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How to calculate dimensional weight

Updated on April 16, 2014

Understand dimensional weight

Whether you are relocating abroad or shipping items it is a good idea to understand the calculation for shipping. This way you will be able to maximize your load without going over your budget. Thousands of people waste money due to poor packing techniques which leads to dead space and higher costs. When moving companies visit your residence to assist the amount of goods you have, they will always use the dimensional weight to calculated the costing.

How do they know the weight when nothing was weighed during the survey?

The answer is, Dimensional or Volumetric weight which is derived from a formula using the volume, so in fact you are paying for a size rather then a weight. This is why it is important that the goods are tightly packed if you are on a strict budget. The actual weight may not matter in many cases.

Dimensional weight calculation

For sea shipments you simply multiply the volume (cubic meters) by 35.3147 to get the cubic feet equivalent, then multiply this by 6.5 which is a typical density factor (companies do vary).

E.g. 10m3 x 35.3147 x 6.5 = 2,295lbs, so the price will be calculated from 2,295lbs.

As you can see the actual weight has nothing to do which dimensional weight. A shipment consisting mainly of furniture which has a volume of say 25m3 could possibly be reduced to around 18-20m3 if tightly packed e.g. items stuffed inside the furniture where possible like drawers. Even though the actual weight won't change, the cost will change considerably.

For air shipments the calculations are quite different . Two weights are compared and you will normally be charged for the heaviest. The two weights are 1> the actual weight and 2> the volumetric or air chargeable weight calculated by Volume cbm x 166.6666 e.g. an air shipment of 2 cubic meters has an ACW of 2m3 x 166.666 = 333kg.

If the actual weight of the above is only 250kg then you will be charged for the air chargeable weight which is for 333kg. Some companies will only charge you for volume though, so it is important to tight pack to keep the volume down. This involves things like packing clothes and other items into drawers to keep the volume down. The less the volume then the lower the cost, simple.

Types of shipment

Containers - These generally come in two sizes

1. 40ft container which can hold up to 66 cbm and

2. 20ft container which can hold up to 33 cbm.

There is also a 40ft High Cube which can hold up to 76 cbm.

The cost for a container which be the same regardless of the volume of the goods.

Less the container load (LCL) - This is for shipments less than around 10 cbm, the items go into separate packages and are loaded onto pallets. The goods will then join other items in a shared container. The cost of the shipment depends of the volume of the items.

Cars - There are two common methods of shipping cars.

1. Inside a container where the car is secured inside in the container

2. Ro Ro (Roll on Roll off) is where the car is loaded onto an exposed container with other cars, therefore cheaper.


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    • Hezekiah profile image

      Hezekiah 3 years ago from Japan

      Yeah, that's will need clarifying first if you are in the logistics industry and doing business.

    • profile image

      Kev 3 years ago

      I noticed that some companies use different density factors. Gotta be careful there.