Some people collect stamps. Others collect Beanie Babies (are those profitable yet?!).
Me? I collect cardboard boxes.
I might be a bit of a box hoarder, actually. But as an Amazon FBA seller, I need a steady supply of sturdy cardboard boxes around so that I can ship my inventory off to Amazon.
When you're budgeting for your new Amazon FBA business, it's easy to skip right over the cost of inbound shipping boxes. Cardboard's cheap, right?
While boxes won't be your highest expense, the cost can certainly add up if you don't know where to get boxes. I'm sure that you'd rather spend money on inventory than shipping boxes!
There are quite a few places that you can get boxes locally or online. I'm going to share my favorite sources for both paid and free boxes. Plus, I'll cover Amazon's requirements for boxes and packing materials so that you can make sure that each inbound shipment is compliant.
Amazon's Requirements for Packaging FBA Shipments
Amazon has a long list of requirements for packaging inbound shipments. You can view their full and current rules by clicking this link.
I'm going to highlight a few of the most relevant points that relate specifically to boxes:
- Use a rigid, six-sided box with flaps intact
- If you are reusing boxes, remove all old shipping labels or markings
- Cover existing barcodes with opaque tape or use a black felt-tip marker to render the barcode unscannable
- Use adequate packaging material
- Use strong tape designed for shipping
- Using boxes with dimensions measuring at least 6 x 4 x 1 inches and weighing at least 1 lb (but no more than 25 inches on any side and under 50 lb total) can reduce delays in receiving.
- Picking the right-sized box for what you are shipping is important. If the container is too large, you will need to fill it up with enough packaging material so that the box will not collapse if heavier boxes are stacked on top during shipping.
- After you pack your box, shake it gently. The contents should not move when shaken.
Amazon also has a list of “acceptable standard boxes”:
- Regular slotted carton (RSC)
- B flute
- ECT-32 (edge crush test)
- 200lb/sq inch (burst strength)
All of the new boxes that I recommend will meet these requirements. If you are reusing old boxes, it's up to you to make sure that they meet this acceptable standard. Using thinner boxes might seem like a good way to save money, but it could really cost you if your shipment arrives at the warehouse damaged!
Box Dimensions and Box Weight for Amazon FBA
Amazon also has clear limitations on the size and weight of boxes that you can use.
Here is the official word on box dimensions according to Amazon:
“Boxes containing multiple standard-size items must not exceed 25 inches on any side. A box may exceed the 25 inch limit if it contains oversize units that measure longer than 25 inches. Boxes that are excessively large relative to the oversize units may be subject to restriction of shipping privileges, additional fees, or refusal at a fulfillment center.”
Note that it's ok to put multiple oversized (25″+) units in a larger box (as long as you still meet the weight requirements).
For box weight, the rule is more strict. Boxes must not weight more than 50 pounds unless they contain one single oversized item that exceeds 50 pounds.
Amazon also asks that you indicate “Team Lift” on the outside of any box containing a single oversized item that exceeds 50lbs.
Buying Boxes from Big Box Retail Stores
If Cliff and I only need a few boxes, we tend to head to a big box retail store. Home Depot is our favorite, but Lowe's has the same size boxes.
Here are the standard retail box sizes that we like to use for Amazon FBA:
- Small (12x12x16) – good for filling with dense/heavy items (books, multi-packs of candy, etc)
- Medium (16x18x18) – a versatile size
- Large (18x18x24) – good for filling with large, lightweight items (bedding, board games, etc)
You may have times when it seems like you could just throw your whole shipment into a Large box, but those boxes can quickly become too heavy. That's why it's good to keep a variety of box sizes on hand.
Home Depot and Lowe's currently have really similar prices for boxes in my area. Prices may vary depending on where you live.
- Small Box: $0.88
- Medium Box: $1.38
- Large Box: $1.68 – $1.88
If you want to save a little, you can always check cashback sites like Rakuten and TopCashBack for coupons or cashback offers. If you order online, you can usually get the boxes sent right to your local store within a few days.
If you're not yet using Rakuten to earn cash back, why wait any longer? I have a special offer that will land you $10 cash in your Rakuten account. Sign up here for a new Rakuten account and get a $10 cash bonus.
Ordering Online from Uline
Uline is basically the king of ecommerce shipping supplies. When we need to stock up on boxes (like before the Q4 rush), we tend to order in bulk from Uline and have them delivered.
This isn't always the most cost-effective, but it's easier than trying to stuff tons of boxes into our car!
Here are the links to the Uline box sizes that we like. They have boxes in almost every size imaginable though if you're looking for something specific.
Because these are some of their most popular sizes, they are almost always in-stock and eligible to ship the same day (if you order before 6pm).
Shipping is not free (unless you find a coupon code) so you will have to allow for that as well. Shipping costs vary based on your location. You can estimate your shipping costs here. The good news is that their shipments usually arrive the next day because they have warehouses all across the US.
Remember, I am usually using Uline for convenience, not cost. So weigh the pros and cons before choosing which boxes to buy.
Free or Recycled Boxes
It is perfectly acceptable to reuse boxes for shipping inbound to Amazon FBA. As you saw in their rules above, they just ask that you mark through or cover any old barcodes. That's so that they don't accidentally scan the wrong label.
I don't go out of my way to acquire free boxes, but I do save up boxes that were sent to me from my own shopping (as long as they are in good shape still).
If you do a lot of shopping on Amazon, you can reuse their boxes (and save their packing materials!) for your own FBA shipments. If you do Online Arbitrage, you can reuse those boxes to create your inbound shipment to Amazon.
Still want more boxes? You can probably track some down:
- Check the “Free” section of Craigslist for people's unwanted moving boxes
- Ask an employee at a grocery store if you can have their empty boxes
- Let friends/family/neighbors know that you want their online shopping or old moving boxes
You can also save or collect Amazon's acceptable forms of packing materials (aka dunnage):
- Bubble wrap
- Air pillows (I love these and Amazon Prime shipments often have them)
- Full sheets of kraft paper
Resize Your Boxes and Save Money
We know that we don't always go with the cheapest source of boxes for our business. But one way that we save a lot of time and money is by using a box resizer.
Picture this: You have just finished packing up your shipment for Amazon and all of your boxes have 3-4 inches of space left. Now you have to go find some filler product that can be used to take up that space in your box before you can close it up.
Because this happens so often, you are always stockpiling a bunch of bubble wrap, air pockets, and kraft paper.
Now, imagine that instead of having to fill all of that space, you could just cut it out! That's exactly what a box resizer does.
One of the tools that we use during almost every shipment is a Box Resizer. This is one of those tools where it seems like it may just be an added expense, but once you use it, you never want to go back to life without!
A box resizer helps you make any box a custom sized box. Say you have a 16x16x18 box and you only fill it up halfway. Instead of using packing paper to fill the box, you can just resize it to the exact size you need.
I was going to have Cliff make a video like he did for the Low Noise Tape Gun review. Then, I saw that Rob Anderson from DollarMoves.com already has a video! Here is the video to show you exactly how the Box Resizer works. It is so much easier to show than tell for things like this.
See, it's easy! But now I have tool envy for that power cutting tool he uses 🙂 Thanks again to Rob for recording this video.
Remember that Amazon charges you dimensional rates for shipping boxes to Fulfillment Centers, so it really does save a lot of money to have boxes that are just the right size for your inventory.
I hope this helps you make the right selection for your FBA shipping boxes. I know it's not a thrilling topic, but there's no avoiding the need for boxes with an Amazon business!
Do you have a favorite brand or most-used box size? What about ordering online vs local pick-up? Let me know what's working for you in the comments!