Shipping large items: Which Carriers are best?

Large item shipping companies: The retailer’s guide


Written by David Renwick

If your business stocks large and heavy objects, offering them for sale online can present a number of challenges. One in particular is the increased shipping charges, and if a customer does decide to pay them, how to package the item safely? Or, more importantly, who is going to deliver it for you?

Finding large item shipping companies can really help you here. The best way to get heavy or large items to your customers effectively is to partner with a courier that has expertise in this area. Here’s what you need to know to find the right shipping partner for your business.

Courier standing next to van holding parcels

Large item shipping companies: A guide for retailers

There are a lot of courier companies out there that will have experience in large item shipping. They’ll know how to safely handle these items and be able to accurately provide the cost of shipping large items to give your customers peace of mind when they order.

Below, we’ve put together a list of some of the key terms to know, and steps you can take to ensure success when you’re shipping heavy items to customers. This is a great place to start, but we’d also recommend speaking directly to your courier if you have specific requirements.

It’s also important to check what your courier defines as a large or heavy item, as each courier company has a slightly different set of criteria. Remember to take into account an item’s dimensions as well as its weight.

What's the difference between deadweight and volumetric weight?

Two particular terms are going to dominate your search for how to ship large items: deadweight and volumetric weight. You’ll need to learn about both of these metrics for any heavy items you’re planning to ship. The definitions are:

  • Deadweight: This is how much the large shipping item actually weighs. If a courier is pricing your delivery by deadweight, they aren’t taking the dimensions of the product into account.
  • Volumetric weight: Sometimes referred to as dimensional weight, this takes into account the length, weight and height of the object you’re shipping so the courier knows how much space it will take up, not just how much it weighs.

How do companies calculate volumetric rate?

When shipping large items, some companies want to know how much space these items will take up. This is so they can maximise the shipping potential of each truck or plane, as it allows them to charge accordingly and make space for big shipping boxes.

To calculate a volumetric rate, companies will multiply a package’s height, weight and depth, and then divide that by 5000. They may also compare this against an equivalent deadweight rate for the same item when selecting which rate is most appropriate.

Calculation example

Take a look at the following calculation example from DHL for volumetric weight:

You have to send a shipment of 20 kg with the dimensions 75 cm (L) by 40 cm (W) by 40 cm (H).

The calculation is then as follows: The volumetric weight in this case is higher than the actual weight of the shipment, so the rate is based on 20 kg.

Helpful person sitting on shipping boxes

How do shipping companies calculate weight?

If you’re wondering how to ship large items by weight, it’s actually as simple as it sounds. Couriers that use a deadweight rate will simply weigh your item, multiply its mass by their specified rate and then that will be your cost.

Cheapest shipping for large items

Now that you’ve learnt the key terms for shipping heavy items, you’re probably wondering which option is the most cost-effective, particularly if you’re trying to ensure fair and consistent pricing for your customers.

If your item is only just over the threshold for what is considered a large item with your normal courier, you may want to quickly check the requirements with other companies as well in case theirs are slightly different.

FedEx notes that, in some situations, volumetric weight can be a cheaper option. This is because there are a few key advantages for sellers that can fit their large shipping items into more efficient packaging, such as the environmental benefits of shipping a more efficient package. However, if you’re shipping items that are naturally large or have unique dimensions, you’re going to have to work with the rate the courier company gives you.

Large shipping item companies

When planning how to ship heavy items, it’s good to check out which companies provide the right service and how they can meet your needs. Here’s a few we recommend and how they deal with heavy equipment shipping.

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StarTrack adds extra fees for shipping heavy items, as is standard procedure. Items that are over a deadweight of 32 kg will be charged $75, while items with larger than normal dimensions will also face a surcharge. The price for their dimensional weight option scales with the size of the large item.

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Direct Freight Express

When shipping large items with Direct Freight Express, the company uses the term “chargeable kilograms” to describe how it allocates pricing for these goods.

Direct Freight express will measure an item’s deadweight and dimensional weight, and charge based on which unit is the highest. This is common practice for shipping companies that take both units into account.

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Is your item heavy, large or oversized? TNT has some great guidelines for narrowing down exactly what service your package needs. They also detail the weight limits for each of their services.

For example, heavy shipping items of up to 500 kg can still be sent on their Express courier service. Finally, they remind us that heavy boxes don’t always need a pallet (as long as they’re less than 70 kg) but they do need labels! Putting a “heavy” label on your item keeps everyone safe in the shipping process.

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Hunter Express

Like Direct Freight Express, Hunter Express likes to know both the deadweight and the volumetric weight to calculate the cost of shipping large items.

Hunter Express charges for heavy items based on which is higher: deadweight or volumetric weight. The company also notes that knowing this information ensures they send the right vehicle to pick up a large item for shipping.

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Like other couriers on this list, UPS shipping large items costs depend on the size and weight of the package in question. Under the system UPS uses, large shipping items over 68 kg are classed as freight, which further affects the way they are charged and shipped.

For the charges themselves, they depend on the volumetric weight of an item and scale as the weight rises. For more help with shipping heavy items, check out the guide UPS put together.

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With FedEx shipping large items costs are based primarily on the size of the item. Like the other couriers on this list, there are extra surcharges if an item is particularly heavy alongside a large volumetric weight. FedEx also classifies items over 68 kg as freight, so this can also impact the cost of shipping large items.

Displaying live rates at checkout to your customers

To help your customers get some clarity over the cost of shipping large items, we recommend displaying live rates at the checkout for online shoppers.

Starshipit integrates with a number of eCommerce platforms and courier services to make this process much easier for you and your customers. Check out our support guide on displaying live rates to learn how to set this feature up.


Shipping heavy items can have its challenges, but with the right couriers and support from smart software like Starshipit, you can ensure shipments of all sizes end up safely in your customers’ hands.

By having an understanding of terms like deadweight and volumetric weight and understanding how they relate to your products, you’ll be all set to work with couriers on shipping large items. All that’s left is to get in touch with us.

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David Renwick

David Renwick

David is Starshipit's Product Marketing Lead. When he's not whipping up a fresh new product update or chatting to customers for an exciting case study, you'll typically find him scoping out coffee spots and talking about what's on at the movies. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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