When in need of small package shipping services, there are two basic options: pay by size/weight or pay a flat rate. In this case, flat rate shipping tends to be the go-to option for most shippers. It promises enormous savings on cost and time when shipping small packages.
Keep reading this guide to learn how flat rate shipping works, its benefits, prices, and available options. This guide will also enlighten you on when to consider flat rate shipping services for your business.
Flat rate packages
What Does Flat Rate Shipping Mean?
Flat rate shipping is exactly what it sounds like; a shipping service with a fixed or linear rate.
No matter the size or weight of the package, flat rate shipping prices remain the same. But the prices may differ based on the time zone or weight slab set by the shipping company. So any package that falls under that threshold will be charged the same fixed rate.
For example, shipper A wants to send books weighing under 50kgs, and shipper B also wants to send clothing items weighing under 50kgs. Suppose the flat rate is $30 for all packages under 50kgs. In that case, both shippers will pay $30 to send their packages to their respective destinations.
To put it simply, in the flat rate shipping method, the cost of shipping is not determined by the package’s dimensions, size, or weight. So no matter how big or small your shipment is, you will pay the fixed rate for your specific time zone or weight slab. Hence the term ‘flat rate.’
How Flat Rate Shipping Works
As we’ve already established, every package costs the same to ship under flat rate shipping, regardless of its weight. The effectiveness of this shipping plan pretty much depends on how much you can fit into the box.
Here is how the process works:
- Get your flat-rate packaging
Most couriers that offer flat rate shipping have standard-sized boxes and envelopes that customers use to send items.
These packages range from small, medium to large boxes/envelopes. And although the packaging is free, note that the bigger the box or envelope you choose, the higher the price you’ll pay for shipping.
You will first have to order the proper packaging through your local courier office with that in mind.
- Pack your items
Next, pack your items into the box or envelope. Ensure that the inside packaging is done correctly to prevent damage to the goods during transportation.
- Address the package
Anytime you’re sending goods from one location to another, it is best to label your packages correctly. This is crucial in ensuring that the box gets to the correct destination and recipient.
Shipping label best practices require packaging to display essential information relating to the shipment. These include:
- Customer’s name and address
- Routing number
- Carrier’s information
- Weight and content of the shipment
If shipping fragile or dangerous goods, we recommend adding additional instructions to ensure safe handling and delivery.
Most importantly, ensure that your labels are secure and visible.
- Purchase your postage
Once your package is appropriately packed and labeled, you can now buy the flat rate shipping postage from the local office or website.
And finally, you can bring the package to the local courier office for posting or arrange for a pickup and delivery service.
Differences Between Flat Rate Shipping And Standard Shipping
In essence, flat rate and standard rate shipping are pricing models that carriers offer for small package shipping services. As we’ve established, the flat rate shipping model provides a fixed rate for every time zone or weight slab. In this case, the flat rate costs remain consistent for all packages.
On the other hand, standard shipping rates tend to vary more. It offers prices based on particular time zones plus myriad other factors.
In standard rate shipping, the price varies every time you ship to a different destination. A variance in the weight, size, and dimensions of your shipments will also affect your standard rate shipping prices.
It is a traditional pricing model where carriers measure and weigh your package before determining the actual freight rate.
Compared to flat rate shipping, standard rate shipping tends to work best for longer or un-prioritized deliveries. This shipping service is also feasible for small businesses and individuals in need of tailored prices.
On the other hand, choosing flat rate shipping may work well for businesses and individuals who regularly send similar packages.
Flat Rate Shipping Benefits
Like everything else, the flat rate shipping model has its pros and cons.
Flat rate shipping can be an excellent way to lower your handling and shipping costs while maintaining/improving your profit margins. Its simplicity and predictability are also some of the top reasons shippers opt for the flat-rate pricing model.
But despite its many advantages, this shipping method can be restrictive in many aspects. So it may not always be a suitable option for your shipping operations.
That said, here are some of the top benefits of choosing flat rate shipping for your needs.
Offers the best value for money
The most apparent benefit of flat rate shipping is that it lets you save money. It is because you aren’t paying for the actual size or weight of your package. As long as your items are under the weight slab or within the time zone set by the flat rate shipping provider, it ships for a low rate.
