How To Work Out Postage Costs In The UK

The cost you’ll pay for postage in the UK depends on the weight, dimensions, destination, postage level, and courier used to send the item. The prices vary depending on the courier you use, and some providers are more suitable for certain types of postage than others. With so many options and variances between how couriers will charge you, it can be difficult to understand the best option when sending your mail. This guide will run through the various information you need to consider when sending an item and introduce you to an alternative solution via our services.

Please note: the information presented in this blog is accurate as of Thursday 21st October, 2021.

Calculating the cost of your item

To calculate the cost of sending your letter or parcel, there are five variables to consider:

  1. Weight - how heavy your postal item is, which may be calculated on volumetric conversion or the actual weight.
  2. Dimensions - the length, width, height and sometimes girth of your item. Some couriers will combine dimensions together when setting maximum limits.
  3. Destination - where your item is being sent to. The prices and shipping options between UK and international destinations will often vary.
  4. Level of postage - how quickly you need an item delivered or what insurance/coverage you require. You’ll often have options such as next day delivery, 48hour delivery etc.
  5. Courier - Each courier calculates their prices differently and have varying maximum limits on the items you’re sending through them.

Weight

Most couriers will have a limit on the maximum weight of an item sent through them. This will apply to anything as small as a letter to the largest of parcels. You will need to know the weight of your item so that you can accurately calculate the cost of shipping. Without this information, you won't be able to view the various postage options available to you.

When sending multiple parcels in one consignment, there may be additional limits on the total consignment weight

Dimensions

The dimensions of your mail item will dictate which service it can be sent through. Most couriers will place a limit on the dimensions of an item in the form of width, length, depth and girth. You should measure your item's size before calculating shipping costs to understand which category it fits into, such as a letter, large letter, or medium parcel

For obscurely shaped parcels, such as cylindrical tubes, you should measure the longest edges of the item to use as your measurements.


Item destination

Where your item is being delivered will also determine the shipping options you have to choose from and the price you’ll pay. Mail being sent overseas will likely be more expensive than items sent within the UK. International shipping will also often have unique restrictions on the size and weight of parcels, so it’s essential that you’re looking at the international rates when trying to calculate the cost.

Postage type

Couriers offer many different types of shipping options. The basic principle is that the sooner an item is delivered from the point of collection, the more expensive it will be. If you do not need an item delivered in a rush, then opting for a slower postage type can help to save you money. It’s important to note that there are sometimes delays to shipping, such as during the festive periods, so this should be considered when choosing your postage type.

Courier

The courier you choose will have a big impact on the cost of postage, meaning that if you’re trying to calculate the most economical way of sending your item, there are many comparisons that you need to make. With each courier categorising different weights and sizes into different postage types, it can be difficult to compare the options and understand which is best suited to you. Below is information on some of the most popular UK courier options and guidance on the types of services you can use to send mail with them.

Royal Mail

Royal Mail categorises its options into 5 categories, each with its own maximum weight and dimensions. The maximum weight of an item being sent through their service is 20kg, however, their sister company, Parcel Force, can be utilised for consignments heavier than this.


Service

Max weight

Max length

Max width

Max depth

Letter

100g

24cm

16.5cm

5mm

Large letter

750g

35.3cm

25cm

2.5cm

Small parcel

1kg

45cm

35cm

16cm

Medium parcel

20kg

61cm

46cm

46cm

Tubes

20kg

90cm*

90cm*

90cm*

*The length of the tube plus twice the diameter cannot exceed 104cm. No one measurement can exceed 90cm.

Parcel Force

Parcel Force is a subbranch of Royal Mail that is suited towards parcels up to 30kg. They offer three postage types: standard parcel, large parcel and international. If you’re sending multiple consignments, there is no maximum weight as long as each individual parcel does not exceed 30kg. Items longer than 1.1m or those with a secondary dimension greater than 0.7m may also be liable for a manual handling surcharge.


Service

Maximum weight

Maximum combined length and girth

Maximum length

Standard parcel UK

30kg

3m

1.5m

Large parcel UK

30kg

4m

2.5m

International*

30kg

3m

1.5m

 

*For international deliveries, Parcel Force has unique postage options for each location, and you may find that the size allowances vary slightly from the figure given above. You can find out more by viewing the Parcel Force worldwide directory.

DHL

DHL offers 7 different services, each with varying maximum weights and dimensions. Their service is more suited towards parcels rather than letters and they include £25 worth of contents cover on all deliveries as standard.

