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How To Measure a Box for Shipping: The Complete Guide [Video]

There’s a lot of nuance in finding the perfect shipping box. It’s about protecting your small business’s products and stewarding the brand of your company, but it’s also about keeping costs down along the way. After all, companies spent $1.5 trillion on shipping costs in 2017 — a record-breaking sum that includes transportation, warehousing costs and boxes.   

In addition to ensuring your items are appropriately packaged, a lot goes into finding the right box for what your small business is shipping. But don’t worry, you don’t need to be an expert in box measurements to get started. 

We’ve gathered everything you need to know here so you can be confident and more budget-savvy about your next box purchase.

Here are five questions to ask yourself to help you determine the perfect box measurements for your business and your budget.


Question 1: What are the most common box sizes?

The standard box measures 17 x 12 ⅜ x 12 ⅜. It’s also commonly referred to as “the book box” because it was designed to accommodate heavier items like books, albums, records, CDs, hand tools and more. It’s the most common size offered at shipping centers, and it’s typically the most cost-efficient in terms of size, weight and price.

However, just because it’s the standard size box doesn’t mean it’s standard for you. When you ship products in a box that’s too large or too small, then you risk your package arriving damaged, or not being shipped at all. You can also avoid higher shipping costs by ensuring that your box is a snug fit for your items, which is another reason the book box might not be the right box for you.

Why does this matter? Because the majority of business packaging comes down to just a few sizes — even Target ships 70% of their inventory using only three different sizes — so you want to make sure that the ones you are using ensure your packages not only arrive safely but ship efficiently. So the logical next step is discovering what the standard for your small business should be, which could be a standard size, a custom option or a mix of both.

So how do you find the right fit? That leads us to question two...

Question 2: How should I measure a box?

To find the right fit, you first need to find out what measurements are best for your desired package. You need to know how box sizes are measured.

The first thing to note: The dimensions you see on boxes are always measured from the inside of the box, and they’re consistently formatted by length x width x height. Here’s what you need to know about each.

Length: The first quantity to measure is also the easiest to find, as it’s the longest side of the box with a flap and is measured horizontally.

Width: This measurement is typically the second in terms of the longest side, and you can distinguish it from the height measurement because it also has a flap and is also measured horizontally.

Height: Height is measured vertically from the bottom of the box to the top, and is the only measurement not to include the flaps.

How to measure a box for shipping

Question 3: How should I package fragile items?

Now that you know how a box is measured, you can move onto the size of your products. Matching your product size to the right box size will ensure a snug and safe journey.

Another critical thing to note is how fragile your product is. If you need packing material to ensure your package arrives safely to your customer, consider adding 1-2 inches on each side of your box measurements. This will help guarantee the box has room for packing material.

Question 4: How heavy is the shipment?

Now that you’ve considered the size of your package, it’s time to understand how weight will affect your shipment. 

This can literally make or break your product shipment process — pun intended! 

Figuring out your shipping weight can get slightly complicated. But don't worry, we've laid it all out in our post: How To Calculate & Use Dimensional Weight For Shipping.

To explain it here as well, shipping carriers don't always charge based on how heavy your product is. They use a factor called dimensional weight, which measures the volume of a box. This factor helps them ship more efficiently. 

When figuring our the weight of your product to ship, you'll need to measure the volume of your box. If your dimensional weight is more than your product, you'll be charged for that weight instead of the actual product weight.

With the actual product and box weight aside, let's tackle the box durability.

Think about the last package you received from Amazon. You were most likely delivered a 32 ECT box, which is the most widely chosen stacking strength for safe shipping.

However, all products are different, so here’s what you should consider:

  1. Fully custom product boxes (think mailers with tuck-in flaps) are designed to look nice and present your brand well, but they are not recommended for shipping heavy products as they aren’t the safest method for items that carry significant weight.

  2. If you have small items that are made of heavy materials, consider a small shipping box for your product. It will ensure your item arrives safe and intact.

  3. If your product requires extra room to add fillers for security, consider shipping boxes. These will provide your package with the advantage of helping to lower ancillary costs while safeguarding your items.

Question 5: How can I create my own custom box?

With the size and type of your box out of the way, it’s time to get to the fun stuff: customization options.

These details may seem small, but they can have a significant impact on your business in the minds of consumers and your bottom line. Here’s how you can have fun with the details:

Create your own packaging with custom branding.

Ever wanted to see your name in lights? Customizing your shipping boxes with a logo, picture, or even an ad feels just as good. And, it’s definitely better for your business. Not only does box branding make your products more memorable with your customers, but it also shows your business values quality as well.

Consider environmentally-friendly options.  

If your business is eco-friendly or you just want to have a positive impact on the planet with your processes, you can choose recycled boxes to help decrease your carbon footprint.

There are multiple options out there for people who don’t want to increase their bottom line to be environmentally friendly. You don’t need to spend more to make a greener decision. The best part? Sustainable boxes can also be customized, so you’re not giving up any of your creative freedom either — it’s a win-win.

100% recycled boxes good for the environment

When you understand that product shipping is more than a box, you can see how breaking away from the standard isn’t just a good idea, it’s also good for business. At Brandable Box, we take great pride in helping small and large companies alike make better decisions when it comes to shipping packaging. 

Whether our clients need a perfectly sized option or they’re looking to customize with just a simple logo, we help them make the best financial decision for their business. We provide competitively priced boxes that tell their brand story and fit perfectly every time. 

Shop custom boxes today.


This article was written by our marketing agency, MarketWake

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