I’ve shipped dozens of sets of wheels & tires across the country several different times (yes, I have a wheel hoarding problem!) without a problem, so I thought I’d write a quick post to detail my process.
In this post I’ll go over how I package wheels (either with or without tires) as well as how to ship wheels cheaply through various carriers.
Typically you can find everything you need to package the wheels around the house (especially if you’re an Amazon Prime addict like me and get boxes from them all of the time) except for maybe plastic wrap and foam padding and a good box cutter which you can pick up cheap from Amazon (and get even more cardboard to boot).
Cost to Ship Wheels:
Generally I budget about $50 per wheel+tire or a little less if is just wheel only. Get the buyer’s zip code and use both FedEx and UPS shipping quote estimators to get a more accurate cost.
Depending on the wheel and tire size the weight may vary, but I usually guesstimate about 50 lbs if mounted to a tire or 25 lbs if unmounted. These estimates are great for quoting a shipping price to the buyer so they can understand the final cost – then you can try to make a little savings to add a little profit to your margin that will help cover the time and hassle (and material cost!) of packaging and dropping off the wheels:
- Cross-shop FedEx, UPS, and DHL – be sure to use a FedEx & UPS account to get savings for an online quote. In the past I’ve found FedEx cheaper typically, but sometimes it’s the reverse for reasons I can’t begin to understand.
- Join the UPS eBay Sellers Program – you can use the eBay discount rate by linking your eBay sellers account to your UPS account which saves you money right out the gate. If you’ve recently sold something on UPS in the last 60 days, go into your recently sold item and print a new shipping label and you can get an even better discount.
- Ship to a Business Address – see if you can get a business address from the buyer to have the wheels delivered to, which sometimes saves money compared to a residential address.
- Consider brokers like Shipnex – I’ve heard mixed reviews on them, but anyone that deals in volume can typically get a good discount so it’s worth checking out. Likewise if you have a friend or family member that works for a business that ships a lot, they probably get a commercial rate and you can see if they’ll let you print a label from their account that will apply the discount. Be sure you trust whoever will be shipping wheels on your behalf, as they will be the middle men if you need to file an insurance claim. As a cautionary tale a guy on Audizine once offered to ship a hood using his Mom’s company UPS account and it was significantly damaged in transit. When I filed a claim UPS picked up the hood to return to sender, but then the guy ghosted me and I never got a UPS pay out since he wouldn’t talk to UPS on my behalf and didn’t have the hood anymore either. To this day I think the person kept both the hood and the insurance settlement, but since he lives across the country from me I was never able to hunt him down and find out. A company like Shipnex is much safer than trusting a random person on the internet, but still less direct than working with FedEx or UPS yourself.
- Use Greyhound at Your Own Risk – you can ship things really cheap on Greyhound, but there is no tracking and no guarantee on when it will arrive. I shipped a hood on Greyhound once and it arrived completely mangled several weeks later, so I’ll never try that again. They basically treat it like it is baggage of a passenger and put it in the cargo area, but if they need extra room for actual passengers they will remove your item, store at the bus station, then load on the next bus that has room…the larger the item, the more likely it will be taken out and put back in a bunch of times, and each time greatly increases your risk of loss or damage.
- Find a Friend Who Gets Awesome Commercial Rates – bulk shippers through UPS or FedEx get special rates that “normal” people like you and I don’t get, often paying only a fraction of the retail shipping prices. If you know someone who runs an e-commerce business (or works for one), see if they’ll ship them for you.
Be sure to include ample insurance, it doesn’t really cost much (if anything?) extra and you’ll be glad you have it if something happens…do all of the packaging yourself and print the label at home, so that when you go to a drop off center you’re just literally dropping the package off. If they print the label in the store, it will cost more since they give a discount for printing online.
How to Package Wheels (with Tires) for Shipping:
If the wheels still have tires mounted, then cut out cardboard circles to cover the wheel itself (like pictured at the top of this post – it doesn’t need to cover the tire, the rubber can be exposed).
Tape the cardboard to the tires and then pick up some plastic wrap and just totally cover the entire wheel/tire.
Slightly deflate the tire just so the rubber gives a little more cushion and the sidewalls get a little thicker, then stick a packaging label and you’re all set.
I can normally just find old Amazon boxes lying around to get the cardboard to cover the wheels, and if the boxes aren’t big enough you can basically tape two boxes together.
If you want to be extra cautious you can use dish foam padding to create a little extra padding between the wheel face and the cardboard.
If you’re not comfortable with the above method, which is my preferred method, you can just find a huge box and put them in there, too.
There isn’t a downside to this option other than it’s hard to find boxes big enough, and you still have to protect the faces of the wheels by cutting out cardboard circles. In fact, I’ve done this once, mostly because I had the boxes on hand and it seemed easier. I cut the cardboard circles to protect the faces of the rims, then placed inside the boxes and used extra padding. I then combined two boxes into one large box to save on shipping costs.
Here is what the full wheel & tire looks like in boxes (which I then bought bigger boxes to combine them into):
The only thing with the above is that UPS/FedEx don’t like boxes that look worn, so they made me buy a new larger box to combine two wheels into. It ended up saving me money so it was fine, but be warned they can be strict about the box condition.
How to Package Wheels (without Tires) for Shipping:
If the wheel is unmounted, that is fine too.
There are a couple of options – if you know a good tire or tuning shop in the area, give them a ring and see if they have any extra wheel boxes they’d be willing to give to you. Places like Discount Tire or even car dealerships get tons of wheels shipped to them every day, and generally they just throw out the boxes. This is easiest option since wheel companies have boxes built made specifically to ship wheels so you can just place the wheels in the box and be done.
If they’re asking for money or saying no, you can often go dumpster diving and just fetch them yourself if you feel like being aggressive about it. If this isn’t an option, then head to a local grocery store and ask if they have any boxes lying around – they’ll typically give you all sorts of boxes they’ll give you for free, or you can even look in the dumpsters behind big business like this and they’re full of cardboard boxes used to ship items that are then tossed out nearly daily.
Cut out circles like before to cover the front and back faces of the wheels, but keep the circle a little larger than the face of the wheel so you can bend the cardboard down to protect the full outer edge/lip of the wheel. Once the cardboard is covering as you see fit, use foam padding and plastic wrap to hold everything place and add extra cushioning.
Then get a medium or large box depending on the dimensions of the wheels (this 18x18x16 is perfect for two 18×8 wheels, for instance) and place two wheels in each box, with plenty of cardboard between them for padding so the wheels don’t clank together. Fill the empty spaces of the boxes with old magazine or newspaper crumpled up so nothing shifts.
Shipping wheels is easier than you’d think; plan to spend $50 per wheel in shipping costs, and then maybe another $5-10 per wheel in packaging expenses. The easiest way to ship wheels is to leave tires mounted and cut out cardboard circles, then deflate and wrap in shipping wrap. If that isn’t for you, you’ll need to find oversize boxes and then pad the faces accordingly.
Any other tips, tricks, or tips to get cheap shipping on wheels?
Leave a comment with your favorite tricks and tips!