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FCL vs LCL - What's the difference?

Updated: Oct 20

The choice between FCL and LCL depends on the volume of your goods and your budget. If you have a substantial amount of products to ship and want exclusive use of a container, FCL is usually the preferred option. On the other hand, if you have a smaller quantity of goods, LCL offers a cost-effective solution by sharing container space with other shippers. Both options have their advantages and can be tailored to meet your specific shipping needs.

Graphic of a blue container

FCL (Full Container Load):

  • FCL stands for "Full Container Load."

  • This option is suitable when you have enough products to fill an entire shipping container.

  • The container's capacity may vary slightly depending on the carrier and the type of container used (e.g., 20-foot or 40-foot container).

  • FCL is often more cost-effective when shipping large quantities of goods because you pay for the entire container's space, regardless of whether it's completely full or not.

  • It offers more control over the shipping process, as you have exclusive use of the container, which can help reduce the risk of damage or loss during transit.

  • FCL shipments are typically faster, as there are fewer handling points and less consolidation required.

More about container sizes and capacities, go here.

A pallet with 3 boxes on top

LCL (Less than Container Load):

  • LCL stands for "Less than Container Load."

  • This option is suitable when you have a smaller quantity of products that would not fill an entire shipping container.

  • LCL shipments involve consolidating goods from multiple shippers into a single container at a Container Freight Station (CFS) or Container Yard (CY).

  • Shippers are charged based on the volume or weight of their goods and share the container space and cost with others.

  • LCL can be more cost-effective for smaller shipments, as you only pay for the space your goods occupy within the shared container.

  • It's a practical choice when you don't have enough products to justify the cost of an entire container.

  • LCL shipments may take slightly longer due to consolidation and transloading processes.

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