Don’t let your dimensional weight get you down!

 In Insight

You’ve got this amazing product. It’s going to help people – change the way they live their lives. You’re pumped because you just watched the final edited version of your infomercial and it rocks – it rocks. Now, you only have to figure out how you’re going to get the product to your customers. Your head feels like it’s going to explode because you’re faced with navigating another part of this process, and people keep throwing fancy industry buzz words, like dunnage and dimensional weight, at you.

What is Dunnage?

Dunnage? What? Don’t worry – you’re not alone. Here’s what you need to know.

Carriers primarily look at two factors when determining your shipping rate on a package. Where are you shipping it? And what’s the billable weight? At UPS and FedEx, billable weight is the greater of two numbers – the actual weight of the package or its dimensional weight.

What’s dimensional weight

You already know how to weigh a package, but what’s dimensional weight and how do you calculate it?

Dimensional weight is the weight of a package as it relates to the amount of space it uses. Some people also call it DIM weight, package density or volumetric weight, but they’re all the same thing. It’s a way for carriers to charge consistently for space and use their transportation capacity more efficiently. It also encourages shippers to use proper packaging by rewarding companies who ship products using compact, strategic methods.

Dimensional weight isn’t a new concept. It’s been around for a long time, but everyone’s talking about it because UPS and FedEx announced this year they’re now using dimensional weight to calculate rates on every ground package. It’s a small change in the shipping industry that will have a huge impact on Direct Response. In the past, you probably never dealt with dimensional weight. That’s because dimensional weight only affected people shipping big products, like exercise equipment or large home improvement tools, or when products were shipped using expedited services, such as overnight air. Now, UPS and FedEx will consider dimensional weight on every ground package you ship, regardless of its size or the transit speed.

How to calculate dimensional weight

Dimensional weight calculation image courtesy of eFulfillment Service, Inc.

Dimensional weight calculation image courtesy of eFulfillment Service, Inc.

To calculate the dimensional weight of your package, use this simple formula: (Length x Width x Height) divided by a dimensional factor. UPS and FedEx use 166 as the dimensional factor for domestic shipments.

The trick to getting an accurate dimensional weight is properly measuring the package. Here are a couple of important things to remember:

  • Every package is treated like a rectangle, even if it’s not.
  • Measure your package to the farthest point in each direction.
  • Use the outside box dimensions, not the boxes’ capacity measurements.
  • Always measure in inches and round to the nearest whole number.
  • Also, keep in mind that if a package bulges during transit, the box dimensions change and you will be charged the difference.

Questions to ask to reduce your dimensional weight and additional backend shipping charges

Get your vendor’s input into how you can reduce your exposure to heavy hits from dimensional weight and additional backend shipping charges.

  • Have you chosen the best packaging for your product, based on its shape, size, and weight?
  • Are you packing strategically by putting the most weight into the smallest volume possible?
  • Are you using the right shipping material, reducing bulk, but still protecting the contents properly?
  • Will the packaging quality withstand shipping stress, and reduce issues with shapeshifting?
  • Is your vendor using technology, like dimensional scanners, to take the most accurate measurements of your product?
  • If your product is light and bulky, what other carrier options are available?


Don’t be intimidated by trying to understand dimensional weight and how it affects your shipping costs. It’s not that complicated. Be smart about using best practices in packaging and finding innovative ways to reduce your shipping overhead. Talk to your vendor and expect answers that are explained in a way that makes sense to you. If your vendor can’t or isn’t willing to answer your questions in plain English, move on to someone who will, so you can get back to doing what you love – helping people and making money.

Interested in mastering the art of shipping?

Here are few things you can read to get started:
How Shipping Data Science Improves Profits
DRTV Order Fulfillment & Free Shipping Strategies

Eric Stracener

About the Author

Eric Stracener is Director Business Development with Thill Inc. and can be reached at:
Phone: (480) 272-6450

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