What is the Difference Between Freight and Shipping?

Although freight and shipping do have many similarities, there are a few key differences between the terms. Anyone whose business involves sending or receiving goods will be dealing with one or both transportation methods.

How is Freight Defined?
Traditionally, the terms freight or cargo were used when talking about goods being transported in bulk by ship. However, the definition of the term has evolved over time to keep up with changes in the world of commercial transportation.Image result for What is the Difference Between Freight and Shipping?

Air & Land

It now includes transportation by air or land as well, whether the goods are carried by airplane, container truck or train. If another type of vehicle used to transport large quantities of commercial goods is invented in the future, it will likely carry freight as well.

Regardless of transportation method, the term will typically only be used when a large quantity of bulk commercial goods is being transported.

Freight is then commonly divided into “air freight” and simple “freight” categories if there is a need to differentiate between bulk goods taking a surface (sea or land) and air transportation route.


Air freight is used when delivery time is an important concern, as airplanes are able to move cargo around the globe much faster than a ship, truck or train ever could. While speed is an advantage, air freight does come with a few drawbacks.

It is more expensive than surface methods and may require the freight to be broken up and carried on several flights, as even the biggest cargo planes in the world don’t come close to having the capacity of a container ship.

Furthermore, certain types of goods may be prohibited from air transportation or require special permission to be obtained in advance due to potential safety hazards.

What is Shipping?

A quick look at the term “shipping” shows that it contains the word “ship,” explaining why it was previously used to refer to transportation of goods done by sea.

Now that various other modes of transportation are commonly used, the term can be used any time goods are sent from one location to the other, regardless of how they get there.

Shipping can be done for commercial or non-commercial purposes. The term can be applied regardless of how much goods are carried, meaning that freight would also fall under the concept of shipping.

However, it is more often used when referring to a smaller amount of goods being transported. A shipment can consist of just one tiny box or several bigger cartons full of goods.

Summary of Differences Between Freight and Shipping

Both freight and shipping are different methods of making goods arrive at their intended destination. If you are shipping freight, you can find your freight class here.

Despite their similarities, they have unique attributes, as well as advantages and drawbacks.

  • Freight will be the term applied when a larger quantity of goods is transported, while shipping is used when the amount of goods is small.
  • Shipping can be done for personal purposes, such as sending a gift to a friend or relative. It can also be used for commercial purposes, such as a wholesaler sending a box of items to a retail store. Although it is possible to use freight for personal reasons, the method is almost exclusively used for commercial purposes by larger businesses.
  • The cost of shipping is higher than freight, as a larger amount of goods being transported means a lower cost when the total is divided by each item.
  • Container ships, large freight trucks and railroad cars are used for freight, while shipments are most often carried by airplanes or smaller trucks.

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