The economy may be recovering at a record pace, but new COVID variants are giving rise to a degree of economic uncertainty that has businesses keeping a wary eye on expenses. If you’re trying to save money, you may be wondering, “What’s the cheapest shipping method?” But it’s worth asking whether that is the right question. After all, that which is “cheap” often comes with hidden costs that can have surprising consequences. With that in mind, let’s look at the many factors you’ll need to take into consideration when shopping for a carrier or nationwide 3PL company.

Freight Carried

First question: what’s being shipped? For smaller items, like individual envelopes or boxes, the old standbys—USPS, UPS, FedEx, DHL, and the like—are sufficient. But given size and weight limitations, those carriers won’t be ideal if you’re shipping a pallet of goods, or a larger LTL (Less Than Load). Size and weight of the commodity will typically always be the main determining factor in freight costs.The same shipping lane could vary from $40 for a small parcel to $20,000 for a very large heavy haul load.


Where your cargo is going will determine, in no small part, how it gets there. Shipping from New York to Athens, OH is a lot more straightforward than shipping from New York to Athens, Greece! Indeed, domestic shipping tends to be less expensive because there are fewer “moving parts” to deal with, but you’ll still need to determine how much cargo is being transported, whether it’s all going to the same place, and the amount of space it will take up as it goes. This is considerably less complex for domestic shipments since there are fewer considerations with regard to intermodal transfers, container shipping, customs duties, and a host of other regulations that govern transnational shipments. One of the best ways to address these concerns is with the help of a freight and logistics provider like Able Transport Solutions.

Lead Time

Now we know what we’re shipping, and where it’s going. But we’re not done yet; when does it need to get there? More and more often, OEMs and even retailers are resorting to just-in-time shipping to cut down on the overhead imposed by warehousing both raw materials and finished products. That said, consumer preference drives demand for ever more speed and efficiency. Slower means of shipping are less expensive than expedited shipping, while loads with little to no lead time typically come at a premium price.

Support Services

Freight shipping is different from simply dropping a letter in the post. There is often paperwork to be prepared, picking and packing, freight loading and unloading, and numerous special handling requests to be handled even for a routine load. More specialized cargo—such as an oversized shipment—has further permitted and preparation concerns. Given the current insurance and regulatory environment, to say nothing of the expenses potentially incurred by delays, mishandling, or damage, it’s worth asking yourself whether this is an area on which you want to cut corners.

Shipping Supply versus Demand

There’s an added complication to the shipping equation that’s raising costs across the board. More than 3,000 shipping companies—many of them smaller concerns with individual owner-operators—went out of business last year due to the economic downturn and other pressures brought on by COVID. As the economy has recovered, customers and shippers alike have found themselves in a bind; demand for shipping currently outstrips the availability of drivers and equipment, driving up prices. This isn’t likely to be permanent, but it’s changing the shipping calculus and making it more challenging to find an affordable carrier.

Identifying the Best Shipping Method

We understand the challenges faced by businesses, especially when it comes to balancing demand against cost. But that’s all the more reason to give this careful consideration throughout—and not to simply shop on cost. As we’ve seen, every shipping decision is the product of many moving parts, and what’s cheapest won’t necessarily be what’s best to preserve your reputation, customer satisfaction, and bottom line. Instead, get a shipping quote now from Able Transport Solutions for nationwide shipping done quickly, reliably, and ultimately, done right.