How to Ship Heavy Items and Oversized Items

When it comes to shipping, size matters (and so does weight). Moving big or heavy items around the country or globe may seem like a hassle, and pricing schemes for large items can be overly confusing—but sometimes, you simply don’t have a choice. So, what should you do when you need to ship that elephant-sized piece of machinery or heavyweight set of encyclopedias? We’re here to help!

What Is Considered a Large or Heavy Shipment? 

Before answering that question, it’s important to understand that there are two types of shipments: parcel and freight. Parcel consists of the letters, magazines, and “normal-size” packages you might receive from e-commerce retailers and other companies. Major carriers have different limits for weight and size, which we’ll cover shortly. If your package exceeds any of these measurements, it will be considered a "freight shipment" (and that means—you guessed it—special freight charges). 

How Much Does It Cost to Ship Large or Heavy Items?

It’d be so much easier if there was a fixed price for shipping! Unfortunately, there’s not. So, in addition to considering carrier, weight, and transit time, shippers must take the following items into consideration. This will be even more important if you’re shipping large items internationally versus shipping heavy items across the country.

Dimensional Weight

This is something to be aware of because the practice of applying dimensional weight to shipments is fairly new. Within the last five years, carriers noticed they were losing money on large yet light items. These large items took up a lot of space on their trucks, yet netted them little money. So, they’ve begun applying this “theoretical” weight to packages based on how much volume the package occupies. They will then charge you for whatever earns them more money, the actual weight of the package, or the "dimensional weight."

So, if your packages tend to weigh less than the dimensional weight, the cheapest way to ship oversized packages will most likely be to find a carrier that doesn’t follow this practice.

Freight Class

If your item goes beyond the weight and size restrictions of parcel shipping, you’ll need to ship it as freight. That’s where freight class shipping comes in. There are 18 classes, meant to help “establish a commodity's transportability." You can read more about freight classes on the website for the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA)


You know that the farther an item is traveling, the more it’s going to cost you! But, you should know you can also be hit up for “limited access location” charges when shipping freight. These are areas where pick up and delivery services are restricted, meaning a carrier needs additional time and labor to unload your items.

Limited access locations include airports, casinos, construction sites, country clubs, churches, government facilities, farms, hotels, hospitals, schools, mini-storage facilities, nursing homes, prisons, and more.

What is the Best Way to Ship Large Items or Heavy Items?

People instinctively go to the “big three” when thinking about shipping. Here’s where they draw the line on heavy parcel shipments:

USPS: Weight limit of 70 pounds for all size packages. The maximum size for parcel mail pieces is 108 inches in combined length and girth. USPS Retail Ground pieces may measure up to 130 inches.

UPS and FedEx: Weight limit of 150 pounds for all size packages. Packages can be up to 108 inches in length or 165 inches in length and girth combined. 

Now, perhaps you have an item that is much larger or heavier than these parcel options. You’ll need to ship your product as freight. This is when many small businesses concerned about cost wind up overpaying—often paying for an entire trailer that is only half full. So, be sure to consider a carrier that offers less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping. 

LTL shipping is great when an item is too heavy or too large for a parcel, yet won’t fill an entire palletized shipment. It allows you to share space, and this costs, with other shippers. Read more about LTL freight at FedEx and UPS, along with information about their air freight and ocean freight options.

Shipping Heavy Items and Oversized Items

Shipping heavy items or oversized items will always be more complicated than dropping a letter into a mailbox, but there are major carriers and other specialized carriers that will be more than happy to assist. While it can be tempting to simply find the cheapest way to ship heavy items or oversized packages, remember that you also want your packages to arrive safely—and in one piece! So, be sure to always shop around for the best deal, but also consider the carrier’s history and reputation.

Need regular fulfillment of heavy or large items? We may be able to help! Drop us a line and let us know about the size and weight of your fulfillment item and we'll let you know what we can do for you.

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