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The Difference Between Freight And Shipping

While there are some similarities between freight and shipping, it’s important to note that there are several key differences between these two transportation methods. While both are used to transport bulk goods, various things distinguish the terms. What’s more, each method poses distinct advantages and disadvantages, which is why it’s essential to understand the variations between the two and choose the best one for your individual needs and requirements. Below, we explore the main differences between the two in greater detail.

What is Freight?

Freight or cargo can be defined as goods transported in bulk by land, water, or air. Often, the goods are transported via ships carrying storage containers for commercial purposes. However, freight is increasingly being transported via other modes of transport including train, truck, and aircraft. Freight is usually classified into two categories: air freight and freight shipments. Before being transported, shipments are further categorised into several shipment categories dependent on the size of goods, items being transported, and transit time. The most common categories used are express, parcel, household goods, and freight shipments. 

Freight is considered a cost‐effective and eco‐friendly method of transportation, as the exporter has the option to send several different shipments together in a bundle, then later divide the shipment at a warehousing facility to deliver to different recipients. The cost of freight shipping varies depending on several factors such as size, weight, and transport method chosen. 

What is Shipping?

Shipping is a broad term used to describe goods transported by sea, land, or air. It is done in bulk, but usually transports far smaller volumes of goods, often by small to medium businesses or private individuals. Again, the cost of this is determined by multiple factors including, weight, size, transport method, and delivery date. It is considered the more convenient option when transporting small quantities of goods, as items can be quickly transported from one location to another without going through warehousing facilities on the way.  

What are the Key Differences?

Generally speaking, freight and shipping refer to two different methods of transporting goods from one place to another. Both can involve transporting goods via land, air, and sea, although they have some fundamental differences and contrasting advantages and disadvantages. The main differences between the two are as follows:


They both transport bulk goods via land, air, or sea. However, freight refers to a larger volume of goods whereas shipping typically refers to a smaller volume. With freight, the sender has the option to transport multiple items together in one bundle, then later divide it into separate parcels at a warehousing facility. By contrast, shipping typically involves individual, smaller parcels that are delivered directly to the recipient. 


Freight is typically used for commercial purposes as it involves the transportation of larger quantities of goods. On the other hand, shipping can be used for commercial or non‐commercial purposes and is commonly used by private individuals or small to medium businesses. 


Shipping is considered more expensive than freight as it’s cheaper to transport goods in bulk. For that reason, exporters with large quantities of merchandise goods often prefer to transport goods via freight than shipping. 


Shipping generally uses modes of transport like aircraft, trucks, or vans to deliver goods. Whereas freight often uses large ships carrying containers or railway freight trains. Freight is usually then sent to warehousing facilities where bundles are divided before being delivered to the recipients. For that reason, the alternative is typically a far quicker mode of transport than freight. 


While there are some obvious similarities between the two transportation methods, there are some clear differences to be aware of. In summary, there are two methods of transportation which offer various advantages, disadvantages, and challenges. 

Freight allows large quantities of goods to be transported in bulk, which is both cost‐effective and eco‐friendly. For that reason, freight is generally best suited for businesses wanting to transport large volumes of goods, or multiple items in one shipment. 

Shipping generally involves smaller quantities of goods which makes it more expensive. However, it is typically far quicker as items need not pass through warehousing facilities. This also reduces the risk of items getting lost or damaged during transport. Therefore, it provides a more suitable transportation method for small to medium businesses and private individuals.

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