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How to Find the Real Cost of Shipping Beer

And why Free Shipping doesn’t matter when choosing a beer club

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There are many factors that go into the cost of shipping beer, whether the shipper is a beer club or a brewery, an online beer store or your local beer shop. No matter how much it does cost to send you your beer, you can be sure the company that sold you the beer hates it as much as you do...they know they can sell more beer if they could lower the cost of shipping beer.

Published: 3/8/13


Does Free Shipping matter when choosing a beer club?

No, free shipping is not important when choosing a beer club because the companies that offer free shipping also charge more for the beer. You need to consider the total price you pay including the price of the beer and the price of shipping. Let’s look at an example:

Question: Which beer club is cheaper?
Beer Club #1: $37.75 + Free Shipping
Beer Club #2: $22.75 + $15.00 Shipping & Handling

Answer: You got it right, they cost the exact same amount!
Both clubs cost $37.75 once you consider the total cost. With most clubs you’ll also pay your state tax on top of the purchase, but Microbrewed Beer of the Month Club prices include tax.

So remember there is no such thing as a free lunch...or a free beer! When you see Free Shipping check to see what the total per shipment price is before making a final decision.

We do have a list of Beer Clubs with Free Shipping for those free-loving shoppers out there that are comfortable paying more for beer in order to enjoy free shipping. Whatever floats your boat!

The Real Cost of Shipping Beer

Shipping beer gets expensive for several reasons:

When we think about shipping costs, most of us stop thinking about it at the question of “is it free?” So while you may not worry about the cost of shipping, beer clubs have to consider it. The actual costs charged by the shipping company, whether it’s FedEx, UPS, the USPS, or a small private carrier certainly weigh in to the total cost of providing the beer club. And as gasoline prices go up, the cost of shipping goes up as well.

Here’s a breakdown of all the other costs associated with shipping beer within the United States:

The Weight of the Shipping Package

There are two components to the weight of a shipment of beer: how much the packaging weighs, and how much the beer bottles weigh.

When a beer club or a beer store selects its packaging, among its considerations are how much the boxes weigh and how much the inserts which protect the bottles weigh. They of course have to consider the protection factor against the actual weight of the materials.

The Cost of the Shipping Materials

Certain types of packaging are more affordable than others. Considerations include styrofoam packers (which also protect beer against temperature fluctuations) vs cardboard-like shippers made from molded fiber. Some beer clubs choose recycled-material molded fiber shippers to be more environmentally friendly.

The Cost of Shipping Heavy Beer Bottles

While the beer inside a bottle always weighs roughly the same amount, the weight of the bottles can vary greatly. When a winery chooses their beer bottles, one of their considerations is how heavy the bottles themselves are. Check out our guide to Beer Club Bottle Sizes to learn more about the different beer bottle options out there. The bottom line is that bottles are heavy and they drive up the cost of shipping. A 12 pack of 12 oz beer bottles typically weighs between 18 and 21 pounds. The 750 ml bottles you see with some clubs can weigh anywhere between 3 and 4 pounds each.

Where the Beer is Being Shipped

How far beer is being shipped also plays a big role in the cost of beer shipping, even if online beer stores and beer clubs don’t charge different rates for customers in different locations, it’s a part of the cost.

In addition to how far the beer is being shipped, FedEx (and most other carriers) actually charge more to send packages to residential addresses as opposed to business addresses. Crazy, right?! Before you get too upset, consider that there’s a valid business reason behind this surcharge... when you deliver something to a business during business hours, you drop it off, and get a signature, and you’re done. When you deliver to a residence, a shipment that requires an adult signature and can’t be left at the door, you risk someone not being home. Then you have to take the time to leave a notice and attempt redeliver the package. Most shippers will make 3 or more attempts to deliver the shipment and that gets expensive.

Economies of Scale

Economies of scale is just a fancy way of saying that if you can buy more than the average customer, you can get a volume discount. This affects the cost of shipping beer because the bigger beer clubs and retailers can get better rates on their shipping materials and shipping rates (in addition to better prices on the beer). Because of the number of shipments beer clubs send out they get better prices on each shipment and can keep costs down for you.

Sample Costs of Shipping Beer

Shipping costs vary for all the reasons noted in this article. For the sake of simplicity the chart below shows how much it would cost to ship a 12-pack or 24-pack of beer to Los Angeles if buying from an online beer shop.

Name of Company 12-pack (12 oz bottles) Shipping Cost (Ground) 24-pack (12 oz bottles) Shipping cost (Ground)
Beer on the Wall $18.66 $36.98
Brewforia $26.07 $43.10
Halftime Beverage $21.99 $21.99
Liquor Mart $16.40 $20.78
Ultimate Wine Shop $37.00 $74.00

* Prices accurate as of 2/22/2013

Illegal to Ship Beer with USPS

The US Postal Service does not permit shipments of alcohol and it is illegal for a non-licensed individual to ship alcohol. Retailers have to get special licenses on a state-by-state basis in order to ship their beer.

UPS and FedEx Do No Accept Beer Deliveries

Oddly enough UPS and FedEx will accept wine shipments but both expressly forbid shipments of beer. Neither UPS nor FedEx accepts shipments of beer for delivery. We don’t understand why these shipping companies favor wine over beer, but that’s the current policy. Beer clubs and online beer shops ship using FedEx and UPS, but they have special relationships that aren’t available to the average consumer (you can’t just walk into a UPS and ship a box of beer).

Alcohol shipping laws in the United States have been complicated since the end of prohibition. You can read all about it on Wikipedia or save yourself the trouble and choose a beer club that ships to your state.

Name of Company 12-pack Weight Equivalent Shipping Cost (Ground) 24-pack Weight Equivalent Shipping cost (Ground)
FedEx $28.02 $50.11
UPS $32.37 $57.87

*Note: UPS and FedEx both have policies prohibiting consumers from shipping beer. These cost estimates are simply to give you some perspective on the high cost of shipping beer. Cost estimates based on a shipping weight of 22 pounds per 12-pack and shipping from Chicago, IL to Los Angeles, CA.

Beer Club Shipping—The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that beer clubs and online beer stores are rarely making a profit on shipping. If anything it’s a liability. We understand if you need to factor the cost of shipping into your purchase, but you should know the beer clubs aren’t ripping you off.

The shipping laws in the United States are complicated if you're trying to send a beer gift or get yourself a shipment of tasty brews. Breweries hate it as much as you do, but there are workarounds. If you live in a state where shipping is free-and-clear, lucky you! If you need to ship beer somewhere with stricter laws though, you need this page to help you shop. Shop for a beer club using our state-by-state list of beer clubs.

 
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