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6 Ways to Save Money on Shipping and Shipping Surcharges

11 January 2024 by
Quickbox Manufacturing Ltd, Lorna Donnelly

Shipping costs are easily one of the biggest add on costs for an e-commerce business and come straight off your bottom line. If your products are large and unboxed they get labelled as ugly freight and a surcharge added to the shipping cost! The reason for this is the couriers have to process these manually and not automatically. The good news is you can save money on your shipping charges!

Always ensure your products are well packaged

Make sure that you package your items well to keep them safe on their journey. If your goods are not packaged sufficiently and become damaged any compensation cover provided will often be invalidated. This is also the first time your customer has physical contact with your company so make sure their first impression is a good one!

Know your couriers shipping dimensions

All couriers have shipping dimensions that they work to and it it is key that you understand what these are. Parcels are often sent out just a fraction over the size limit and a surcharge is added. This can be avoided by using the right size box. Some couriers, such as TNT charge volumetric weight for large light items. So make sure you have the smallest box possible for your products. Always get quotes from 3 or 4 couriers as some, like Parcel Force specialise in odd shaped shipments. You could use the volumetric weight calculator that Parcel Hero provides if you are unsure.

Clearly address your item and include contact phone numbers

  • Make sure the recipient’s name, address, postcode and phone number are clearly written on the outside of the parcel and if possible included these inside
  • Write your own name, address, postcode and phone number on the outside and inside of the parcel as the return address in case there are any queries during transit
  • Include a local phone number for international destinations, e.g. not a UK mobile number
  • For international services the telephone numbers of the sender and the recipient must be written on the customs declaration 

Use the Right Size Box

Many companies will utilise stock sizes of boxes and cartons for one simple reason – as they are produced in bulk and have no upfront design or tooling costs, they are considerably cheaper per unit than custom sized boxes. Whilst this sounds great in principal, the problems become apparent when shipping the finished products. To use the “nearest” sized packaging usually means a box that is big enough. However, the likelihood is that there will be wasted space within each box. This extra space will need filling with polystyrene loose fill, plastic bubble wrap or air pillows. While these are all good space fillers they cost money and aren’t good for the environment. Whilst it is not always the case, custom sized boxes can save companies vast amounts of money in shipping and courier costs.

Seal the Box Securely

Using the right tape to seal your boxes is as important as the quality of the box itself. You may have the strongest board grade and correct size box but if it isn’t closed properly all is wasted. There are some extremely good tapes on the market, and it is worth requesting samples from your packaging supplier. Depending on your products weight, if it’s large and heavy you may want to try a reinforced paper tape. For lighter products a standard paper tape is a good option. Another good tip which will save you money in the long run is to print your tape with a security sealed message. This reduces the chance of pilferage and makes sure your customer reports any issues immediately.

Watch out for Fuel Surcharges

These sneaky charges are often not very visible on your invoice but can be quite substantial, the highest we have seen is 19%. While the couriers need to make a profit, these charges add up and aren’t easy to pass on. Once again we would suggest checking out at least 3 different couriers to make sure you get the best deal.


As you can see from the points above, base rates account for only a portion of your parcel spend. It’s critically important to understand what’s driving your parcel expenses. Often small changes can save money on shipping and have a huge impact on your bottom line!

Quickbox Manufacturing Ltd, Lorna Donnelly 11 January 2024

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