How to Build a Custom Shipping Crate (2023)

Behold the custom shipping crate — an often-overlooked cog in the fast-moving wheels of commerce. Well-designed custom crates can save you time and money — especially when you make them out of low cost recycled materials — so if you’re in the business of shipping large items safely and securely (as we are here at Formaspace), you might want to learn how to build your own customized, reusable crates when delivering goods to customers, or when dispatching trade show crates to exhibitions.

How to Build a Custom Shipping Crate (1)

Here at our business furniture factory in Austin, Texas, Formaspace employee Albert Gilbert builds custom crates for each piece of furniture we ship to our customers. You might be surprised to know that Albert can build most of these custom crates in just five or ten minutes!

To be this productive, you have to be organized and have a plan. And, because we like to recycle as much left-over material as possible, we also employ a comprehensive program throughout our factory to collect every bit of manufacturing scrap material — ranging from plywood to melamine sheets, to hinges — even used nails get recycled! Often these recycled materials find their way into our shipping crates.

HAVE A MATERIAL HANDLING FURNITURE PROJECT STARTING SOON?

Formaspace designs & manufactures material handling workbenches that integrate into any shipping, packing, or receiving facility. Whether you are optimizing your material handling operation with workstations that grant the most efficient output or designing a new facility for the maximum productivity, Formaspace is here to build workbenches to match your industrial requirements. Our packing tables and shipping stations are customized to your needs to keep your employees safe, work area organized, and the operation efficient. Contact us today to start your material handling workstation design project.

SEE SHIPPING/PACKING STATION OPTIONS

HAVE A MATERIAL HANDLING FURNITURE PROJECT STARTING SOON?

Formaspace designs & manufactures material handling workbenches that integrate into any shipping, packing, or receiving facility. Whether you are optimizing your material handling operation with workstations that grant the most efficient output or designing a new facility for the maximum productivity, Formaspace is here to build workbenches to match your industrial requirements. Our packing tables and shipping stations are customized to your needs to keep your employees safe, work area organized, and the operation efficient. Contact us today to start your material handling workstation design project.

SEE SHIPPING/PACKING STATION OPTIONS

(Video) How to Build a Shipping Crate for Furniture Projects

For furniture shipped short distances on a single vehicle, Albert typically builds an open style wood frame crate from scratch, starting with a pallet made from recycled lumber, plywood or melamine pieces. After the furniture is securely mounted on the pallet, Albert adds a protective frame made of wood around the furniture.

How to Build a Custom Shipping Crate (4)

Furniture that is shipped LTL (aka “less that a truckload”) needs more protection, as it may be transferred a number of times between different trucks and warehouses on its way to its final destination. In these circumstances, Albert builds custom crates that are fully enclosed with plywood or OSB (oriented strand board) sheathing for added protection.

How to Build a Custom Shipping Crate (5)

How to Build Your Own Reusable Crates or Trade Show Crates

What about building your own custom crates to use for shipping items to your own customers or for transporting items to and from a trade show? How do you go about it? It turns out you can build custom, reusable crates and trade show crates quite easily, at very low cost — especially if you have access to some recycled lumber.

To illustrate how to build your own crate, let’s create a crate from scratch to ship an item that is 40” wide, 36” high and 62” long.

Our Custom Crate Design: Base Out Crate with Built-In Block Style Pallet

The style of crate we have in mind is called a ‘base out’ design, which simply means that the wood support pieces are mounted on the outside. The cargo itself will be enclosed in a sandwich of heavy duty cardboard and rigid foam, which is significantly lighter than solid plywood sheathing*. The crate will sit on a built-in pallet that uses blocks (rather than stringers with notches) to provide clearance for forklift blades to pass underneath. As a final step before shipment, we’ll use packaging film to seal up the entire crate to protect it from the weather.

(*A cardboard and foam combination is lighter than plywood or OSB sheathing (which means lower shipping costs)— but if you prefer a solid exterior, we’ll also show how to sheath the completed design with plywood or OSB during the final step if you need this added level of protection.)

Before You Start: Shipping Custom Crates Overseas May Require an ISPM Wood Pest Certification

This is also a good time to mention that if you are sending your crates overseas (even from the USA to Canada), you may be required to use wood that is stamped with an official ISPM logo* that certifies it’s been treated for pests. Natural wood products thicker than 6 mm will require certification, however, processed wood products, like OSB and plywood, do not.

