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Big products, big problems — right? Heavy-weight large packages and oversized shipping can seem like a pain and a half, but there are plenty of carriers that offer fast and easy shipping of even the biggest and bulkiest items or a business owner’s peace of mind.
By comparing the pros and cons of various carriers, you can figure out which shipping solution is best for your business.
Table of contents:
- 4 tips for shipping large and heavy items
- What to do before shipping large and heavy items
- What to consider when shipping heavy items
- Best ways to ship heavy and large items (+ top carriers compared)
- How do ecommerce shops ship heavy items?
- Shipping large items FAQs
- Need help with fulfilment?
4 tips for shipping large and heavy items
Before you ship large and heavy items, you first need to ensure they’re secured and packed in the right packaging. Once that’s done, there are a few more things you need to consider before you send out the package.
Choose a carrier
First, you need to pick a carrier to ship your large and heavy items. Choosing the right one is essential, as they play a massive role in customer satisfaction. Even though potential problems in the shipping process may not be your fault, your customers will associate an awful shipping experience with your brand, so you need to pick the carrier you’ll use carefully.
You need to ensure that the carrier you want to use can ship larger and heavier packages — not all of them do. You should also consider your budget, timing, and the carrier’s shipping processes.
Lost or damaged items is a worst-case scenario, but it is one you will inevitably have to deal with. So, how can you mitigate the risk, as well as lower what you’ll have to pay for the replacement product and shipping? Shipping insurance. It’s not that expensive when compared to the benefits, and it’s well worth it if you’re shipping a high volume of products.
There’s a lot that goes into deciding who to ship your heavy items with, and how. Size matters just as much as weight — you could have two packages that weigh the same, but one is small and dense and the other is large and awkwardly shaped, and you’ll likely have two different shipping companies come up as the best result.
What to consider when shipping heavy items
With that in mind, here are some factors to consider when shipping heavy items:
1. Parcel weight/size
While most UK and European carriers base their delivery charges on the weight on the parcel (along with delivery origin & destination), there are also restrictions on the actual size of the parcel. This is not so dissimilar to what is known as the dimensional weight concept favoured by US carriers. Dimensional weight is a “theoretical” weight of your package.
Based on how much volumetric space your package occupies, they 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).
This is extremely important to keep in mind if your packages weigh less than the dimensional weight, and you’ll want to get quotes from companies to find out the actual cost instead of doing your own calculation based on the actual weigh
2. Fragility items
Another shipping tip is that if your item is delicate and needs a little extra care, you may want to choose a carrier that prides itself on handling fragile shipments rather than focusing on faster transit times that might harm parcel shipping.
3. Origin and destination of the package
No matter how heavy your package is, carriers will use the origin and destination of the package to calculate how far you’re shipping, and whether you are crossing any country/region borders. Generally, the further the distance, the higher the cost of shipping.
4. Carrier’s rules
Each carrier has its own rules, and the one you use will heavily influence your cost, based on what you’re shipping. Some carriers are more friendly than others when it comes to weight, size, and fragility — we’ll go more into detail about that in the next section.
5. Type of service being used
Are you planning on offering international shipping? Next day delivery? Each of these is important to consider when choosing a carrier.
Calculate costs of shipping large or heavy items
The process of calculating costs for shipping large or heavy items is quite simple. All you need to do is measure the weight and dimensions of your package, then use the carrier’s calculator or reference their pricing page to calculate your costs.
Here are all the calculators and reference pages from major carriers:
- Royal Mail — Postage rates and prices reference page
- Parcelforce — Shipping quote page
- DHL — Shipping quote estimation page
- DPD — Postage rates and prices reference page
Best ways to ship heavy and large items (+ top carriers compared)
There are quite a few big-name players in the heavy-weight and oversized shipping game. Each one offers at least one good option for certain types of packages, but not all are cost-effective shipping options. Picking the right one can be the difference between being in the red or in the black, so read on to see which ones offer the right mix for you.
However, while the carriers/shippers who cater to smaller businesses and individual customers post their prices publicly (DPD, Royal Mail, DHL), carriers that work with larger businesses on a larger scale tend not to post their high-volume prices publicly.
If your product is big enough and high-quantity enough, it will almost always be cheaper to use freight shipping than a parcel, so it’s always worth it to get the price for freight shipments.
The cheapest way to ship heavy items
The cheapest way to ship heavy items is by consolidated freight, but it’s important to compare Royal Mail, Parcelforce, DPD, and DHL according to how heavy your product is and what type of product you are shipping. Prices are summarised when provided, but if no prices are listed, you’ll need to contact them directly to get a quote.
Royal Mail has several shipping services for parcels up to 20kg in weight, even including a 24 hour delivery option.
Tracked 24 hour & 48 hour options
Both 24 hour and 48 hour tracked delivery options across the UK have an upper limit of 20kg for all sizes, from a small parcel to a large box, but the largest size they offer is 61cm x 46cm x 46cm. Prices range from £3.95 for a small parcel to £11.95 for the large box for a 24 hour service (with up to £100 compensation included) 48 hour prices are cheaper at £2.85 for a small parcel and £9.45 for a large box.
