I build and sell large items like head boards and bookcases and ship them all over the country.
I have done hours of research and have learned by trial and error and here’s what I have found to work best for shipping medium to large items:If you’re a small business and relatively new to the shipping game, you might have noticed that USPS and FedEx work fine for smaller packages, but that when you cross a threshold of weight and dimensions, USPS will no longer take your package, and FedEx (and UPS) rates increase by quite a lot.
Here are some work-arounds that I’ve found to save you and your customer money on shipping. Sometimes this can be the difference between making a sale or not if you have an online store.
1. Greyhound Package Express-
Greyhound has smartly taken advantage of extra cargo space on it’s passenger buses to make some extra money shipping packages. Great for us small business owners who need inexpensive ways to ship!
They have an easy rate quote tool on their site where you can plug in origin and destination cities with size and weight of your package and get a price. Search Greyhound Package Express.
You will have to drop the package off at your local station, but you can purchase and print your label off their site, so that the agent just needs to scan you in when you arrive.
They usually go out within 24 hours of drop off.
The biggest trick with Greyhound is getting to package from the greyhound terminal to your client’s door.
Some of my clients have been willing to pick up the package at the station. This saves them the cost of a courier service.
For those clients who won’t pick up at the station, I have found that local couriers are the way to go. Just google courier services in the zip of the client’s town, and get a quote or two to take the package from the Greyhound terminal to the client’s door. Depending on the town, you might find someone via the local Craigslist. Also, Uber is now offering courier service in some cities.
One challenge with Greyhound is that they don’t always have a terminal in the town that you’re shipping to. They also limit the weight to a max of 100 lbs, and there is a dimensional limitation based on the size of the buses’ cargo compartment.
2. Uship-This LTL freight broker has been great for me. They have a website and app that are pretty user-friendly. You can put your shipment up and shipping companies bid on it. When you receive a bid that you like, you can book it. This is not a service to use if you are in a rush, unless you are willing to pay more to rush your shipment. If you have flexible time, this can be good if your item is too big for greyhound.
The companies I’ve dealt with have generally been small, independent one man operations. Blanket wrap for furniture items and door to door service are often included in their prices.
There are other similar freight brokers online. I have tried a few. I have liked this one best for ease of use, reasonable pricing, and also because some others have abused my contact info and done a bunch of unwanted follow-up via phone and email.
3. Amtrak freight- Limits of 50 lbs per item and dimensions of 3′ x 3′ x 3′. If you palletize your shipment, it can weigh up to 500 lbs. A bit slow, but economical. Only useful if you are shipping multiple small pieces, but even then, one of the standard services is probably fine unless your items are really heavy.
4. FedEx and UPS- The prices go way up when your package exceeds a certain dimension, somewhere in the 4′ range, and becomes classified as freight. Fedex has also given me hassles about my self- packed items at times. Both services can be great for smaller items, but expensive for freight.
5. LTL ii (Less Than full Load freight.)- This is in the category of #2 on this list. My experience is that big freight companies that do LTL are generally geared toward big companies and don’t have a lot of patience for the “little guy.” The one bed I shipped from NC to NJ was a process fraught with complications and additional charges. They will also charge a re-delivery charge if the first attempt fails, and other charges for various delivery scenarios like inside delivery.
You can search LTL freight and find more of these companies if you want to try a few for yourself.
5. Air Freight/ cargo- Southwest has domestic cargo for small business. Sometimes their rates are better than over land. An issue I have run into is that their cargo door size will not allow something as big as one of my headboards. I have not used this service, just investigated pricing and size limits.
What I have learned is that it’s important to communicate with customers from the very beginning on larger orders off my Etsy store. I have notices posted that shipping costs are estimated and to please contact me for an accurate quote before ordering.
Rates vary widely depending on region.
In order to provide an accurate quote, it is helpful if you know your shipping weight and dimensions.
If you need to finish the piece first, you can provide an estimated cost and take a deposit with a final price being provided when the item is ready to go, and an adjustment being made at that time, either a partial refund to the client or an additional payment from them.
I hope this is helpful.
Feel free to add anything that I’ve missed in the comments.