Best Postal Service

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March 21, 2024

In 2022, Federal Express (FedEx) delivered an average daily volume of 6.21 million packages, while the United Parcel Service (UPS) delivered around 24.3 million daily.

On the other hand, the United States Postal Service (USPS) delivered an annual mail volume of 127.3 billion in 2022.

These statistics show that USPS delivered significantly more mail items than FedEx and UPS combined. However, there are several other factors to consider before you can determine the best postal service.

If you are a business owner, what factors should you consider when choosing a mailing service for shipping items to your customers? What are the best companies when it comes to price and delivery speed? How do you offer cheaper shipping rates to your clients?

This article tackles these matters and discusses the best ways to ship various mail and package types. This article also compares the different companies based on their strengths and weaknesses.

FindPostOffice.org has an online search tool that lets you locate post offices nearby and helps you send and receive mail or packages more efficiently.

The Best Shipping and Mailing Services in the U.S.

Although the United States Postal Service (USPS) is among the popular eCommerce shipping options due to its affordable rates, how do its domestic shipping services compare to other major couriers?

To determine which mailing service is the best for your needs, consider looking into several factors based on your shipping requirements, such as delivery speed, distance, package weight, and price.

Cheapest Way to Ship According to Package Size

Your parcel’s size can significantly determine your shipping rate. Although one way to keep your shipping cost down is to use flat-rate packages, they do not always offer the lowest rate.

In this case, consider the following options to help you decide the best way to ship your items based on size.

Best Way to Ship Envelopes or Flats

If you want to send letters under 3.5 ounces (oz) or large envelopes (flats) under 13oz, consider using USPS First-Class Mail.

As of July 2023, this service lets you send envelopes and cards at the following starting prices:

  • Postcards: $0.51
  • Letters: $0.66
  • Flats: $1.35

Best Way to Ship Small Packages

If you want to send small packages, consider USPS Priority Mail and UPS Ground for your choices. These services ship relatively quickly, with Priority Mail delivering in one to three business days and UPS Ground in one to five business days.

Both options also offer excellent rates. As of October 2023, USPS Priority Mail starts at $9.65 for flat-rate envelopes and $10.20 for flat-rate boxes. Meanwhile, UPS Ground’s 2023 shipping rates start at $10.10.

Best Cubic Pricing

Post offices typically do not offer cubic pricing, but some third-party carriers offer cubic rates for USPS Priority Mail.

Cubic pricing for Priority Mail depends on your package’s outer dimensions instead of the weight. Carriers offering this pricing method let you ship up to 20 pounds (lbs) for no additional cost. This feature makes Priority Mail one of the cheapest services for shipping small boxes.

How Cubic Rates Are Determined

To calculate the package’s cubic weight, multiply the parcel’s length, width, and height and divide the product by the cubic factor. This factor can vary depending on the carrier.

Cubic weight helps decrease your shipping costs for small, heavy packages. Therefore, smaller parcels can cost less to ship due to their small cubic weight, even when they have the same weight as large boxes.

Best Dimensional Weight Pricing

When choosing which carrier offers the best dimensional (DIM) weight pricing, you may consider the one with the highest DIM factor.

Suppose you have a package weighing 20lbs and measuring 28 inches (in) long, 12in high, and 12in wide. To calculate the DIM weight, use the same formula as the cubic weight:

(length x width x height) ÷ DIM factor = DIM weight

USPS’ DIM factor for domestic shipments is 194. Using the sample package above, you can calculate the DIM weight as follows:

(28in x 12in x 12in) ÷ 194 = 20.78lbs

Meanwhile, UPS and FedEx use a DIM factor of 139 for domestic deliveries. Therefore, sending the abovementioned package results in the following DIM weight:

(28in x 12in x 12in) ÷ 139 = 29lbs

Based on these calculations, USPS has the lowest DIM weight, which can help lower costs when you ship by weight.

Cheapest Way to Ship Based on Weight

Some shipping services use the package’s weight to determine the postage. If you need to send an item based on weight, consider the options discussed in the following sections.

Best Way to Ship Packages Under 1 Pound

Ground shipping is among the cheapest ways to ship packages weighing less than 1lb. To compare, check the following ground shipping services based on their prices for sending items under 1lb as of 2023:

  • USPS Ground Advantage: Starts at $7.60
  • UPS Ground: Starts at $10.10
  • FedEx Ground and Home Delivery: Starts at $10.10

From these prices, you can see that USPS Ground Advantage is relatively cheaper than the other services when shipping items under 1lb.

