How to Properly Measure Parcel

Measuring your parcel is a crucial step in the shipping process, as it determines what carrier you’ll being using, what cost you’ll pay, and more. Based on the dimensions of your parcel, certain carriers won’t even be available to you if your parcel exceeds their maximum dimensions. That’s why it’s very important that you input accurate size and weight information.

What You’ll Need:

  • Measuring tape
  • An accurate scale
  • Your packaged parcel

Things to Keep in Mind

Before you begin obtaining dimensional measurements, it’s important to keep in mind:

  1. When measuring or weighing your parcel, be sure to do so once it is already packaged. All measurements must be inclusive of both the item you’re shipping and shipping materials. We’ve provided instructions on How to Properly Package Parcel.

  2. If your freight is oddly shaped, measure at the largest point of the dimension to ensure accurate measurements.

Parcel Hack

The measurement of each side of your parcel is referred to as a “dimension”. With each individual parcel comes three dimensions: length, width, and height. The largest measurement of the parcel will always be considered the length.

How to Calculate Dimensions

Measuring dimensions for parcel shipping

  1. Measure the three parcel dimensions in inches
    Example: 60 in (Length) x 40 in (Width) x 20 in (height)

  2. Add together the dimensions of the two smallest measurements (width and height). Multiply the answer by two. This is the girth of your package.
    Example: 40 in (Width) + 20 in (Height) = 60 in. 60 in x 2 = 120 in (Girth).

  3. Take the longest dimension (length) and add this to the package girth. The result is the combined length and girth of your parcel.
    Example: 60 in (Length) + 120 in (Girth) = 180 in (Combined Length and Girth)

Parcel Dimension Restrictions

Shipping irregular objects by parcel

Many parcel delivery services such as UPS or FedEx, have restrictions on the maximum combined length and girth of each parcel that you are shipping – this is otherwise known as the max girth.

The reasons for these restrictions is not to make the process more difficult for you, but rather to ensure the package fits comfortably onto any sorting conveyor belts or delivery vehicles it may encounter on its journey.

Each freight carrier that we’ve collaborated with has their own set of restrictions for parcel. For example, the maximum length that FedEx will accept for a package is 11 inches larger than what UPS accepts. However, the restriction for length and girth combined is 165” for both carriers. This is just one example of many.

Sometimes, each carrier will have a variety of delivery services as well, which also have their own unique set of restrictions. It’s important to check with your agent to ensure you’re meeting the restrictions and not going over. With some carriers, when you exceed restrictions, this could result in hefty oversize fees for you.

How to Calculate Weight

To calculate a weight, one might just resort to using their common household scale. Unfortunately, these are largely inaccurate and not a good standard of measurement in the world of shipping, which requires highly accurate measurements. Some choose to use a professional scale to guarantee an accurate reading.

When calculating weight for parcel or freight shipping, you’ll often want to calculate the density as well, since that is the number that provides a more accurate and all-encompassing measurement of your parcel.

Density is a more accurate measurement because it takes into account both the size and weight of an item. For example, 50 pounds of feather and 50 pounds of rocks would clearly weigh the same amount, but 50 pounds of feathers would take up much more space in a truck because they are much less dense than rocks. Make sense?

This number is important because when you provide a carrier with just a weight, that doesn’t provide them any information about how much space that many pounds might take up; because we don’t know how dense the item is.

Many carriers base their delivery rates on either the size or dimensional weight of a parcel, depending on which one is greater. The bigger an item, the more room it takes up on the mode of transportation, and the costlier it is to ship. If an item is large but rather lightweight (take the 50 pounds of feathers for example), the price will be based on size rather than weight.

Use FreightCenter’s density calculator to get your density and freight class.

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