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calculating shipping costs

Learn all about the concept of dimensional weight pricing and how it can significantly impact the cost of a shipment.

9 Nov 2023

Understanding Dimensional Weight Pricing and Its Impact on Shipping Costs


With shipping costs continuing to rise over the past few years, most businesses are looking for simple ways to reduce their shipping costs.  Whether you're sending a package across the country or around the world, the cost of shipping can significantly impact your bottom line. One factor that is often overlooked as companies explore options to reduce their costs is the impact of dimensional weight pricing and additional fees that get added on to larger packages. We put this article together to help any business understand dimensional weight pricing, compare it to actual weight, and explore how it can affect your shipping expenses.

Dimensional Weight vs. Actual Weight: The Basics


Anyone that has ever shipped a package with the major carriers understands that costs increase as the actual weight of a package goes up. Simply put, heavier objects require more resources for pick up, sortation, transportation and delivery. However, the seismic rise of e-commerce and the evolving preferences of modern consumers unveiled a glaring logistical conundrum for the major carriers.

As ecommerce boomed, carriers noticed a peculiar trend: larger, lightweight packages consumed disproportionate amounts of space within their trucks and airplanes. Consider, for instance, a box of inflatable beach balls. While these items are light, their voluminous nature occupies considerable cargo space. The traditional pricing model, solely anchored to actual weight, needed to account for this spatial aspect, culminating in the wastage of cargo space and a spike in transportation expenses.

Enter the innovative solution: dimensional weight pricing. This pricing approach sought to balance a package's actual weight with the space it occupies during transit. By factoring in the package's dimensions and weight, carriers could more accurately gauge the resources required for that delivery. This dynamic shift addressed the economic pragmatism of transporting larger yet lighter parcels and incentivized businesses to rethink their packaging methods for optimal cost efficiency.

Decoding Dimensional Weight Pricing


Dimensional weight pricing, also known as volumetric weight pricing or billed weight, is a pricing strategy that considers both the dimensions (length, width, height) and weight of a package to determine its shipping cost. This approach allows carriers to charge based upon the actual amount of space a package occupies in their vehicles, even if it is relatively lightweight.

Carriers compute the dimensional weight of a package by applying a formula that determines the package's cubic volume and then comparing it to a pre-established conversion factor, often referred to as the DIM factor. When the calculated dimensional weight exceeds the actual weight of the package, the shipping cost is determined based on the dimensional weight rather than the actual weight, generally meaning you pay more for that shipment.

The Importance of the DIM Factor


The DIM factor plays a pivotal role in calculating the dimensional weight of an item. It represents the allowed volume of a package for each unit of weight. While it has a mathematical relationship, the DIM factor is different for measurements in inches/pounds and centimeters/kilograms.

Currently, all major courier companies use the DIM factor to determine the dimensional weight of nearly every rectangular parcel they manage. They then modify customer invoices to account for charges based on the higher weight between the actual weight and the dimensional weight.

How to Calculate Dimensional Weight with DIM Factor


Let's break down how to calculate dimensional weight using the DIM factor with a simple example:

Imagine you have a box that is 11 inches long, 13 inches wide, and 15 inches high, and it weighs 12 pounds. The shipping carrier has a rule that for every cubic foot (a box that is 12 inches x 12 inches x 12 inches), the minimum weight considered is 15 pounds. This rule is represented by a DIM factor of 115.2 in³/lb. Here's how it is calculated: a cubic foot is 1728 cubic inches (12 inches x 12 inches x 12 inches), and since the minimum weight for this size is 15 pounds, we divide 1728 by 15 to get 115.2 in³/lb.

Now, to find the billing rate for your package, you would:

  • Calculate the cubic volume of your package by multiplying its dimensions: 11 inches x 13 inches x 15 inches = 2145 cubic inches.
  • Determine the dimensional weight by dividing the cubic volume by the DIM factor: 2145 cubic inches / 115.2 in³/lb = 18.6 pounds.
  • Since 18.6 pounds (the dimensional weight) is more than 12 pounds (the actual weight), the courier company will charge you based on 18.6 pounds.


This example shows how the DIM factor is essential in determining the shipping cost. Even though the package only weighs 12 pounds, the cost is calculated based on 18.6 pounds because of the space the package takes up in the carrier's vehicle. It's important to consider both the size and weight of a package when figuring out shipping costs. Each major carrier assigns a DIM factor to each account, and this example shows how it can impact your pricing.

The Impact on Shipping Costs


Dimensional weight pricing has significantly impacted the shipping industry and businesses that rely on shipping services. Here's how it influences shipping costs:

  • Lightweight but Bulky Items: Products that occupy a lot of space, such as pillows, inflatable items, or large but relatively thin electronic devices, are most affected by dimensional weight pricing. Businesses shipping these items may increase costs due to the more extensive dimensional weight calculation.
  • Optimized Packaging: To mitigate the impact of dimensional weight pricing, businesses have started designing their products to fit in the smallest box possible and optimizing their packaging to eliminate any possible open space in their shipments. This involves using smaller boxes or minimizing excess packing materials. Such practices can reduce the dimensional weight and, subsequently, the shipping costs.
  • Cost Considerations: Dimensional weight pricing prompts businesses to reevaluate their shipping strategies. This includes deciding whether to adjust product pricing, offer shipping subsidies, or explore alternative shipping options to maintain competitiveness.

dimensions of package

Using a Dimensional Weight Calculator


Understanding dimensional weight pricing can seem challenging, especially when it comes to manual calculations. However, there are straightforward solutions and tools available to help businesses and consumers make informed shipping decisions without getting bogged down in complexity. Here are some practical steps and key points about simplifying the process:

Review Your Shipping Invoices:

Start by reviewing your shipping invoices to identify which package sizes or product types are incurring additional charges based on their size. Focus on your most common package sizes.

