If you're mailing one or two items each month, or even one or two every week, the price difference between poly mailers and cardboard boxes probably doesn't have much of an impact for you. But what if you're a more substantial business that sends 50 or 100 packages a week? Or even more? The composition of bulk shipping materials makes a difference, which is why we're looking at a comparison of different materials and shipping options to tell you whether poly mailers are cheaper than boxes!
If you're new to purchasing bulk shipping materials, you may not realize the perks that poly mailers offer, or even what a poly mailer is. To make the most informed decision, let's first take a look at what precisely poly mailers are, and how they differ from cardboard boxes. We'll also discuss some of the different customization options, the importance of added features for different types of shipping options, and why it's essential to think about the different ways you'll use your bulk shipping materials after you purchase them.
Poly Mailers 101
A poly mailer is a type of envelope made of layers of polyethylene. Poly mailers offer products protection from a variety of weather conditions, including rain, humidity, snow, and sleet, as well as from dirt, dust, and debris. The polyethylene is made to provide a certain amount of stretch to the bag, which helps it avoid damage during various shipping options. For the most part, you can attribute the protection from the elements to the polyethylene. However, it's also aided by an easy-close quick seal strip that closes the bag instantly without the need for tape or anything else. This seal, as well as the ability of poly mailers to protect against punctures, rips, and tears, gives customers the peace of mind that their merchandise will remain safely packed away until it reaches its destination. Customers can also use their poly mailers for a variety of shipping options with national carriers such as USPS, FedEx, and UPS. Poly mailers also offer a wide range of sizes for customers to choose from. Whether you're looking to ship a small piece of jewelry or a dozen t-shirts, there is a poly mailer that is perfect for you.
In addition to standard poly mailers, there are also bubble poly mailers. Not only do these protect your merchandise with a durable polyethylene outer shell, but bubble poly mailers are also padded internally with a layer of bubble wrap. This layer of bubble wrap helps add an additional layer of protection for items such as jewelry, CDs, DVDs, or makeup that may be dropped, bumped, or jostled during transit.
Cardboard Boxes 101
In terms of what to use for your bulk shipping materials, cardboard boxes have been a popular choice for decades. They're sturdy, offer a variety of sizes, and can hold items that have weird shapes such as toys or decorative accessories. Like poly mailers, cardboard boxes can be shipped with a variety of shipping options such as priority mail, first-class mail, and more. Boxes also come in a variety of styles, including gift wrapping boxes, storage boxes, boxes made with handles for carrying, and more.
In terms of durability, cardboard boxes feature an edge crush test (ECT) stamp that documents their strength. This durability documentation is something that poly mailers don't have because there is no documented standardized strength test for measuring their durability. Due to their design, multiple cardboard box options can hold hundreds of pounds, thanks primarily to the availability of single and double wall boxes. For moving large quantities of heavy merchandise, cardboard boxes make great shipping options.
One of the great things about boxes and poly mailers is how versatile they both are with different styles. Whether you're packaging jewelry, food, or all of your personal belongings, there are a variety of sizes, colors, and styles to choose from. In terms of bulk shipping materials, poly mailers can be purchased in different prints to accommodate a multitude of needs. For example, design poly bags can be printed to tell your customers happy birthday or thank you, or make them smile with hearts, pink flamingos on a blue background, or even pineapples on a bright pink background.
Different Uses for Different Mailers
Another interesting thing to consider when evaluating various shipping options is what else you can utilize the materials for. If you're purchasing a specific sized cardboard box, there may not be a whole lot of other uses for them in that one size in your line of work outside of what you specifically bought them for. Obviously, that's a generalization, and there might be a ton. However, the one thing that we love about poly mailers is their versatility when it comes to being used for different applications, especially clear poly mailers in the retail world.
Take these clear poly bags, for instance. In addition to being used as a shipping option, they can also offer protection for your items during shipping. Or, you can use them to make hand-crafted goodie bags with merchandise to sell. We have even seen clear poly mailers used to package and store additional merchandise in the off-season because they protect against any mold, moisture, dirt, bugs, or other surprises that they may come into contact with.
Shipping Protection for Poly Mailers
Ensuring your merchandise is adequately protected during its journey from point A to point B is essential. Poly mailers can protect against dirt, dust, moisture, punctures, rips, tears, and more. Let's make another quick comparison. If a customer purchases a $50 jacket and needs it shipped from Miami to Colorado during the winter, the chances are that the package may encounter a bit of winter weather during its journey. If you package the jacket in a cardboard box, it may arrive at its destination and, while waiting for the customer to come home, find itself sitting in a bit of snow or slush. Although many mail carriers utilize plastic bags to protect against the elements, if they have to leave a package outside, there is always a chance that water could find its way into the box. Whether this has a chance of happening once in a month or once in a year, the cost of replacing damaged merchandise can be more than the cost of purchasing poly mailers in the first place.
