How to Package & Ship Oversize & Odd-Shaped Parcels through FedEx & UPS

Businesses that ship oversize packages face constantly escalating expenses. The truth is, carriers like FedEx and UPS are not particularly fond of shipping oversize packages. These packages take up a lot of space and reduce the total number of packages that can be shipped in a consignment.

FedEx and UPS impose oversize package surcharges as a result.

FedEx imposes an oversize charge of $90 per package for their U.S. Express Package Services, U.S. Ground Services, and International Ground Service. This is up from $80 in 2018.

UPS imposes a large package surcharge of $95 for commercial packages (up from $80) and $115 for residential packages (up from $90).

As is evident, these charges are capable of making a huge dent in the profits of businesses. Which is why it is critical that you package and ship your large items right.

A person holding an oversized package. There is text on the screen.

But first, what is considered an oversize package?

According to FedEx, any package that exceed 96 inches in length or 130 inches in length and girth is considered an oversize package.

In the view of UPS, for domestic shipments,  a package is considered a “Large Package” when its length (longest side of the package) plus girth [(2 x width) + (2 x height)] combined exceeds 130 inches or its length exceeds 96 inches.

For international shipments, a package is considered a “Large Package” when its length (longest side of the package) plus girth [(2 x width) + (2 x height)] combined exceeds 130 inches.

How DIM Weight Affects Oversize Packages

Both FedEx and UPS calculate the dimensional weight (volumetric weight) of a package to determine the rate to charge for its shipping. Dimensional weight reflects the density of a package. In other words, it reflects the actual amount of space a package occupies in relation to its weight.

This system of calculation helps the carriers because it allows them to eliminate unused space within packages. The DIM weight system allows FedEx, UPS, and other carriers to fit more parcels into every van or plane.

The DIM weight of a package is calculated using the formula:

Dimensional Weight = (Length x Height x Width) / DIM factor

The UPS DIM factor is 139 for daily rates and 166 for retail rates. The FedEx DIM factor is 139 across the board.

But how does this affect you?

FedEx and UPS bill a package based on either its DIM or actual weight depending on which is greater. The DIM weight of a package is often greater than its actual weight. This in effect means that a package actually weighing 3 lbs. could be billed for, say, 8 lbs. if its DIM weight is higher. And there are the oversize surcharges to deal with too.

Which means you lose out on savings. Which is why you need to economize on packaging and choose the right box sizes for your products.

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How to Save Money While Shipping Oversize Packages

There are a slew of measures you can take to reduce the impact of dimensional pricing while shipping oversized items.

  • Use the smallest box size needed for the item being shipped.
  • Reuse packaging when possible.
  • Use custom-made boxes if required to save in the long run.
  • Compare carrier rates before shipping large items.
  • Negotiate rates with carriers. They need your business too!
  • Ask for a modification in the DIM weight norms for your packages.
  • Audit your FedEx and UPS invoices and claim refunds for service failures.
  • Factor in surcharges like the residential area surcharge and ship to commercial addresses if possible.

Two people negotiating a shipping contract. The text on the screen reads "Always negotiate your shipping rates!"

How Carriers Deal with Oversize Packages

Shipping carriers like FedEx and UPS are understandably not fans of oversize packages as they take up valuable space away from other, more profitable small parcels. This is the reason they slap them with heavy surcharges.

Shipping carriers like FedEx and UPS impose heavy surcharges on oversize packages.

How FedEx Deals with Oversize Packages

As of 2019, FedEx imposes an oversize charge of $90 per oversize package that sits over and above its DIM weight price and other applicable surcharges. It also imposes an additional peak season oversize surcharge during the holiday season. This surcharge amounted to an average of over $27 per package during the 2018 holiday season.

FedEx officially states the following about how it defines an oversize package:

An oversize charge applies to packages that exceed 96 inches in length or 130 inches in length and girth. Rating will be based on the greater of the package’s actual rounded weight or dimensional weight, subject to a 90-lb. minimum billable weight.

This is what FedEx states about its peak season oversize surcharge:

During specified times of the year, the Peak — Oversize Charge will apply to packages meeting the criteria and characteristics of the Oversize Charge.

How UPS Deals with Oversize Packages

In the view of UPS, for domestic shipments,  a package is considered a “Large Package” when its length (longest side of the package) plus girth [(2 x width) + (2 x height)] combined exceeds 130 inches or its length exceeds 96 inches.

