San Francisco -----> Halifax: Parcel Edition
February 21, 2013 11:47 AM   Subscribe

What's the cheapest way to get a large box from San Francisco to Halifax, NS?

I need to ship a large box (approx 22"x 24" x 26") from San Francisco to Halifax. There is no urgency and it doesn't matter to me if it takes months for it to arrive. It's currently packaged in a cardboard box and could possibly be packed slightly smaller but not by much. It weighs about 30 lbs. It's not particularly fragile or valuable.

UPS and FedEx Ground both come out to about $180 estimated. Is there anything cheaper?
posted by otherwordlyglow to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you tried getting a USPS quote? As a general rule, the US Postal Service (which passes to Canada Post when in Canada) is the cheapest US-Canada shipping option because they do not charge customs fees up front, and they do not charge brokerage.

I would avoid UPS and FedEx due to their extortionate brokerage fees.
posted by kitkatcathy at 11:59 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: USPS said my package was too large.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 12:03 PM on February 21, 2013

Have you tried pricing out DHL?
posted by Nimmie Amee at 12:19 PM on February 21, 2013

I ended up using FedEx Ground as the cheapest cross-country (within the US) but getting something (a box of feathers - don't ask) from SK to SF, I used Greyhound (the bus line).
posted by hydrobatidae at 12:21 PM on February 21, 2013

One option: do you know anyone who will be driving up the coast to BC in the next month or so? Because if you give them $20 to take your box and ship it Canada Post, you'd run about $80-$100. I know the Post can handle boxes of that size domestically. Frankly that's probably the cheapest you'll find, but I don't know if your social network runs that way.
posted by Lemurrhea at 12:26 PM on February 21, 2013

Air Canada offers parcel cargo service from SFO to YHZ. If you're willing to drop it off at their SFO office and have the other party pick it up at YHZ, I suspect it will be far cheaper than what you've quoted above. You should contact them for specific details.
posted by eschatfische at 2:00 PM on February 21, 2013

USPS said your package was too large for parcel post?!
* Maximum weight is 70 lbs.
* Can’t include any hazardous materials.
* Maximum combined length and girth of 130". Meaning the combined measurement of the longest side and the distance around the thickest part can’t be more than 130". Items larger than this can’t be sent with the Postal Service™.
* A surcharge applies to certain items including packages weighing over 35 lbs (25 lbs for books and printed matter) and certain shapes (e.g. tubes, rolls, and large packages).
* Special prices are added for bulky packaging.
22" + 24" + 26" = 72" < 130", and 30lb is well within the 70lb limit. It seems you had some poor customer service:( Try a different post office branch?

I've shipped many boxes (generally of the 10" x 12" x 22" size category or less, but of similar weight, due to containing books and such) by USPS. Generally it's cheap, reliable, and doesn't even take that long - I've never had a package take longer than six weeks to get to Canada. (Though some boxes that I shipped ground rate from Hong to the US took almost two months.)
posted by eviemath at 2:04 PM on February 21, 2013

If time is *really* not an issue, I could hand-deliver it by beginning of June, perhaps in exchange for a cup of decent quality hot chocolate.
posted by eviemath at 2:06 PM on February 21, 2013

Hmm, I may have miscalculated girth. 26 + 2 x (22+24) = 26 + 2(46) = 26 + 92 = 118. You're still good.
posted by eviemath at 2:07 PM on February 21, 2013

Response by poster: I dunno, I ran it through the USPS website and it came back "Sorry, no dice"
So far I can't get the DHL site to give me a quote.
I just checked with Air Canada and they said they don't ship personal effects. Basically, only companies and government agencies.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:11 PM on February 21, 2013

The length + girth limit for domestic parcel post may be 130", but the limit for shipping to Canada is 108", which is why the calculate shipping tool says it doesn't work.

Normally I'd suggest Amtrak Express, but of course there are no Amtrak stations anywhere near Halifax. Maybe if you know someone who lives near the US-Canada border you can mail it to them and then have them hand carry it across the border and mail it onward.
posted by ckape at 2:30 PM on February 21, 2013

Response by poster: So how is length+girth calculated? Is it 2width+2Height+length? In other words, given the current dimensions of the box, I'm at 2(22)+2(26)+24=120? It may be possible for us to pack it smaller if we're that close to the limit.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:42 PM on February 21, 2013

Hmm, 108" combined girth, eh? (The link above says longest side + circumference around the other two sides. Since your longest side is 26", this would be 26 + 2(22+24).)

Can you re-pack and use a box with slightly different dimensions? We'd need a box of dimensions x, y, and z, subject to the constraints:
(i) x less than z, and y less than z
(ii) z + 2(x+y) less than or equal to 108
(iii) xyz approximately 22 x 24 x 26 (same volume)
I'll run some calculations....
posted by eviemath at 2:47 PM on February 21, 2013

Response by poster: Yeah, if it's just a matter of 10 sq inches, it might be worth trying.
It looks like if I can get it in a box 26X20X20. I can ship it for $90 USPS. That would be awesome!
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:55 PM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Looks like the largest volume you could get with 108" length + girth (and whole number dimensions) is an 18" x 18" x 36" box.
posted by eviemath at 4:04 PM on February 21, 2013

Seven Seas? Or companies like it? They'll move a "large box" of 51cm/20in x 41 cm/16in X 61 cm/24in for $119 door to door from SF to Halifax in 20 days, by sea, with a max weight of 30 kg. This isn't the right size, but maybe give them a call? There must be more options than what's on the website.
posted by mdonley at 6:24 PM on February 21, 2013

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