How to Ship Odd Stuff


Odd stuff is stuff that is large enough, heavy enough or valuable enough to be a problem to ship.

Large or heavy items are a problem to ship because parcel carriers have size and weight limits. Expensive items are a problem because some carriers severely limit the amount of insurance they will issue for certain items.


What are the size and weight limits?

For the US Post Office the combined girth plus length must be less than 108 inches to ship as an ordinary parcel.

For Fed Ex Ground Shipping, the combined girth plus length must be less than 130 inches and the weight must be less than 150 pounds to ship at simple parcel rates.

Fed Ex Express (Air) will handle up to 160 inches and up to 150 pounds — but you must pay for air freight shipping.

Now, here’s an important bit of advice.

  • Get the carrier lined up before you pack the item.
  • Packaging requirements will depend on who carries it.

The big and light stuff

If money isn’t too important — Fed Ex Air might work. They’ll take boxes up to 160 inches (combined girth plus length). So a box 30 X 30 X 36 would ship OK. But it would be expensive!

Greyhound bus lines will carry some really huge boxes at very low rates. BUT!
The service is terminal to terminal. i.e. The sender must take the parcel to a greyhound terminal. Likewise, the receiver must pick up the parcel at a greyhound terminal. The insurance coverage is very limited and the maximum weight accepted is only 100 pounds and the maximum length accepted is only 74 inches. Nevertheless, this is the best deal we know of.

Another route would be to try a local air freight shipping company. Air freight shipping companies will carry huge parcels — but they will charge for the volume (domestically, they charge for 8.91 pounds per cubic foot). So, a 25 pound parcel measuring 24x24x72 might travel as though it weighed 214 pounds! Find air freight shipping companies in the local Yellow Pages or online.
Air freight shipping rates can vary a lot. Shop around. Some carriers will ship parcels terminal to terminal at quite low rates. Ask about weekend rates which may be even lower.

Here in San Diego we’ve been seeing low rates quoted by a company called Forward Air. These rates are for shipping between terminals. You would have to get the shipment to the nearest Forward Air terminal and it would have to be picked up at a Forward Air terminal at the other end. If this works for you, the rates are very good.

If all else fails, try shipping through a truck freight shipping line. Truck freight shipping companies are really set up for dealing with businesses and they are frequently very unpleasant to consumers. We’d start with Viking Freight or ABF — certainly the nicest of the lot.

Really big stuff

— say a crate measuring 36 inches on a side and weighing 175 pounds….
Air freight shipping companies might work, but this is something truck freight shipping companies do well. Try ABF or Viking truck freight shipping. Two other large trucking companies are Yellow Freight and Consolidated Freightways.
You may have to get the item to the terminal. Ask their advice. They may work with local delivery companies which can pick up.

If the package is too heavy for one man to lift it down off a truck — say 100 pounds or more, it would be wise to pay for lift gate service. A lift gate is a tail gate that works as a hydraulic elevator. Some companies make them available at an extra charge. Some require them. If the trucking company suggests it — pay the money. Otherwise your box could be unloaded very roughly (dropped).

Movers can also handle large, heavy items and they don’t require the item to be boxed. If getting the item into or out of a house is a major concern, a mover may be the best way to go. They can handle the whole deal.

Valuable items

Having a carrier accept an item doesn’t mean it’s insured.
Even mentioning the value to a clerk doesn’t mean it’s insured.
You need to have the insured value clearly stated on the freight shipping bill.

It’s essential that you be able to document the value of what you ship.
A sales receipt is a good indication of value.
Don’t be shy about getting a formal appraisel — in writing.

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