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You’re Doing It Wrong: The Best Way to Ship Flat Rate Boxes Explained

April 2, 2019 Courier

If you’re like most e-commerce stores, you rely on online shoppers and fast shipping to make your money. 

A lot of factors can make your business more complicated. Flat rate boxes don’t have to be one of them. In fact, they can be a huge asset to your bottom line–if you know how to use them properly. 

Keep reading for a step-by-step guide of everything you need to consider when shipping flat rate boxes. You’ll be a pro in no time!

Do Your Research

First things first: do your homework. 

Any time you look into a shipping plan, you have to spend an equal amount of time looking into its competitors and doing a cost-benefit analysis of each one. Maybe one costs less but is ultimately less cost-effective than its pricier counterpart. 

You’ll never know until you research. 

Fortunately, all the major shipping vendors (US Postal Service, FedEx, UPS, and DSL) explain their rates and available services on their websites. 

How Does Flat Rate Shipping Work?

Once you’ve done your homework on the available services out there, we can spend some time talking about how flat rate shipping works. 

In this case, we’re talking about the USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate service, which will ship your package anywhere in the U.S. in one to three business days for a flat fee. Most other services will have varied fees based on the weight and destination of a package. 

First, you’ll need a flat rate box (hint: you need the branded boxes in order to get the flat rate). 

Ideally, you want a box that’s a snug fit for your products, since larger boxes are more expensive. Keep in mind, however, that you can’t ship anything through this service that weighs more than 70 pounds. 

Use Flat Rate Boxes at the Right Time

When you put flat rate boxes in the context of other services, it seems like an easy way to save money on shipping. 

Here’s the thing: if you ship everything flat rate, it’s actually going to cost more. 

There are two instances where it’s more expensive to ship using flat rate boxes: 

  1. Regional rate boxes
  2. Priority mail

Regional rate boxes work a lot like flat rate boxes, except that there are three weight tiers (flat rate accepts any weight under 70 pounds), and the shipping rate varies based on the distance the package has to travel. 

The shipping rate is broken down by shipping zones. Here’s the kicker: if your box is headed to Zone 1-4, it’s actually cheaper to ship with a regional rate box than a flat rate box. 

Then there’s priority mail. It might sound counterintuitive, but when your packages are lighter, priority mail can be cheaper than flat rate boxes. 

Let’s say you’re shipping a 3-pound box from Houston to Miami. With priority mail, this will cost you around $8.98. If it can fit in a small flat rate box, it will cost $6.85, but if it can’t, it will cost $12.45 in a medium flat rate box. 

So if you’re considering using flat rate boxes, make sure to use this calculator to figure out how much the package will cost to ship. 

Know Your Box Sizing and Pricing

This leads to our next point: know your way around box sizing and pricing. This will make it infinitely easier to figure out where you should use flat rate shipping or not. 

As of 2018, the rates are as follows: 

  • Gift card envelope (10″ x 7″): $6.70
  • Flat rate envelope (12.5″ x 9.5″): $6.70
  • Legal flat rate envelope (15″ x 9.5″): $7.00
  • Padded flat rate envelope (12.5″ x 9.5″): $7.25
  • Small flat rate box (Outside: 8 11/16″ x 5 7/16″ x 1 3/4″, Inside: 8 5/8″ x 5 3/8″ x 1 5/8″): $7.20
  • Medium flat rate box (top-loading) (Outside: 11 1/4″ x 8 3/4″ x 6″, Inside: 11″ x 8.5″ x 5.5″): $13.65
  • Medium flat rate box (side-loading) (Outside: 14″ x 12″ x 3.5″, Inside: 13 5/8″ x 11 7/8″ x 3 3/8″): $13.65
  • Large flat rate box (Outside: 12 1/4″ x 12 1/4″ x 6″, Inside: 12″ x 12″ x 5.5″): $18.90

Keep in mind that items must be less than 70 pounds and you should find a box that is a snug fit for your product.

There are also restrictions on shipping certain materials, including restricted, prohibited, or hazardous materials like ammunition, explosives, gasoline, alcohol, or tobacco. Make sure to read the full list of restricted items before putting them in a box. 

Consider Dimensional Weight Changes

If it fits, it ships, right? 

Sort of. It might ship, but it might cost you more than you thought. 

This is because of dimensional weight changes. These days, dimensional weight is calculated in addition to the actual weight–and you’ll pay the higher of the two. 

Make sure to measure and weigh your packages first. You don’t want to pay more because you didn’t account for dimensional weight. 

Get Your Label

Finally, it’s time to get your label. 

First, you need to double check the box and shipping method you’re using. The box won’t ship if the label doesn’t match the packaging you’re using. 

Fortunately, this is pretty easy, since many services now allow you to print the label online. 

Once you’ve got your label, print it and affix it to the box. From there, you can drop it off at the post office, drop it off in your mailbox, or arrange for a courier to pick it up. 

All the Shipping Services You Need

Are you ready to start shipping flat rate boxes? 

If you feel comfortable and ready to send your packages into the world, awesome! We’re here to help. And if you’re still feeling unsure of the whole process, no worries. We can help you with that too. 

Click here to get started with a courier shipping form, or get a quick quote to see how much a package will cost you. It’s fast, easy, and leaves you plenty of time to focus on doing what you do best: running your business.