Project Description

Getting a Freight Quote: A Step-by-Step Guide

Have your goods and ready to ship? Time to get a freight quote.

Following this quick list to make sure you’re taking a good look at all your options.

1. Get Information You Need For Quoting

Depending on your forwarder and the agent you speak to, they may not remember to ask for all the data upfront. Which means slow turnaround and comparing apples to oranges. Beat them to the punch by coming to the table with the following information:

Contact Details, including Addresses

  • Make sure that you have the full addresses for pickup if the shipment is door to door, including postcode (go back to Alibaba if necessary for this), and full destination address. Zip codes are sometimes enough but the more information, the better.
  • You may need to provide the name of the port of origin. All airports and seaports have an international code (e.g USLAX for United States, Los Angeles airport if it is port to port or port to door (surprisingly, one of the largest forwarders asks for this for door to door too).
  • If someone other than your company is receiving the shipment, have their contact details ready too.

Weights And Measures

  • Provide the total weight of the shipment. You can probably still get by in pounds, but suppliers and increasingly forwarders think in kilograms.
  • You will most likely need to breakdown volume measurements for each box, pallet, etc. For instance 3 pallets measuring 120 cm x 100 cm x 130 cm usually translates to defining the ## type as “pallet, defining the ## type as “cm” and the dimensions as 120 x 100 x 130.
  • You may also probably have to provide total cubic volume, also called “CBM”. The example above comes to a cubic volume of 6.4 cubic meters. If there is a Total Volume field on a wizard type form, you will probably need to round to the closest cubic meter.

Product Description

  • International freight works off HS Codes – basically a global index of product types. The official product name and code should be on the Commercial Invoice but it’s best to check anyway, using an HS Code lookup tool. It pays to check this, because an uncorrected error could lead to delays in customs clearance later on.
  • Businesses exporting shipments need to know the Schedule B code, although the same large forwarder that asks for port of origin for door to door shipment also asks for the Schedule B code for imports to the US as well.

You may also be asked the following:

  • the name of the supplier,
  • whether want cargo insurance (the answer should be yes – comprehensive),
  • the date that the shipment will be ready,
  • the shipment value,
  • whether you are looking more for a competitive price or for a speedy shipment,
  • the sales contract incoterm, (on the sales contract)
  • whether the packing list has been prepared, and
  • whether you want to ship by air or ocean (and whether it’s LCL or FCL).

2. Choose your Forwarders

Options for forwarders are either name-brand global forwarders or local forwarders. Local forwarders can give their small customers more width and are faster to respond but may not have prices that are as competitive. On the other hand, larger forwarders respond to less than 50% of new quote requests from smaller businesses can can take anywhere from one day to weeks to respond.
It’s hard to find reviews of forwarders online. So instead, start networking. Ask other smaller businesses you know of who make international shipments whether they recommend their forwarder for both price and service?
If you’re willing to get a little tech-y, you can also instantly compare quotes from multiple forwarders on Freightos’ online freight marketplace.

3. Request Quotes

There are three methods for requesting a quote.

Online Form

Once you have shortlisted a forwarder, check out their website to see whether they have some sort of form to request a quote.

But before you submit the request, check your shipment Info list to make sure you’ve provided all the relevant information. Just because you weren’t asked for it doesn’t mean they don’t need it. Otherwise you will probably find that they finally ask for this information several days later, slowing the whole process down. There’s always at least one free-text general comments field where you can cram the rest of the shipment info in.


If they don’t have a form, a contact email address will be somewhere on their website. Even if you phone them first, you will want to follow up by email. You can pretty much copy and paste your Shipment Info List straight into the email. Ask for an immediate confirmation to make sure you’re not left hanging.

Online Quotes

A freight rate marketplace has several advantages over online forms and emails. You need only raise one quote to get responses from multiple forwarders. Each forwarder’s rates are already loaded into the Freightos Marketplace, so there is no waiting period to get your quotes.  The Freightos Marketplace is easy to use, and comes with helpful instructions and a video for first timers, if they prefer.

There are also a small but growing number of online forwarders, such as iContainers.

4. Select The Best Quote

First, check each quote to make sure that they have the correct details.

Price is an important factor, but also consider that the transit times fit in with your requirements. Another point that you should consider is whether they provided a good service getting to this point. If you have a $250,000 shipment, saving $500 to ship with a no-name forwarder may not be the best idea.

Unless one quote stands out from the rest, compare freight charges between all of the quotes you have received. Watch out for unnecessary charges like an EDI fee – see this list for common freight charges that will probably be included.

5. Get ready to ship

Once you book with the forwarder, they will book the available space – the “slot” – on a ship or plane. You probably have a day or so to prepare the Shipper’s Letter Of Instruction and send it with other documents.
Good luck!

The best way to get a freight quote is on the Freightos Marketplace.

Compare, book and manage shipments online.