The Ship Zone: A Guide to Reducing Shipping Costs

reduce your shipping costs by understanding ship zones

  • Written by Ellie Kwon
  • Published on December 14, 2023
  • Time to read 9 minutes

Are you tired of paying high shipping costs for your products? One way to reduce your shipping costs is by understanding the concept of ship zones. In this article, we will explain what ship zones are and how they work. Then, we’ll discuss how you can use them to distribute your inventory for reduced shipping costs.

What are Ship Zones?

Ship zones are geographical areas defined by carriers to determine the shipping cost for a package. The distance between the origin and destination of the package determines the shipping cost. Thus, the greater the distance, the higher the shipping cost. 

Why do Ship Zones Exist?

Shipping carriers created ship zones to standardize and simplify the shipping process. Before establishing these zones, the rate price was on a case-by-case basis. Thus, it made it difficult for businesses to predict their shipping costs. By creating ship zones, shipping carriers established a standardized system. This system helped by determining shipping costs based on the distance between the origin and destination of the package. Therefore, it became easier for businesses to calculate their shipping costs and helped reduce the overall shipping cost.

How are Ship Zones Determined?

The shipping carriers use a set of criteria to determine ship zones. The criteria may vary between carriers. Typical criteria include distance, population density, transportation infrastructure, and delivery volume.

1. Distance: The distance between the origin and destination of the package.

2. Population Density: The population density of the area where the package is shipping to.

3. Transportation Infrastructure: The transportation infrastructure in the area, including highways, airports, and seaports.

4. Delivery Volume: The volume of packages delivered in the area.

After evaluating the criteria, the shipping carrier assigns a number to each zone. The number usually ranges from 1 to 8, with one being the closest and eight being the farthest.

An image of a shipping box being measured next to a shipping calculator is shown.

How to Calculate Ship Zones

Calculating these areas can be a complicated process. However, there are tools available that can make it easier. Most shipping carriers have a zone chart that shows the zones for different destinations. Then you can also use a shipping calculator to determine the zone for your package.

To calculate the shipping zone for your package, you need to know the origin and destination zip code. Also, you need to know the weight and dimensions of the package. Once you have this information, you can use the zone chart or shipping calculator to determine the shipping zone.

Distributing Inventory for Reduced Shipping Costs

Now that you understand these zones and how they work, you can use this knowledge to distribute your inventory for reduced shipping costs. Thus, by strategically placing your inventory in different locations, you can reduce the distance between the origin and destination of the package, which will result in lower shipping costs.

For example, let’s say you have a business that sells products online. You have customers nationwide, and you ship your products from a warehouse in the Midwest. If you have a high volume of customers on the East Coast, you can reduce your shipping costs by placing some of your inventory in a warehouse on the East Coast. This will allow you to ship products to customers on the East Coast from a closer location, resulting in lower shipping costs.

Leveraging a 3PL

A 3PL (Third-Party Logistics) provider can help skip zones by offering a multi-warehouse fulfillment solution. This means that they have warehouses in multiple geographic locations. Thus, they can store and ship your inventory from the closest warehouse to your customer. By doing so, they can help you reduce the distance between the origin and destination of the package, which can result in lower shipping costs.

Additionally, a 3PL provider can help you with the logistics of managing multiple warehouses and can provide you with real-time inventory management and reporting. Therefore, this can help you make informed decisions about where to store your inventory and can help you optimize your shipping strategy for reduced costs.


Understanding ship zones is essential for businesses that want to reduce costs. By knowing how ship zones work and how to calculate them, businesses can strategically distribute their inventory for reduced costs. This can result in significant savings for businesses, which they can pass on to customers through lower prices. 

Remember, the key to reducing shipping costs is strategically placing your inventory in locations closer to your customers. By doing so, you can take advantage of lower shipping rates and increase your profitability.

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