LCL Shipping: A Complete Guide for Exporters and Importers

By Sarah
October 17, 2023

Not all the time; you have ENOUGH products to fill the whole container. What if you have such a condition? What do you do?

Wait for the container to be filled. Believe me, it might take time off for days, weeks, or sometimes months. Can you wait for such a PERIOD?

Absolutely not.

There is another solution in this case. It is an LC shipment. You can save time and money.


This article explores each aspect of the LCL shipments. And helps you understand the costs for an LCL shipment.

1. LCL Shipping Fundamental Knowledge

1) What is LCL shipment?

Before understanding the concept of LCL shipments, let’s find out:

What does LCL stand for? LCL refers to less than a container.

LCL shipping

Now, what is LCL meaning in shipping them?

It is simple. A container can be either 20 feet or 40 feet. If your products don’t fill a COMPLETE container, these are called LCL. The shipping of such containers comes under the category of LCL shipments.

Want to know more details? Read in this guide more.

2) What is a loose cargo load?

Most people confuse the loose cargo load with the LCL. It is something of a similar concept. But still shares some differences.

In the loose cargo load, you can’t find the PALLETIZATION of the products.

Why is it so?

It is because of the dimensions of the products. They do not allow you to palletize when shipping. However, you might need palletization at some points in shipping.

3) How does it work?

The working mechanism is not the ROCKET SCIENCE. You have to manage all the products you want to ship. Here are some points enabling the LCL shipment possible.

  • Find the shipping carrier.
  • Get your products ready for the containers.
  • Assign the shipping labels. And ships.
  • Track your orders to know the real-time location.

It is always essential to have an LCL shipping service.

4) Is LCL shipping worth it?

Yes. LCL shipping comes with numerous benefits.

  • You get lower prices.
  • Shipping is relatively faster.
  • You get easy and smooth shipping of your inventory.

If you ship in bulk, LCL shipment can have a UPPER HAND. It is because you can save more. Make your business more profitable. And earn more revenue.

2. 8 Benefits of LCL shipping

Have you decided on the LCL shipping? Wait a minute. Why so hurry? You must know every aspect of the LCL shipping.

To avoid wasting time reading hours of guide, it is good to invest 2 minutes in reading the positives of LCL shipment.

I have listed the significant pros of LCL shipments.

1) Consistent Schedules for LCL shipping

In an FCL, you need to wait until the container is full. That causes you to wait for hell. One more important point here. It can be costly because you need to have your products stored in the warehouses. That further impacts your business.

How to avoid that?

LCL can save time here, essentially. On one hand, your factory produces the bulk of the inventory. And on the other hand, you can ship it instantly. This way, your business remains in the competition game. And gets the upper hand by saving the warehouse costs.

2) Greater Efficiency

LCL furnishes multiple different techniques for your shipment. For example, you want to ship an order only if you receive it from customers. And that happens in dropshipping. LCL is going to help you out with agile shipping. And let the parcels get shipped only if you receive an order.

Multiple eCommerce solutions can help manage the packaging and labeling of your products. You save on the warehouses and shipping to a greater extent.

3) Real-Time Tracking

Most shipping providers allow you to track the orders on time. That keeps you updated about the location of your products.

You can set aside time to receive the inventory for a specific period. It boosts your confidence with real-time tracking.

What you have to do is to get the TRACKING CODES. And track your orders through multiple tracking apps.

4) Fast Shipping

No extra wait. No warehousing. No longer delivery schedules. That is what LCL has promised small and large businesses. The product delivery occurs without any delay. And keeps your business alive and flourishing.

Undoubtedly, FCL shipping is fast, but it happens until your container is full. Without the entire container, you have to wait. LCL shipping also has comparable and fast shipping. Moreover, you do not have to wait for some extra time.

5) Efficient management of orders

Customers rely more on the best service. You can make it possible with order management with the best hands.

LCL shipping can be a partner in managing the orders on time. You receive an order. And ship to your consumers. It saves the costs. Saves time. And helps you win more customers.

Isn’t it something you want the most?