Best Shipping Services for Parcels Under 5 Pounds

If you are looking for the best option to ship a 5-lb parcel, consider the following shipping options and their starting prices to help with your decision:

  • USPS Ground Advantage: Starts at $10.20
  • UPS Ground: Starts at $11.98
  • FedEx Ground and Home Delivery: Starts at $11.98

As you can see from the abovementioned prices, USPS Ground is comparatively more affordable than similar UPS and FedEx services for shipping 5-lb packages.

Best Way to Ship Heavy Packages

Most USPS services, such as Priority Mail, Ground Advantage, and Priority Mail Express, can only ship packages up to 70lbs. If you want to send heavier items, such as those weighing up to 150lbs, consider the following FedEx and UPS options:

ServiceStarting Price (1lb)Max Weight (lbs)
UPS Next Day Air Saver$34.22150
UPS 2nd Day Air$22.82150
UPS 3 Day Select$14.59150
UPS Ground$10.10150
FedEx Standard Overnight$33.87150
FedEx 2Day$22.59150
FedEx Express Saver$21.03150
FedEx Ground$10.10150

Based on this table, UPS Ground and FedEx Ground are among the best ways to send heavy packages up to 150lbs based on the price.

Ways to Ship Based on Delivery Speed

Consider the following shipping options when choosing a service based on delivery speed:

  • Next-day delivery
    • USPS Priority Mail Express
    • UPS Next Day Air
    • FedEx Standard Overnight
  • Two-day delivery
  • Three-day delivery
    • USPS Priority Mail
    • UPS 3 Day Select
    • FedEx Express Saver

Best 2 to 3-Day Shipping Options

If you are looking for some of the best shipping services that can deliver in two to three business days, consider the following options:

  • UPS 2nd Day Air AM
  • UPS 2nd Day Air
  • UPS 3 Day Select
  • FedEx 2Day
  • FedEx 2Day AM
  • FedEx Express Saver

Best 2-Day Shipping Options

If you want a shipping service that delivers within two days, choose any of the following options:

  • USPS Priority Mail Express
  • UPS 2nd Day Air AM
  • UPS 2nd Day Air
  • FedEx 2Day
  • FedEx 2Day AM

Best Next-Day Shipping Options

Some of the best next-day shipping services and their corresponding starting prices are as follows:

ServiceDelivery SpeedStarting Price
USPS Priority Mail ExpressNext-day or two business days by 6:00 PM$28.75
UPS Next Day Air SaverNext business day by 3:00 PM or 4:30 PM$29.85 (letters)
$34.22 (1-lb items)
FedEx Standard OvernightNext business day by 5:00 PM$29.54 (8-oz envelopes)
$33.87 (1-lb items)

According to the table above, USPS Priority Mail Express has the cheapest starting price. However, FedEx Standard Overnight and UPS Next Day Air Saver do not significantly differ in prices depending on the mail type you send.

Best Next-Day AM Shipping Options

If you want your package to arrive in the morning of the next business day, consider shipping with any of the following options:

  • UPS Next Day Air Early: This service delivers by 8:00 AM.
  • UPS Next Day Air: This option delivers by 10:30 AM.
  • FedEx First Overnight: This solution delivers by 8:00 AM or 8:30 AM.
  • FedEx Priority Overnight: This service delivers by 10:30 AM.

Best International Shipping Options

Suppose you run an online store catering to international customers. You can partner with a shipping company providing reliable and affordable delivery. The following sections discuss some of your best options for shipping outside the U.S.

Standard International Delivery Options

Some of the standard international services offered by the different shipping companies are as follows:

Affordable and Fast International Shipping Options

When looking for a fast international shipping service that is easy on your pocket, consider the following options:

ServiceDelivery speedStarting price
USPS First Class Mail International ( documents under 1lb)Varies by destination$3
USPS First-Class Package International Service (items between 1lb to 4lbs)Varies by destination$15.75
USPS Priority Mail International (packages over 4lbs)6 to 10 business days$30.35
UPS Worldwide SaverNext business day to Canada and Mexico (documents), second business day to Europe and Latin America, and two to three business days to Asia$51.60 (letter)
$86.14 (1lb Pak)
$94.75 (2lbs Pak)
FedEx International Priority ExpressOne to three business days$55.50 (8-oz envelope)
FedEx International PriorityOne to three business days$53 (8-oz envelope)

Best Expedited International Delivery Options

If you prefer a fast shipping method to send packages internationally, you can choose from the following delivery options:

  • FedEx International Next Flight: This service delivers within 24 hours to most international destinations.
  • UPS Worldwide Expedited: This option offers guaranteed delivery by the business day’s end to more than 220 countries and territories.
  • Global Express Guaranteed (GXG): This service delivers in one to three business days with a money-back guarantee.

