What is Small Package Shipping?

There's a lot of terminology to remember when entering into the world of small package shipping – and things can get confusing fast. Read on to learn what exactly small package shipping is, and if it's the right option for your business.

"Small package" shipping refers to lightweight parcels – specifically boxes or envelopes that weigh less than 150 pounds. Seems simple enough, right? Not necessarily! Let us break it down for you.

Small package shipping defined

Parcels, or small packages, are different from other types of shipments. Small package orders are retrieved from the pick-up or drop-off location of your choice and are then sorted and prepared for transit and (eventually) final delivery. Unlike freight shipping when boxes are placed onto pallets before being loaded onto the truck – individual small package shipments can be moved without assistance, and are placed directly onto carrier vehicles with other parcel shipments.

Small package or LTL shipping: what's the difference?

Since Less Than Truckload (LTL) freight shipping and small package shipping are quite similar, it can be difficult to understand which option is best for your needs. If your shipment weighs more than 150 pounds*, is irregularly shaped or needs to be shipped on a pallet, LTL shipping is probably your best option. However, you may want to consider parcel shipping if:

  • You don't want freight trucks driving to your business, or you would rather take your packages to a drop-off location
  • Your shipments will be delivered to a number of addresses, rather than one final destination
  • Your packages need to be delivered to a residential address
  • You or your customers require up-to-date shipment tracking

*It's worth noting that the 150 pound rule is more of a guideline than a mandate. Most small package carriers – including UPS® and FedEx – will accept packages weighing more than 150 pounds, but will charge an additional fee for being over the maximum limit.

Modes of transportation

There are a number of different "modes" (or types) of transportation for your small package shipments. Within each mode, there are also multiple "service levels," which refers to the time it will take the carrier to deliver your package (such as same-day, next-day, two-day, etc.).

While the requirements for each mode of transport vary between small package carriers, they typically include:

  • Domestic shipping. Domestic shipping – either by ground or by air – is the most common delivery type for small businesses, delivering packages throughout the U.S. Ground shipping is the most cost-effective method of domestic transport, typically delivering your package in 1-5 business days. However, if you need your packages delivered sooner – or even the next day – you may want to consider air.
  • International shipping. You can also deliver packages to or from international locations, including 200+ countries and territories worldwide. Like domestic shipping, there are a number of different international service levels to ensure your packages are delivered in the timeframe you need.
  • Specialty services. Most carriers also offer a number of specialty services tailored to meet your exact small package shipping needs. From temperature-controlled shipping for your perishable items to high-touch services for your high-value goods, there's almost always a service type to fit your needs.

Take the next step with Worldwide Express

As part of the largest non-retail authorized UPS® reseller in the U.S., Worldwide Express (WWEX) provides customers with best-in-class parcel shipping options at a price that meets your budget. But that's just the tip of the iceberg! Our dedicated team of shipping experts is ready to support your business with quality service and unmatched expertise for all of your small package shipping needs. We'll help you simplify the shipping process so you can focus on what really matters: your business.