What is Parcel Shipping? Complete Guide to Small Package Shipping

If you’re shipping smaller packages that don’t take up an entire truckload, you can either use freight shipping (which includes less than truckload) or small parcel shipping.

Many ecommerce businesses use a combination of freight and parcel shipping to deliver their products to both B2C and B2B customers.

To help you better understand the basics of parcel, we’re going to review how it works, when to use it, how to package parcels, and how to predict your shipping costs.

What is parcel shipping?

Parcel shipping refers to the transportation of small, lightweight packages that weigh less than 150 pounds. A parcel is typically shipped in a box and can be handled by a single person, unassisted. Parcel shipments are not palletized.

How does parcel shipping work?

Similar to less than truckload (LTL), parcel operates on a hub-and-spoke model. After your parcel is picked up, it is taken to a facility and sorted by delivery address.

Generally, your package will move in and out of several distribution centers and go through the reconsolidation process a few times before reaching its final destination.

How long does it take to ship a small package?

Ground parcel shipments in the U.S. typically take between 2-9 days to arrive at their final destination. However, many carriers offer expedited and same-day shipping options for an additional cost.

PRO TIP: When demand is high, and parcel volume exceeds carrier capacity, transit times will extend—resulting in delivery delays.

Top U.S. Parcel Carriers

The U.S. parcel market is dominated by three main players: UPS, FedEx, and USPS. Together, these parcel carriers account for roughly 78% of the U.S. market share. Other parcel providers include Amazon, DHL, and a handful of other regional and local carriers.

Is shipping parcel right for me?

While commercial shippers of all sizes utilize freight shipping, both individuals and commercial shippers use parcel. Like every shipping mode, parcel has its own set of best-use guidelines.

Parcel shipping is a great option if:

Your parcels fit in a standard box and weigh less than 150 pounds.
You are shipping to a residential area.
You have a high volume of outbound shipments, each with a different destination.
You want enhanced visibility and real-time tracking throughout the lifecycle of your shipment.
You want the flexibility to drop off your packages rather than waiting for pick-up.

Pros and Cons of Parcel Shipping

Before you ship parcel, consider the following advantages and drawbacks.


  • Parcel packages are easier to track due to multiple checkpoints between pickup and delivery.
  • With parcel, you don’t have to wait for a carrier to come to you. You can either arrange for a pick-up or you can take your package to one of several available drop-off locations at your convenience.
  • Parcel shipping is generally more cost-effective than LTL freight shipping.


  • Because small parcels change hands so often, packages are at greater risk for damages, delays, and loss.
  • If your package exceeds the weight limits or dimensional requirements, you will incur oversize fees.

How to Package a Parcel Shipment

Since parcel shipping involves a great deal of handling, it’s critical to package the contents of your parcel correctly.

Here are some pointers to help protect your parcel shipment:

1. Use a new or like-new box that does not have any bends, punctures, or other damage.

2. Wrap your items separately in bubble wrap, foam, recycled paper, or other lightweight materials.

3. Make sure the contents of your package do not touch the inside of the box—there should be protective cushioning separating your item and the box interior.

4. Weigh your parcel once the contents are all inside.

5. Determine the dimensions of your parcel. You will need to measure the length, width, and height of your box.

6. Use strong packing tape (minimum 5cm wide) to seal your box securely. Box seams on the top and bottom of your package should meet at each corner and lay flat.

7. Dispose of any old labels and affix your completed shipping label to the package. Take care to avoid the taped seams.

8. If your parcel contains valuable items, consider purchasing all-risk shipping insurance.

Did you know? Inxeption offers total-value shipping insurance for all full truckload, less than truckload (LTL), and domestic parcel shipments. Learn more here.

How to Predict Your Parcel Spend

When you ship domestic parcel with Inxeption, you don’t have to worry about calculating your own shipping costs. We offer fast and easy flat-rate parcel shipping across the entire U.S. and Canada.

Flat rate shipping means you can predict your parcel rates ahead of time and better forecast your total shipping costs.

To qualify for Inxeption’s flat-rate shipping, each of your parcel shipments must meet the following criteria:

Must not exceed 150 pounds in actual shipping weight
Must not exceed 165 inches in combined length and girth
Must not exceed 108 inches in length

To learn more about Inxeption’s affordable parcel shipping, talk to one of our dedicated logistics specialists.

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