Land, Air, or Sea: Picking the best freight option

What is the difference between shipping by land, air, or sea? Discover why selecting the best freight option is critical to your online business success. Pros and cons of each shipping option discussed.

Land, Air, or Sea: Picking the best freight option

Shipping: it’s a topic that’s been covered extensively, especially when discussing eCommerce. However, freight is one that gets relatively little airtime and exposure. What’s the difference? Well, the two share quite a lot of similarities, both occurring by truck, train, ship, and air, and both describing the movements of goods. But freight actually refers to the transportation of goods in bulk while regular shipping occurs in smaller batches and mainly describes the movement of goods from warehouse to customer. Both are important in their own right, but freight and cargo shipping are an absolutely essential part of a country’s eCommerce industry.

There are three means behind this transportation; let’s learn a little bit more about them.


Shipment by air is a more reliable and expedient method than shipping through water or land, making it the ideal way to ship freight that cannot stay in transport for long due to fragility. It is also preferable for smaller and lighter goods that need to be transported quickly. Shipping by air can take as little as 5 days to arrive or up to 14 depending on the particular service being used. Either way, it’s usually fast and efficient.

Of course, like most good things, this doesn’t come cheap. Air cargo is usually heavier on a budget, mostly because of dimensional weight/ volumetric weight and another con comes in the form of possible flight delays due to adverse weather. Always consider these issues when looking over your options. 


Where air freight shipment relies on planes, cargo on land usually relies upon a mixture of trains and trucks to get where they need to go. Thanks to this, it’s usually a cheaper alternative to air shipment or water shipment, and it takes no more than a couple weeks to deliver. There are two most important terms related to the land shipment that you should know, however: LTL and FTL.

LTL- stands for “Less Than Truck-Load” and is best for shipments with comparatively lesser weight (i.e. shipments in excess of 200-250 pounds).

FTL- stands for “Full Truck-Load” and is best for shipments bulkier and heavier than about 15,000 pounds or so.


For the international business owners out there, shipping by sea is likely the way to go as it’s more stable and traditionally faces fewer setbacks throughout the route. It is best for shipping cargo in bulk, even cargo like vehicles that cannot be shipped through other means of shipment due to fears of damage. Ultimately, this form of shipment is typically the most flexible, but that also means that you’re going to pay a pretty penny — especially when considering customs charges, taxes, and additional delivery fees.

Infographic comparing land, air, and sea freight

Other negatives of shipping by water include slower shipment speeds and a greater reliance on good weather conditions, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. On the contrary, this type of freight shipment is great thanks to its eco-friendliness and the overall care put into it. It’s just a matter of deciding what’s most important to you and your eCommerce business.

Next article: Importance of Freight Forwarding in your Business

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