Shipping This Thing Costs How Much?

Since buying and acquiring old computers isn’t generally something you can do at your local store, shipping is frequently a part of the process. For small items sent domestically, via ground services, this isn’t usually a big expense. But for international addresses or heavy items, shipping costs can quickly add up to a large fraction of the purchase or sale price – a key factor for items which may not be worth much in the first place.

ShippingI recently sold a couple spare Apple Lisa systems on eBay (I now have just one left in the collection). The first, sold last fall, included an internal hard drive and weighed in at a chunky 48 pounds. I had included $75 for shipping fees on eBay, and that was about right. My local UPS store was able to pack and ship the item from Boston to New York City for about $80.

This week I sold another non-working system as a parts machine. This one was missing both the hard drive and floppy drive, so it tipped the scales at a svelte 40 pounds. It was going further this time to Tenessee but weighed less, so I expected roughly the same costs. Much to my surprise I was quoted between $125 and $140 for packing and shipping; just the shipping alone, I was told, would be $80. This from the same UPS store I went to before! I was stunned at the cost increase.

Unwilling to lose money on the sale, I huffed out of the store (literally – those Lisas are heavy) to find a cheaper alternative. It wasn’t hard: a suitably sized box and roll of bubble wrap set me back $25 at OfficeMax, and I was able to use up all the packing peanuts I’ve acquired at home. The next day I shipped it via FedEx Ground for only $46. Much more reasonable.

Lessons learned from the experience:
– seriously factor shipping costs into your sales or purchase calculations
– always pack items yourself for the lowest cost (pretty obvious)
– do not take as final the prices quoted by shipping counter employees

The UPS website later showed the shipping cost for my item to be under $50. Caveat Emptor, indeed.

3 responses to “Shipping This Thing Costs How Much?”

  1. Adam Rosen says:


    Anonymous said…
    I always recommend getting a shipping quote online from,,, etc. USPS is typically cheapest, but their tracking and claims processes leave a bit to be desired. I prefer UPS over FedEx based on their customer service. (Note, this applies to non-freight shipments. I have a horror story about quoted ship time vs. reality shipping freight Maine to Alaska via UPS LTL…) If you know anybody who works in a company with a UPS/FedEx account, ask them if they’d be willing to ship for you. I worked in a shipping department and we got about 40% off the posted rates. I (and my boss) were more than happy to pass these savings onto friends who brought pre-boxed packages to ship. (If our cost was under $10, the boss usually wouldn’t even want their money.)
    January 12, 2012 at 5:24 AM

    Darren said…
    I’ve used an Irish company called in the past for this, they’ve bought unsold space of the courier network so can get really low prices. The only niggle I had was that I had to wait 24 hours whilst they got me a price rather than give me one upfront but I guess that’s because I was shipping something that wasn’t a normal parcel (was a heavy old desktop)!
    February 8, 2012 at 10:15 AM

  2. Kristin Jones says:

    I was given a G4 iMac the 800mHz SuperDrive 17in flatscreen model as my high school graduation present. I still have all the original accessories-speakers, keyboard, mouse & operating disks- and all are in working order. I’m wondering if there is any values I justify selling or if I should keep the unit for sentimental reasons (the gift came from my late grandmother). Thanks!

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