Bigger and heavier items have special requirements when it comes to packaging and shipping services. Also, with bigger items like furniture, machinery, etc., the shipping costs are quite high.

This is in sharp contrast to sending small packages via traditional parcel shipping, with shipping costs being much cheaper. You may even get generous discounts from your shipping company.

Yet, providing your buyers with reliable and fast shipping options even for heavy goods is essential to the success of your business. So, how do you package and ship heavy items without having to spend a fortune on shipping?

This article will walk you through some of the cheapest ways to ship large items, and how to package and prepare your bigger shipments for a successful delivery.

What to consider when you ship large items

There are a number of factors that determine the cost of shipping large items. Knowing them will help you ascertain how your shipping company ascertains the applicable shipping rates and the steps you can take to minimize your shipping costs. These factors include:

1. Dimensional weight (DIM)

This is the “theoretical” weight of your item according to the minimum density number of your shipping company. The way this works is that your shipping company will first calculate the actual weight of your item, including the box holding it, based on how much space it occupies. That is, they will multiply the length, girth, and height of your item using the longest point on each side.

The result (its cubic size) will then be divided by the company’s DIM divisor to arrive at the dimensional weight. Your shipping rate will then be whichever is higher — the dimensional weight or the actual weight of your item. This means your price will be determined by the actual weight of your product if it’s higher, and vice versa.

Shipping companies introduced this concept because they were not making profits on items that were large enough to be classified as heavy items, but too light to justify the space being occupied.

DIM is very important for business owners shipping heavy items because they will need to contact the company to get the exact costs when the dimensional weight of their item exceeds its actual weight. Making the wrong cost projections based on the actual weight of these items will adversely impact planning.

2. Fragility

Fragile items require special handling, which comes with additional costs. You will need to spend more since the alternative is to live with the possibility that your fragile goods may get damaged before they are delivered to your customers.

That means dealing with high customer returns and refunds. You definitely want to avoid that. So working with a logistics company that specializes in handling fragile items is also something you may want to consider.

3. Origin and destination

The distance your packages need to travel from the point of departure to the customer’s location will also have a massive influence on shipping costs. Your provider will take into account the shipping zone of your destination when calculating your shipping rate.

This applies to both large items and small parcels. The further your item needs to travel, the higher will be the cost of shipping. You can reduce the impact of this factor on your shipping costs by working with an order fulfillment company that offers distributed fulfillment centers.

Such a 3PL company should ideally have warehouses that are close to the locations of the vast majority of its customers. When the starting point is close to your customers, the shipping costs will be much lower.

4. Shipping service

Most shipping carriers offer fast delivery services like next-day delivery, 2-day delivery, air freight, and others. You will have to pay extra for the privilege of enjoying these services.

Zone-to-zone shipping costs will still be applicable here. The further the zone, the higher the cost.

What’s the cheapest way to ship large packages?

All major shippers including USPS, FedEx, UPS, and DHL offer shipping services for heavy items, including very large items. Each offers cost-effective solutions for different freight classes, and there is no single cheapest shipping method to get your heavy items to your customers.

It’s up to you to research which carrier offers the fastest and cheapest shipping service for the items you are shipping. Picking the right carrier may be the difference between saving significant amounts of money on shipping or incurring losses. Let’s take a look at the services offered by the major carriers to help you make the right choice for your business.


America’s postal service has four shipping services that permit the shipment of heavy items. These are:

USPS Priority Mail

USPS Priority Mail lets you ship heavy items that weigh 70 pounds or less and are placed in mailers or boxes with dimensions that do not exceed 1 ft by 1 ft by 6 inches.

The shipping duration is 1-3 days. This makes Priority Mail an excellent option when you are sending small or mid-sized items to customers without any worries about time constraints.

USPS Priority Mail Express

You can opt for this overnight shipping service when you need to get the items to your customers as soon as possible. Mail Express is also limited to items that weigh 70 pounds or less, and you can’t ship oversized packages through Priority Mail. Your shipment will arrive at its destination the next business day.

This USPS service is arguably the cheapest way to ship heavy items, but only if your product fits into the flat-rate shipping envelope.

USPS Media Mail

USPS Media Mail offers the most affordable rates on the market for companies shipping media items like books, CDs, DVDs, and other related items. You should definitely take advantage of this service if your eCommerce business sells these products. Shipping takes 2-10 days, so you might want to consider another carrier if fast delivery is an essential factor for you.

USPS Ground

This is delivery by truck, and ground shipping is what you should opt for when the item you are shipping is too large for Priority Mail. The weight limit for UPS ground is still 70 pounds, but the service is meant for products that can’t fit into the boxes and mailers available in Priority Mail.