It is quick and easy to get a quote
Flat rate shipping eliminates the measuring and weighing of shipments. Hence it’s fast and easy to a get quote and ship your items.
Like I mentioned earlier, flat rate shipping is entirely predictable. With pre-determined fixed rates, you know how much you’re going to spend ahead of time. This predictability makes budgeting easy. If you know the linear rate, you already know how much shipping will cost you and thus can plan ahead.
No additional charges
Another good thing with flat rate shipping is that it’s too simple. There are no complex mechanics with pricing; even the shipping procedures are straightforward.
The best part is that it’s just one flat rate, with no additional surcharges, be it a residential delivery fee, weekend delivery, or fuel surcharge. Flat rate shipping is just easy. You can relax knowing you’re getting your money’s worth.
Easy to meet deadlines
A flat rate shipping is designed for small package shipping, carriers can easily process and deliver orders as fast as possible. They don’t have to go through endless evaluation processes before sending shipments out.
This quick small bundle shipping helps you meet your delivery deadlines, no matter how small.
It is safe
With flat-rate shipping, goods are often carefully and correctly packed and the box sealed off before shipping them. So you can rest easy knowing that your items will always arrive in good condition.
Flat rate shipping companies will provide you with a tracking number for your shipment every time it’s sent out. This way, you can always track your shipments from when they leave the origin and when they arrive at their destination.
Drawbacks Of Flat Rate Shipping
As mentioned above, if there is an advantage, there’s a disadvantage to balance the equation. So, in this case, while flat rate shipping can be the best shipping strategy for your business, it can also backfire. This is especially when you need to ship extremely heavyweight and cross-border items.
Hence, it is essential to know the cons of flat rate shipping before choosing it for your business. Below are a few of the disadvantages to consider.
No brand exposure
Shipping items using the carrier’s box means that you can’t send your orders in custom branded packaging. This limits/denies you the opportunity to promote your brand, which is quite crucial for startups.
It is not always the most cost-effective option
Flat rate shipping can be pretty costly if sending items with little weight. In many cases, you can ship your packages or business orders for less using shipping services with traditional pricing models.
Moreover, you may end paying too much to ship packages in close proximity. Flat rate shipping can indeed save you money in most instances, especially for cross-border deliveries. But for orders close to home, it is may not be the most cost-effective option.
It may not be fast enough
Most flat rate shipping couriers deliver orders within three days, which is not fast enough for time-sensitive orders.
Luckily, you can still enjoy a flat rate and fast speed for your shipping operations. Some carriers provide the flat rate shipping option with speeds that qualify for fast shipping. This way, you get super-fast deliveries while enjoying the all-inclusive flat rate shipping prices.
Only feasible for small package shipping
Flat rate pricing only favors items with lesser weight and dimensions. Bulk cargo may not qualify for this shipping method.
Too much hassle
If you handle all your supply chain operations by yourself, flat rate shipping may not be ideal as it covers the shipping only.
Meaning, you have to complete all the other fulfillment tasks, which shouldn’t be a problem if you have help. Otherwise, it can be nerve-wracking if you have limited space and time to fulfill orders by yourself.
Flat Rate Shipping Box Sizes
USPS flat rate shipping boxes
You already know that flat rate shipping is done in standardized boxes offered by the courier company.
These boxes come in four different shapes and sizes, all of which are priced differently.
- Small flat rate boxes: These boxes measure 8 5/8″ x 5 3/8″ x 1 5/8″. They are the smallest package available and are suitable for shipping small items such as small electronic items and jewelry.
- Medium flat rate boxes: These come in two sizes: regular medium box and long medium box.
The regular medium box is 11″ x 8 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ with a regular card box shape. However, it is a little short and narrow.
On the other hand, the longer variation of this box is 11 7/8″ x 3 3/8″ x 13 5/8″.
Instead of the traditional cube shape, this box is more rectangular. The advantage of shipping in it comes from its length. It can perfectly fit anything too long to fit the other two boxes.
Generally, medium-sized shipping boxes are ideal if you want a variety of sizes but still cut the shipping cost.
- Large flat rate boxes: At 12 1/4″ x 12 1/4″ x 6″, this is the largest of all the flat rate shipping boxes. It can hold can undoubtedly hold the most goods. Due to its size, large boxes are great for e-commerce shipping and other related applications.
