There is nothing wrong with using cheap shipping companies, but using the cheapest shipping company is rarely a smart move. The cheapest shipping option will result in a higher probability of damages, loss, and spending the next 3 months attempting to resolve claims. The bottom line is whether we are talking about parcel, blanket wrap, or less than truckload, the cheapest option often provides the cheapest services.
With LTL freight in particular, it is best to go with a carrier that has decent reviews from people who ship regularly. Obviously, finding reliable reviews like this is easier said than done. As anyone in the shipping industry knows, shipping can and will always go wrong at some point, no matter how careful you are or which carrier you decide to use. It is easy to find horror stories online for any shipping company. One-time shippers will always share their negative experiences online, and it can be hard to tell who to believe.
In my experience, R&L (especially if a lift gate is involved), YRC, SAIA, Estes, and UPS freight are some of the most reliable options when shipping LTL. If you are looking for the cheapest economy option, go with Roadrunner or Central Freight; but dealing with a lost shipment for the next 2-3 months will quickly turn you away from taking advantage of their great rates.
When you choose to use cheap shipping companies, you open yourself up to higher charges for any changes to a shipment, missed pickup or delivery attempts, and add ons for residential pickups or deliveries. I see customers use Roadrunner on the most simple one crate orders, and even those can end up delivered with mysterious forklift puncture holes. There is also a higher chance of the shipment getting lost in the dark abyss in between terminals or paperwork being switched. The best way to gain access to negotiated rates to make good LTL carriers accessible is through a third party service, broker, or online platform-like ShipHawk.
It is the same case with small parcel shipping. USPS is usually the cheapest, and therefore most commonly used. However, if you have a package lost with USPS or need to change a delivery address, it is a much easier process with someone a little more expensive like FedEx or UPS. For a little more money, FedEx delivers easier pickup schedules, better online service, options for international shipping and multiple service options for faster deliveries, such as guaranteed overnight.
When it comes to shipping, choosing to value, reliability and customer service over price is definitely worthwhile. Companies like YRC makes it easy to chat with customer service, whether it’s through their website chat service or a live customer service rep or dispatcher on the phone. This is not necessarily the case with an economy carrier like Roadrunner. It can be difficult to even get a customer service rep to give a solid answer on ETA or shipment status. In my experience, this can turn into a massive puzzle, with different reps relaying conflicting information and weeks of extra work with shipments that should be relatively low touch. Overall, while you may be saving a few dollars in picking cheap shipping companies, you may end up losing more money in the long run through lost items, poor customer service and damages.