Pallets are made from a variety of woods, depending on their country of origin. But here in the US, we most commonly use two kinds of pallet wood — oak and southern yellow pine. One is hardwood and one is softwood. So why these two? 

Pine is readily available, cheap, and is a clean product that can be kiln-dried without causing any damage. These characteristics make it ideal for use in many applications, such as in the food-related and pharmaceutical industries.

Now oak, on the other hand, is more available than other types of hardwood. It’s also popular for its strength. Many customers have found this strength saves them a little bit on cost since it allows them to get by with thinner components or fewer boards for their pallets. Because of its high density, oak is often used for fragile but heavier loads of goods.

Hardwood vs. Softwood

Hardwood is touted to be the more superior wood, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always the right choice. Softwood is cheaper but it may not be up to the task that you need it for. Each has its own unique benefits and drawbacks.



  • Inexpensive. Pine grows abundantly and is easy to source as well as process.
  • Lightweight. It’s not as dense as hardwood and easier to handle.
  • More sustainable. Pine grows much faster than oak.


  • Lower weight capacity. Pine pallets can carry a lower maximum load than oak pallets.
  • Shorter life span than oak. Although pine pallets can be reused many times, oak pallets will have greater longevity compared to pine. 



  • Durable. Oak as a hardwood has a higher density than pine and lasts longer.
  • More strength. Less wood is needed to craft a pallet made of oak, but it has a higher load capacity.
  • Not vulnerable to humidity. It is less susceptible to moisture issues.


  • Expensive. It’s harder to come by than pine, and supply may be inconsistent. 
  • Heavy. Because it’s denser, the wood is naturally heavier than pine. 

If you are in an industry producing extremely heavy products like industrial steel equipment, turbines, or large appliance units, you will need a higher density wood like oak. Or if you deal in food-grade items, hardwood is a better option for storing or shipping goods since it is not susceptible to humidity and moisture.

For most other products, though, pine does the job. And it can even be manufactured to rival the strength of hardwood just by adding an extra deck board or fasteners. 

Which Type of Pallet Wood Should You Use?

The choice of wood to use really comes down to a few key factors: product, budget, availability, and location. It’s not a black or white decision. Choosing softwood does not mean you are going with an inferior product since pine offers plenty of strength for many applications, and selecting hardwood does not automatically translate to a much heavier expense.

If you’re in doubt which pallet to use, ask a professional.

Anderson Pallet and Crate has been in the pallet industry since 1982. Our pallet specialists will help you determine which type of wood packaging is best for your product. We can also help you figure out the right size of packaging for your goods or we can custom craft one for you. Drop us a message or call us at (303) 660-0084 for more information.