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What Type of Pallet Is Best For Your Business?

Are you new to the world of pallet shipping? Perhaps your small online business is beginning to take off, and you’re starting to ship larger quantities and/or bigger items. You’d probably like to save as much time and money as you can by handling all of the packaging yourself. You’ve already got your boxes, bubble wrap, labels, and tape. Now all you need to do is order some pallets to fill. Easy, right? Not exactly.

Believe it or not, pallets come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. (Okay, maybe not all shapes. We’ve yet to see any octagonal pallets come through the Freight Buddy warehouse.) Each one is designed for a specific purpose or two, which can make it rather difficult to choose the right one for your business. Fortunately, we here at Freight Buddy have taken the time to break them all down by material, type, and size, so you can rest assured you have the right pallet for the job.

Material differences

Wooden Pallets: Wooden pallets are by far the most common type of pallets out there.

  • Advantages
    • Fairly strong and durable
    • Easy to grip
    • Easy to repair
    • Recyclable
  • Disadvantages
    • Easily damaged over time
    • Heavy weight
    • Prone to moisture damage
    • Higher injury risk due to splinters, protruding nails, etc.

Plastic Pallets

  • Advantages
    • Lightweight yet fairly strong
    • Resistant to corrosion, humidity, stress, and shock
    • Easily cleaned and sanitized
    • Much longer lifespan
  • Disadvantages
    • Difficult to repair
    • Not recyclable
    • Rather expensive

Metal Pallets: Metal pallets are usually constructed out of lighter metals, such as aluminum.

  • Advantages
    • Much stronger than wooden pallets
    • Low construction cost
    • Easily cleaned and sanitized
    • Weather resistant—ideal for outside use
  • Disadvantages
    • Difficult to repair
    • Heavy weight

Plywood Pallets

  • Advantages
    • Very lightweight
    • More moisture resistant than regular wooden pallets
    • Easy to repair
    • Recyclable
  • Disadvantages
    • Not ideal for heavy loads
    • Can warp and degrade over time

Pressed Wood Pallets (also known as engineered wood pallets): These pallets are made from wood shavings and particles which are bonded together under intense heat and pressure.

  • Advantages
    • Incredibly lightweight
    • Easy to handle
  • Disadvantages
    • Not ideal for heavy loads
    • Prone to water damage

Corrugated Board Pallets (also known as cardboard or paper pallets)

  • Advantages
    • Very lightweight
    • Customizable
    • Recyclable
  • Disadvantages
    • Not ideal for heavy loads
    • Degrade quickly with regular use
    • Prone to moisture damage

What pallet material is best for me?

First, you need to think about the goods you plan to ship. Are they heavy or light? Could they leak and potentially damage a particular material? Second, you’ll want to consider your storage and transportation limitations. How high will they be stacked? Will they be exposed to the elements or kept inside? Finally, you should take your budget into consideration. Some pallets are cheaper than others, but just know that certain materials tend to last much longer than others too, so it all depends on what you’re willing to invest. If you can’t decide, Freight Buddy recommends you stick with the tried and true wooden pallet.

Configuration Differences

There are two main styles for pallet design: stringer pallets and block pallets.

Stringer Pallets: They are usually designed with three parallel boards (stringers) which serve to support the top deck. They are also known as 2-way pallets as they can only be lifted from two of the sides.

Block Pallets: They are typically constructed with stronger blocks on the corners and sides to provide support for the top deck, which makes them ideal for heavier loads. They are also known as 4-way pallets as they can be lifted from any side.

While that doesn’t sound all that complicated, unfortunately each one has many different subcategories within it. This is where our guide will come in especially handy.

  • Reversible Pallets: They can be turned any side up as their top and bottom decks are identical.
  • Non-Reversible Pallets: They cannot be turned upside down as the bottom deck is configured differently than the top.
  • Single Wing Pallets: The top deck boards extend beyond the edges of the stringers, which increases its maximum weight capacity.
  • Double Wing Pallets: Both top and bottom deck boards extend beyond the edges of the stringers, which adds additional surface area for loads.
  • Flush Pallets: Unlike wing pallets, all deck boards are completely squared and flush with the stringers, which means there is no overhang.
  • Solid Deck Pallets: The deck consists of one solid piece of material with no spacing in between, which makes them much simpler to clean.

What configuration is right for my needs?

There are a couple important factors to take into consideration when choosing a style of pallet. The first is whether you intend to have heavier or lighter loads, as block-style pallets can handle greater weight. The next step is to think about the size and arrangement of your warehouse and the destination warehouse, if applicable. How high will they be stacked? Will they need to be accessible from any side? The particular forklift or pallet jack you use may also help determine the configuration you need. If you have no idea what is best, Freight Buddy believes a standard reversible stringer is usually a safe bet to go with.

Dimensional differences

The final way to differentiate between types of pallets is by their size. Standard sizes for pallets can vary across different regions of the world, meaning you likely won’t find an identically sized pallet in North America and Australia. Since Freight Buddy operates only in the United States and Canada, we will be sticking to the North American Pallet Standards for the sake of this article. The most common pallet size used here is 48” x 40” although there are plenty of other sizes used depending on the industry. Please refer to the chart below to match the right pallet size for you business.

Dimensions (W x L) Typical Industry It’s Used
48″ x 40″ Most Industries, Including Grocery
42″ x 42″ Telecommunications & Paint
48″ x 48″ Drum Shipping
40″ x 48″ Military & Cement
48″ x 42″ Beverage & Chemicals
40″ x 40″ Dairy
48″ x 45″ Automotive
44″ x 44″ Chemicals & Drum Shipping
36″ x 36″ Beverage
48″ x 36″ Lumber, Shingles, & Paper
35″ x 45.5″ Military ½ ISO Container
48″ x 20″ Retail

What size pallet is right for my business?

The pallet size you choose should be based on what you’re shipping, where you’re shipping it, and how you intend to load and unload your shipment. You can begin by choosing your industry from the chart above. If your particular industry isn’t listed, we suggest a standard 48” x 40” pallet as they work great for most products.

What if I still can’t decide?

That’s okay. The customer service agents at Freight Buddy are all experts on shipping, so give us a toll-free call at 800.578.6009. There’s no such thing as a “perfect pallet” but we will help you find the best pallet for you and all of your shipping needs.