For international shipments, a package is considered a “Large Package” when its length (longest side of the package) plus girth [(2 x width) + (2 x height)] combined exceeds 130 inches.

UPS imposes a large package surcharge of $95 for commercial packages and $115 for residential packages.

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How to Package & Ship Odd-Shaped Objects

Shipping odd-shaped items poses challenges. Odd shaped objects can be anything from an ornate vase to a car mirror, baseball bat, golf club, or a tyre. Basically anything that doesn’t fit into the mould of a square or a rectangle.

Let’s say you have a sculpture, or even a car bumper to ship. It’s definitely going to hit the oversized category for one; two, shipping it would be expensive; and three, it would need special packaging.

So let’s delve into the logistic challenges of shipping such a product and answer the following two questions.

       How exactly do you pack it in the first place?

      Shipping odd-shaped items in a normal crate would leave around 80% of the space empty, and custom crates cost an arm and a leg these days. So, how to make the shipping cost effective?

Packing odd shaped objects is not as difficult as often hyped to be. The secret is to pick the right packaging material that will ensure easy wrapping as well as utmost safety during transit.

A sculpture, for instance, can be packed in multiple ways. The best idea would be to wrap it in layers of bubble wrap with cut polystyrene strips for the parts that are sticking out. This will ensure that it does not get jostled too much during transit. The final step would be to find a custom box (reused boxes are extremely cost effective) that fits the entire length and width with a bare minimum of excess space.

Packaging odd shaped objects has been made much easier with all the materials available today. Some of the widely used ones include bubble wrap, shrink wrap, stretch wrap, polystyrene, corrugated plastic, inflatable air cushions, paper, plastic-coated paper, pressure-sensitive tape, and foam peanuts.

The following infographic shows what materials can be used to package some of the most common odd-shaped items.       infographic on packaging odd shaped items

Keep These Things in Mind While Packaging Odd-Shaped Items

Here are a few tips that will come in handy if you’re doing the packing yourself:

  1. Use corrugated boxes for rolled goods. A bag or plastic covering is usually not enough.
  2. If you’re packing a tyre, use a pressure sensitive tape to wrap around the entire width of the tyre in a full circle.
  3. Do not leave any sharp edges poking out. Paste pieces of cardboard or use a small polystyrene covering to blunt the edges.
  4. Always test the strength of the box you’re using, especially if you’re packing heavy items like working models or gym equipment.
  5. If you cannot find a surface flat enough to stick the address on, use a transparent tape to fully tack it on the object. This will ensure that the address strip does not fall off easily or get lost during transit.

Going beyond Functionality in Packaging

Packaging in today’s retail sphere is about much more than just functionality. So, whatever your item’s shape or size may be, try and customize it to suit your brand image. This increases the percentage of brand recall even among new customers, and will give your ecommerce store an edge over competitors. A personalized tag or unique wrapping paper can make a lot of difference. The better your packaging, the more lasting your customer impression would be. It would increase customer trust in your brand and build a perception that is highly beneficial for your brand in the long run.

As for packaging materials, go green and use locally sourced items as much as possible. Items like jute cannot be affordably used in packaging unless you ship from the East. Reuse boxes as much as you can, and build custom sized ones out of bigger old ones. Put all that glue, tape and knives to good use by creating the perfect sized boxes. This will make sure that you don’t need to unnecessarily stock up on corrugated boxes or other packing stuff and leave them lying around.

A shipping worker handling a package. The text reads "The quality of packaging matters."


Shipping oversize packages presents a challenge to businesses, but there are things that you can do to optimize the process. Things like using the right box sizes, reusing packaging, and competitively negotiating rates with shipping carriers.

As far as shipping odd-shaped items goes, it helps to think out of the box and be as frugal as required. The quality of packaging materials used matters.

On the off chance that there’s an item which simply refuses to listen to you, you can always go in for the professional packaging services offered by FedEx and UPS. Both carriers offer a safety guarantee on their packaging, so your product will be in good hands. If you’re shipping electronics, then it’s a great idea to use their services.

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Rohan Rinaldo Felix

Rohan Rinaldo Felix

I've traditionally been a poem-writer, but poems don't pay. I eat cereal for breakfast, but only sometimes. I eat insults for lunch and convert them into renewable energy.

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