The drawback is that the delivery time is 2-8 days, which is slower than other alternative USPS options. If your package is too big for USPS priority mail, and you find the USPS Ground’s extended delivery time unacceptable, check out another carrier.


FedEx lacks fast delivery services for heavy items like what you can get with USPS Priority Mail. However, the carrier makes up for this by letting you ship items that are as heavy as 150 pounds. This is more than twice the 70 lbs limit set by USPS. The company’s relevant shipping services include:

FedEx Ground

This is one of the alternative options you can go for if your item doesn’t fit into the USPS flat-rate envelope. You can ship items that weigh up to 150 lbs, but delivery takes 1-7 days.

FedEx Freight (Priority or Economy)

FedEx will even let you ship items that weigh more than 150 pounds through FedEx Freight. The cost of freight shipping will depend on the weight and size of your package, but you can get really good discounts if you are shipping lots of pallets of heavy items.

Delivery takes 1-3 days with FedEx Freight Priority and 3-6 days with FedEx Priority Economy.


UPS Freight is the sole UPS shipping service that lets you ship packages that are 70 lbs in weight.

The carrier has strict guidelines regarding the types of boxes you can use to ship heavy items. You must also affix UPS Heavy-Package Highlight stickers to your box.

Delivery speed and shipping costs depend on which UPS Freight option you are paying for. These include:

  • UPS Freight Guaranteed: End of the following business day
  • UPS Freight Guaranteed: AM to noon the following business day
  • Worldwide Express Freight: 1-3 business days


This carrier has a well-earned reputation when it comes to international shipping. The company excels in this type of shipping because of the large fleet of aircraft it co-owns with airlines that ply the major routes.

The carrier also offers excellent options for delivering items that require temperature-controlled environments. Its most relevant shipping services are:

DHL Air Freight

DHL’s air freight service is an excellent option when you need a lightning-fast option. Expedited shipping by air will ensure your items get to customers as soon as possible, but you will pay much higher prices compared to what’s applicable with other carriers.

DHL Ocean Freight

With a presence in over 190 countries, DHL can get your heavy items to the vast majority of countries on the planet. Ocean freight is what you should go for when you need to ship heavy items in bulk over long distances.

Steps to ship heavy or oversized items

Here’s how you should go about packaging your heavy items and making sure you select the right carrier for your shipment.

Step 1: Place your items in sturdy boxes

Heavy items will need sturdy boxes. You should also add bubble wrap or packing peanuts to provide cushioning if you are shipping fragile items.

The noissue Custom Container Shipping Box is an excellent example of a recycled and recyclable cardboard box that can be used for packaging heavy items. The box is fully customizable, and the size can be tailored to suit your products. It is made from sustainable materials and can be digitally printed on both sides to show off your branding.

Step 2: Secure your package with packing tape

Next, seal your shipping box properly with packing tape. The noissue Custom Tape is perfect for this, and it can secure boxes that weigh up to 65 lbs. It’s customizable and can be digitally printed, so you can stay on-brand with every part of your packaging. Made from recycled paper, it’s also fully compostable and recyclable.

Photo by @nemmistudios_

Step 3: Measure and weigh your package

Since the weight of your product plays a major role in your shipping costs, you must weigh your items (including the boxes) beforehand to ensure their dimensions are within weight limits. Once you are sure they are within size limits, check the shipping rate calculators for USPS, FedEx, UPS, and DHL to see which carrier offers the best balance of cost savings and fast delivery.

Step 4: Print your shipping labels

Next, book your services and pay the shipping company you’ve selected. Once you’ve made the payment, print your shipping labels and fill out the required information. Put the labels on your boxes when you are done. And with that, your package is ready to be picked up by the courier.

Step 5: Get Insured

Shipping heavy items can be expensive, but your losses may be greater if they get damaged in transit and you have no shipping insurance. So get one from your shipping company. They cost a lot less than the actual shipping rate, and the benefits outweigh the risks.

Tips to lower your shipping costs on large items

The following best practices can help you trim the cost of freight shipments:

  • Use lightweight packaging: Packaging that is lighter but still sturdy will reduce package weight and save you money.
  • Use appropriately-sized packaging boxes: Custom large boxes tailored to your products will ensure your package is not unnecessarily large.
  • Divide shipments when appropriate: Use multiple shipping options when you can get a better rate from each for different packages.
  • Consider local delivery: Deliver using your own vehicles if you sell exclusively to local customers.

🎁 Wrapping it up

This article has given you all the information you need to package and ship heavy items. Now it’s time for you to get your packaging materials, prepare your items, and book with the carrier that offers the best shipping solution for the needs of your small business.

While you’re at it, don’t forget to check out noissue’s comprehensive range of sustainable packaging solutions for your every need.