One significant difference between poly mailers and cardboard boxes as shipping options is their ability to hold something substantial. For example, if you're shipping bulky items, such as many large books, small appliances, or certain types of toys, cardboard boxes are the way to go. The sturdiness of the cardboard helps keep each side of the package rigid, which creates a better protective shell and helps hold the weight of the contents inside. Using a poly mailer for shipping a book or a stuffed animal is perfect. Using a poly mailer to send an instant pot is not advised.
Storage is another essential aspect to consider when deciding what types of bulk shipping materials you will purchase. For someone with an expansive mail room and a large amount of storage space, how much room your packing materials take up may not seem like a concern. However, if you run your business out of your home office, or if you don't have a ton of additional room to store the bulk shipping materials you plan on purchasing before you use them, it's essential to determine the best use of your space ahead of time.
If your home, office, or business is tight on space, or if you don't want your shipping materials to take up a lot of space in general, poly mailers will give you the most bang for your buck. Each envelope is super thin and takes up a fraction of the area that cardboard boxes do. Even when cardboard boxes are broken down to lay flat, it can still be challenging to find the appropriate place to store them if they're a larger or more unique size, or if you don't have an area that's spacious enough to store them.
Another way that purchasing and storing poly mailers over cardboard boxes will save you money involves the amount of time that it takes to reorder your bulk shipping materials. If you have a contained storage space, you may be forced to place smaller orders more frequently so that you can manage your space. Let's say it takes you 15 minutes to place each supply order, regardless of whether you're purchasing poly mailers or cardboard boxes. That may not seem like a very long time when you initially think about it. However, if you have to order cardboard boxes once a month rather than once every six months if you purchase poly mailers, over one year, you'll end up spending three hours ordering cardboard boxes when it would only take you thirty minutes for poly mailers.
Shipping Prices for Mailers
When it comes to price, one of these options far outweighs the other one — literally. Can you guess whether boxes or poly mailers are cheaper to purchase and mail? If you guessed poly mailers, you're correct! Many people think about the cost of shipping as just the cost of sending the item itself. However, the price of different shipping options is far more in-depth than that.
For bulk shipping materials, poly mailers are the less expensive option in terms of packaging because they are smaller and more lightweight. Let's make a quick comparison with one of the larger poly mailers that Shop4Mailers carries to highlight exactly what we mean. These 19 x 24-inch glossy white poly mailers come in four different thicknesses to accommodate nearly every type of merchandise: 1.7" Mil, 2" Mil, 2.17" Mil, and 2.50" Mil. At 19 x 24-inches, it's easy to fit multiple t-shirts, sweaters, pants, dresses, or even bedding in one bag. For 250 bags, the price ranges from $25.49 for 1.7" Mil to $32.29 for 2.5" Mil. At Staples, a pack of 25 cardboard ECT rated shipping boxes measuring 12" x 12" x 6" costs $19.49. For the thickest poly mailers, you're going to pay roughly $0.13 per bag. For each cardboard box, you're going to pay $0.78 each. That's a difference of $0.65 each.
That comparison is just looking at bulk shipping materials, not the price that each will cost to mail. Although Staples doesn't provide the exact weight per cardboard box, we guarantee that the box itself weighs more than a singular poly mailer. The majority of packages — outside of flat rate shipping options — are going to be priced based on the weight of your item. This weight includes the weight of your chosen bulk shipping materials, whether that's a box, envelope, or poly mailers. The overall cost is worth taking into consideration, especially if you're going to be doing a lot of mailing for your business.
Apples to Oranges
Depending on your line of work, comparing the cost of poly mailers to cardboard boxes can be reasonably easy to do. If you're a company that mainly deals with shipping sweaters, t-shirts, and other clothing items, it's easy to say that you could transition from cardboard boxes to poly mailers without much thought for the specifics. If your business deals with a wider variety of merchandise styles — think retailers like Amazon or Target — it can take much more planning and forethought to make the switch, and you will still almost certainly need cardboard boxes to fulfill some of your larger or more substantial orders.
However, the bottom line is that cardboard boxes have been the bulk shipping materials of choice for many companies for decades. For many people, the thought is, "Why fix what isn't broken?" In most instances, that sentiment makes sense. However, at Shop4Mailers, we think it's essential to challenge the idea of tradition because it can save you time, money, and stress in the long run.
If you're looking to learn more about packaging best practices, how different carriers stack up against one another, and more, be sure to visit the Shop4Mailers blog to become a shipping options expert!