Understanding LTL vs. Parcel Shipping

What’s the Best Choice: LTL vs. Parcel?

LTL vs. parcel. What’s the most cost-efficient way to ship products? 

The shipping method that works best for your business depends on a number of factors. In this post, we consider how LTL vs parcel shipping stack up against one another.

  • What LTL shipping is
  • What parcel shipping is
  • LTL vs. parcel: major differences
  • LTL vs parcel: how to decide
  • Let Amazon worry about it
LTL Shipping

What is LTL Shipping?

LTL stands for Less than Truckload. As opposed to FTL, or Full Truckload. LTL is used when the freight to transport doesn’t require the use of an entire trailer, but weighs somewhere between 150 and 15,000 pounds and is stored on pallets or crates. So what you need to ship gets shared with what someone else needs to ship to the same or close-by destinations, and you both share the cost

What is Parcel Shipping?

Parcel shipping is for small boxed items, generally weighing around 100 to 150 pounds or less. Parcel packages are picked up, either at a drop-off location or from your business location, and then sorted with other parcels headed to roughly the same nearby geographic destinations for truck or van delivery.  

 LTL vs. Parcel: Major Differences

Let’s take a further look at the differences between LTL vs. parcel shipping. The chart below illustrates the features of LTL vs. parcel.  

LTL Parcel
Packages weigh more than 150 poundsPackages weigh less than 150 pounds
Oversized, large, oddly-shaped palletized packagesStandard size, easily handled packages
Less risk of loss or damageMixed with other packages increases risk of loss or damage
Fewer delivery destinationsMultiple delivery locations and drop-offs
Large products  palletized to arrive at the same destinationMultiple products sent to multiple locations
Increased security; well-packaged pallet is more secure than multiple shipments of individual unitsLower security resulting from handling multiple shipments of individual units 
Fewer checkpointsMore checkpoints
Less frequent updated trackingMore frequent updated tracking of individual units
Zone skipping evades charges from crossing multiple zones in a single tripAdherence to all parcel carrier zones 
Delivers to commercial locations, e.g., warehouse or distribution centersDelivers to residential and business locations, as well as drop-off locations

 LTL vs. Parcel: How to Decide

In considering LTL vs. parcel, LTL is the best choice if the shipment comprises large packages weighing more than 150 pounds delivered to the same location. In some cases,  LTL is less expensive on a per-package basis than parcels if the individual boxes are when you can transport a large number of light items together that are going to one destination.

Another benefit of LTL is you can transport small freight without paying for the use of the entire truck trailer, which is shared with other shipments. If you have a shipment weighing less than 15,000 pounds that doesn’t require a full trailer to transport, LTL is the best option from both practical and cost perspectives.

The parcel is generally best if you are shipping high volumes of less weighty, easier for an individual to handle, packages. Since LTL packages are typically larger than average, they take up more space and, consequently, incur a higher shipping cost.

However, parcel shipping involves a host of extra charges that could tip the LTL vs. parcel consideration in its favor. As an example, there are fees for Saturday and expedited deliveries.  

That said, LTL also has extra charges; these include charges for expedited services, use of a liftgate to deliver shipments to locations that lack a loading dock, and when the carrier driver needs to enter a building to complete delivery. 

It’s a good practice to review your historical shipping data to help determine whether  LTL vs. parcel offers the better option. Give consideration to:

  • Net spend
  • Spend by month, carrier, and type of charge
  • Average shipment expense
  • Average shipment cost by weight
  • Charges for extra services
packages waiting on porch

Let Amazon Handle Your Shipping

Amazon sellers can avoid the entire  LTL vs. parcel decision making process by opting to participate in Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA). You can be sure that Amazon is always looking at the most economical ways to ship products with the highest efficiency. However, that doesn’t exactly mean you no longer need to pay attention to how your products are shipped. 

Amazon literally ships millions of products, large and small, heavy and light, worldwide every day. But nothing is ever perfect. So it’s no surprise mistakes sometimes happen. And when mistakes happen in fulfilling and shipping your products, you are owed reimbursement. Unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t always automatically reimburse FBA sellers when this happens.

Just as FBA relieves you of worrying about LTL vs. parcel shipping, GETIDA (GET Intelligent Data Analytics) helps you recover FBA reimbursements owed to you easily and without hassle.

Sign up for GETIDA to use a free software tool that examines the previous 18 months of transactions to flag errors eligible for FBA reimbursement. If you decide claims are worth pursuing, GETIDA’s experienced team of former Amazon employees takes it from there. The only charge to you is a percentage of approved claims. And the first $400 of FBA reimbursement is free without charge.

With FBA, you don’t have to worry about LTL vs. parcel shipping. With GETIDA, you don’t have to worry that FBA reimbursements owed to you aren’t paid.