The Basics of Carrier-Calculated Shipping

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What does carrier-calculated shipping mean?

When you set your prices, you also need to set your shipping costs. The default option is to set a standard shipping price that you guess is going to be your cost, or at least the ball-park. This standard price is based on rules like “Is it domestic or international” and “does it ship fast or slow”. You can try to get better rates on bulk shipping if you make a lot of sales (see resources below).

For example, Tatly sets a standard shipping rate for domestic purchases at $3. No matter where it ships in the US, it will be the same price, regardless of how much it actually costs the merchant. On average, Tatly figured it would cost about three bucks. If it costs less than that, the merchant gets a little bit extra. If it actually ends up costing more, the merchant loses a few cents.

The alternative is called carrier-calculated shipping. This creates an automatic shipping calculation directly from the carrier you use. Your customer sees exactly how much it will cost to ship, and pays that amount instead of an estimate you make.

Chalkd does this, for example. They give you a shipping calculator straight on the checkout page, and in the back room it’s buzzing away to choose the right carrier.

If you work with just one carrier, you can usually put that carrier calculator onto your checkout page. However, if you ship with multiple carriers (for example, to ship to multiple countries, because they have different rates for different kinds of items, or because not all carriers ship at multiple speeds), you can use a third-party app to calculate the best rate automatically.

What you need to get started

Edit your Shopify checkout page to allow for carrier-calculated rates

Shopify stores come with a pre-made template for what’s on the checkout. With different Shopify plans and rates, you can edit that template to allow for more features, like carrier-calculated rates.

For all Advanced Shopify and Shopify Plus members, it’s included! And for any plan if you pay annually, it’s included! Otherwise, if you’re on Shopify or Shopify Basic, it’s an extra USD $20 per month.

Install a third-party app

Then, you need a service that will actually do the calculation. These kinds of services range from just calculators and shipping dashboards to full fulfilment solutions.

We’ve done a breakdown of the best ones.







StarShipIT integrates with all couriers you select, and lets you automatically allocate each order to preferred courier. Rates are calculated at checkout. You can brand all shipping correspondence

Shippit automatically figures out which courier is the cheapest and fastest for delivery. Couriers will pick up straight from you, without a trip to the post office. Plus, get discounted shipping rates with a Shippit monthly membership.

ShipStation covers all aspects of shipping and fulfilment, with integrations that let you manage inventory across locations, automatically choose the best courier, track accounting information, accept returns, offer coupons and track delivery

A notification center (not a shipping service) that lets you calculate rates, track info from couriers and send branded notification email/ SMS to customers

You can use alongside their app Postmen to print labels and fulfil orders


All seen from one cloud-based dashboard

Shippit closes out orders and gives you tracking info, though you’ll have to send that to customers yourself (don’t worry, you can automate these with MailChimp)

ShipStation has both a desktop and mobile app where you can see orders, print labels, add notes, put orders on hold, check analytics, manually select carriers and more

Your dashboard pulls info from couriers and you can use it to filter and search for orders

Area Coverage

Domestic and International

Organises shipments so they are sent from warehouses nearest your customer

Domestic and International

Domestic and International

In addition to common carriers, ShipStation integrates with Fulfilment By Amazon

Domestic and international, supports over 380 couriers

Customer Options

Customers can choose delivery options, including 3-hour, standard, express and pickup

Customers can choose delivery options, including 3-hour, standard, express and pickup

Customers can choose delivery options, including 3-hour, standard, express and pickup

Customers see their tracking info on branded pages. Aftership does not actually ship, so you’ll have to use a different service to offer delivery options

Automated Features
  • Batch label, packing slip and invoice printing

  • Generate customs documentation

  • Auto-closes orders when the carrier has delivered

  • Automatically chooses the best carrier for the job

  • Auto generates labels

  • Barcodes help you connect info about products, customers and shipments

  • Packing slips and packing lists

  • Labels and invoices

  • Comprehensive automation rules available, including insurance and

Automatic tracking info collected from couriers and sent to customers

Customer Experience
  • Accurate rates given at checkout

  • Customer can track journey with automated email

  • Integrated return process and label generator

  • Return rates given at checkout

  • Fast shipping and tracking

  • Delivery speed options at checkout

  • Automatic tracking information sent

Customers are automatically emailed their branded tracking info. If they call to ask about their package, merchants use Aftership to quickly find them.



$19/mo and up


Free below 100 shipments per month, then quote needed

Get It

StarShipIT app

Shippit app

Ship Station app

AfterShip app


How about you tell me something I don’t know?

There are a ton of resources on setting up shipping with Shopify. Here are just a few:

Elkfox is here to help you make business decisions that make sense. Talk to us about developing your shipping strategy using the best tools out there.