How to Determine Shipping Cost

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Assemble, weigh and measure your shipment prior to calculating and comparing costs.
Assemble, weigh and measure your shipment prior to calculating and comparing costs. (Image: weigh in image by Kimberly Reinick from Fotolia.com)

Not only can you pre-determine the shipping cost of a package, you can do so with various carriers and compare their pricing before you select one to handle the shipment. Before you calculate the cost, you need to know exactly what you’re shipping (weight, dimensions and sometimes type of packaging), as well as (at minimum) the ZIP Codes of origin and destination, if not the full addresses of each. Some carriers may offer a flat rate for using their packaging, and you can determine this during the online calculation process.

Things You'll Need

  • Weight of shipment
  • Dimensions of package
  • ZIP Code of shipment origin
  • ZIP Code of shipment destination

Prepare Package

Assemble your package, including contents, packing materials such as newspaper and/or bubble wrap and the box. Do not tape or enclose the package; this is not necessary to calculate shipping costs, and you may want to adjust your package prior to shipping.

Weigh your assembled package using a kitchen or bathroom scale. Round the weight up to the nearest pound.

Measure the length (L), width (W) and height (H) of your package using a ruler or measuring tape.

United States Postal Service (USPS)

Launch the USPS "Postage Price Calculator" webpage (see Resources).

Select "United States" from the Destination drop-down list.

Enter the ZIP Code of origin in the "From ZIP Code" text box, and enter the destination ZIP Code in the "To ZIP Code" text box.

Enter the "Mailing Date" in MM/DD/YYYY format. You can also click on the calendar icon next to the "Date" text box, navigate to the mailing date of your choice and click to select it.

Select a "Flat Rate Service" if you will use a USPS-supplied box. Choose the box size with the dimensions (LxWxH) that will fit your shipment. A new screen will generate and show your shipping cost.

Select a "Shape" if you will use your own box or other packaging and enter the shipment weight in pounds and ounces, then click "Continue." Provide additional information as prompted, such as package dimensions (LxWxH) and speed of service, then click "Continue." A new screen will show the postage price for that shipment.

FedEx

Launch the FedEx "Rates and Transit Times" webpage (see Resources).

Select "United States" from the "From Country" drop-down list and enter the ZIP Code of origin.

Select "United States" from the "To Country" drop-down list and enter the destination ZIP Code.

Enter the "No. of packages" and total weight in pounds under "Additional Information."

Check the "Ship to a residence" box and/or "Ship using a FedEx account number" if applicable under "Additional Information."

Select "schedule a pickup," "use an already scheduled pickup" or "drop off at FedEx location" from the "Pickup/Dropoff" drop-down list under "Additional Information."

Enter the "Mailing Date" in MM/DD/YYYY format. You can also click on the calendar icon next to the "Date" text box, navigate to the mailing date of your choice and click to select it.

Click the "Get quick quote" button. A new screen will display your delivery options and corresponding prices.

United Parcel Service (UPS)

Launch the UPS "Calculate Time and Cost" webpage (see Resources).

Click the "Quck Time and Cost (Package)" radio button.

Select "United States" from the "Ship From-Country" drop-down list and enter the ZIP Code of origin.

Select "United States" from the "Ship To-Country" drop-down list, enter the destination ZIP Code and click "Commercial" or "Residential" under "Destination Type" as appropriate.

Select a date from the "When are you shipping" drop-down list, enter the package weight in pounds and click "Next." A new screen will display your delivery options and corresponding prices.

Tips & Warnings

  • Boxes often have pre-printed dimensions on them; look on the bottom and sometimes the bottom of one of the sides for the dimensions in this format: XXxXXxXX.
  • The maximum USPS shipment weight is 70 lbs.

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