October 13, 2022

While each of these methods of shipping may sound the same, there are some key differences between the two that are important for manufacturers and shippers to understand. Knowing this information will help them save money and get the service that's the best fit for their shipment.

Understanding these differences between parcel and LTL shipping starts with knowing the basic definition of each term, which we'll cover below.

What's LTL Shipping?

LTL shipping is the term used for the mode of transporting any freight that isn't large enough in size and/or quantity to take up a complete trailer on its own. In other words, it includes shipments of many different products all together on one trailer that will make multiple stops.

Typically speaking, the freight for LTL shipping will weigh at least 150 pounds but not exceed 15,000 pounds. 

LTL shipping is cost-effective for manufacturers because they essentially get to purchase a portion of a trailer for delivery rather than a full trailer. The delivery company benefits because they can cobble together multiple shipments from different customers to create one full shipment.

The price of LTL shipping will be dependent on how long the freight needs to travel as well as how much space it takes up on the trailer.
What's Parcel Shipping?

What's Parcel Shipping?

Parcel shipping is the method of shipping that is used for packages that weigh 150 or less and also can be handled by an individual without heavy equipment. Instead of requiring a forklift or multiple people, for instance, parcel shipping can typically be loaded, unloaded and delivered by one individual using a hand truck.

The size of the boxes that are being delivered are usually smaller than LTL shipping as is the overall number of boxes being delivered. Parcel shipping is mainly used by manufacturers or sellers who only have a few boxes to deliver to one or a few locations. Or, it can be used by one manufacturer that has multiple smaller packages to deliver to many destinations.

With parcel shipping, there are usually many more stops along the delivery route, as well as transfers between modes of transportation. This provides a greater risk for the packages to be lost, misplaced or damaged, of course, but it's also much more effective and cost-efficient than LTL shipping for these types of packages.

Parcel vs LTL Shipping Differences
The explanations of parcel and LTL shipping above point out the key differences between the two. However, it's worth pointing out in plaint terms these main points, which include …
Package weight: Parcel is for lighter shipments that weigh 150 pounds or less, while LTL shipping is for packages heavier than that.

Delivery time: You can get overnight, two-day and even some same-day delivery with parcel shipping. LTL shipping, meanwhile, usually takes at least a few days to complete, if not as much as a week.

Stops: Parcel shipping includes many more stops, since there are more individual packages to deliver. LTL shipping has much fewer stops. The latter, then, has a simplified tracking system with fewer updates.

Risk: There's a greater risk that packages that are shipped via parcel can be damaged. This is because they're smaller, are handled by individuals by hand and are packed tight with many other boxes. LTL shipping is done via pallets most of the time, which makes them much less likely to be damaged.

Price: Parcel shipping is traditionally less expensive per individual package.

 You might be charged extra for weekend deliveries or for changing the delivery address, though, while LTL shipping wouldn't have these charges.

When to Choose LTL Shipping?
The above are the main differences between parcel and LTL shipping, but when should you choose one over the other? Manufacturers can use a simple checklist that will help them determine times when LTL shipping would be better than parcel shipping for their freight.

Here are some of the items that would necessitate LTL shipping.

Larger Quantity of Boxes

Shipments that are more than just a few boxes are typically better suited for LTL shipping than parcel. While parcel works really well for a few smaller shipments, those with larger quantities of boxes work best for LTL shipping. 

So, if a manufacturer is filling a larger order for one customer, LTL shipping is the best method of delivery. It allows products to be shipped via pallet, which makes it easier to deliver on a consistent basis. The cost per each individual package will be lower, too.

Destination is Large Retailer
Big box stores and larger retailers have high expectations when it comes to how they accept shipments from manufacturers. They want packages to be delivered neatly and unloaded quickly so as to not clog up their loading docks.

In this case, LTL shipping is much better because of how the packages are both delivered and unloaded. It streamlines the processing of the delivery for the retailer, which is something they appreciate. 

Freight is Fragile
Keep in mind that boxes delivered via parcel are much more prone to being damaged, just due to the nature of how the freight is loaded and handled. 

If your packages are fragile or could easily be damaged, then LTL shipping would be the much better choice.

Manufacturers need to ensure that their products are being delivered all in one piece with no damage. So, LTL shipping is best for these more sensitive products.

Larger Quantity and/or Heavier
Finally, if the quantity of boxes you're shipping is rather larger and/or over 150 pounds, then you should definitely consider LTL shipping over parcel shipping. Some parcel shippers won't even consider delivering this type of freight, and even if they did, it's certainly not in their wheelhouse.

It's times like these that you need to trust an experienced LTL shipper to handle your freight. You'll know that your products will be stored and handled properly, and that you'll be getting the best service at the best price.

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