(* The ISPM logo certifies that wood has met the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures, an international accord to prevent transmission of invasive species (such as Formosan termites) in wood products. Fraudulent misuse of the ISPM logo is a serious offense and could be prosecuted as a felony.)

Building a Custom Wooden Shipping Crate, Read this Before You Start

Getting the Materials Together to Build a Custom, Reusable Crates

We’ll be using 1” x 4” wood lumber stock to build the structure of our reusable crate. Depending on what materials you have on hand, you can also use a band-saw to cut down 2” x 4” lumber to create the 1” x 4” stock.

In addition, we’ll want to set aside some heavy duty cardboard sheets and optional rigid foam panels or rolls of soft foam. Depending on the type of foam used, you may need some glue or staples to hold the foam and cardboard in place.

What Fasteners Should You Use to Build Custom, Reusable Crates?

To build a reusable crate, use heavy-duty screws with a screw gun to assemble the project. Don’t use inexpensive screws like those used for installing sheet rock — as these will corrode quickly when exposed to the elements — losing their strength in a surprisingly short period of time.

TIP: If you want to assemble the crate even faster, consider using a nail gun and Scrail brand fasteners. These fasteners combine the nail gun’s speed of assembly with the properties of a standard screw fastener (e.g. you can remove them easily).

How to Optimize the Dimensions of Your Custom Crate

Check with your shipper to see their price rates for different dimensions. You’ll find it’s generally much cheaper to pack your cargo in the smallest possible volume, as most shippers give you better rates for more “dense” crates.

This is the reason so many items are shipped “knocked down” into flat packs that you have to assemble upon delivery. If your cargo can be disassembled for shipping, take the time to figure out if it’s worth the extra cost in time and labor to do so in order to enjoy better shipping rates.

Be aware most LTL shippers won’t accept cargo for truck trailer shipment that’s longer than 96” inches (in any dimension) — long cargo items over 96” may have to be transported on special trailers, often exposed to the elements.

Building a custom shipping crate: Step by Step Guide:

Start Building the Crate, Beginning with the Sides

In this design, we’ll start out with 3 short vertical and 2 long horizontal pieces of 1” x 4” stock to fashion the sides.

The lumber needs to enclose the cargo as well as two layers of thick corrugated cardboard, and two layers of foam (roll or rigid) used to pad the interior walls surrounding the cargo.

In the following steps, we’ll assume our cargo is 40” wide, 36” high and 62” long, the corrugated cardboard is 1/4” thick, and our rigid foam is 1” thick.

In order for the horizontal lumber pieces to enclose the 62” length of cargo, we add the thickness of the foam and cardboard at each end, for a total length of 64 1/4”.

Use the same formula to calculate the dimensions of the vertical wood pieces — for cargo that is 36” high, you’ll need to cut pieces that are 38 1/4” long.

How to Build a Custom Shipping Crate (6)

To assemble the first side, position two long, horizontal boards flat on the table.

Place three shorter vertical pieces on top, one on the far left, one in the center, and one on the far right. Adjust everything, so all outside edges are flush.

Using 1 1/2” screws, screw both ends of each of the three vertical pieces into the horizontal boards underneath.

This completes the frame for one side of the crate. Repeat to create a second frame for the opposite side of the crate.

(Video) Building a Custom Shipping Crate!

Add Five Deckboards to Form the Top of the Pallet

Stand up the two sides, so they are parallel, using a temporary support or assistance of a helper. Make sure the vertical wood pieces are facing outboard (away from the inside space).

Our plan is to attach five deckboards across the top of the sides — it will look like a table when we are done with this step.

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NOTE: As you’ll soon discover, we’re assembling the crate upside down at the moment. It’s easier this way because you can work in a standing position.

How long do these deckboards need to be? We’ll use the same formula we used before, except this time the deckboards need to extend an extra inch at either end in order to overlap the sides so that we can screw them together.

The resulting formula is 40” wide for the cargo + 2 1/4” for two cardboard foam sandwiches + 2” overlap for fasteners, for a grand total of 44 1/4”.*

Therefore, we need to cut 5 deckboards at 1” x 4” x 44 1/4”.

