Browsing eBay (USA) I saw an item with these characteristics:

  • 24 x 18 x 12 inches (60 x 45 x 30)
  • About 60 lbs

Shipping was running about $145 to my address, which was ~40% of the price of the item.

The seller commented that if it could be sent to a commercial address the shipping could be reduced by about ½.

I've had other large items with similar attributes shipped for much less in the past, so this seemed expensive.

For an item like this that isn't on a pallet and could be manually handled, why would residential shipping be so much more? Is there anything I can do to "qualify" for the lower rate?

  • The usual way to qualify for the lower rate is to have it shipped to your workplace, or the workplace of someone you know. (Obviously get permission first.) Jan 4 at 21:48

There are a few reasons carriers charge more for residential delivery than they do for commercial delivery.

Businesses are often near each other, there are fewer of them in town than houses, and they receive more packages than houses do. As a result, delivering to businesses means fewer stops and less driving around.

Also, businesses generally always have someone present during the day to accept the package, whereas houses are often vacant during the day, which slows the driver down, as he may have to leave a note and take the item back to the warehouse for a delivery attempt another day.

There are exceptions to these generalizations, of course, but the carrier has no way of knowing if they will have any delivery issues at any individual address, so they have decided to provide a discount to commercial delivery addresses. This also encourages people buying things for themselves to get them delivered to their workplace, reducing delivery time for the carrier.

According to this UPS page, residential delivery is defined as a delivery to a location/address that is a home.

Residential: A residential delivery is defined as delivery to a location that is a home, including a business operating out of a home.

Even if there is a small business operating inside the home, UPS still considers it to be a residential delivery. So you are not supposed to select “commercial” unless you are getting a delivery to a business location that is not also someone’s home.

  • 1
    This rule makes no sense. Assume a building that has shops at the ground floor and apartments above. As per your interpretation of the rules that would be a home, not a commercial address. You may have 10 shops there side by side, in the city center, with some apartment on top making the whole thing a home? I would say their "home" definition is the typical business operating out of a home (lawyer journalist, day trader etc.), not accounting for separate dedicated business space (i.e. a shop).
    – TomTom
    Jan 3 at 20:02
  • @TomTom I agree with your interpretation, and I think that is UPS’s intent. I have changed a word in my answer to make that more clear. Jan 3 at 20:15

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