Carrier or Courier?

As an online retailer, when you need to ship your product from point A to point B there are a few options. These all depend on what your requirements are, for example, what the item is, the timescale, the size of the product and the shipment destination. So how do you know which is the best option for you? Carrier or Courier?

When researching these definitions it can get confusing. The definition of a “carrier” is a person or object that carries someone or something else and a courier, by definition, is a company that transports goods. Clear as mud, right? In modern shipping expressions we define these two as follows:


Using a carrier involves utilizing a dedicated truck service that will transport larger items or larger quantities of product. These are typically shipped on skids or pallets. A loading dock and a hand pallet jack or a fork lift to unload the truck would be required.

Ftl (Full Truck Load) is considered a full truck load of products, which is normally 21 to 26 pallets. Transfer time is often quicker than LTL as the load doesn’t need to be off loaded at other depots before arriving at the destination. It typically costs more, unless you are shipping high volumes of product on a regular basis.

Ltl (Less than a Truck Load) is less than a truckload. This can include anything from 1 pallet to 20 or even 24 depending on location and price points. Typically LTL service is a day or two slower as the product will stop at more cross dock depots between pick up location and shipment destination. It is considered one of the most efficient and cost-effective way to transport shipments regionally or cross country. This is because there are other clients with similar destinations that you are sharing the cost of the truck’s cargo bay with, so you only pay for the space you take up.


Courier services are typically used for delivering smaller products & shipments. Usually, couriers ship 1 to 15 boxes depending on weight, size and location. It is usually a door to door method of delivery that utilizes a professional specialized mailing company. The key advantage to using a courier service is that they are very fast and efficient. The main disadvantage to courier services is the cost and size limits, typically the weight limits are 150lbs and under. The majority of courier services have limits on the size of packages, and the prices will increase dramatically the larger a particular package is.

Express or overnight courier: This would be most expensive option but your package will arrive the next day guaranteed.

2 day: Simply as it sounds, 2-day service, giving you fast service but with a price break.Ground or standard: This is the most cost effective method of courier but the shipment time will take longer— usually up to 8 or 9 days across North America.

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