Position the five deckboards equidistantly across the top, with the first and last ones flush to the outboard edge. (Note: the 2nd and 4th boards will extend beyond the boards underneath, this is OK.)

Attach the five deckboard using screws at each end.

*NOTE: As the external width of our crate (44 1/4”) is nearly 48” (a common size), you might want to double check with your shipper to see if there is a cost saving to be had by up-sizing your crate’s external width to a full 48”. If you do, plan on including additional padding or packaging material to fill in the voids inside the crate.

Add a Horizontal Support to the “Closed” End of the Crate

Choose one end of the crate to be the permanently closed end.

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(We will keep the other side open, for now, to access the inside and prepare the internal surfaces before loading the crate)

Measure the distance and cut a 1” x 4” board to fit flush to the top and the sides.

Attach this board at each end with screws.

Build Up the Pallet by Attaching Stringers to the Top Deckboards

Next, we’ll cut three 1” x 4” stringers to mount on the top deckboards. These will be set parallel to the sides of the crate.

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Place them equidistantly. Make sure the edges are flush. Screw each in board at the ends.

Add Pallet Blocks to Create Clearance for Fork Lift Blades

Forklift or pallet jack blades will need about 4” clearance to slip under the pallet, so to accommodate this, we’ll build up blocks out of 1” x 4” stock to attach to the stringers. (Once again, remember we are still working with the crate sitting upside down.)

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To spread the weight evenly, we want to build up blocks in nine locations.

Cut 1” x 4” stock into 6” long pieces. We’ll need 27 pieces to make three-layer thick blocks.

Screw the first set of blocks directly into the pallet in the nine locations shown in the diagram. Then attach the second layer directly on top of the first, then the third final layer on top of the second layer.

NOTE: If you alter this design to make a narrow crate, keep in mind that forklift and pallet jack blades (which are typically measure about 7” wide set on a 20” center) may be too wide to pass under a narrow pallet.

Add Skids to the Bottom of the Pallet

Skids make it easier to slide the pallet along the floor, and they also help make the pallet more rigid.

We’ll be creating three skids mounted perpendicular to the sides. The left skid will cover the left three blocks, the middle skid the middle three blocks, and the right skid the right three blocks.

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(Video) Shipping Crates

Measure and cut the 1” x 4” stock, so each skid will be flush the outer dimension of the pallet and the blocks.

Take a moment to double check the clearance height for the forklift or pallet jack blades. The skids plus three layers of block material should provide about 4” clearance when the crate is flipped over, but if your stock is very undersized, you might need to step by to the previous step to add a fourth block layer before attaching on the skids.

Once everything checks out, screw the skids into the blocks.

Turn the Crate Over and Reinforce the Closed End

Flip the partially completed crate over, so it’s now sitting upright with the pallet side on the floor.

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Next, we will finish reinforcing the closed end (the end with a cross member) by adding a second horizontal support halfway up and third one flush to the top. Cut the pieces, so they are flush with the outside edges of the sides and screw the ends into place.

Add a Heavy Cardboard Liner to the Inside Cargo Area

Now it’s time to line the interior of the crate with large pieces of corrugated cardboard.

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Cut the cardboard approximately 12’ wider and 12’ longer than the inside wall dimensions. Remove a one-foot square section from the lower left corner and put it in the recycling bin.

Starting at the inside corner of the cutout, fold the cardboard to create two flaps that will extend onto the floor and the back interior wall.

Now position the cardboard against the interior wall. One flap should sit on the floor, the other flap against the back interior wall of the crate. Use a staple gun to tack the cardboard in place. (Trim any excess cardboard sticking out of the top.)

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Repeat the process for the other side.

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Now we’ll cut a third piece of cardboard to cover both the back interior wall and the floor. Fold and score into an L shape, then position it inside the crate to cover the back interior wall and the floor. Use a staple gun to tack the cardboard in place.

(If you can’t source cardboard this large, you can use multiple pieces but be sure to provide a generous overlap.)

Add Optional Custom Internal Supports

Depending on the cargo you are shipping, you may want to add some horizontal supports to help position your items within the crate. These can act as a divider to keep objects from moving around.

