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Packaging Guide: Dimensions of Boxes for Shipping

What are the common dimensions of boxes for shipping?

Box dimensions actually vary between the main carriers, (UPS, DHL, USPS, etc) and 3rd party shipping companies and packaging providers.

However, whether you are shipping for personal or business use, there are some guidelines that are good to follow when choosing box dimensions.

Today we will look at some of the most common box sizes, the correct way to measure them, and other helpful tips when shipping boxes.

Let’s get to it. 

Dimensions of Boxes for Shipping: Common Sizes

Small Packing Box: 17″ x 12″ x 12″


The small packing box, (commonly known as the “book box”) measures 17″ x 12″ x 12″. You will certainly have come across this box as they are a popular choice when moving house.

They are designed to accommodate heavier items like books, records, tools, and gadgets in a way that is both secure and cost-effective to ship.

The size is also designed so that the boxes can be carried when full, without splitting.

Most shipping centers offer boxes of these dimensions due to their popular size, weight, and price. You will also be able to buy them from packaging supply companies.

Medium Packing Box: 18″ x 16″ x 18″


The medium packing box is slightly larger than the book box. Due to the increased size, it is not recommended that these boxes are filled with heavy items such as books.

The box would be difficult to lift and the weight could split the dimensions.

The medium packing box is, therefore, better suited to light objects such as towels and decorative items.

Large Packing Box: 18″ x 18″ x 24”


The large packing box measures around 18″ x 18″ x 24. Again, you will find most package supply companies and shipping providers will stock boxes in these dimensions.

The large size makes them useful for items such as bedding and pillows. (Lightweight so that the large dimension box can still be lifted).

A large-sized appliance such as a coffee machine could also be packed in a box with these dimensions, allowing for protecting bubble wrap or foam too.

Extra-large Packing Box: 24″ x 20″ x 24″


The extra-large packing box measures around 24″ x 20″ x 24″ and is designed to ship large lightweight items like comforters and pillows.

Depending on the weight you could also use an extra-large box with these dimensions for sofa cushions, light sports equipment, and small furniture items.

The important issue is for the packed items to fit inside the box dimensions for shipping, without causing damage to the box.

Dimensions of Boxes for Shipping: Business Use

business shipping

The above list was a look at box dimensions for shipping when moving house. What about when shipping items for business?

The important issue here is to standardize your box shipping requirements as much as possible. This will make it easier to ship inventory economically and securely.

For example, Target ships 70% of its inventory using only three different box size dimensions. That’s hundreds of thousands of items shipped using just 3 types of boxes.

If Target can do it, likely so can your business.

However, each business will have different requirements. An eCommerce business shipping video games will use different sized boxes when compared to a business selling home appliances for example.

To decide on which box dimensions to ship with, it is important to get a handle on the average size of your products. You then have to select box sizes that will accommodate your needs.

And to do that… you need to know how to measure a box.

Measuring a Box for Shipping

First things First: Inside or Outside Dimensions?

This one depends. When measuring boxes for shipping with the likes of FedEx or UPS you will need to calculate the outside of the box. This is because the major carriers need to know how much space the box will take while it’s being shipped.

When you measure a box with other distributors the inside dimensions are taken. This is done so that products will fit inside the box with as much accuracy as possible.

The same applies when you buy boxes from said distributers. The dimensions you see on boxes are always measured from the inside of the box.

Dimensions of Boxes for Shipping: Measurement Format

box measuring format

The dimensions of boxes for shipping are always measured using the format, length x width x height. No carrier or distributor will veer from this measurement format.

However, you still need to know how to measure a box’s dimensions correctly.

How to Measure a Box’s Dimensions for Shipping

Length of Box

When measuring the length of the box you need to measure the long side of the box on the side of the longest flap.

Width of Box

To measure the width, turn the box 90 degrees and measure the side with the shortest flap. Remember, these measurements need to be taken from the inside of the box.

Height of Box

The height of the box is measured from the top to the bottom with the flaps closed. Again, this should be measured from the inside of the box.

Box Measurement – Things to Consider

You should make sure you consider how much usable space is inside the box when selecting one for your business use. 

For example, once the box is folded into shape and the flaps are in place, some of the space is taken by the cardboard folding into position. 

It is also important to remember that packing and padding may need to be added. You should ensure that there is enough space for this if shipping fragile items. 

Dimensional Weight and Shipping Your Package

Most freight shipping companies charge by the dimensional weight of the box or the actual weight, (whichever is greater).

This will impact the price that you pay so it is important to ship as efficiently as possible. The best way to achieve this is to have the correct sized box for your product so you don’t overspend on shipping.

Too large a box with a light item and you end up paying the dimensional weight. This is not cost-effective at all.

Calculating the Dimensional Weight of your box

Calculate DIM weight

Calculating the dimensional weight of the box you are using varies among providers. Each carrier will have its own divisor.

However, some universal rules apply in terms of the calculation.

First, you have to multiply the length by the width by the height of the box. This will provide you with its cubic size.

You can then take the cubic size of the box and divide it by the shipping carrier’s divisor. At the time of writing FedEx and UPS, use a retail dimensional weight divisor of 139.

All the same, it is recommended that you visit the carrier website for more information on dimensional weight calculations.

Final Words

As you can see, there are a number of choices when it comes to the dimensions of boxes for shipping.

When shipping for business purposes it is important that you ship using boxes with the most cost-effective dimensions for your needs.

Too large and you could be spending higher rates on shipping than you need to. Too small, and the box may not have adequate dimensions to ship your products safely.

For moving house and other shipping requirements, there are some standardized options designed for specific needs.

The shipping company you are using should also be able to advise on this too.

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