6) Timely and Flexible Service

LCL relies more on the customers. For example, if you want to ship products tomorrow, they will get sent. There is no such flexibility available with the FCL shipping.

That is when you adjust the timetable according to your business. And ensure business success.

7) Lower Shipping Rates per unit

Don’t have a high budget? Never consider air shipping. LCL price per unit is less than the air shipping.

You ship while staying within your budget. And make your business more profitable.

8) Better Focus on the Business

You save time. You save money. What else do you even need to market your business and boost its growth?

LCL shipping keeps your order fulfilled on time. And help you better focus on the order packaging because fulfillment relies on the LCL shipment service.

You stay in the competition game. And defeat your consumers by improving customer retention rate.

3. 4 Disadvantages of LCL Freight

LCL shipment meaning is to LESS than a full container. All products are not yours. Some other people are shipping at the same time in the container.

Therefore, any single item delay can contribute to the uncertainty of the whole. That causes most of the cons. Here are some I have researched and listed.

1) Inspection Costs

When your products are at customs in cross-border shipments, the whole container must be inspected.

Even if you do not want the inspection, here, you have to share the examination cost because the whole container has to be inspected.

It can be an expensive deal for you.

2) Shipping Delays

One item delay is the whole container delay; if you are shipping something, that is fine, too. Since other parcels are in the LCL shipping, if one gets delayed. It affects the shipment process of all the products.

That is a big problem when you want fast and timely delivery.

3)Damage Risks

In an FCL, the whole container is yours. You can either stack or arrange them as per your requirements. It supports your sensitive items such as TV screens, LCDs, etc.

LCL shiping

In LCL, damage risks become twofold. You don’t own the whole container. Moreover, shipping is not very safe. There are damage risks in the shipments, too.

4) Expensive costs

If you compare the exact weight of products in LCL and FCL, who would be the winner?

No more guesses. It is simple.

FCL is the winner here. LCL provides constant shipping. Moreover, it charges less than air shipping. Therefore, more people prefer it. But it is still more expensive than the FCL.

4. Complete Details on LCL Shipping Costs

Calculating LCL prices can be a complex process. Why? Because it doesn’t only involve the shipping fees. Instead, it has tons of hidden fees. Taxes. Customs charge. Insurance. And many more charges to make you feel HEADACHE!

The LCL shipping calculator is there. You can determine the total cost for your LCL. And get some tips to reduce the overall prices, too.

1) LCL shipping Fees

LCL shipping calculator not only highlights the fee for shipping only. Instead, it includes all the costs from picking up the item to the doorstep delivery.

● Pickup

In this case, the pickup occurs from the location. Either you might arrange the shipment to the ocean for LCL shipping. Or the shipping provider might charge a standard fee.


Remember that most shipping providers have the pickup price calculated in the overall cost for the LCL shipment.

● Origin

Where is your origin? The products get loaded at such sites. Since workers load the container in this phase, you might have to pay the standard labor fee.

● Main Leg

It involves the process of shipping, for example, from Shanghai to Abu Dhabi by sea.

The main leg doesn’t have a high price. And it is the cost we have been discussing from the start.

● Destination

The destination is the country location where the LCL freight has to stop. Unloading of the inventory will occur. The laborer’s fee can be a part of it.

● Delivery

It refers to the delivery of the products to your doorstep. An LCL truck might reach. It can have a LOCAL small fee for the delivery as well.

So, what exactly is the cost of the LCL freight?

LCL shipping costs depend on the CBM. The more space your inventory consumes, the higher you pay.

LCL shipment charges cost per CBM. It might vary between $25 to $140. Again, it can vary based on:

  • The route you are shipping through.
  • Shipping provider you are using.
  • The season during which you are shipping.

To know the REAL-TIME shipping price, you must talk to the shipping provider. And get the quote for the shipping. That is all!

2) Additional Fees

Apart from the above fees, you can come up with various other fees on the way.

Here is the list of additional fees incrementing the total costs.

● Labeling of the products

Are you an Amazon seller? Amazon has specific requirements for the FBA sellers regarding the products and labels.

