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What Is Flat Rate Shipping? | Flat Rate Shipping Options

By
Bradley Johnson
Table of Contents

If you’ve sold or purchased anything online, chances are you’ve seen the term flat rate shipping. You may have worked with eCommerce shipping companies that provided this option, or chosen it as a customer when buying products online. 

So, why is flat rate shipping all the rage these days? Why is it popular for heavier packages? Keep reading to find the answers to these questions, plus flat rate shipping prices, and more. 

Flat Rate Shipping

Flat rate shipping is any shipping service with a fixed cost, like $10. The idea behind flat rate shipping is to minimize costs while your business is growing, incentivize more purchases from customers, and maintain a competitive edge. 

Some businesses offer flat rate shipping, and some do not. It depends on the marketplace business model a company is using, which shipping carrier they leverage, and their type of product(s). 

For example, a company that sells furniture online has different shipping needs than that of an apparel business. The shipping cost for t-shirts is predictable, but not so much with objects that vary significantly in size and weight. The greater product variety in your catalog, the less likely you’ll be able to rely on flat rate shipping. 

Businesses first use a shipping cost estimator to determine what their average cost per unit shipped will be. Next, many companies include their taxes and fees in shipping costs, which simplifies expense tracking.

Companies can’t control what taxes are imposed on a purchase, but they can mitigate which expenses are visible by consumers. This is why many businesses consolidate expenses under flat rate shipping.

Flat rate shipping is often used for heavier products because you’re paying for the flat rate, not the weight of the unit. The more space your product takes up in the box, the better. This keeps your shipping efficient and as inexpensive as possible. 

If you want to offer your customers lower shipping costs in general, look no further than BlueCart’s built-in shipping tools. Determine shipping costs by weight, create labels with a shipping label printer, track shipments and returns, and more.

Our aggregated shipping options consolidate the buying power of our customers to negotiate excellent rates from 60+ shipping companies. Schedule a demo now to see how BlueCart can slash your shipping expenses.

Flat Rate Shipping Boxes

Flat rate shipping boxes are standardized box sizes used to ship products at a predetermined rate. The shipping service itself promises delivery for a stated cost, and you can ship any permitted item that fits safely in the box.

Flat rate boxes help both service providers and customers standardize the size and speed of packages that are shipped. It’s much easier to calculate how many boxes you can transport in a truck when you know how many flat rate boxes are being delivered that day. 

Typical USPS flat rate box sizes are 11 1/4" x 8 3/4" x 6", or 14" x 12" x 3 1/2". Their larger flat rate boxes are usually 12 1/4″ x 12 1/4″ x 6″. 

UPS, FedEx, and USPS also offer flat rate shipping boxes. These companies typically offer at least two flat rate options: regular and express. Knowing which box works best is particularly important if you’re researching how to ship frozen food, how to ship alcohol, or how to ship cookies. All of these products rely on excellent eCommerce packaging, so a box too large or small can damage the goods. 

Bear in mind that flat rate box measurements are subject to change at any time. It’s wise to research a shipping company’s flat rate box sizes before ordering any; otherwise, you’ll have a bunch of unused cardboard sitting on shelves.

If you don’t know what box sizes match the needs of your products yet, it’s good to learn how to measure a box for shipping. While it seems like a no-brainer, measuring a box requires some forethought, tools, and trial and error.

Once you know the dimensions your products need, you can choose the right flat rate box size. You’ll also know how to print shipping labels and can apply them much faster thanks to standardized box sizes. 

Flat Rate Shipping Prices

Flat rate shipping prices are the costs paid by customers to ship packages in flat rate boxes. These prices vary based on company, and tend to be more expensive with companies offering premium services. Each major eCommerce shipping carrier also offers faster flat rate shipping for greater costs.

The flat rate shipping price you use depends on your products, how fast you need them delivered, and which shipping company you work with. To simplify your research, we broke down common flat rate shipping prices by provider: 

USPS Flat Rate Prices

  • Small flat rate box: $7.90 for commercial, $8.45 for private
  • Medium flat rate box: $13.75 for commercial, $15.50 for private
  • Large flat rate box: $19.30 for commercial, $21.90 for private

FedEx Flat Rate Prices

  • FedEx small box: $9.95 for express saver, $22 for 2-day
  • FedEx medium box: $12.95 for express saver, $23.25 for 2-day
  • FedEx large box: $20.00 for express saver, $25.20 for 2-day
  • FedEx extra large box: $32.35 for express saver, $35.65 for 2-day

UPS Flat Rate Prices

  • UPS small flat rate box: Starts at $11.50
  • UPS medium flat rate box: Starts at $13.90
  • UPS large flat rate box: Starts at $18.40
  • UPS extra large flat rate box: Starts at $22.85

How Long Does Flat Rate Shipping Take?

With most shipping companies, flat rate shipping takes about two to three business days. This assumes that the package was placed in a dropbox or given to the carrier on a business day (Monday through Saturday) and that the carrier doesn’t experience any delays. 

Some shipping companies offer flat rate shipping at a slower rate, like five to eight business days. Typically, this means the flat rate box is shipped ground, and may only apply to boxes up to a certain dimension.

If you sell on any kind of online marketplace, keep in mind that customers expect to receive their products within a day or two. If you haven’t used an eCommerce website builder yet, try BlueCart eCommerce. Our comprehensive platform is mobile- and SEO-optimized, comes with eCommerce payment processing, and offers unlimited digital catalog and product listings. 

Shipping businesses also offer flat rate boxes with faster delivery, like same-day or overnight air. These services usually cost two to three times more than standard flat rate shipping, so make sure your budget has room. 

Frequently Asked Questions About What Is Flat Rate Shipping

Flat rate shipping can be a business owner’s path to lower costs and higher profits when used properly. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to understand, or that it’s the perfect solution for each product. 

If you’re wondering how best to use flat rate shipping, we pulled together some frequently asked questions about it. Take a look at our answers below: 

How long does flat rate shipping take?

In most cases, flat rate shipping takes between one to three business days. This assumes the package was given to a carrier on a business day and no delays occur. 

You can get packages to customers faster by choosing speedier shipping services, but be advised this costs more. Most businesses opt for regular flat rate shipping, as the expenses are lower and still provides customers with a great experience. 

How does the flat rate shipping work?

Flat rate shipping sends packages based on specific box sizes and fixed costs. You can place any lawful item in a flat rate box, as long as the product is packaged safely. 

Companies use flat rate shipping to standardize shipping expenses, encourage frequent orders, and simplify their warehouse management process flow. When you only need to use a couple box sizes, shipping and handling goes much faster.

Is flat rate shipping faster than free shipping?

No, shipping prices don’t always dictate speed. However, “free shipping” and flat rate shipping usually deliver products in the same timeframe, i.e. two to five business days. 

Free shipping is only a customer-facing term, because the business still needs to pay the shipping company. There is no way to know what shipping service a company is using based on the term free shipping alone. 

Typically, next-day air is the fastest shipping option. You can get a package delivered to many locations rapidly as long as you choose the corresponding service and drop it off before the service cutoff.

Flat Rates, Bigger Profits

Mastering the science of eCommerce shipping takes some time. As you’re learning how to ship a package, you’ll discover which services and companies fulfill your expectations. 

Flat rate shipping works perfectly for many products and happens to be inexpensive. Research flat rate box sizes that fit your products, package them up, and keep your customers ecstatic.