When choosing between flat rate shipping boxes, you don’t need to worry about the weight restriction. The restriction is usually the same for all boxes, i.e., 70lbs. So you can pack as much as you want in the flat rate box as long as you don’t exceed the set weight limit.
More importantly, knowing which box size to choose is essential as different items have different packaging needs. A box too small or large can cause damage to the goods during transportation.
As you make the above considerations, bear in mind that flat rate box sizes do change every so often.
Therefore, it is wise to first research a shipping company’s available box sizes before ordering any. If you are unsure which box size matches your shipping requirements, this guide on how to measure a shipping box may be helpful.
Carriers That Offer Flat Rate Shipping
Several carriers offer flat rate shipping services. Ideally, the best service providers often boast many years’ experience, excellent customer service, and fast, small packaging shipping. The carrier should also offer the best value for your money.
Here are the top flat rate shipping companies you can consider:
Do note that each of these companies has its terms and conditions for flat rate shipping. Their packaging dimensions, costs, delivery timelines, weight limits, time zones, and other elements vary. So the decision on which flat rate shipping company is best will depend on your shipping requirements.
Whether you’re a business or an individual, be sure to compare your options before choosing a flat-rate service provider carefully. Otherwise, you may end up paying more than necessary while missing out on better opportunities.
The Cost Of Flat Rate Shipping
Generally, flat rate shipping has a uniform cost, but this depends on the packaging you use, the company, and the flat-rate service you choose.
To simplify your search, we have broken down the different prices offered by the top flat rate shipping companies.
FedEx Flat Rate Prices
FedEx one rate
FedEx flat-rate services are charged by distance. The higher the shipping zone, the higher the flat rate. You may also incur extra charges if you need any special services such as packaging and labeling.
Note that FedEx flat rates are unaffected by the weight of the shipment.
- Small box: Starts at $9.95 for the express option and $22 for 2-day
- Medium box: Starts at $12.95 for express option and $23.25 for 2-day
- Large box: Starts at $20.00 for express option and $25.20 for 2-day
- Extra-large box: Starts $32.35 for express option and $35.65 for 2-day
UPS Flat Rate Prices
UPS simple rate
The flat-rate option for UPS is called UPS simple rate. With this, you can use your packaging if the resulting package does not exceed 50 pounds. And unlike the FedEx one rate service, UPS simple rate price is uniform regardless of the destination.
Your shipping price will vary depending on the particular box size and flat-rate service you choose i.e.
- Small flat rate box: Starts at $11.50
- Medium flat rate box: Starts at $13.90
- Large flat rate box: Starts at $18.40
- Extra-large flat rate box: Starts at $22.85
Again, the weight and dimensions of the package do not affect the ultimate shipping cost.
USPS Flat Rate Prices
USPS flat rate
USPS priority mail flat rate prices are also generally based on the size of the package you’re shipping i.e.
- Small flat rate box: Starts at $7.90 for commercial and $8.45 for private
- Medium flat rate box: Starts at $13.75 for commercial and $15.50 for private
- Large flat rate box: Starts at $19.30 for commercial and $21.90 for private
Flat Rate Shipping Restrictions
The notion that ‘if it fits, ship it’ does not entirely cover the exceptions and limitations of flat rate shipping. It might fit alright but may not qualify for flat rate shipping regardless of the size and weight.
Flat rate shipping restrictions apply to the following items:
- Prescription drugs
- Tobacco or tobacco products except for cigar
- HAZMAT such as aerosols, gasoline, batteries, and chemicals
- Some cleaning products
How Long Flat Rate Shipping Takes
Most flat shipping companies will take approximately three days to deliver your shipment. To avoid delays, make sure to send the package for delivery on a business day.
Some service providers are a little slow, with deliveries taking up to eight days to complete.
If you need to send packages faster, choosing a speedier flat-rate service or an express shipping service may be ideal. Although you’ll pay slightly more for speed, the timely delivery and convenience may outweigh the cost.
Is Flat Rate Shipping The Right Choice For Your Business?
Whether or not flat rate shipping is the right choice for your business depends on the business and its requirements.
For example, if you’re looking to cut costs and maintain a steady profit margin, flat rate shipping may be viable. But, this is only if your items aren’t heavy enough (less than 70 lbs.). Otherwise, the flat rate will end up being costlier than the regular rate.
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