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Comparing freight shipping options

The bags and boxes are packed. Now comes the hard part: Getting them to your destination. If your car is too small for all that must accompany you or you're going too far to comfortably drive, you're not stuck. Here are some popular shipping options.

Freight shipping options
U.S. Postal Service
Shipping size limits: 130 inches in combined length and distance around the package's thickest part. Maximum weight of 70 pounds.
Packaging requirements: Sturdy enough not to fall apart.
Delivery time frame: Parcel post takes at least five business days.
Door-to-door delivery: Yes
Other tips/considerations: Use media mail (also called book rate) to ship books more cheaply.
Greyhound
Shipping size limits: Packages must fit under the bus, i.e., no larger than two feet by four feet by six feet.
Packaging requirements: No restrictions. Container should be sturdy enough not to fall apart during travel.
Delivery time frame: No schedule guarantees with standard shipping rates. Priority shipping with guaranteed delivery available.
Door-to-door delivery: No
Other tips/considerations: A 50-percent discount is available for students who have a Student Advantage card, which requires an annual membership fee. Students without the card can get a 25 percent discount for showing a student ID or college acceptance letter
Amtrak
Shipping size limits: Three feet square and 75 pounds.
Packaging requirements: Addressed, sealed cartons.
Delivery time frame: Usually goes on the next departing train.
Door-to-door delivery: No
Other tips/considerations: There are numerous restrictions on content, although train officials don't open sealed boxes.

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Freight shipping options
Airborne Express
Shipping size limits: 56 inches by 36 inches by 25 inches and 150 pounds.
Packaging requirements: $5 additional fee for any item not in a carton.
Delivery time frame: One to seven business days by ground.
Door-to-door delivery: Yes
Other tips/considerations: Ground shipments are tracked the same way as are air express deliveries.

United Parcel Service (UPS)
Shipping size limits: Generally limited to a maximum 130 inches (length plus two times the height plus two times the width) and no more than 150 pounds, but odd-sized packages are accepted.
Packaging requirements: Addressed, sealed cartons.
Delivery time frame: Five business days.
Door-to-door delivery: Yes
Other tips/considerations: You can track your shipment.

Freight shippers
Shipping size limits: Very flexible.
Packaging requirements: No restrictions, but containers should be sturdy enough not to fall apart during travel.
Delivery time frame: Partial loads go at shipper's mercy.
Door-to-door delivery: Yes, although pick up or drop off at a freight terminal cuts costs.
Other tips/considerations: Incidental charges can add up. Yellow Transportation is well-known and consumer-friendly, but check competitor prices, too. FreightQuote will let you price several options.
Airlines
Shipping size limits: In general, height plus width plus length can be no more than 62 inches.
Packaging requirements: Sturdy enough not to fall apart.
Delivery time frame: If you're on the same flight as your excess baggage, it should get there when you do.
Door-to-door delivery: No
Other tips/considerations: Pricey, plus you have the cost of getting to and from the airport. Checked items are subject to security searches. Call your airline or check its Web site for details.
Truck rental
Shipping size limits: A 10-foot truck generally will hold enough furniture to fill a one-bedroom apartment.
Packaging requirements: Sturdy enough to prevent breakage.
Delivery time frame: You do the driving.
Door-to-door delivery: Yes
Other tips/considerations: The most popular self-move company is U-Haul, but an Internet search will provide links to several other nationwide truck rental companies so shop around for the best rates. You must be 18 to rent. Consider buying the rental company's insurance.

Jennie L. Phipps is a contributing editor based in Michigan.

-- Posted: Aug. 13, 2003
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See Also
Main: Packing your kid off to college
A guide for parents of college students
Insurance for your dorm property
Frugal U. definitions
More Frugal U. stories



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