If your crate will be shipped with very heavy items stacked on top of it, you can also elect to add an additional horizontal support mounted between the two sides to improve the crate’s crush strength.

TIP: If you have fragile items to ship within the crate, consider purchasing a strong, inexpensive plastic cooler (used for camping and cookouts) to enclose these fragile items before securing the cooler inside the cargo area. The cooler will provide quite a bit of additional protection during transit.

Install Optional Soft or Rigid Foam Protection

In our design, we will add 1” rigid foam for added protection against impacts (due to cargo shifting when trucks hit potholes, forklifts bumping into or dropping crates, etc.). Alternatively, you can line the interior with a roll of soft foam instead.

Cut and fit the foam to cover the floor, two sides, and back interior wall. If needed, you can add some glue on the back side of the rigid foam to keep it in place; for soft foam, you can use staples hold to it in position.

Packing Your Cargo inside the Custom Crate

Before we build the front ‘door’ to the crate, now is a good time to prep the cargo for shipping. Depending on your cargo, it’s generally a good practice to wrap in cargo in shipping foam to avoid nicks and scratches, and then, wrap it again in packaging film to keep it dry.

Slide in the cargo into the open end of the crate. (You can also drop it into position vertically using a crane.)

If needed, fill the empty voids with packing materials. Consider using eco-friendly packing materials where possible.

Add Cardboard and Foam to Open End

After the cargo is loaded and secured, you’ll want to provide the same kind of protection for the door opening.

If you’re using foam, cut a piece to match the interior dimensions of the opening.

(Video) Shipping Crate Speedbuild

Next, cut a piece of cardboard for the open end. Because the cardboard will be mounted on the outside of the frame, you’ll need to cut it as wide as the outside dimensions of the crate. (If you need to use two pieces, be sure to overlap them generously.)

Insert the foam, then place the cardboard so that the bottom edge sits flush with the edge of the top pallet deckboard. Borrow a helper or use clamps to keep it in place for the next step.

If the cardboard is too tall, don’t worry, it can be trimmed later.

Close Off the Open End With Three Horizontal Wood Pieces

Once the cardboard and foam are in place, it’s time to seal off the door opening by attaching three horizontal wood pieces to cover the open end. These will match the opposite side of the crate.

Screw each of the wood pieces in place, piercing through the cardboard underneath.

If the cardboard extends beyond the top piece of wood, trim it off.

How to Build a Custom Shipping Crate (16)

If you plan to construct reusable crates (and we hope you do!), follow these suggestions to make it easier to open and close the crate each time you use it:

  • Use wood screws that are easy to remove.
  • Circle the location of each screw to make it easier to locate.
  • Add a label saying, “Open This End” to this side of the crate.

Create the Top of the Custom Crate

Cut a piece of foam to add to the top opening to protect your cargo in case of sudden negative G vertical acceleration, such as when a truck hits a bump in the road.

How to Build a Custom Shipping Crate (17)

The foam will need to match the interior dimensions of the opening.

Cut a piece of cardboard to match the top’s outer dimensions and place it on top.

Next, you will attach 5 wood stringers across the top, which will be positioned equidistantly, perpendicular to the sides.

Screw them in place from the top, piercing through the cardboard to keep it in place.

Crate Shipping: Last steps

Add Optional Plywood Sheathing for Additional Strength and Protection

For more security, you could transform this shipping crate into a so-called “base-in” design by sheathing the outside with plywood or other solid material.

Keep in mind, however, that this approach could significantly increase the overall weight of your shipment, making it much more expensive to ship.

Use care to not overlap the sheathing in such a way that it blocks access to the end used to access the cargo. Also, be sure to mark the screw locations so that they can be found easily.

NOTE: Consider the environmental implications when choosing sheathing products. For example, even though products like Lauan plywood can be lighter than conventional plywood, tropical wood products might not be sourced from certified sustainable forests.

Wrap the Entire Custom Crate in Packaging Film

To keep your cargo dry during shipment, wrap the entire crate in packaging film before shipping.

Now you’re ready to ship! Whether you are shipping products directly to customers or you need to have some trade show crates on hand to ship your wares to and from exhibitions, we hope you’ve found our custom crate construction guide useful.