Size

Max weight

Max length

Max width

Max depth

XS

2kg

20cm

20cm

20cm

XS

2kg

23cm

33cm

5cm

Small

5kg

35cm

35cm

35cm

Medium

10kg

45cm

45cm

45cm

Large

15kg

60cm

60cm

60cm

XL

20kg

65cm

65cm

65cm

XXL

25kg

70cm

70cm

70cm

 


In addition to their standard rates, DHL offers service point options where you can collect a free box at eligible locations, and you’ll be charged based on the size of the box you take:

Size

Max weight

Max length

Max width

Max depth

Envelope 1

0.5kg

27cm

35cm

2cm

Box 2

1.5kg

34cm

18cm

10cm

Box 3

3kg

34cm

32cm

10cm

Box 4

7kg

34cm

32cm

18cm

Box 5

12kg

34cm

32cm

34cm

Box 6

18kg

42cm

36cm

37cm

Box 7

25kg

48cm

40cm

39cm

 

UPS

UPS have a maximum weight and size forany parcels sent through them, and the price you pay will depend on how quickly you need the item delivered, the size of your item and where it’s being sent to. They do not offer any predetermined services such as those given by the Royal Mail, and you’ll need to use their calculator to find how much you can expect to pay.


Size

Maximum weight

Maximum combined length and girth

Maximum length

Packages

70kg

500cm

274cm

 

DPD and DPD local

DPD and DPD local offer similar shipping rates, however, DPD will likely be used when sending goods internationally outside of the UK, and DPD local is more geared towards domestic services. They charge based on the shipping method chosen, as well as how quickly you need the item to be delivered. There are various weight limits, and some services will charge you in increments based on the weight of an item. 

DPD international services allow parcels up to 30kg and they offer the following types of postage:

Service

Max weight

Max length

Max girth

DPD classic

30kg

175cm

300cm

DPD air classic

30kg

175cm

300cm

DPD air express

30kg

175cm

300cm

DPD classic - drop off

20kg

60cm

180cm

DPD air classic - drop off

20kg

60cm

180cm

DPD air express - drop off

20kg

60cm

180cm

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Additional considerations when calculating the cost of postage

If you’re sending items outside of the UK, or purchasing goods from overseas, then you may be liable to pay additional fees such as import, duty and VAT. To calculate the additional cost to your postage you’ll need to first understand how the goods are classified and where they’re coming from or being sent to. Please refer to the government website for guidance.

When you’ll need to calculate the cost of postage

Calculating how much you’ll pay for postage may be something that you rarely or regularly have to do depending on your circumstances. Some of the most common scenarios where you should be working out the cost are:


  1. When sending an item internationally
  2. As an e-retailer selling goods to customers
  3. Buying an item from an international seller
  4. Sending a letter within the UK
  5. When forwarding mail from one location to another
  6. For services such as shop and ship
  7. When returning items to sellers
  8. Selling personal items in marketplaces such as eBay, Depop and Etsy
  9. When using a mail forwarding service

How we can help you calculate your postage costs

The way our service works is that we provide you with a virtual UK address that you can use to receive post, send, or forward mail from. When you request that we send mail, we’ll ask you how you’d like your item to be sent and then charge you based on your selections. We make it easy to understand the cost of each item on a case-by-case basis, making sure to ask you for all of the information needed to quote you for shipping accurately. We work with many of the leading UK couriers, and we’ll choose the best one for you depending on your needs.


Before sending an item, you'll be able to see how much you’re paying for postage within our platform, and we also offer services such as parcel consolidation to combine items into smaller consignments to help you save on the cost. Our shipping calculator can be used to help you understand how much you can expect to pay. Based on some of the examples given above, here’s how our service works and how it can help you when working out the cost of postage:

Sending a letter within the UK

Via our platform, you upload a PDF of the letter you’d like us to send on your behalf. You can do this from wherever you are across the globe, and we’ll then post it for you within the UK. You’ll just need to tell us what level of postage you’d like, and we’ll charge you based on this as well as the size/weight of the letter you’re sending.

Shop & ship

If a UK based seller won’t ship to your location overseas, you can use your virtual address as the deliver location. We can then forward it onto your location wherever you are. If you’re shopping for multiple items, we can also consolidate the items into a single parcel to help you save on the shipping costs.

E-retail services

You can use our storage facility to store all of your products and when a customer makes an order, we’ll ship the item using the shipping method they selected. Before sending, we’ll consolidate items into the most efficient package size, ensuring that you don’t overpay on your postage.

Mail forwarding

Use your virtual address as your shipping destination, and then use our platform to ask us to forward the mail on to any other location. We’ll charge you based on the size of the item and your shipping type.

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Donna Chester
October 22, 2021
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