Best Carrier Discounts Available

If you run a business, getting discounts from your preferred shipping company can help you save on costs and attract more customers. You may need to satisfy these companies’ requirements to qualify for these discounts.

USPS Discounts

When you ship using USPS via a third-party provider, you may access discounts depending on the service you use. One provider offers the following USPS discounts:

  • 13% off on Priority Mail Express
  • 84% off on Priority Mail
  • 18% off on First-Class Mail for packages
  • 5% off on First-Class Mail International
  • 40% off on USPS package insurance

UPS Discounts

If you send items through a shipping company partnered with UPS, you may qualify for discounts such as the following:

  • 82% off on UPS international services 
  • 78% off on UPS Ground
  • 73% off on UPS 2nd Day Air

“Do I Pay UPS Surcharges Like Residential and Fuel Surcharges?”

You may need to pay residential and fuel surcharges depending on the service. However, UPS offers discounts on common surcharges when collaborating with a shipping partner, such as ShipStation.

DHL Express Discounts

Suppose you frequently ship with DHL through a partner company such as ShipStation. You may save up to 81% on DHL Express international services.

FedEx Discounts

The FedEx More Savings program offers discounts on eligible FedEx services. By signing up for this program, you can qualify for up to 30% discount on FedEx Express and up to 15% on suitable FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery services.

How to Offer Shipping for Cheaper

When running an eCommerce business, you should make shipping more affordable for your customers. This way, they are less likely to abandon their online shopping carts when browsing your goods.

Cart abandonment occurs when the customer puts products in their shopping cart but cancels the order or fails to complete the checkout process.

Some of the ways to offer cheaper shipping to your customers are as follows:

  • Offer free shipping
  • Provide flat-rate shipping
  • Offer free shipping for orders exceeding a specific threshold

UPS and FedEx Hybrid Services

Sometimes, one shipping company cannot handle end-to-end delivery alone. In these cases, the company can partner with another carrier to fulfill the delivery requirements.

If you are a shipper, these hybrid services, discussed in the sections below, should provide an efficient way to deliver your item.

FedEx and UPS Hybrid Services to Use

FedEx Ground Economy, formerly FedEx SmartPost, is an affordable shipping service for small and medium enterprises and is ideal for low-weight, nonurgent, and low-value items.

Suppose you have items to return to the shipper. Ground Economy lets you drop off your package at a USPS post office or postal collection box or leave the article in your mailbox.

If you prefer UPS to send nonurgent, low-value business-to-consumer needs, consider UPS SurePost. This service works with USPS to make package pickups and final deliveries seven days a week.

Domestic Shipping Options in the U.S.

For shipping mail and packages within the U.S., you can use any of the following domestic options:

  • USPS
    • Priority Mail Express
    • Priority Mail
    • Ground Advantage
    • First-Class Mail
    • Media Mail
  • FedEx
    • FedEx SameDay
    • FedEx First Overnight
    • FedEx Priority Overnight
    • FedEx Standard Overnight
    • FedEx 2Day AM
    • FedEx 2Day
    • FedEx Express Saver
    • FedEx Ground
  • UPS
    • UPS Ground
    • UPS 2nd Day Air AM
    • UPS 2nd Day Air
    • UPS 3 Day Select
    • UPS Next Day Air

Two Top-Notch Courier Companies

The criteria for which two courier companies are the best can vary depending on how these companies perform and how customers view their services.

If you consider the best couriers as those with the largest U.S. market shares based on revenue, UPS and FedEx are two of the largest. As of 2021, UPS held 37% of the market share, while FedEx had 33%. In comparison, USPS in third place has only 17%.

What Is the Difference Between UPS and USPS?

One of the primary differences between USPS and UPS is that USPS is better suited for sending small packages domestically, while UPS is preferable for larger parcels that must reach international destinations.

Furthermore, UPS is among the country’s largest private companies. Meanwhile, USPS is part of the federal government’s executive branch.

Comparing UPS vs. USPS vs. FedEx and Finding the Right Shipping Carrier for Your Needs

You may find it challenging to compare and choose a company that fits your needs when several shipping carriers operate in the U.S. The following sections can help you make an informed decision.

