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The Cost Of Shipping Pieces Together vs. Individually

Posted in Shipping on Jun 29, 2016, tagged with freight shipping, furniture, moving costs

When it comes to moving your living room furniture, you’re probably asking yourself—should I ship living room furniture one item at a time or all together?

We field questions like this all the time. When people are moving, they may not be fully aware of what options are available to them and often think it would be less expensive to ship each piece of furniture separately via a parcel shipper than to pay for a truck to haul everything. Let’s take a closer look at what options there are.

Types of Shippers

  • Parcel shippers are quite efficient at shipping lightweight items, but their logistics infrastructures are not specifically geared to handle large, heavy and bulky items. This makes the upcharges for, say, pieces of furniture, comparatively high. Also, when you break a shipment into individual parcels, you don’t have any economies of scale—each individual parcel requires its own shipping paperwork and is handled separately, similar to pieces of luggage being checked on an airplane. Most parcel shippers don’t offer substantial discounts unless the amount of business is very high.

  • FTL shippers (full truckload) are quite efficient, as the name suggests, at hauling full truckloads of items. They are used primarily by industrial businesses that ship in very large, full-truckload quantities. FTL carriers do not have a logistical setup geared to hauling partial truckload quantities efficiently. While it is, in theory, possible to hire an entire truck to ship your living room furniture, you would be paying for the whole truck even though your shipment would fill only, perhaps, half of it—not cost-effective!

  • LTL shippers (less-than-truckload), in contrast to the other options, specialize in shipping partial truckload quantities of items too numerous, large or heavy to be shipped efficiently by a parcel shipper. LTL carriers have logistical infrastructures that are efficient in terms of combining loads from multiple customers, loading them on their truck trailers, and routing deliveries in a very timely manner. Because they handle these shipments efficiently, they are generally the most cost-effective—and the most reliable option in terms of making an on-time delivery and handling your items carefully.

When it comes to shipping living room furniture or other household items, often the most cost-effective method of shipping is to use an LTL freight shipper.

Reduce Costs by Combining Items

Generally speaking, the more pieces you ship together via LTL, the less expensive your overall transportation cost will be. The precise calculation of LTL rates can get rather complex, so the best and surest way to understand what your cost will be is to get competitive quotes from LTL carriers that specialize in shipping living room furniture and other heavy, awkward household items. To help you understand why combining items helps reduce cost, there are a few key details you should know:

  • Many LTL carriers have minimum charges that apply to small shipments. To overcome or avoid these minimums, combine items! For example, while an LTL carrier may have an upcharge to ship only a sofa, combining a sofa, three chairs and two tables may represent enough weight to avoid a minimum upcharge altogether.

  • Most LTL carriers offer discounts based on the amount of weight being shipped. Thus, if a carrier charges, say, $100 to ship 1,000 pounds, it may charge $180 to ship 2,000 pounds. These savings add up when an entire room of furniture/books/appliances are involved.

    Note: These weight discounts may apply even if the items being shipped are assigned different freight classifications. Freight classifications are the basis of truck shipping rates; cost goes up as density goes down. Thus, a carrier charges more per pound to ship half a truck of pillows than half a truck of bricks.

Safety in Numbers

Another big advantage to combining items for shipment on an LTL carrier is the prevention of damage. When items are properly prepped and combined for truck shipment, they will be stable and have less exposure to damage or contamination than if they were shipped separately.

For instance, shipping a delicate coffee table on its own via a parcel shipper or even on a truck would subject it to a good deal of vibration, road impact and rough handling. However, if the coffee table were secured on a shipping pallet blocked and braced by several boxes of books, the entire load would be heavier and easily handled by an LTL carrier’s pallet jack or forklift truck.

You can take several steps to prevent damage in the shipment of your living room furniture — and if your schedule is busy, we can take care of it for you!

Here are some things to keep in mind if you decide to prep your shipment yourself:

  • Remove hardware and glass from cabinets, tables, and drawers whenever possible. Protruding and/or breakable parts are accidents waiting to happen no matter how your item is shipped. Glass should be wrapped liberally in heavy-duty bubble packaging or flexible polyethylene or polypropylene foam. These packaging items are available online or in many hardware and office supply stores.

  • Place hardware items in poly bags and then in shipping boxes labeled with the contents.

  • If you want to palletize furniture items combined with other items as described earlier, local industrial businesses are a good source of pallets. Companies often receive shipments of materials on pallets, and then have a hard time disposing or the pallets. They may be more than happy to give you a pallet or two free of charge if you are willing to pick it up.

  • Place items in heavy-duty shipping boxes whenever possible—books, lamps, lampshades, DVDs, etc. Combining these items in shipping boxes reduces shipping costs and helps prevent damage. If you accumulate several boxes, you may want to put the boxes on a pallet and secure them with plastic strapping.

Check with your LTL carrier before you determine whether to put items on pallets—different carriers have different handling equipment and storage. Or, as we mentioned, turn to us for the prep work!