Trust the Furniture from Formaspace

If you like our environmentally-friendly crate designs, chances are you’ll really like our environmentally-friendly line of furniture for your office, manufacturing / shipping facilities, health science organization, government or educational institution.

We only build top-quality furniture that is hand-crafted with longevity in mind: each piece of Formaspace furniture is guaranteed to last a full 12 years, even if you used it 24 hours around the clock. If you are looking for LEED credits, we also can provide you with custom furniture made with recyclable content, such our unique recovered powder coatings.

Want to learn more? Fill out the quick form below and a Formaspace Design Consultant will be in touch with you right away.

(Video) Building a Custom Shipping Crate

FAQs

How do you make a simple shipping crate? ›

Now you're gonna want to take some of your plywood. And you're gonna want to cut a piece tall enough

How do you build a crate? ›

It's the perfect first project if you've never built anything in your life no table saw needed the

How do you make a custom wood crate? ›

  1. Step 1: Prepare your pallet. ...
  2. Step 2: Cut your pallet wood to size. ...
  3. Step 3: Make your crate base. ...
  4. Step 4: Attach the pallet boards to the sides of your crate. ...
  5. Step 5: Sand your pallet crate. ...
  6. Step 6: Drill your holes for the rope handle. ...
  7. Step 7: Paint or stain your crate. ...
  8. Step 8: Attach your rope handles.
27 Dec 2017

How do you pack a crate for shipping? ›

When it comes to packing your items, please make sure to wrap your things with paper, bubble wrap, or plastic, to prevent scratches. Before bracing your items, make sure to package them first. Use foam padding to line crates and packing peanuts, paper, or similar products to fill the entire container.

How do you make a shipping crate out of pallets? ›

HOW TO MAKE A WOOD CRATE USING A WOOD PALLET - YouTube

How do you make a shipping pallet? ›

How to prepare pallets for shipping - YouTube

What is a crate builder? ›

the Crate Builder is responsible for building shipping crates

What wood is used to make crates? ›

The most common type of wood used for building crates is kiln-dried Southern Yellow Pine, with Canadian groups of spruce-pine-fir a close runner-up.

What is shipping crate defined as? ›

A shipping crate is a heavy-duty wooden box that's used for large shipments. Crates are often used for items that are big, bulky, and require extra protection from vibration, shock, and shifting during transport.

How do you make a simple wooden box? ›

How To Make A Wooden Box For Beginners ( The Simple Way )

How do you craft a crate in unturned? ›

Press and hold the “Ctrl” key and click on items you're going to use for crafting. Click “Craft All” and select the item you'd like to craft from the menu on the right. From logs and a saw, craft seven planks. From seven planks and three sticks, craft a crate.

How do I ship a wooden crate? ›

HOW TO SHIP A CRATE
  1. Pack crates as full as possible to prevent additional movement during transport.
  2. Pack heavier items on the bottom of the crate and place lighter items at the top.
  3. Use packing material to fill excess space inside of the crate.
  4. Individually wrap items before crating. ...
  5. Clearly label the crate.

What is the cheapest way to ship a crate? ›

If you're only shipping a couple of boxes, USPS is probably the cheapest way. For large or heavy boxes or shipments of more than three boxes, consider the consolidated freight shipping method as the cheapest way to ship boxes when multiple less-than-truckload (LTL, or less-than-load) shipments are combined into one.

How do you weight a crate? ›

Shippers have different dimensional weight formulas. For example, the formula FedEx uses is height times width times length measured in centimeters and divided by 5,000 to find the dimensional weight in kilograms. Using this formula, a crate measuring 100 cm by 100 cm by 100 cm has a dimensional weight of 200 kg.

How much does a shipping crate cost? ›

Standard Size
Container SizePrice Range
20-foot shipping container cost$2,800 to $6,500
40-foot shipping container cost$4,000 to $8,300

How do I make a vintage wooden crate? ›

How to Build a Simple DIY Antique Wood Crate - YouTube

How tall is the average pallet? ›

How tall is a standard pallet? A standard pallet is 6 ½” tall. How much weight can a standard pallet hold? A standard pallet can hold up to 4,600 lbs.

