Saturday, April 20, 2024

FCL Freight vs LCL Freight: Differences, Pros & Cons

When you decide to ship goods of any type/quantity through ocean freight, you will come across two options: FCL (Full Container Load) freight and LCL (Less Than Container Load) freight. Choosing between these two ocean freights depends on different aspects, such as size and volume of load, shipment time, and much more. Therefore, let’s clarify your concepts around FCL freight vs LCL freight in this guide so that you can make the right decision.

  1. What is FCL Freight?
  2. What is LCL Freight?
  3. FCL Freight vs LCL Freight: Pros and Cons
  4. FCL Freight vs LCL Freight: Key Differences
  5. Wrapping Up – Which Ocean Freight is Best For You?

What is FCL Freight?

FCL freight is Full Container Load freight in which you get the whole container to ship your goods. In simple words, the entire container belongs to you and contains only your goods in the container.

FCL freight is used by shippers who have enough volume of goods to fill the entire 20-foot or 40-foot container. In fact, some shippers even opt for FCL if their goods nearly fill the container, if not filling entirely.

What is LCL Freight?

LCL freight is Less Than Container Load freight in which you share the container space with other shippers. When you are selling smaller volumes or want a cheaper shipping option, LCL freight is a preferred option.

Mostly, shipments under 1-10 CBM weight are considered best for LCL freight. However, this ocean freight does not provide the control of the entire container.

FCL Freight vs LCL Freight: Pros and Cons

Before we talk in detail about the FCL freight vs LCL freight key differences, let’s quickly look at their pros and cons.

Pros and Cons of FCL Freight


  1. Full control of how the freight is packed
  2. A more secure way to ship goods
  3. Effective for urgent shipments
  4. Economical for larger shipments


  1. Higher initial cost
  2. Difficult to book during peak shipping season
  3. Filling the container space may require more inventory purchase/manufacturing

Pros and Cons of LCL Freight


  1. Best for low-volume shipments
  2. Economical shipment option
  3. Easily bookable even during peak shipping season


  1. Goods can get damaged or go missing
  2. Take longer to reach the destination and may face delays
  3. Higher per-unit cost

FCL Freight vs LCL Freight: Key Differences

Now that we have a basic overview of FCL vs LCL freights, let’s list down the key differences between them.

1. Cost

FCL freight requires you to pay the full container price, regardless of whether you fill the container entirely or not. However, there is no such limit on how large your shipment can be to use FCL freight.

In contrast, LCL freight looks more cost-friendly than FCL freight because you only have to pay for the space your goods occupy in the container. However, it can cost more sometimes because your shipment is charged based on CBM.

CBM refers to the cubic meter volume of your cargo. It is calculated by multiplying the length, height, and width of the goods. So, if your shipment is such that nothing can be stacked on it or it takes significant space, then you have to pay for all the space where other shipments cannot be placed.

2. Volume

FCL freight is useful if you have a large quantity of products to ship that can take up the whole container space. On the other hand, LCL is useful for loads between 1-10 CBM.

If you intend to ship loads with below 1 CBM (with weight below 200 kg), then air freight might be more reasonable for you. Similarly, if you are shipping over 10 CBM, then there is minimal price difference between FCL freight vs LCL freight. So, you can even opt for FCL if you have a shipment over 10 CBM.

3. Speed

FCL freight is considered the fastest way to get shipment because the entire container belongs to you. So, there will be no stopovers or loading/unloading. The shipment will be delivered directly to you.

In contrast, LCL freight can take a longer time to arrive or even experience unexpected delays. This is because it takes a few extra days to get fully filled by the goods of other shippers. Moreover, it requires extra time to sort, load/unload, and separate goods at each port. Besides that, if customs decide to inspect one shipment from the container, the whole container will be put on hold until the clearance.

4. Security

Since FCL freight gives full control of the container, it is more secure than LCL freight. There is minimal risk of loss, theft, or damage of goods in case of FCL shipment.

On the other hand, LCL freight is less secure than FCL. There are higher chances that the goods can get lost or damaged due to frequent loading/unloading of the container.

5. Availability

During peak shipping seasons, like China Holidays, it is often challenging to book FCL shipments. However, LCL shipments are easier to book at any time of the year. It is because you do not have to wait for a longer duration to get an empty full container. You can easily get your shipments booked in any available LCL container with enough space to enclose your goods.

6. Flexibility

Regarding FCL freight vs LCL freight flexibility, the former is less flexible. Let’s consider an example to better understand this.

Support you want to deliver your goods to multiple third parties or Amazon FBA facilities. In such scenarios, LCL is best because it allows you to consolidate multiple smaller shipments from different suppliers or locations into a single container. This provides flexibility in distribution and delivery to multiple destinations.

However, FCL fails to provide this flexibility. It will require you to bear the additional cost of unloading, sorting, warehousing, and trucking to different addresses.

Wrapping Up – Which Ocean Freight is Best For You?

When it comes to ocean freight, you have to choose between FCL and LCL freight for your goods shipment. From the above thorough comparison of FCL freight vs LCL freight, it is evident that both have their use cases. So, the question remains: which freight should you choose?

FCL freight is recommended if you have a large volume, need fast delivery, and want more security. In contrast, LCL freight is recommended for smaller shipment volumes, flexible shipment times, and cost-friendliness. So, the final decision is yours. Evaluate your shipment needs and then make the right decision accordingly.