Shipping companies charge different rates for freight, based on the types of items and any special handling that may be necessary. The transportation distance also may factor into the freight charges. For the most accurate estimate, use the shipping company’s freight cost calculator. Many companies offer these tools on their websites.

Figure the approximate weight of the items you are shipping. Depending on the size and number of items being shipped, you may be able to figure the weight of one unit and multiply that by the total number of units to reach an approximate weight. If possible, weigh the items on a set of scales. Include the weight of any pallets necessary to move the freight.

Determine where the items fit into the National Motor Freight Classification, or NMFC. This is the shipping industry’s standard of transporting specific commodities. Once you know your item’s classification, package it according to NMFC standards. Use the smallest package possible to save on shipping costs.

Add any special shipping fees. If the package is bulky or must be set up when it reaches its destination, include these extra fees when you calculate freight costs. Items that require shipment at a certain temperature may have additional fees.

Include any handling fees if the freight changes in transit from one mode of transportation to another, such as from a ship to a truck. Handling fees include the costs of handling the paperwork that accompanies the freight shipment.

Decide whether to purchase insurance from the freight carrier or from another source.

Calculate the final costs by multiplying the weight times the rate charged by the freight company for the item’s NMFC classification. Add to that number any special fees, handling fees and insurance. Once you and the shipping company agree on a fee, both parties should sign the shipping papers to document the fees.


Most freight carriers have a minimum weight limit. Try to ship at least the minimum weight to get the most value from your shipping costs.