitable for various package sizes, from small parcels to larger items.

Always weigh your items accurately. Overestimating can lead to unnecessary surcharges, while underestimating can result in delivery delays or additional charges. Investing in a reliable scale can save money in the long run.

Protect fragile items with ample bubble wrap. It's a small investment that can prevent costly damages. Always ensure that your shipping labels are clear and correctly placed. Misplaced or smudged labels can lead to delivery issues.

While dropping off your packages at the post office might seem convenient, scheduling pickups, especially for bulk shipments, can save time and streamline your shipping process. 

Be wary of hidden surcharges, especially when shipping large items. Carriers like UPS Ground often have additional fees for oversized or heavy packages. Familiarize yourself with these to avoid unexpected costs.

Leverage shipping discounts offered to small businesses. Both USPS and UPS offer discounted rates, especially if you're shipping in bulk. Using platforms that integrate with your eCommerce system can also automatically apply discounts, ensuring you always get the best rate.

While it's tempting to opt for the cheapest option, consider the value of faster delivery. For instance, next-day delivery might cost more, but it can enhance customer satisfaction and lead to repeat business.

Ensure your eCommerce platform integrates seamlessly with your preferred shipping method. This not only streamlines the shipping process but also allows for real-time tracking, enhancing the customer experience.

Learn more about optimizing in-house shipping with Circuit for Teams

If in-house delivery sounds right for your business, don’t go at it alone.

Circuit for Teams routing software can help you simplify your delivery operation and save hours from route planning each day. You can optimize multiple driver routes, keep customers updated, and get proof of delivery.

Other features include monitoring your team’s progress in real time. And you can customize delivery windows for customers who want specific time slots. Simply include the information and the app will make sure drivers arrive in time!
See how you can start route planning in less than five minutes. Start a free trial or book a demo today!

About the author

Heather Reinblatt
Heather ReinblattContributor

Heather Reinblatt is a managing editor currently living in St. Louis, Missouri. She spends her free time reading, trying new recipes, and cuddling her cat Paisley. You can find Heather on LinkedIn.

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