More than 150 years ago, a pair of Englishmen came up with an invention that would forever change the shipping industry. They created wave-shaped (or pleated) paper, originally used as lining to reinforce top hats. Since then, the material and its use has evolved into a now familiar shipping product: the corrugated cardboard box.
Today, this pleated paper found in certain protective product packaging has become standard in the shipping industry. Cost-effective, sturdy, environmentally friendly, and easily recyclable, the corrugated cardboard box is a popular pick for small businesses when shipping products. Here are the types of cheap shipping boxes available, and where you can go to find them.
Types of shipping boxes
There are several options for boxes when it comes to shipping your goods. Here are just a few choices:
- Corrugated cardboard boxes. The most popular shipping material due to its strength and reliability, corrugated boxes contain multiple layers of paper in tight wave shapes, which creates a thicker, denser option for protecting valuable goods.
- Cardboard boxes. Regular cardboard boxes are thinner, generally made from a single layer of paper stock or heavy paper pulp. These are still a flexible option when it comes to shipping materials, although they are often less durable or long-lasting than their corrugated counterparts.
- Poly boxes. Constructed of a polyethylene film, poly boxes are flexible and reusable options that are cheap, customizable, and reliable. They can also help protect contents through a combination of water resistance and padding.
- Insulated boxes. Combining the structure of a cardboard or corrugated box with a styrofoam or polyurethane interior, insulated shipping boxes are for shipping perishable goods such as food, plants, or other temperature-sensitive items.
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10 places to find cheap shipping boxes
- Shipping companies
- Home Depot
- Grocery stores
The worldwide corrugated box industry is expected to reach $107 billion by 2028, according to a recent report by Zion Market Research. This means there are plenty of places to buy boxes for your business, including:
Amazon has a variety of shipping supplies, including shipping boxes. The online retailer has a wide range of box sizes and shapes (there are roughly 9,000 results for a search of “shipping boxes”). It offers shipping directly to your door, as well as free two-day shipping with an Amazon Prime membership. Prices range from a couple of bucks for one box to several thousand dollars for bulk orders.
2. Shipping companies
Large shipping companies such as USPS, FedEx, DHL, and UPS all offer free shipping supplies, including boxes and mailers, if you use their services. Although this limits you to using a certain company (like USPS if you choose to use their Priority Mail boxes), it can be a good way to save money in the long run. Prices range from free to around $100 for specialty boxes.
Target has a large selection of some of the cheapest boxes and mailers available. Visiting any of their nearly 2,000 brick-and-mortar US stores can save you money compared to ordering packing supplies online. Prices for boxes range from a few dollars to several hundred dollars for bulk orders.
You can purchase boxes online or in person at Walmart. Many of their locations are open 24/7, making the retail giant a good choice in a pinch. Prices range from less than $1 to around $100 for larger orders.
Although the company has limited retail locations, Staples offers plenty of options when it comes to mailing supplies, including shipping boxes. If you buy boxes online, you can sort them by size, shape, and box type. Prices range from $1 to hundreds of dollars.
6. Home Depot
Home Depot has a wide selection of heavy-duty boxes, including large boxes and specialty moving boxes, such as wardrobe and TV boxes. Home Depot also sells kits that include a variety of different types of boxes and packing materials. Although typically used for moving, they can also be used for shipping. Prices range from $5 to around $500 for packs of 90 boxes.
Lowes has a large selection of boxes and some mailing supplies. The home improvement store carries Duck, Bankers Box, and its own store brand of boxes as well. Prices range from $1 to about $1,000.
Known as “the moving experts,” U-Haul sells a variety of specialized packing materials, like packing peanuts, bubble wrap, corrugated paper, storage boxes, and box kits. These can be ordered online or purchased in person. Prices for boxes range from around $1 to $500.
A specialty online retailer focusing on boxes and other packaging supplies, this site sells a variety of products that can be delivered straight to your door. You can shop by dimension and shape, making it easy to find the perfect box. Prices start at a few dollars for the smallest sizes.
10. Grocery stores
An unexpected—and readily accessible—stop in your search for shipping boxes should be your local grocery store. It’s a convenient place to find cheap—or even free—boxes. Many stores give away produce or other food boxes earmarked for recycling. During your next visit, ask a manager about stock delivery days so you can schedule pickup when there’s a large selection to choose from.
How to save on shipping boxes with Shopify
Shipping boxes for your business can be expensive depending on the type, size, and weight of the box, shipping fees, and many other factors. Understanding the basics of shipping will help you reduce shipping costs and remain competitive as a small shop.
Those who partner with Shopify can cut their shipping costs. By using Shopify Shipping, merchants have the ability to save up to 88% on shipping costs in the US, and can send products around the world.
Shopify merchants based in the US or Canada can receive pre-negotiated discounted shipping rates from major carriers such as USPS, UPS, DHL Express, Canada Post, and Sendle. This means you could offer cheaper (or free) flat-rate shipping to your customers, giving you a leg up on the competition.
Through Shopify’s dashboard, you can manage your products, customers, inventory, and shipping. This includes purchasing and printing shipping labels to send out orders faster. Shopify Shipping also offers discounts on international shipping, and can automatically generate customs forms.
Cheap shipping boxes FAQ
Are boxes free at USPS?
Yes, their signature boxes, such as Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes, are free if you ship them through USPS. Flat rate options, like those offered by USPS, can be a cost-saver for companies because the shipping prices are predictable and won’t fluctuate due to dimensions or weight. These costs can be reduced further by working through Shopify Shipping, which offers discounted rates on USPS shipping.
Are UPS boxes free?
UPS’s branded boxes (like UPS Worldwide Express) are free for those who use UPS shipping services. The company makes money by charging for shipping. However, these costs can be offset by using Shopify Shipping, which offers discounted UPS shipping rates in the US and Canada, and internationally.
Are there any environmentally friendly options for cheap shipping boxes?
Generally, shipping boxes are environmentally friendly. According to the American Forest and Paper Association, as of 2021, the recycling rate for old corrugated cardboard boxes—was more than 91%. There are also several online retailers, including EcoEnclose, that sell specifically eco-focused shipping materials, including boxes.
Can I purchase cheap shipping boxes preassembled or do I have to assemble them myself?
Typically, you will have to assemble shipping boxes yourself, as they are sold broken down.