employee picking and packing item for shipment


When shipping a package, understanding the concept of weight is crucial, not only for cost estimation but also for efficient packing and transportation. Three of the most common terms in the shipping world: actual weight, dimensional weight, and billable weight. Here’s a breakdown of each, along with examples to clarify further.

Jump right in: Dimensional Weight vs. Actual Weight vs. Billable Weight

What is Actual Weight?

diagram illustrating actual weight

Actual Weight: This is the real, physical weight of the package. You’d get this by placing the package on a scale.

Example: Imagine you’re shipping a box of feathers. Even if the box is large, the feathers don’t weigh much. If the actual weight of the box of feathers is 5 pounds, then 5 pounds is its actual weight.

What is Dimensional Weight?

diagram illustrating dimensional weight

Dimensional Weight: Dimensional weight reflects the package’s volume, which is especially relevant when shipping larger items that may be light. Shipping carriers charge based on the amount of space a package occupies on their vehicles, not just its actual weight. Dimensional weight is typically calculated by multiplying the length, width, and height of a package and then dividing by a specific divisor set by the carrier (this divisor can differ among carriers).


Dimensional Weight=Length × Width × HeightCarrier’s divisor

Example: Using the same box of feathers, suppose its dimensions are 20 inches by 20 inches by 20 inches, and the carrier’s divisor is 166 (a commonly used divisor in the industry for inches/pounds measurement).

Dimensional Weight=20×20×20166=48.2

 In this case, the dimensional weight is roughly 48.2 pounds.

Want to learn more about Dimensional Weight?

Read our comprehensive guide on Dimensional Weight and how it affects your product’s shipping costs.

What is Billable Weight?

diagram illustrating billable weight

Billable Weight: This is the weight that shippers actually get charged for. It’s the greater of the actual weight and the dimensional weight. Essentially, carriers will charge for the space the package takes up (dimensional weight) unless the actual weight is greater.

Example: Using our box of feathers, the actual weight is 5 pounds and the dimensional weight is 48.2 pounds. The billable weight would be 48.2 pounds since it’s the greater of the two.

Dimensional Weight vs. Actual Weight

diagram illustrating billable weight

Dimensional Weight vs. Actual Weight: In shipping terminology, “actual weight” refers to the tangible, physical weight of a package when measured on a scale, encompassing both the contents and its packaging materials. In contrast, “dimensional weight” is a calculated metric, determined by multiplying a package’s length, width, and height and then dividing by a carrier-specific divisor, aiming to account for the space the package occupies during transport.

Shipping costs are typically predicated on the greater of these two weights, ensuring carriers are compensated for both the item’s heft and the space it consumes.

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When shipping items, it’s essential to be mindful of both the actual and dimensional weights. If you’re shipping something light but bulky, you might end up paying more due to its dimensional weight. Conversely, a small but heavy item might be charged based on its actual weight.

Tips for Shippers:

  • Pack Efficiently: Use appropriately sized boxes for your items to minimize excess space and reduce dimensional weight.
  • Stay Updated: Carriers can change their dimensional weight divisors. Regularly check with your preferred carriers to ensure you’re using the correct figures.
  • Use a 3PL: 3PL’s are logistics experts and often times offer better dim weight divisors than shipping yourself, lowering your shipping costs.