How to Get the Cheapest Shipping Rates

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The weight and shape of your package influence the cost to ship it.
The weight and shape of your package influence the cost to ship it. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

In the Communication Age we send information from person to person digitally. But there is still a need to ship tangible items around the world. You can choose to let the U.S. Postal Service deliver virtually anything, or you can contract with a commercial or private shipper to move your goods where they need to go. Prices will vary depending upon the weight and dimensions of the item and its packing, and how quickly the item needs to arrive at its destination. Compare quotes and consider negotiating to get the cheapest shipping rates.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer
  • Internet connection
  • Digital scale
  • Packing material
  • Tape measure

Determine the Weight and Dimensions of the Package

Place the item that will be shipped in a box suitable for shipping, unless the item is something so large a box is impractical. In such a case you'll want to seek packing advice from the shippers you approach. Add newspaper or Bubble Wrap as needed to secure the item within the box.

Place the box on a digital scale. The reading will give you the item's shipping weight. In the case of an unboxed, bulky item, research to find an accurate weight.

Use a tape measure to find the dimensions of the box or of the item itself if applicable. Measure the length, width and height as well as other dimensions if the item is oddly shaped and unboxed.

Find the Post Office Shipping Price

Open a browser and navigate to USPS.com. Once there, click on "calculate a price."

Select the country that the item will be shipped to from the drop-down menu. Then indicate the origin and destination ZIP codes in the fields below.

Select the date the item will be shipped and the approximate time it will be shipped from the drop-down menus on the page.

Choose the type of shipping service. There is a flat-rate service available that charges a single rate no matter the weight of the box. There is also an option to choose shipping is charged by the weight and shape of the package. A text box will pop up asking for the shipping weight of the package.

Select an option and click continue.

Print the next screen that loads. This will be a listing of the different prices and delivery times available through the post office. Save this printed copy for comparison to the competitors' times.

Find the UPS Shipping Price

Open a browser and navigate to UPS.com. Select your country and then click on "Calculate Time and Cost" on the UPS homepage.

Fill out the necessary forms by selecting the type of item being mailed, the shipping weight, as well as the origin and destination ZIP codes for the package being shipped.

Print the next screen that loads. This will be a listing of the different prices and delivery times available through UPS. Save this printed copy for comparison.

Find the FedEx Shipping Price

Open a browser and navigate to FedEx.com. Select the country the computer is being used in and then click on "Get Rates and Transit Times" on the FedEx homepage.

Fill out the necessary fields including the package's origin and destination, the shipping weight, and the date it will ship. Push the "Get Quick Quote" button when finished.

Print the next screen that loads. This will be a listing of the different prices and delivery times available through FedEx. Save this copy.

Find Private Carrier Rates to Ship Large Goods

Open a browser and navigate to Uship.com.

Hover the mouse over the word "ship" at the top of the page. Then, click "shipping price estimator" from the dropdown menu that appears below.

Select the type of item that will be shipped from the dropdown menu on the left side of the page. Selecting a subcategory may also be necessary as well.

Type the origin and destination zip codes into the fields on the left side of the page. Then, click "get price estimate."

Find an item from the list that is comparable to the item being shipped and the distance it needs to be shipped. This will help determine an approximate cost of shipping the large item.

Tips & Warnings

  • There are several companies aside from the ones outlined above that ship smaller packages to large commercial goods like cars, boats and refrigerators. Some of these other companies include DHL, Bluesea Shipping and Nex.
  • When sending a package, be sure to account for packaging material added after the initial weight measurement. This will vary depending upon the size of the package, but adding an extra 8 ounces should comfortably account for the extra weight.
  • Do not seal a package closed until you've chosen a shipping carrier; you might wait until you're at the shipper unless it would be impractical. Sealing it early will make it difficult to remove and inspect the item or make small adjustments to the packing material or the weight of the package.

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