What is the max height for a pallet? ›

As a general rule, you can safely stack a pallet up to 60 inches high. You'll want to stack the heavier boxes on the bottom and lighter boxes on top to promote safety and protect the shipment.

What is a standard size of a pallet? ›

When we talk about the standard pallet size in North America, we're generally talking about the 48” x 40” wooden pallet. The 48 x 40 wooden pallet was established as the standard-sized pallet by the Consumer Brand Association (CBA), but it took some time to get there.

What do you need to make a pallet? ›

This only requires three standard 8-foot framing studs ("2x4s") and a box of 2-inch nails. You will need a hammer, a saw suitable for cutting 2x4s (hand saw, circular saw, miter saw, etc.), and ideally, a band saw (for ripping boards in half across the width to make the slats).

› watch ›

Learning how to build a shipping crate is essential if you are in the business of selling products outside of your home town. It is so important that you tak...
I needed to ship a coffee table I built a few episodes ago from Joshua Tree to Brooklyn, so I made this crate to send it in. initially, I looked on youtube a...

What is the cheapest way to ship household goods? ›

If you're only shipping a couple of boxes, USPS is probably the cheapest way. For large or heavy boxes or shipments of more than three boxes, consider the consolidated freight shipping method as the cheapest way to ship boxes when multiple less-than-truckload (LTL, or less-than-load) shipments are combined into one.

How do I ship a wooden crate? ›

HOW TO SHIP A CRATE
  1. Pack crates as full as possible to prevent additional movement during transport.
  2. Pack heavier items on the bottom of the crate and place lighter items at the top.
  3. Use packing material to fill excess space inside of the crate.
  4. Individually wrap items before crating. ...
  5. Clearly label the crate.

Can you ship a crate with UPS? ›

Yes. The freight experts at The UPS Store can build the crate at our location, pack your item(s) securely inside, and ship it to its destination.

What is a crate builder? ›

the Crate Builder is responsible for building shipping crates

Is it cheaper to ship multiple boxes or one big box? ›

If possible, it's often better to ship two smaller boxes rather than one large, heavy box. This will spread the weight of your cargo over two smaller parcels, which can significantly reduce your shipping costs especially if the large box would qualify for large or oversized pricing.

How can I ship a lot of clothes? ›

How to Package Clothes For Shipping
  1. Avoid added cushioning.
  2. Ship items together, when possible.
  3. Weigh packages as you pack to ensure accuracy.
  4. Ship in the smallest package available.
  5. Use inexpensive bubble mailers for ultra-lightweight shipments.
  6. Look for volume discounts on large shipments.

How much does it cost to ship a TV? ›

The average price of shipping a TV is around $100. The cost varies depending on what shipping service you use and the TV's dimensions.

How is crating calculated? ›

Calculating the volume of a pallet, box, or crate is simple. Simply multiply the length by the width by the height.

Can I ship a wooden crate USPS? ›

Parcels must be packed in one of the following: Canvas or similar material. Double-faced corrugated or solid (minimum 275-pound test) fiber boxes or cases. Strong wooden boxes made of lumber at least 1/2-inch thick or plywood of at least three plies.

How do you weight a crate? ›

Shippers have different dimensional weight formulas. For example, the formula FedEx uses is height times width times length measured in centimeters and divided by 5,000 to find the dimensional weight in kilograms. Using this formula, a crate measuring 100 cm by 100 cm by 100 cm has a dimensional weight of 200 kg.

What is the cheapest way to ship a heavy item? ›

Consolidated freight is typically the cheapest way to ship heavy packages. Compare shipping rates for heavy items using the most common shipping methods: USPS. Parcel shipping (such as FedEx or UPS)

Does shipping go by weight or size? ›

For First-Class Mail, shape and weight will determine the price. For Priority Mail, the price is a combination of weight, size, and how far the mailpiece is traveling. Priority Mail pieces that exceed one cubic foot, are subject to "dimensional weight pricing".

How much does it cost to ship 100 lbs UPS? ›

– $18.00 per each package in a UPS Hundredweight Service shipment for UPS Next Day Air,® UPS Next Day Air Saver,® UPS 2nd Day Air A.M.®, UPS 2nd Day Air,® UPS 3 Day Select® and UPS® Ground shipment. Maximum of $126.00 per shipment.

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