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LTL Shipping vs. TL Shipping

What's in this article?
  1. What Is The Difference Between Tl And Ltl?
  2. Ltl – Less-Than Truckload 
  3. When To Choose Ltl?
  4. Tl – Truckload 
  5. When To Choose Tl?
  6. Why Knowing The Difference Between Ltl Vs Tl Matters?
  7. Deciding Between Ltl Vs Tl To Ship Your Freight
  8. Weight/Size Of Freight
  9. Cost
  10. Additional Services Needed
  11. Conclusion
LTL Shipping vs. TL Shipping

Shipping is complicated, especially if you're doing logistics for e-commerce. The industry is so dynamic; there are new rules every day. And even if you don't ship physical goods anymore, it can still be valuable to know all the nuances.

Businesses have a lot to consider regarding shipping, especially regarding the two freight shipping methods used most frequently. These two shipping methods are Less-than-truckload (LTL) and Truckload (TL). Sometimes it can be challenging to compare these seemingly identical shipping methods. 

If both shipping terms (LTL) and (TL) are a mystery for you, worry not! These differences are intriguing and eventually can be cost-effective and savvy for your business. So let's look at why you need to care about each of these shipping methods before choosing one.

As you embark on your logistics journey or continue to do so, I hope this post will save you some time and resources.

What is the Difference between TL and LTL?

The differences between LTL vs. TL may be simple things like pallets instead of boxes, or they can be as complicated as shipping containers depending on the size of their load. But you'll have to understand them better first only then you'll be able to use the best for your business.

So, let's try to recognize the differences between the two.

LTL – Less-than Truckload: 

LTL is a shipping term for palletized freight shipments. LTL shipments account for more than half the business most shippers do. In addition, LTL is less expensive as freight trucks travel through multiple carrier hubs to pick up and drop the shipments in this mode.

Here are a few characteristics of LTL freight:

  • LTL shipments are consolidated with multiple small shipments to fill up the truck.
  • It weighs less than 4,000 pounds.
  • Pallets and Skids are the packing options available in this mode.
  • The charges may vary depending on the carrier.
  • The good's transit time is longer because of the carrier's multiple stops at different terminals.
  • It's cost-effective.

When to Choose LTL?

You can enjoy the highest degree of cost-effectiveness when shipping your freight via LTL if you are a small business owner. This is because your third-party logistics service provider will carry your goods along with other freight shipments. 

In addition, LTL shipments are often palletized. Hence, the shippers only pay for the portion of space they use in the whole trailer.

LTL also fares well with the oddly shaped items and the shipments that require extra handling at the destination. Less than truckload is also a good shipping solution when many parcels move to the same goal. 

TL – Truckload: 

Truckload or Full Truckload (as it's often referred to) is a shipping term used when one truck is responsible for shipping the whole freight from the point of origin to the end of delivery. It's faster but an expensive shipping approach.

Here are a few characteristics of TL freight:

  • Shipments fill up the entire truck and are often from a single company.
  • TL shipments weigh more than 15,000 pounds.
  • Packaging options are multiple. Such as using boxes, pallets, skids, bags, crates, etc.
  • Freight transit time is faster as it travels straight to the delivery destination.
  • This shipping model involves fewer size and weight restrictions.
  • There's less freight handling. Hence, fewer chances of damage and freight loss.

When to Choose TL?

TL becomes the best way to move the freight if you have large shipments. 

A general rule of thumb for shipping through TL is that you should consider TL without having second thoughts when your freight consists of ten or more pallets. You can also consider TL shipping mode if you are shipping a fragile item that you can't risk sending over in a shared space. TL shipping service is also time-sensitive. This shipping model is more expensive than LTL, but the prices are more fixed and predictable than the complex pricing pattern of LTL.

Why Knowing the Difference Between LTL vs. TL Matters?

Knowing the difference between LTL and TL shipping can be vital when determining which shipping route you want to take and which carrier you want to work with. Since there is no universal classification for freight carriers, it is essential to understand how the individual service levels differ to determine which one is best for you.

Understanding the difference between each carrier can significantly impact your shipping costs. Now, it's not about squeezing every penny out of your shipping expenditure. Still, I understand that knowing the differences can be the difference between paying more $$$ per pallet to ship or saving a few bucks by finding a rocking deal with another carrier. 

Deciding Between LTL vs. TL to Ship Your Freight

Depending on the amount of freight you transport, your company can benefit from using less than truckload (LTL) or full truckload (TL) shipping. Although both modes of shipping have pros and cons, some general guidelines can help decide which is best for your distinct circumstances.

Here are a few things to scrutinize when determining whether LTL or TL shipping is suitable for you:

LTL and TL shipping modes have advantages and disadvantages. Choosing the best way for your company depends on the freight, cost, and additional services needed.

Weight/Size of Freight

Is your freight oversized than a standard pallet? For example, two pallets stacked on top of one another would need TL transportation because they wouldn't fit into a standard LTL truck trailer.

To determine whether you need LTL or TL services, you need to know how much space your freight will occupy in a trailer. For example, if you have enough cargo to fill at least half of a 53-foot trailer, you may want to consider TL shipping since it's typically cheaper than LTL service. However, for shipments that take up less space than that, LTL may be the more cost-effective route since shippers can pool their loads together and drive down their costs.

Using LTL shipping or TL shipping doesn't always depend on freight. However, cost and additional services also play a role in choosing between the two shipping modes.


What's your budget for shipping the freight? If you have a small amount of high-value freight (for example, expensive products) or if you need specialized services, TL might be more cost-effective. On the other hand, if you have a large number of pallets that weigh less than 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms), LTL will probably be cheaper for you.