You can hire shipping providers who offer additional services such as labeling and custom packaging. In such a case, your labeling price adds to the shipping fee. The shipping provider charges you the total cost.

● Custom Bonds

Shipping to the US has some rules and regulations. Don’t want to follow? You can’t get entry into the US then.

The US asks you to get custom bonds. If you ship frequently, you have to get the annual custom bonds. For one or two-time shipping, a single custom BOND would be enough.

Still, it adds to your shipping costs.

● Duties and Taxes

For every shipment in the cross border, you have to pay different fees like:

  • Customs fee
  • VAT
  • Import duties

These costs add to the total cost of the products. And might increase the overall shipping fee for you.

5. When to use the LCL shipping?

Thinking about the LCL shipment? It can be a TOTAL FAILURE—a waste of money. And get delayed unless you focus on the following green FLAGS for shipping.

1) Volume

Volume talks more about the space your products can CONTAIN in the container. Higher volumes mean your products will consume more SPACE. And obviously, it can be a decision-making factor in the LCL shipments.

You can calculate the volume by:

Length x width x height

An ocean freight relies on the volume unless and until your weight increases by 1000 kilograms per CBM.

You should consider the LCL shipments only if the volume of goods is between 1 and 18 CBM.

For less than 1 CBM volume, air shipping should be the priority. For more than 18 CBM, FCL can be the JEWEL in the crown.

2) The gross weight

Gross weight is one of the MOST PROMINENT factors for LCL shipments. For smaller loads, are you crazy to prefer the LCL?

LCL is good above a specific weight limit. For example, a weight of 150 kilograms or more is IDEAL in the peak season. In peak season, prices are quite high. And you don’t want to invest much money in it.

What about during the OFF-PEAK season?

In that case, a weight above 200 kilograms is an IDEAL for preferring an LCL shipment. You’ll get lower rates than other shipping options.

3) Product category

If you are considering shipping the compressed gasses by air, hands down! Air shipping has many restrictions on the products like dry ice or aerosol cans.

So, what is the MOST SUITABLE option then?

LCL can be a CLOSE SECOND. You can ship from oil to the gasses. No restrictions. Therefore, you need to consider what category of products you are sending. And other shipping methods support it or not.

4) Route

Does the LCL shipping come through your route? If you want to ship it by ocean freight, have done it.

If your supplier does not allow that, you can find backup routes. LCL trucks can be a good option for local delivery. For international delivery, the ocean is the NEXT BEST option.

If you can’t agree with the shipping provider, consider air shipping.

5) Time

Time is a lion’s share. Most of the shippers are small or large businesses. They do not want to run out of stock for inventory.

For example, if you are an FBA seller, backorders can increase. And even get you out of the Amazon due to high order defect rates.

So, time is the CRUX OF THE MATTER.

LCL shipping time is 4-7 weeks. If you want products faster than that, you must consider AIR SHIPPING. Otherwise, LCL shipment is the better option.

6. Tips to get the BEST Rates or LCL Shipment

Concerned about the price? You should be. This is because you must pay a lot when shipping outside your country.

What if I say you can reduce it? Happy face, right?

Here are some key methods for decreasing the overall LCL shipments.

1) List multiple LCL freight forwarders

LCL freight depends more on the forwarders. More forwarders means more options. And you are going to get a VAST collection of options. Some can be lucrative for your business. And improve your profit margins.

Moreover, you get reliable shipping services from the top forwarders as well.

The best strategy to reduce the overall shipping cost is to contact multiple LCL freight forwarders. For example,  pick ten freight forwarders. Narrow down your research to 5 based on your requirements. And follow the budget line plus quality shipping to settle on the BEST freight forwarder.

2) Compare prices

Want to know the off-the-record strategy for getting lower costs? It is to get the prices from multiple LCL freight forwarders.

Look. Almost every forwarder has its prices for LCL shipping. That means if you get quotes from 10 forwarders, prices will be different. And the result is a diversity of prices. You’ll enjoy better rates. And improve access to budget-friendly shipping with the QUALITY.

You should compare prices. But don’t forget to check the order features for reliability. Only then you’ll be safer with the BEST shipping service.