  • Explore Shipping Carrier Options: Check if a better DIM factor is available with an approved carrier program. Carriers offer different DIM factors depending on your account volume and negotiated terms.  It may be possible to access a better DIM factor by leveraging an authorized carrier rates program, negotiating with your current carrier or adding new carriers into your shipping strategy.
  • Use Technology: Employ technology to ensure each shipment has the correct dimensions and that your rates are accurate. Dimensional weight calculators can be particularly helpful in this regard. They automate the analysis of package dimensions and weight, saving time and effort, and generating precise dimensional weight measurements.
  • Review Your Packaging: Many businesses have not taken the time to review whether they are using the optimal package sizes or if they could make some adjustments to get common products in smaller boxes.  With a new outlook on how carriers charge for dimensional weight, it is more important than ever before to find box sizes and materials that minimize overall package size, while still providing adequate protection for the contents.
  • Optimize Shipping Method: Even if your company would like most of your shipments to be sent with your current preferred carrier, you could send your larger packages with the carrier or program that offers you the best DIM factor.  This strategy can be especially useful if most of your packages are small, but have a few products that are large and getting charged for dimensional weight.  This goes back to reviewing your current carrier invoices to see what products and package sizes are getting hit with additional charges.
  • Integrate with Shipping Platforms: Many shipping platforms and carriers offer integrated dimensional weight calculators, simplifying the process further by seamlessly calculating dimensional weight while arranging shipments.  Many shipping platforms allow you to create automation rules to assign certain package sizes to products so you can check the accurate rates before shipping.


Remember, understanding and managing dimensional weight pricing is not just about cost management; it is also about enhancing the customer experience by providing accurate and transparent shipping cost estimates. By taking a proactive approach and employing the right tools and strategies, businesses can navigate the intricacies of dimensional weight pricing with ease and efficiency.

Common Questions About Dimensional Weight Calculation


Navigating the intricacies of dimensional weight pricing can be perplexing, but understanding this concept is crucial for managing shipping costs and enhancing customer experience. Here are some common questions about dimensional weight calculation, along with some new insights to help any business struggling with additional charges on larger packages:

Why does dimensional weight matter?

Dimensional weight guarantees that carriers receive appropriate compensation for the space a package takes up in their airplanes and vehicles. This is important because larger, lightweight parcels could otherwise lead to inefficiencies and increased shipping costs for everyone else.

How does dimensional weight impact shipping costs?

Dimensional weight can significantly affect shipping costs, especially for lightweight, bulky items. If a package's dimensional weight exceeds its actual weight, the carrier charges based on the former, meaning even relatively light items can incur higher shipping costs if they occupy a lot of space.

Are there tools available for calculating dimensional weight?

Yes, many carriers and shipping platforms offer dimensional weight calculators. These tools simplify the process by taking the package's dimensions and weight as inputs and generating the corresponding dimensional weight, ensuring accurate calculations and informed decision-making.

Is dimensional weight pricing applied to all shipments?

Dimensional weight pricing is typically applied to larger packages or those with a relatively low actual weight but significant volume. Smaller, denser packages might still be priced solely based on actual weight.

Can dimensional weight calculators be integrated into e-commerce platforms?

Yes, many shipping platforms and e-commerce solutions offer integration with dimensional weight calculators. This streamlines the shipping process by allowing you to calculate accurate costs while arranging shipments.

How does understanding dimensional weight benefit consumers?

For consumers, understanding dimensional weight leads to transparency in shipping costs. Accurate cost estimates can help them make more informed purchasing decisions and avoid surprises during checkout.

Does dimensional weight calculation promote eco-friendly practices?

Absolutely. Optimizing packaging to reduce dimensional weight saves shipping costs and contributes to efficient space utilization in carriers' vehicles, reducing trips and lowering carbon emissions.

Mastering Dimensional Weight: A Guide for the Future


Dimensional weight pricing represents a pivotal change in the way shipping costs are determined. While this may lead to increased expenses for certain items, comprehending this pricing approach empowers businesses to make educated decisions regarding packaging, shipping strategies, and cost management. By optimizing packaging and leveraging dimensional weight calculators, companies can adeptly navigate the complexities of contemporary shipping, ensuring efficiency and effectiveness in operations. This not only has financial benefits but also contributes to environmentally friendly practices by promoting efficient packaging and reducing carbon emissions. Understanding and mastering dimensional weight is not just about cost management; it is about enhancing customer satisfaction through transparent shipping costs and contributing to a more sustainable future.  

Jillamy works with small parcel shippers of all kinds to help reduce your shipping costs and optimize your packaging to avoid unnecessary surcharges and fees wherever possible.  Contact us at 800-592-7449 to review your shipping rates or make an appointment on our contact us page.

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