Volumetric Weight: How Does It Affect Your Shipping Costs?

by Stanley Nieh


Weight calculation is the prime factor for charging a customer with shipping costs. But determining the weight of the package is not as simple as putting the package on a weight machine to calculate its physical weight. 

In this guide, you will know everything about volumetric weight including what it is, how it is calculated, and how it is different from the physical weight or the dead weight of the package. 

By the end of this article, you will know why it is important for freight companies to charge according to the volumetric weight of your parcel that is bigger in volume. So, make sure that you stay tuned to every section of this article.

Let’s start. 

What Is a Volumetric Weight?

In simple words, the volumetric weight is the way of calculating the weight of the package in terms of volume or space occupied by the package. 

Volumetric weight is sometimes also referred to as dimensional weight. 

But why does a shipping company need to charge in terms of volume? Why doesn’t it measure the weight of the parcel by its physical weight? 

Let’s try to understand this with an example. 

Suppose you run a shipping company and you transport parcels from one place to another in your trucks. You get one order of transporting a truck full of clothes and another order of transporting a truck full of gym dumbbells. 

There will be a huge difference in the physical weights of the materials inside both trucks, right? Probably, 1 carton of dumbbells would be heavier than 5 to 6 cartons of clothes.

Difference in weight

The physical weight of clothes would be much less than the physical weight of the dumbbells. So, as the owner of a shipping company, would you charge the same amount for transporting both trucks? 

Considering the load, fuel average, and other differences in transporting both trucks, the cost of transporting both trucks would not be the same.

As a result, you would most probably think of charging the truck full of gym dumbbells in terms of physical weight and the truck full of clothes in terms of volume to create balance. 

This method of calculating the weight of the parcel in terms of vole is known as volumetric weight. 

Now that we have established that we need to calculate the volumetric weight of the package that occupies more space, we come to the question of how to calculate the volumetric weight. 

How to Calculate Volumetric Weight?

Calculating the volumetric weight of a package might seem daunting to some people but it is quite simple if we recall our concept of calculating the volume in the first place. 

We all learned in 5th standard physics, the formula for calculating the volume is length×width×height. 

Volume = L x W x H

Measuring tape

As the shipping carriers mostly charge the customers in kilograms, they divide the volume by 5000 if the volume is measured in a cubic centimeter. The answer or value is the volumetric weight in kilograms. 

Volumetric Weight = (L x W x H)/Volumetric Divisor

Let’s calculate it with an example. 

Suppose a package has 50cm length, 60cm width, and 10cm height, its volume will be 30,000 cm3

Volume = 50cm x 60cm x 10cm = 30,000 cm3

Now if we divide it by 5000, we get the volumetric weight in kilograms. 

So, the volumetric weight of this package will be 6 KG. 

Volumetric Weight = 30,000/5000 = 6 KG

Let’s discuss why the weight is divided by the volumetric constant. 

Why Is Volumetric Weight Divided by 5000?

5000 is the volumetric divisor or a volumetric constant that is used to divide the volume to get the volumetric weight.

In simple words, 5000 is the volume that a shipping company can treat as 1 KG of weight. That is only done if the volume is calculated in centimeters. 

As the weight is calculated in kilograms, every shipping company has to decide what volume they have to consider as 1 KG. Most shipping companies have a common agreement that they will consider the volume of 5000 as 1 KG. 

So, they divide the actual volume of the package by 5000 to get the answer in kilograms. That weight is the volumetric weight of the package because it is calculated based on its volume. 

But all the shipping companies do not necessarily divide the volume by 5000. Some companies also divide it by 4000 or 6000.

In other words, shipping companies have a common agreement that they will consider a package having a volume of 5000 as 1 KG. 

What Is Volumetric Weight Formula?

As discussed earlier, the widely used formula to calculate the volumetric weight is to divide the volume of the package by 5000. But that is for the volume that is calculated in centimeters. 

What if the volume is calculated in inches or other units? Let’s find out the volumetric weight formula for the most common units. 

Volumetric Weight Formula in Centimeters (cm)

As discussed in examples, the volumetric weight formula in centimeters is as follows. 

Volumetric Weight (cm) = (Length x Width x Height)/5000

Volume in cm

Volumetric Weight Formula in Inches (in)

If you have measured the dimensions or volume of the parcel in inches, the formula for calculating its volumetric weight in inches will be as follows.

Volumetric Weight (in) = (Length x Width x Height)/305

Do all shipping companies calculate the weight in kilograms? What if you need to calculate the weight in pounds? Let’s see. 

How to Calculate the Volumetric Weight in Pounds (lbs)?

If you need to calculate the weight of the parcel in pounds (lbs), then the dimensional divisor or the volumetric divisor will change. 

In most cases, the volumetric divisor will be 139. It can be 166 depending upon the type of freight and the rules of a shipping company. 

Volumetric Weight (lbs) = (Length x Width x Height)/139

What Is a Volumetric Weight Calculator?

A volumetric weight calculator is the artificial intelligence software that most shipping companies tend to incorporate on their websites. 

Volumetric weight calculator

This calculator is just to facilitate the users so that they can calculate the shipping costs by using this calculator themselves. 

You can enter the dimensions of your package and this calculator will calculate and display the volumetric weight automatically. 

Volumetric Weight VS Physical Weight: How Do Shipping Companies Charge? 

The shipping companies do not always charge you for the volumetric weight. They calculate the package in both ways. 

They calculate the physical weight as well as the volumetric weight of the package and will charge you for whatever is higher in value. 

Again, we come to the example of shipping the gym dumbbell. Suppose a 5 KG gym dumbbell has the following dimensions.

  • Length = 35 cm
  • Width = 10 cm
  • Height = 15 cm

So, its volumetric weight will be 35x10x15 = 5250 cm3

If we divide the volume by 5000, we get the following volumetric weight.

Volumetric Weight of dumbbell = 5250/5000 = 1.05 KG

The physical weight of this dumbbell is 5 KG and the volumetric weight of this dumbbell turned out to be 1.05 KG. 

So, the chargeable weight for a shipping company will be the greater value of 5 KG. So, in this case, it will charge you according to its physical weight instead of its volumetric weight. 

You can say that a shipping company prefers to charge according to the volumetric weight for lightweight items. 

The reason for doing this is obvious. They want to make maximum use of their shipping space and they also need to be profitable in every way. 

Volumetric Weight vs Physical Weight

How to Optimize the Costs in Volumetric Weight?

As we know that the key contributing factor to volumetric weight is the volume of the package, the obvious way to reduce the cost in volumetric weight will be to reduce the volume of the package. 

If you have ever ordered something online, you must have noticed that the product is packed in a very squeezed manner. That is to reduce the overall volume of the package. 

So, this is the key to achieving cost optimization when it comes to volumetric weight. 

You can compress the package to its maximum limit so that you can reduce its volume. But it would be subject to the product’s sensitivity. 

As long as the product is safe, you should compress it from each side so that it contributes as low to the volume as possible. 

International shipments always work on the method of charging the weight of higher value between the volumetric weight and physical weight of the package. 

The volumetric weight is relevant to every kind of shipping method. Whether it is air freight, sea freight, or road and rail freight. 


Having a deep understanding of volumetric weight is highly important in the field of e-commerce or any type of business. Otherwise, you may end up arguing with the shipping companies with a complaint that they have overcharged you on your parcels. 

We have tried our best to explain the topic in detail. If you think there is something more about the volumetric weight that you need to understand, do let us know in the comments. 

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About the Author

stanley nieh ceo


Over 10 years of experience in foreign trade
Helped 2k+ clients improve their eCommerce businesses

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