3) Consider pallet dimensions

LCL shipping

It is the space your products get charged for in an LCL container. And you can save costs by decreasing the consumption of the space as well.


Ask your shipping provider about the pallet dimensions. It will allow you to consider the stacking of the products. Decrease the consumption of the space in the container. And save you bucks on the shipping.

4) Take note of Sensitive Material

Not all materials are safe. And not all of them have enough strength to sustain the harsh conditions.

Different items. Different charges. It is due to space consumption. As I already mentioned about the pricing that relies on the space, you can stack up the pallets. And decrease the rates.

It is a RED FLAG in case of sensitive products.

What if you have to stack FLAT SCREENS one above the other? Surely, it will damage the screens during the shipping. And it is a total failure if you want to ship successfully.

In that case, you need to consider the SENSITIVE products. Consider their palletization with some better techniques. And ship them with LCL freight at lower costs.

5) Calculate the Door-to-door LCL shipping

LCL shipment has tons of hidden fees. Shipping from the supplier to the container charges you a separate fee. From the ocean to your doorstep, you have to pay an extra fee.

In addition, you need to pay the customs duties as well. That is where you must know all the fees. It is better to list down all the costs. Consider the budget. And negotiate with the shipping provider about the whole shipping process.

When you don’t have any hidden fees, you ship without any financial stress. That is great for LCL shipping.

6) Understand the inside dimensions of the LCL container

A 20 feet container has a different dimension from a 40 feet. Moreover, inside dimensions and product space are different too.

the inside dimensions of the LCL container

To estimate the cost and avoid confusion, you must talk to the shipping provider. Get the inside dimensions of the container. And ship once everything is confirmed and works according to budget and plan.

That keeps you in your budget and helps you save money.

7) Ship during off-peak season

In the shipping industry, there are no constant prices. The price fluctuations are more during the peak and off-peak seasons. In the peak season, you experience 30-40% increased prices. Sometimes,  prices increase up to 100% depending on the supply and demand of the shipping service.

Do you want to save some bucks?

Consider OFF-PEAK as your priority. There will be many cases:

  • More shipping services will be available.
  • You get a variety of quotes from the shipping providers.
  • Prices are often lower compared to prices in the peak season.
  • Shipping will be fast because the shipping providers will not be busy.

Shipping during off-peak season brings you so many benefits. Therefore, you should consider shipping in that period. And enjoy a seamless experience.

7. FAQs

1) LCL vs FCL: which one is better for shipping?

FCL LCL and many other shipping types have a DIFFERENT style. It depends on your requirements to choose. If you are shipping in bulk and products fill the 20-foot or 40-foot full container, FCL is always a TOP PICK. In case you do not fill the complete container and also have less time for shipping, LCL can be the cream of the crop. You save money. And ship faster.

2) Is CIF and LCL the same?

CIF refers to cost, freight, and insurance. It is not specific to the LCL shipping. In the FCL shipping, you can find the same term. Moreover, CIF is more concerned with pricing, freight type, and insurance. Not with the size or something else.

3) How many CBMs is a 20ft container?

CBM is a term for cubic meters. In the container, there can be a division of CBM for better dimensions. The total capacity of a 20ft container is 33 CBMs. In actuality, it has 25-28 CBMs.

4) Is LCL cheaper than FCL?

LCL is not cheaper in terms of the weight. For example, if you ship a 20-kilogram weight in LCL, it will be more expensive than in the FCL. Overall pricing depends on the ease of the shipping service providers. For shipping agents, FCL is easier to manage. And hence cheap.

LCL shipping

5) Is tracking available for the LCL shipping?

Most shipping providers offer the TRACKING CODES for LCL shipping. You can track down all the orders on time. Use an app like OrderTracker or ParcelApp to check the real-time location. Before LCL shipping, you must know whether your shipping provider gives tracking or not.


Have you got the LCL shipping? It is better to choose it when you have less weight. And want FASTER shipping services. LCL shipments can be a better option in all the cases with lower weight than containers.

Before hiring any shipping service, you must know your shipping provider. Check the previous record. And get the tracking ID to boost your confidence.

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