Demystifying 3PL Pricing: What E-Commerce Owners Need to Know

Hey there, e-commerce entrepreneur. Have you ever found yourself scratching your head trying to figure out 3PL or third-party logistics pricing? Don't worry, you're not alone. Understanding warehousing and fulfillment costs can be perplexing. As an e-commerce business owner, you want to keep fees low while maximizing service. At the same time, you need a 3PL partner you can rely on to properly store, pick, pack and ship your products. How do you evaluate proposals and find a solution that won't break the bank? This article will demystify 3PL pricing so you know what to look for and how to keep more money in your pocket. By the end, you'll feel like a pro ready to make the best choice for your business.

The Different Components of 3PL Pricing

As an e-commerce business owner, understanding 3PL pricing is key to managing your warehousing and shipping costs. The fees 3PL companies charge typically include:

Storage fees

This covers the physical space your inventory takes up in the warehouse. Rates vary but average $0.30 to $2 per square foot per month. The more space you need and the longer items are stored, the higher the fees.

Handling fees

This covers the labor required to receive, unpack, inspect, repack and ship your goods. Fees are usually charged per unit handled and range from $0.50 to $5 each. The more fragile or complex the handling, the higher the price.

Value-added services

Things like kitting, packaging, labeling or reworking products may incur extra charges. Get a custom quote for any value-added services you require.

Technology fees

Most 3PLs provide software for inventory management, shipping, tracking, reporting and more. Licenses and subscriptions for these systems are often included in overall pricing but some charge small technology fees as well.


While 3PLs can arrange shipping and pass along carrier discounts, you ultimately pay for transportation of goods. Shipping fees depend on carrier, service level and package details. 3PLs may charge a small markup on shipping as part of their pricing model.

The total cost of 3PL services depends on the specifics of your business and how much you can handle in-house. But with an understanding of the standard fees, you can make the best warehousing and fulfillment choice for your budget. After all, the right 3PL partner should ultimately save you money, not cost you more!

How Warehousing Services Affect Overall 3PL Costs

When it comes to 3PL pricing, the biggest factor for most e-commerce owners is warehousing - where your inventory is stored and handled. Warehousing costs typically make up the bulk of your 3PL fees.

How Much Space Do You Need?

The amount of warehouse space you require depends on your inventory levels and how fast you turn over products. More space means higher costs, so find a 3PL that can scale with your needs. Look for ones that offer flexible short-term leases if your storage needs fluctuate.

  • Pallet space: The most affordable option if you have steady, predictable needs. You pay for a fixed number of pallet spots.

  • Bulk space: For larger volumes, you rent a designated area of the warehouse. Prices are lower per square foot but you commit to more space.

  • Overflow space: Temporary extra space for sales peaks or seasonal inventory. Usually the most expensive per square foot.

Additional Fees to Factor In

Beyond base rent, other charges may apply:

  • Handling fees: For receiving, storing and retrieving your goods. Typically charged per pallet movement or by the hour.

  • Value-added services: Optional extras like packaging, labeling or assembly. Prices vary depending on the specific services.

  • Insurance: Covers the value of your inventory in the unlikely event of loss or damage. Rates depend on the types of goods and their value.

  • Admin fees: Account management charges for reporting, billing and customer service. Usually a flat monthly or annual rate.

With some upfront planning, you can optimize your warehousing costs. Choose a 3PL partner focused on flexibility and transparency, and one that can adapt as your e-commerce business grows.

Tips for Negotiating the Best Pricing for Your E-Commerce Business

When it comes to negotiating pricing with a 3PL provider, you have more leverage than you may realize as an e-commerce business owner. Here are a few tips to get the best deal:

Do your homework

Research typical rates for the services you need so you go in with reasonable expectations. Check what other similar sized e-commerce companies pay for warehousing and fulfillment. Know your numbers and how much you can afford to pay while still maintaining healthy profit margins.

Ask for volume discounts

If you anticipate significant growth over the initial contract term, try to negotiate pricing breaks at higher shipping volume levels. For example, see if you can get a 5-10% discount if your monthly shipping volume exceeds a certain threshold. This ensures you benefit from economies of scale as your business expands.

Negotiate extra perks

Don’t just focus on the bottom line rate. Ask for additional value-added services at no extra charge like inventory management software, branded packing slips, or reporting and analytics tools. See if free storage space for a certain period of time can be included for seasonal product overflow.

Consider a shorter initial term

While longer contracts often mean lower rates, opt for a 6-12 month initial term in case you're not fully satisfied with the 3PL services. This gives you flexibility to renegotiate rates once the term is up or switch to another provider if needed. You can always sign a longer multi-year renewal contract to get lower rates if you do want to continue the relationship long-term.

Put it in writing

Any agreed upon rates, discounts, allowances or value-added services should be explicitly written into your 3PL contract. Get full transparency on any potential rate increases over the term of the agreement before you sign. That way there are no surprises that could impact your business costs and profit margins down the road.

Negotiating the best pricing comes down to doing thorough research, understanding your needs and budget, and not being afraid to ask for more from your third-party logistics provider. As an e-commerce business, choosing a 3PL partner is one of the most important decisions you'll make – so take the time to get a deal that benefits you both in the short and long run.

3PL is Worth the Money

So there you have it, the inside scoop on 3PL pricing and what you can expect from different types of warehousing services. Now you can go into those initial meetings with 3PLs armed with the right questions to ask and an understanding of what's really driving their rates. Don't get dazzled by shiny technology or promises of future growth - make sure their pricing structure aligns with your current and future needs. The 3PL landscape is competitive, so take your time finding one that's the right fit for your business and budget. With the right partner handling your logistics, you can get back to focusing on what really matters: keeping your customers happy and growing your business.

Have a question about our pricing? We offer cost-effective and transparent pricing.

Call: 1-905-831-0006