Tracked with Signature options
Tracked with signature is a great option if you need to extra security that you parcel has been received at its final destination. Again, compensation of up to £100 is included per parcel. UK 24 hour rates range between £4.41 and £12.31 and 48 hour rates slightly cheaper between £3.54 and £9.81.
Special Delivery Pre-1pm
Special Delivery not only adds a pre-1pm delivery slot when you need to get parcels delivered quickest. They also add additional compensation values up to £2,500 per parcel. A UK 24 hour delivery service is available for all parcels. A 20kg parcel costs £18.45 with compensation coverage up to £500, and £21.45 up to a value of £2,500.
The sister-arm of Royal Mail, Parcelforce offers a number of large parcel options for both domestic and international shipments.
If you were feeling left out by the Royal Mail weight limit of 20kg, enter Parcelforce. They offer both 24 hour and 48 hour delivery options across the UK for parcels up to 30kg and 2 metres in size. For a 48 hour option expect to pay £30.85, with compensation of up to £100 included.
DHL’s heavy shipping options are great for international shipping and even include express shipping.
DHL owns, co-owns, or partners with several different airlines around the world. It offers an air freight service in which your freight gets added to various flights that are scheduled along major routes, and it offers door-to-door delivery (plus airport-to-door, or door-to-airport).
Like all other carriers, it offers options for how fast you need your freight delivered, from Urgent (1-2 days) to Economy (5-7 days), and it even offers options for special cargo, temperature-controlled environments, and day-definite international shipments.
For parcels between 16 and 20kg, with a size of 65cm x 65cm x 65cm – expect to pay £18.89 for a next-day delivery service in the UK. DHL also offers multiple large delivery options for international destinations.
For slightly larger parcels between 21 and 25kg in weight, with a maximum size of 70cm x 70cm x 70cm, DHL’s Extra Large service is also available across the UK with a 24 hour service. Prices start at £22.89. and include DHL also offers air freight and ocean freight service that carries freight overseas. They offer Full Container (FCL) and Less Than Container (LCL), and a similar variety of special options, like temperature-controlled areas and even transportation of liquids.
The bottom line is that freight options are for when your cargo is too heavy, big, or bulky to get a good price shipping it parcel. It makes more sense to ship it by pallet or container, because you’ll get a better price and service.
How to ship even heavier items over 30kg
In the previous section, we talked about how you can ship items lighter than 25kg. But what about when you need to ship items that are larger than 30kg? There are a few options you can consider.
If you want to ship items that weigh over 30kg, but under 1,000kg, DPD offers two freight options:
Available for parcels between 31 and 99kg in weight, with a maximum length of 3 metres. DPD offers both UK domestic and international shipping. UK rates are available for a number of delivery speeds, including 48 hours, 24 hours, and next-day time-slot options. With a 2-day option costing £32.76 per consignment up to 5kg, then £0.57 per additional kg (with a minimum charge of £26.71 per parcel).
A next-day, pre 12:00 delivery would cost £53.94 per consignment up to 5kg, then £0.95 per additional kg (with a minimum charge of £44.36 per parcel).
For even larger deliveries, and those specifically requiring pallet transport, DPD also have pallet options available up to a maximum weight of 1,000kg. Like their freight parcel deliveries a number of 48 hour, 24 hour, and next-day time-slot options are available in the UK. A 48 hour service would cost £108.22 per pallet up to 250kg, then £0.11 per additional kg (with a minimum charge per pallet of £108.22).
A next-day, pre 12:00 option is also available at a cost of £176.94 per pallet up to 250kg, then £0.19 per additional kg (with a minimum charge per pallet of £176.94).
How do ecommerce shops ship heavy items?
As you can imagine, shipping heavy items is a bit different for ecommerce stores. Trying to handle inventory storage, tracking, and shipping of heavy inventory can be a bit much for many ecommerce shops that are trying to scale, so instead, they can opt to use a third-party retail fulfilment company.
There are even third-party logistics companies that specialize in heavy items. It can help tremendously with scaling, shipping faster, and even lowering shipping costs overall. When you have another company handling your inventory, taking advantage of multiple fulfilment centres, and negotiating cheaper rates with shipping carriers, you can pass those benefits on to your customer.
Shipping heavy items is always going to be more complicated than shipping small and light ones. Accounting for all the different variables and fees that get added on, from weight limits to dimensional weight, can be complicated, but hopefully this article helped guide you.
Shipping costs can eat your profits alive whether you are a small business or a multi-chain company. Shipping rates fluctuate and could easily affect your bottom line if you don’t keep an eye on them, so it’s always worth it to do the research and see which carrier is going to be the right fit for your business.
Shipping large items FAQs
Here are the answers to the top questions about shipping large items.
What is the cheapest way to ship large items?
The cheapest way to ship heavy items is by using consolidated freight. However, it’s important that you compare shipping carriers based on what you are shipping and how heavy it is.
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