Shipping Large Items

Different rules apply to freight. What are your options?

by staff writer
- Mar 19, 2008

So you're finally getting around to that "someday" bathroom renovation, and now it turns out the antique claw-foot tub you fell in love with so many years ago—which has since been collecting dust and spider webs in your garage—just isn't going to fit. You can't bear to see your gorgeous bathtub reduced to serving as a garden planter box or garage sale fodder that sells for pennies on the dollar of its true value.

You could eBay it. And no, you don't have to limit your listing to local pickups (although you can if you wish).

True, getting that bathtub from Point A to Point B will involve a little more than slapping on a stamp and handing it off to your neighborhood postman. When it comes to shipping large or heavy items, the usual rules definitely do not apply. You might be dealing with freight.

How do you know if your item qualifies as freight? Here's a good way to tell: If it's too heavy, bulky or awkward to be safely carried by one person, it's most likely freight.

Once you've established that your item will require special handling, you'll want to get to know your shipping options. Here are a few to consider:

Parcel service: The U.S. Postal Service offers freight shipping for anything over 70 lbs. and/or 130 inches in combined length and girth. Major package shippers like FedEx and UPS charge freight rates for items that weigh more than 150 lbs., and/or measure a combined 165 inches. Among freight-shipping options, these are the most expensive.

Trucking company: You can often get a deep discount on freight shipping by piggybacking on a trailer that isn't quite full-or what those in the shipping business call Less-Than-Load (LTL). Contact local trucking companies to find out how to get your item included on the next shipment.

However, there are a few drawbacks to keep in mind. This method can be far cheaper than a parcel service, but your item is usually sent uninsured and unprotected. And because getting the item to its final destination may involve dozens of transfers, it's tough to guarantee a delivery timeframe.

Terminal-to-terminal service: Options here include Greyhound PackageXpress (100-lb. limit), rail or freight forwarders like ForwardAir. You drop off the freight at the bus, train or airport terminal, and the buyer picks it up at a terminal close to his or her location.

If it's too heavy, bulky or awkward to be safely carried by one person, it's most likely freight

Freight shipment broker: Companies such as DIY Freight,, and UShip might be able to get you a better rate on shipping than you could get by going the LTL route. They aggregate shipments for thousands of small customers, effectively becoming one large customer to the carrier.

They also have relationships with the carriers, so they can generally guarantee a higher quality of service. Even so, this method is still less secure than shipping through one of the major parcel services.

Understand the variables

The cost of shipping freight can vary widely depending on the destination and other factors, such as whether the item will be delivered to a residence, commercial location or a loading dock. You can help avoid buyer sticker-shock by including a free freight calculator in your listing so viewers can estimate the cost before deciding to bid.

Keep in mind also that your item is probably going to be moved by forklift, not human power—and it probably will see the inside of many a trailer and warehouse before it reaches its final destination. So packaging will need to be even more secure for freight than for regular shipping.

Whether the item needs to be packed in a crate, on a pallet, in a box or other shipping container largely depends on the item and the carrier's requirements. It's a good idea to do find out what individual carriers recommend before deciding the shipping method. All of that extra packaging will also add quite a bit of heft—and cost—to your item, so take this into consideration as well.

Of course, you can always leave the shipping arrangements up to the buyer. But if you as the seller handle the details, you maintain control of the sale and can usually ensure a better overall experience for your customer.

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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