In the field of logistics like air and courier services, the billing standards are based not only on the shipment’s actual weight but also on the volumetric weight. Let’s dive in.

What are actual weight and volumetric weight?

Actual Weight, abbreviated as A-W or AW, refers to the physical weight measured by a weighing scale.

  • Regarding the product alone, the actual weight is its net weight. For example, a MacBook Air weighs 1.36 kg.
  • As for a package, the actual weight is the gross weight (G.W.), which includes the weights of inside products and used packaging materials.

Volumetric Weight, also called Dimensional Weight or DIM weight, calculates the weight of the goods based on their volume using a conversion factor. Common items like plush toys, bags, and plastic products are often charged for volume weight rather than actual weight when shipped by courier or air freight.

How to calculate volumetric weight?

Calculation formula

DIM Weight =

Length (cm) × Width (cm) × Height (cm) x Quantity

DIM Factor

DIM Weight =

L(cm) × W(cm) × H(cm) x Qty

DIM Factor

P.S. “L” stands for “Length,” “W” stands for “Width,” and “H” stands for “Height.” “QTY” stands for “Quantity.”

Different transportation methods have different DIM factors.

Air Freight

 1:6000 or 1 CBM = 167 kg

Express freight/courier

1:5000 or 1 CBM = 200 kg

Sea freight

The DIM factor concept differs from air freight and courier services, and there is usually no strict limit on the weight per unit volume.

For FCL (Full Container Load) cargo, ensure the total weight doesn’t exceed the container’s maximum payload.

For LCL (Less than Container Load) shipments, the charge is based on the larger of the actual volume and the weight-based volume. For heavy cargo, the weight-based volume is calculated as 1 CBM = 1,000 kg.

For example, if a heavy cargo’s actual volume is 0.8 CBM and its actual gross weight is 1,200 kg, the weight-based volume is 1.2 CBM (1200 ÷ 1000). Since 1.2 CBM is greater than the actual volume of 0.8 CBM, the charge is based on 1.2 CBM.

Note: Different shipping companies, ports, or countries may use different conversion factors.

Calculation examples

Suppose you purchase a batch of bread makers from China to the USA, packed into 10 wooden crates, each weighing 35 kg with dimensions 50x60x80 cm.

Actual gross weight = 35 kg x 10 = 350 kg.

Single crate volume = 50 x 60 x 80CM = 0.5 x 0.6 x 0.8=0.24 CBM

Total shipments’ volume = 0.24 x 10 = 2.4 CBM

If shipped by express

Volumetric Weight = 50 x 60 x 80CM x 10 / 5000 = 480 kg

Volumetric weight 480 kg >actual weight 350 kg. So, shipping fee is charged by 480 kg.

Here suppose the express freight rate is $6.5 per kg,
then the express cost = 480 x 6.5 = $ 3,120

If shipped by air

Volumetric Weight = 50 x 60 x 80CM x 10 / 6000 = 400 kg

Volumetric weight 400 kg >actual weight 350 kg. So, shipping fee is charged by 400 kg.

Here suppose the air freight rate is $5.5 per kg,
then the air cost = 400 x 5.5 = $ 2,200

If shipped by sea

Weight-based volume = 350 / 1000 = 0.35 CMB

Weight-based volume 0.35 CBM < actual volume 2.4 CBM, the shipping cost is charged by 2.4 CBM.

Here suppose the sea freight rate is $75 per CBM,
then the LCL shipping cost = 75 x 2.4 = $ 180

Traditional sea freight is the cheapest but the delivery time is long, usually taking 30 days or more. If you want a faster and more cost-effective way than traditional sea freight, the sea and UPS combined shipping method is suitable, taking about 20 days from China to the USA. This combined shipping method also charges based on the greater of the actual weight and volumetric weight. 

Volumetric weight is calculated as: 50 x 60 x 80CM x 10 / 6000 = 400 kg

Here suppose the freight forwarder offers a rate of $3.5 per kg,
then the cost = 400 x 5.5 = $ 1,400

Accurate calculation of volumetric weight is crucial for determining shipping costs. Different shipping methods have different DIM factors, affecting the calculation results. Always use the final packaging box/carton dimensions and ensure accurate measurements to avoid significant differences between estimated and actual costs.

To reduce the shipment’s dimensional weight and save money, it’s common practice to simplify packaging, arrange items compactly, and ship light items together with other heavy items. Contact us if you need such services. 

We are Jingsourcing, a leading Chinese sourcing company with rich experience in product sourcing and shipping. Tell us your needs and enjoy our high-quality services at a good price.

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