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How to Choose the Right Shipping Box Size and Shape

7/20/20
Grainger Editorial Staff

Whether you are looking to ship something smaller than your hand or so big it needs to be moved in a truck, picking the right box is an important factor in a successful delivery. With various shapes, sizes and costs, however, it can be challenging to know where to begin. 

This guide will help you choose the right shipping box to fit your business needs.

Shipping Box Carriers

From shipping orders to external customers to meeting internal needs like supply transfers and storage, there are many reasons a business may require shipping boxes. Not only do shipping services in the United States charge based on the size and weight of the box being shipped, they also have size and weight restrictions. Check to make sure your box falls below the maximum specifications or your package may have to travel with a freight carrier.

Shipping Box Sizes and Shapes

Typical standard shipping boxes are made of corrugated cardboard. You can choose from an assortment of shapes and box strengths. Depending on the size and weight of your product, you may need a more durable box.

Below are the most common box shapes and strengths. However, there are many more types of boxes to choose from.

Box Sizes

Determining the size of your shipping box is the first place to look. Boxes can come in traditional rectangular shapes and cubes, or elongated shapes and sizes for specialized uses.

Cube boxes

Cube boxes feature the same length on all edges and have the same square box shape on all sides.

Multi-height boxes

Multi-height boxes have a design that allows you to choose between various heights while keeping a fixed width and depth. Depending on the box, you could have two, three or more options for adjustable box heights.

Long boxes

Long boxes have a longer length compared to their width and height. This allows loading elongated items that can ship on their side or lying down flat.

Tall boxes

Tall boxes feature a smaller length and width compared to a taller height. That makes them best for shipping tall items that can’t be folded down and need to stay upright while in transit.

Telescopic boxes

 

Telescopic boxes allow for shipping long items that may not fit into a single box. They fit together and work well for shipping large and tall items.

Side-loading boxes

Side-loading boxes are often wide and thin with an opening on the narrow side to load or unload items with a shape similar to a framed photo or poster, among other uses.

Box Strengths

The strength of shipping boxes is generally measured using edge crush test (ECT) for stacking strength or the Mullen Test for bursting weight. The two most commonly used box strengths for shipping are:

  • 32 ECT: This type of box can stand up to a 32-pounds per square inch vertical compression and is common when stacking lighter weight shipments.
  • 200#: For somewhat heavy-duty shipping, 200# boxes are popular options, and generally support a bursting strength of about 50 percent higher than 32 ECT boxes.

Use the chart below to select the box type based on the weight of your shipment using the UPS and Fiber Box Handbook strength guidelines. If you need a box that holds more than 200 pounds of pressure, stronger, heavy-duty boxes are available.

See our complete corrugated shipping box guide for more information on strength ratings.

UPS Guidelines

Fiber Box Handbook

Box Type

30 lb

65 lb

32 ECT Single Wall

40 lb

65 lb

200# Single Wall

50 lb

95 lb

44 ECT Single Wall

60 lb

100 lb

48 ECT Double Wall

80 lb

120 lb

51 ECT Double Wall

 

160 lb

71 ECT Double Wall

 

180 lb

90 ECT Triple Wall

Shipping Boxes Are an Important Part of Product Delivery

With the right boxes ready to go, your business can successfully meet its shipping and packaging needs, while providing safe and secure delivery. Taking the time to understand shipping box sizes and shapes will help you reach the best result for your customers—and that's an ideal outcome for any business.

FAQ: Shipping Box Sizes and Shapes

What is a standard size shipping box?

There is no exact requirement for the standard size shipping box. Looking at your own business and personal packages, you’re likely to see boxes with a wide range of shapes and sizes. You can find a box to meet nearly any shipping box need.

How do I know what size box I need?

Measure your product by going to the Shipping Box Guide to ensure you don’t pick a box that’s too small or too big, taking into account added space for padding. You may want to test multiple box sizes to find the right fit for your product. Also, be mindful of major U.S. shipping providers' guidelines so you don't pick a box that's outside of maximum box size requirements.

What is the cheapest size box to ship?

The cheapest size box to ship varies by the shipping company and method you choose. Generally, the smaller and lighter weight boxes are the cheapest size box to ship. This is an important reason to test multiple sizes and various options once padding is added. Choosing the minimum required size could help your business save significantly on both box and shipping costs.

Learn more about how to choose the right shipping box.

 

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.

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