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For Big, Bulky Items – Which Is Better: Parcel or Freight Shipping?

Most eCommerce sellers have been in this exact position at some point. While most of your shipments are small enough to easily send via a traditional parcel delivery service, you now have one questionable package that is either too big, too bulky, or far too heavy, and you don’t know what to do.

You know there has to be a limit to what the post office will take, but you’re not sure what that is. You also know there are other options out there for larger cargo, but you don’t really know how they work or what they charge. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. Freight Buddy has been in the shipping industry for years and have helped send shipments of all shapes and sizes. We’ve broken everything down for you so you can make the most educated decision possible on your next large shipment.

What is parcel shipping?

A parcel, simply put, is a package that is sent through the mail. If it isn’t a postcard, letter, or flat (large envelope), then it’s a parcel. Parcel shipping is typically offered by postal services (such as USPS) and other private couriers like UPS, FedEx, and DHL.

Parcel shipments usually weigh under 70 pounds but can be a maximum of 150 pounds. They also need to be less than 108 inches in length, or under a combined length and girth of 165 inches. Any package that exceeds these limits either they won’t take, or they’ll add on outrageous surcharges.

Parcel shipments move through several facility checkpoints along the way. While this allows for more accurate tracking, it slows down the overall delivery time. It also calls for more hands on your shipment which inevitably increases overall risk of damage.

What is freight shipping?

Freight shipping can be broken down into two general types—less than truckload (LTL) and full truckload (FTL). For the sake of this post, we’re going to focus on LTL freight as no comparable parcel would require the use of a full truck.

LTL freight is primarily packed onto pallets for added safety and easier loading and unloading. It shares space on the same truck with other freight, thus reducing the cost of each individual shipment. Most carriers will accept shipments of anywhere from 1-6 pallets, with each pallet able to support up to 4,600 pounds on average.

LTL freight shipping, in general, has lower damage rates. And since they make less stops along the way, is usually the faster option of the two, especially for longer distances. Plus, you can take advantage of a third-party broker like Freight Buddy to make the whole process as easy and efficient as possible.

Let’s do a parcel vs. freight shipping example

There’s no better way to compare the two than with a calculated rate demonstration. For this example, let’s say we have a very large package weighing in at a hefty 145 pounds (just under the 150-pound limit for parcel shipments). It measures in with a length of 72 inches, width of 24 inches, and a height of 12 inches. We will be sending this package from Freight Buddy’s neck of the woods, Minneapolis, MN (55402) all the way down south to Austin, TX (78701), a total distance of about 1,172 miles.

For the parcel rate, we will use a standard UPS Ground 3rd Day Delivery, and determine the rate using their online quote tool. After punching in our shipment and package details and hitting “Continue” we were presented with our parcel shipping quote. They offer a fair base rate of $167.51 for our shipment. However, if you look at the screenshot below you can see that they added on both a $95 Large Package Surcharge and a $31.45 Peak Surcharge. Our grand total is now a steep $293.96 to ship our package. Yikes.

For the LTL freight rate, we plugged the same data into Freight Buddy’s handy rate calculator tool. The rates we quote are all significantly less than parcel, starting at a reasonable $232.77. Not only is it cheaper, but as you can see you have more options to choose from. If there’s a particular carrier you really like, you can go with them. For a few dollars more, the other three options will even deliver the package a whole day sooner. Of course, parcel companies offer more expedited shipping as well, but that will cost you in excess of $500.

The choice is clear

As the results clearly show, LTL freight takes the obvious edge over parcel shipping when it comes to delivering big, bulky, or heavy shipments. The next time you need to send an oversized package, we hope you come to Freight Buddy first. You can check out our rate calculator for yourself or give us a toll-free call at 800.578.6009.