Additional Services Needed

Are you in need of expedited shipping or special handling? For example, facilities such as temperature control might not be available in an LTL terminal but could be provided in TL service at an added freight shipping cost.

If your shipment is time-sensitive and needs to arrive at its destination on a specific date, TL shipping may be best because it offers guaranteed delivery times. In contrast, transit times for LTL shipments vary. 

Also, remember, not all freight can travel as LTL. In the case of too heavy or oversized shipments, they will be shipped via TL. LTL carriers won't accept cargo that doesn't fit within the guidelines of LTL shipping. However, just because your goods fill up an entire truckload doesn't mean you should always ship them through TL.     


Freight shipping is a vital and intricate part of the business. It can be a complicated riddle of rules, regulations, restrictions, and hidden costs. The first step on any path to success in freight shipping is knowing what you're up against and knowing the right way to navigate your way through it all.

In general, LTL freight is more economical and practical for companies shipping smaller loads, while TL freight tends to be more economical for larger shipments. However, there are pros and cons to both shipping modes. For example, LTL carriers offer a more incredible service and flexibility, but their costs can run higher than TL carriers. Conversely, TL carriers provide less benefit for a lower price but have fewer restrictions on the size and weight of your shipments.

There's no standard rule or equation to decide which shipping mode suits you better because every company's rate and service requirements are different. Hence, it is crucial to thoroughly understand each shipping method's benefits and drawbacks before making a final decision.


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Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing. 

After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood. 

With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.

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Mylene Rutllant
It’s my number one pick in auto shipping to this day.

Due to the nature of my work, I must relocate every couple of years to where my company needs me. Because of this, I’ve tested several moving and auto transport companies over the years.

And my choice in terms of auto transport has to be A1 Auto Transport. It’s in the name, but also in the quality with which they do their jobs. I’ve never had a problem with this company.

The only time my shipment was delayed was during winter when a snowstorm closed down all the major roads. And they still found an alternative and got my car delivered before roads got unstuck.

When I moved to West Virginia, they picked up my car the very day I called them. I like to think they take special care of me considering all the business I’ve sent them. I’ll continue to support A1 Auto Transport. It’s my number one pick in auto shipping to this day.

Luis Rodriguez
You have my full support and recommendation!

I considered selling my car when I moved to Washington. It was old and rusty, but I grew attached to it. So, I called a couple companies to transport it to my new home, but they both fell through.

The first one couldn’t decide on a schedule. He would constantly change the pickup date till I got frustrated and canceled. The second was insufferable, very rude on the phone, even worse in person.

They started picking a part my car asking me why I still have it. If that’s their opinion of my vehicle, how can I trust they’ll take care of it? If something happened midway, why wouldn’t they just blame it on the car instead of paying up?

So, I cancelled this company as well and turned to A1 Auto Transport. From the get go, they were very different from my past options. Their website was very professional and up to date, full of useful information. I requested a quote using their online form, and I got an email response within an hour. Surprisingly fast!

If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought they were lacking customers, but the email spoke for itself. In just one email, everything I needed to know was there, including a contact number I could use to get more information or confirm the transport.

I called and got things rolling. I was very pleased with the driver. He followed standard procedure and represented his company well. Can’t remember his name, but props to him!

The car arrived in Washington 6 days later in excellent condition. From what I understand, the transport was delayed a bit by a storm, but since the time window was 4-6 days from the beginning, I don’t really care. You have my full support and recommendation!

Testimonial by Cristine Benoit
Cristine Benoit
I can safely say this is a legit company that will get the job done.

There are a lot of options for auto transport these days, which surprisingly makes it harder to find a good company. I received more than 10 offers to ship my car, but I couldn’t decide on any of them.

After doing some research, I got even more worried reading about all the scams and accidents that can happen. But, I have work to do and couldn’t afford to drive my newly purchased Mini Cooper all the way to Virginia.

Fortunately, I made the right choice with A1 Auto Transport. They are very good at their jobs. I spent more than an hour drilling Joe with various questions, and he never once lost his patience. He saw I was interested, so he bore with me until I was satisfied. The driver was also very courteous and my car was intact on arrival. I couldn’t have asked for more.

By the way, the price we first agreed on stayed the same. There were no delays or unexpected “surprises.” I can safely say this is a legit company that will get the job done.

David Osallo
We give A1 Auto Transport a big 10 out of 10!

We give A1 Auto Transport a big 10 out of 10! We chose them to move our car from California to Vermont, since we needed professionals.

We were abroad during the transport, so the transport was a bit tricky. The driver had to pick it up from storage on short notice and get it to its destination within at most 10 days. I was happy to note it arrived sooner. We got it 3 days early, right when we got home to pick it up. It made getting around way easier. Awesome service!

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A-1 Auto Transport is a disclosed agent for the following shipping companies:

Trans Global Auto Logistics, Inc.
3401 E Randol Mill Rd
Arlington, TX 76011
NO. 018191NF
CFR Rinkens
15501 Texaco Avenue
Paramount, CA 90723
NO. 013055NF
ABC Worldwide LLC
2840 NW 2nd Ave #105
Boca Raton, FL 33431
NO. 025472F
CSI Logistics
435 Division Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07201
FMC 22206
Intl Cargo
45 Campus drive
Edison, NJ 08837
NO. 17858N
ShipYourCarNow LLC
1160 South Rogers Circle Suite 1
Boca Raton, FL 33487
NO. 025646
Merco Air & Ocean Cargo, Inc.
6 Fir Way
Cooper City, FL 33026
NO. 021869F
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