Why Is DHL So Expensive? (11 Reasons Why)

DHL is a logistics company providing courier, package delivery, and express mail services. Furthermore, it allows individuals and businesses to transport goods and documents both domestically and internationally. 

Additionally, shipping costs are based on the distance between the shipper and the recipient, the size of the package, and the speed of shipping.

Still, you may be surprised when you see the price of shipping. To find out why DHL shipping is so expensive, keep reading!

Why Is DHL So Expensive In [currentyear]?

DHL can be more expensive than its competitors because its prices include customs fees and surcharges (e.g. fuel, holiday, and Saturday delivery) in [currentyear]. In addition, the company’s speed, reliability, and door-to-door services also contribute to high delivery costs. Still, it’s important to note that DHL is often cheaper than its competitors for international deliveries.

If you’re curious to know all of the reasons DHL is so expensive, then you’d better read this article!

1. International Delivery 

What sets DHL apart from its competitors is the company’s focus on international shipping. 

While DHL does handle some domestic deliveries, international packages are its main focus. 

Furthermore, because these packages have farther to travel and require more handling, they’re more expensive than you might be used to paying.

What’s more, some international deliveries may be subject to customs fees, something that could also drive up the cost of shipping. 

2. Delivery Speed 

Delivery speeds are an area where DHL really shines. In fact, DHL is generally faster than FedEx and UPS when it comes to international deliveries. 

Additionally, DHL is able to deliver so quickly thanks to its strong logistics network and huge investment in express air transport. 

However, both of these components cost money, something DHL then passes on to customers. 

3. Reliability 

When you’re shipping something important, it’s essential to entrust it to a reliable company, and DHL is one such company. 

Furthermore, choosing DHL means your packages will be delivered when promised. If they arrive late, DHL refunds the cost of shipping under its money-back guarantee. 

Additionally, not only will your packages arrive on time, but you can be sure they’ll arrive in the best condition possible. 

What’s more, DHL has a number of specialized programs and insurance options perfect for every shipment. 

One example of a specialized delivery program is DHL Medical Express. 

This service was specially developed for transporting time- and temperature-sensitive shipments (e.g. vaccines and medical supplies) for the pharmaceutical and medical industries. 

Also, when it comes to insurance, DHL offers add-on options that protect you and your shipment in the event of delays, damage, or leakage. 

Therefore, it goes without saying that these services cost extra and contribute to the high cost of DHL’s shipping. 

4. DHL is a door-to-door carrier 

DHL brands itself as a door-to-door service. That means they look after your package throughout its journey. 

Furthermore, this includes using their own planes, vans, and drivers to complete deliveries. 

So, while this means DHL can deliver more quickly, it also means deliveries are more expensive. 

5. Competition 

While it’s tempting to look at DHL’s high prices and think there are better deals to be found elsewhere, that’s usually not the case. 

Indeed, DHL tends to be cheaper when it comes to international shipping rates.

For example, a 3-pound package shipped from San Francisco to Berlin, Germany, with DHL costs…

  • $142.08 for Express Worldwide
  • $148.73 for Express 12:00 
  • $168.65 for Express 9:00 

Let’s compare these prices to FedEx’s rates

  • $197.23 for International Priority (2-day shipping by 6:00 PM)
  • $202.96 for International Priority Express (2-day shipping by 12:00 PM)
  • $251.46 for International First (2-day shipping by 10:00 AM)

As you can see, DHL’s prices are significantly cheaper than FedEx’s, at least when it comes to international shipping. 

That said, it must be noted that FedEx offers cheaper prices for domestic shipping. 

However, this is because DHL has a much smaller ground fleet than its American counterparts. 

Therefore, this means higher transportation costs. 

6. Surcharges


Like a lot of delivery companies, the initial price you’re quoted at DHL might not be the final price you pay and that’s because of surcharges. 

Let’s take a look at some of the surcharges DHL customers might have to pay. 

Fuel surcharge: This fee is imposed on all domestic and international shipments. It helps pay for the fuel required to transport goods via plane and truck. 

It is calculated based on the wholesale prices of diesel oil in the shipment’s country of origin. As a result, the surcharge can fluctuate widely depending on world events and fuel availability. 

Remote area surcharge: DHL defines a remote location as a place that’s difficult to serve because of its location.  

This surcharge starts at $20.00 or $0.45/kilogram, whichever is higher. 

Saturday delivery: While DHL offers Saturday delivery services in a number of locations around the world, this service doesn’t come for free. 

In fact, it costs $30.00 per shipment. 

Address correction: DHL applies a fixed surcharge to any shipment that has an incorrect delivery address at the time of pickup. 

Furthermore, it is charged to the shipper after the initial (failed) delivery attempt. 

Keep in mind that these are only a sampling of the various surcharges DHL imposes on its customers. 

Therefore, it’s easy to see how these charges could quickly add up and make your shipment expensive. 

7. Volumetric Weight 

Unlike other carriers that calculate shipping fees based on the weight of the package, DHL calculates its prices based on volumetric weight.

Furthermore, volumetric weight is calculated by multiplying the length, width, and height of the parcel, then dividing by a certain integer (some carriers use 4000, others use 5000). 

Additionally, this value then represents the density of the package. In most cases, a less dense shipment generally occupies more space in comparison to its actual weight. 

As a result, bigger, lighter packages are likely more expensive to ship with DHL than with other carriers. 

8. Holiday Fees 

During the holiday season, DHL is busier than ever. 

In order to accommodate the increased workload and keep things running smoothly, DHL imposes a holiday surcharge on packages sent between October 3rd and December 25th. 

Furthermore, DHL charges an extra 20¢ to 29¢ for packages sent shorter distances (zone 8 or less), and charges 30¢ to $5 for packages traveling in zones 11 to 13. 

This may seem like an insignificant amount of money, but it adds up if you send multiple packages during this period.

9. Employees 

DHL currently employs more than 590,000 people, and these employees ensure that DHL’s operations run smoothly.  

However, this level of service comes at a price. Indeed, DHL uses a large portion of its revenue to pay employees. 

Therefore, in order to keep wages competitive, DHL passes part of its labor costs on to customers. 

10. Optional Services 

DHL wants to make sure that its customers have as many options as possible when it comes to deliveries. 

Furthermore, these options can ensure that your package arrives exactly as requested. 

However, taking advantage of these services also means digging deeper into your wallet. Let’s see what some of the services are. 

Shipment preparation: Whether you’ve got an odd-sized item that you don’t know how to package or feel overwhelmed, a DHL professional can help prepare your order for you. 

 Dedicated pickup: For packages that require more attention than others, DHL offers its dedicated pickup service. 

11. Environmental Efforts 

As a company that operates hundreds of planes and trucks, DHL understands its contribution to climate change. 

That’s why the company has put in extra effort to reduce its carbon footprint, and they do so by operating electric and natural gas vehicles. 

Eventually, the company may move towards an entirely electric fleet. 

Of course, these efforts come at a price, one that’s passed on to customers (at least in part). 

To know more, you can also read our posts on what DHL means, who owns DHL, and what is the DHL clearance event.


On the surface, DHL may seem expensive, but once you look at all of the explanations for the company’s pricing, it’s easier to understand how shipping prices are calculated. 

Still, if you get sticker shock after using the DHL price estimator tool, don’t be afraid to shop around and see if there are more affordable options out there. 

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Mackenzie Jerks

Mackenzie is a freelance writer and editor, published author, and music enthusiast who holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. When she’s not writing, Mackenzie is either wrapped up in a book, discovering new music, or introducing herself to a new fitness regimen.

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