How to Measure a Box for Shipping – A Beginner’s Guide

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Getting your head around how to ship your products can be hard, especially if you’re a beginner in the world of ecommerce and fulfillment. 

Working out the best type of box to use to make sure your items reach customers in one piece is an important and tricky decision to make. 

One of the key things to consider is size. The size of your boxes will impact your shipping costs so knowing exactly how big your packages are is important if you want to secure the very best shipping rates. 

So if you’re wondering how to measure a box for shipping, read on to discover our expert tips and tricks. 

Why Measuring Boxes for Shipping Is Important

Boxes certainly don’t seem like the most exciting part of your online business. After all, a box is a box, right? Wrong. Boxes come in all shapes and sizes which means you’re going to have to make a decision as to which one is the right one for you. 

Measuring your boxes for shipping is important for a variety of reasons such as:

  • It keeps your products safe. If you use the wrong size box your products will be less secure and are more likely to get damaged in transit. 
  • It keeps your shipping costs down. Often shipping rates are calculated by the size of an item as well as its weight, so the bigger the box, the more you’re going to have to pay. Making sure you’re using the right size box, therefore, ensures your shipping rates are as efficient as possible. 
  • It keeps your customers happy. Using the right size box looks professional and gives off a good impression to customers. If their items arrive in a box that’s far too big they’ll be annoyed that they now have the task of disposing of it, while if the box is too small it will look like you don’t care about their order. 

How To Measure Boxes for Shipping

When it comes to measuring a box for shipping you need to measure the length, width, height, and girth as well as work out the volume of the box. Read on to find out how you can easily measure each.

How To Measure Length 

To measure the length of a box you need to first establish the longest side of the box. Once you’ve done so, grab your tape measure or ruler and measure the longest side of your box from one end to the other. 

You can round your length up to the nearest inch or centimeter – so for example, if the length of your box is 32.6cm you can round it up to 33cm. 

As length is the longest part of your box it’s what shipping companies use to determine if a box is oversized. If you use a shipping company to ship your products you’ll need to enter the length of your average boxes to determine a shipping fee. 

How To Measure Width 

The width of your box is the surface on the shortest side of your box. Again you’ll need to get your measuring tool of choice and measure from one end to the other. 

Although the width is important, especially when calculating girth (more on that later), most shipping companies are more interested in the length of your box. This is because the width is almost never bigger than the length. 

How To Measure Height

To measure the height of your box first place your box on a flat surface such as a table or the floor. Then take your ruler or tape measure and place it next to the box, with the bottom on the same surface and the rest vertically in the air. Measure the standing side of your box – remember you can round up the nearest inch or centimeter – and make a record of the dimensions. 

The height of a standard box is usually the same as the width or even less. Again, it’s very rare for shipping companies to be bothered by the height of the box as it’s usually never longer than the length. 

How To Calculate Girth 

When it comes to more uniquely shaped boxes such as cylinder shapes, you’ll also need to calculate the girth. 

You can try to measure the girth yourself by taking a flexible measuring tape and measuring the whole way around the box or you can use a simple calculation: 

Girth = 2(W+H)

Don’t worry, if you didn’t listen in algebra class you can still easily understand the formula. It simply means you need to multiply the width by two and the height by two and then add the two answers together. 

So if the width of a box was 12 inches and the height was 8 inches we would multiply 12 by two to give us 24, and multiply 8 by two to give us 16, and then add 24 and 16 together to give us the girth.

24 + 16 = 40

So the girth of the box would be 40 inches.

How To Calculate Volume 

Calculating the volume of a box is important if you want to fully understand how much your box can hold as well as determine how much your shipping and distribution process will cost. 

To calculate the volume of your box we can use another simple formula:

V = L x W x H

Put simply, we need to times the length by the width by the height. 

So, let’s imagine the length of our box is 30 inches, the width is 25 inches and the height is 10 inches. To work out the volume we need to times 30 by 25 by 10.

30 x 25 x 10 = 7,500

So the volume of the box would be 7,500 cubic inches. 

Box Weight

Of course, it’s not just the size of your box that can impact your shipping costs. How much your box weighs will contribute to your final rate too. 

The heavier your parcel is, the more it’s going to cost to ship so it’s important to try and keep the weight of individual parcels as low as possible.

Obviously, you can’t do too much about the weight of the products you’re sending, but you can make sure that you’re not using boxes that are adding a substantial amount of weight to the package. 

Opting for lightweight boxes will help to keep your shipping costs down – not to mention that customers don’t want to receive a parcel where the box itself weighs more than the actual item inside. 

Shipping Costs

Shipping costs are a key thing that you need to consider when creating a budget for your ecommerce store in order to hopefully turn a profit. 

Many shipping providers will offer a flat rate for shipping “standard” boxes with rates only increasing if your box is oversized or oddly shaped. 

In fact, shipping providers such as USPS offer you the chance to order free shipping boxes directly from their website so you can be sure that your box won’t face extra charges. 

USPS, UPS, and FedEx all offer a variety of shipping options including flat-rate shipping with charges for oversized items. 

Remember to keep a close eye on the boxes you’re using to ship your products. The last thing you want to do is be charged for an oversized box when the item inside would have easily fitted in a standard box. 

Advice from the Experts

Top tip! Make sure to check if the ecommerce platform you’re using offers a discount with certain shipping providers. Shopify for example offers users up to 88% off shipping fees with UPS and DHL. 

Shopify page for shipping with image of two women laughing
Shopify shipping helps ecommerce brands on Shopify to secure easy and cost-efficient shipping.

How To Measure a Box for Shipping: Summary

It may not seem like an important step in your order fulfillment process but measuring your shipping boxes ensures you’re protecting your items, offering a great customer experience, and most importantly, keeping your shipping costs efficient. 

By following the steps in this article you can ensure that you’re using the right size boxes and keeping your shipping costs as low as possible.

Now that you know how to measure a box for shipping take a look at our guide to ecommerce shipping best practices to help you ensure you’re offering the very best service possible. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, measuring your boxes for shipping definitely has the potential to save you money. If you know exactly how big your boxes are you can ensure you’re paying the correct shipping fee and avoid extra charges. You can also be sure that your box fits within your chosen courier’s standard shipping size. 
The size of your shipping box is important. Firstly you need to ensure that it’s the right size for the product inside so that items don’t get damaged in transit. Making sure you’re using the right size box also improves the overall experience for your customers and means you aren’t paying for oversized boxes for no reason. 
While you may need to know all of the measurements for your box such as volume, weight, girth, width, and length the two that are likely to be most important are length and weight. Most shipping companies will use the length of your box to determine its overall size while boxes that are heavy or overweight will face additional charges. 
Written by:
Black and white headshot of Lucy Nixon smiling at the camera
I’ve been a content writer for Website Builder Expert since 2021. Through almost a decade in the digital marketing industry, I’ve built up knowledge on everything from growing ecommerce businesses to building websites. I love breaking down tricky topics into digestible and engaging content for readers. Breaking down the jargon and uncovering the best platforms, tools, and strategies, I’m a meticulous researcher who’s committed to providing our readers with tips and advice that’s tried and tested.

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