How to Ship Radios (and - What Not to Do!)

One of the most important steps for us is shipping your radio. Shipping radios requires some special considerations that we have learned over the years.

Adequate packing for radios is a balance between safety, cost, and convenience. Excessive packing is expensive and becomes onerous for the recipient to unpack.

We have shipped all types of radios to all continents and to many countries around the world. We have shipped radios to all US states and Canada and Mexico.

We have used multiple carriers available in the USA; United States Postal Service (USPS), United Parcel Service (UPS), FedEx, and DHL.

First and Most Important Point

There's no guarantee against damage due to mishandling by the carrier. No carrier has a 100% guarantee against damages. No carrier has a perfect track record.

No amount of packing is going to protect a radio if it gets run over by a truck!

Repeat: your radio may arrive damaged regardless of how well it's packed. Your radio may arrive damaged regardless of whether it was shipped by USPS, UPS or FEDEX or DHL.

Said Another Way: A damaged radio doesn't mean someone is at fault. Accidents happen. Real disappointment does not mean real liability. No amount of blame is going to fix a radio or undo what has happened.

However, we always take additional steps to prevent against damages caused by carrier mishandling.

Here's what we've learned:

Disclaimer: Your experience may vary.

1. Shipping Company

USPS, UPS, FEDEX or DHL. We use USPS more than all the others. USPS combined rates and delivery history and convenience makes it our first choice. While we have had USPS damage radios in the past, we have also had far more radios shipped without damages through USPS. Our packaging assumes a certain amount of mishandling on the part of the carrier whether it be USPS, UPS, or others.

2. Shipping Option

Most of our radios are shipped 2nd Day Priority via Air, or 3rd Day Priority via Air if coast to coast across the USA. We avoid Parcel Post or Ground service not because increased risk, but because of longer shipping times. Plus, the Priority 2nd Day rates have decreased to a point where it's close or even less than shipping via Parcel Post or via ground.

3. Shipping Insurance

We use U-Pic has paid on our insurance claims over the years with least amount of hassle. We have not had reliable claims payment and processing through USPS. Too many hoops and delays to get back $100. UPS insurance claims require inspection of damaged item which must be arranged through UPS pickup or drop-off. Boo. Suffice to say: no radio leaves our premises without insurance for the full value.

4. Shipping Carton

We try to use new shipping cartons for all radios ordered through us. We avoid reusing shipping cartons from previous orders; Amazon Prime, Ebay, etc. Cardboard boxes which have been used before exhibit bruised corners, scuff stains, rips, water marks which doesn't present well. We find 14" x 10" x 10"  (single boxed) or 16" x 12" x 12" (double boxed) is the optimal size for most radios to avoid excessive shifting of contents within the carton during transit.

5. To double box or not double box?

We find it unnecessary to double box unless the radio is greater than 8lbs. For most 3lb to 5lb radios, a single shipping carton of appropriate size to reduce shifting provides best results. Of course, if price is no object, double box is preferred.

6. Packing Tape: The Biggest Lie

We use 2" clear packing tape. We use one or two layers along the top and bottom seams only around the full perimeter of the box. Tape adhesion is strongest when tape is sticking to tape. Tape sticking to cardboard only using short strips can come un-taped during shipping. No need to excessively tape the carton.

Tape does not protect against shock or impact!

Contrary to popular belief, tape does nothing to protect a radio from damage. In all our years, we have never experienced a radio unraveling itself within the box during shipping and getting damaged due to not enough or no tape of the internal wrapped contents. If you wrap the radio with enough large bubble wrap, very little tape to contain the internal bundle is needed. Yes it's true. Go ahead, try it! Plus, nobody likes to unwrap a radio that has been hermetically cocooned in layers on bubble wrap and tape!

So more tape does not mean a safer radio! We rarely receive a cardboard box that has come apart at the edges because it wasn't taped. Do not use thin strip 1" or less of clear tape or masking tape.

7. Packing Material Debate

We use large quality bubble wrap, bubble sheets, air pillows, etc (i.e "bubble wrap"). We avoid small bubble wrap. Emphasis on quality. Some lower quality bubble wrap have leaky bubbles or are not even inflated. How is bubble wrap with deflated bubbles going to protect? We dislike styrofoam peanuts. Immensely. Even though styrofoam peanuts work, they are annoying and frustratingly messy. USPS recommends 1" to 2" buffer all sides. We usually double that with large bubble wrapping. Too much wrap is burdensome to unwrap by the customer.

8. Shifting Contents - There is no This Side UP!

Next to external impacts, radios moving around within the cardboard box during shipping (internal shocks) is the second most likely but more probable cause of damages. It is delusional to think the radio will be right side up all the way in its journey through a system of trucks, bins, conveyor belts, counters, aisles and shelves with millions of other packages from the time it leaves your hands to the time it gets delivered. So we pack tightly but not too tightly. We use crumpled up newsprint to prevent shifting. Crumpled up newsprint is also more effective than bubble wrap in corners due to its shock absorbing properties.

9. Plastic shrink wrap - What?

Plastic shrink wrap has no place in shipping a radio unless you're expecting the radio to be delivered in pieces. We have never bought a single radio that was water damaged which is why you might use shrink wrap. Shrink wrap does nothing to protect against impact or shock no matter how many layers!

10. Wrap in news print - Read All About It

Plastic bubble wrap reacts with plastic radios. Over time and the wrong conditions, bubble wrap could adversely affect the plastic and paint of a radio. All radio we ship are first wrapped in paper before bubble wrap. Plus, paper provides a small amount of moisture protection against humidity.

11. Wrap power cord

The power cord should always be neatly coiled and wrapped in bubble wrap to avoid damage to the radio

12. Fragile Stickers - It's more psychological

We use fragile stickers more to placate the customer than to alert USPS or UPS of fragile contents. Because we understand the shipping carriers like USPS and UPS with their massive volumes could not possibly differentiate treatment because a package has a fragile sticker.

13. Printed Labels Only

All package labels nowadays are scanned by a machine. Do you want your radio to get plucked off a conveyor belt because the machine couldn't recognize your handwriting? Good luck with that.


14. Radio Tragedies Every Day - Broadcasting From The Soap Box

It is terrible loss whenever a 50 to 70 year old radio is relegated to the parts bin due to improper packing and mishandling. We are all just temporary stewards of these historical pieces for a short time until it gets passed on to future generations. We are only owners of these items in a financial sense. From a cultural and historical perspective more importantly, we are being trusted with their care. We should handle all these radios as if they are valuable items, because they are, even if we value some more than others.


15. Final and Most Important Point

There's no guarantee against damage due to mishandling by the carrier. No carrier has a 100% guarantee against damages. No carrier has a perfect track record.


 Good Luck and Be Careful Out There!



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