FedEx vs. USPS vs UPS at a Glance

Aside from price and delivery speed, other areas to consider when comparing these three companies are as follows:

ServiceUSPSFedExUPS
PickupFreeFor a feeFor a fee
Drop-offDelivery address, post office box (P.O. box), Army and Air Force Post Office (APO), USPS facilities, and retail centersFedEx facilities and retail centersUPS facilities and retail centers
TrackingIncludedIncludedIncluded
InsuranceAvailableAvailableAvailable
Commercial discountAvailableAvailableAvailable

What UPS Is Best for and Why

If you choose UPS for your delivery needs, consider its pros and cons before you ship packages with it. The sections below provide a list of these advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of UPS for Business Shipping

Some of UPS’ primary benefits are as follows:

  • Guaranteed express shipping service
  • Affordability for most heavy shipments
  • Excellent tracking capability

Disadvantages of UPS for Business Shipping

Despite the advantages, UPS can fall short of expectations due to the following cons:

  • Relatively higher cost than other carriers
  • No free package pickup
  • Additional cost for Saturday delivery

What USPS Is Best for and Why

If you need a service that can handle small, light shipments and is an affordable choice for shipping, consider USPS as your choice.

Although USPS may not be the ideal solution for all your shipping needs, it may still be worth including as part of your fulfillment strategy.

Advantages of USPS for Business Shipping

As a business owner, you may find USPS preferable for the following reasons:

  • The cheapest option to send small packages
  • Delivery to P.O. boxes and mailboxes
  • Saturday delivery
  • Free pickup service

Disadvantages of USPS for Business Shipping

Despite these advantages, USPS may cause the following limitations for your business:

  • Limited tracking
  • Unsatisfactory customer support

What FedEx Is Best for and Why

When you need to send express deliveries and large shipments while being able to track your shipments reliably, FedEx can be an excellent shipping option.

When shipping goods to your customers, consider the following pros and cons before choosing FedEx as your carrier of choice.

Advantages of FedEx for Business Shipping

You can choose FedEx for your business for the following benefits:

  • Good tracking features
  • Available discounts
  • Saturday delivery

Disadvantages of FedEx for Business Shipping

While FedEx has the abovementioned benefits, the company also has the following disadvantages:

  • Comparatively expensive
  • Fewer offices
  • No free package pickup

USPS vs UPS vs. FedEx Shipping Services

FedEx, USPS, and UPS offer several shipping and mailing services to give you more choices depending on your delivery needs. Whether you want to ship letters, small parcels, or large packages domestically or internationally, there should be an optimal solution.

FedEx Shipping Options

FedEx can be an excellent option for next-day deliveries and air shipments. The carrier also has several international shipping options for your desired delivery times and price levels.

FedEx Domestic Mail and Shipping

Suppose a U.S.-based customer buys a product from your online store. If you operate within the U.S., you can ship through FedEx using any of the following services:

  • Same-day delivery
    • FedEx SameDay
  • Overnight delivery
    • FedEx First Overnight
    • FedEx Priority Overnight
    • FedEx Standard Overnight
  • Two-day delivery
    • FedEx 2Day
    • FedEx 2Day AM
  • Three-day delivery
    • FedEx Express Saver
  • One- to five-day delivery
    • FedEx Ground

FedEx International Mail and Shipping

If you need to ship an item to a customer outside the U.S., you have the following FedEx services to choose from:

  • 24-hour delivery
    • FedEx International Next Flight
  • One, two, or three-day delivery
    • FedEx International First
    • FedEx International Priority
    • FedEx International Priority Express
  • Two- to five-day delivery
    • FedEx International Economy
    • FedEx International Connect Plus
  • Two- to seven-day delivery
    • FedEx International Ground

FedEx Freight Shipping

When you want to ship packages over 150lbs within or outside the U.S., consider using any of the following FedEx freight services:

  • Same-day delivery
    • FedEx SameDay Freight
  • Overnight delivery
    • FedEx First Overnight Freight
  • Next-available-flight delivery
    • FedEx International Next Flight
  • One, two, or three-day delivery
    • FedEx 1Day Freight
    • FedEx 2Day Freight
    • FedEx 3Day Freight
  • One- to five-day delivery
    • FedEx International Priority Freight
    • FedEx International Economy Freight
  • Less-than-truckload (LTL) delivery
    • FedEx Freight Priority
    • FedEx Freight Economy

Other FedEx Services

Some of the other services you can use to ship your packages with FedEx are as follows:

  • Temperature-controlled shipping services
  • FedEx Custom Critical for valuable, hazardous, and specialized items
  • FedEx Packaging Lab for freight, packaging, and material testing

UPS Shipping Options

As a major shipping industry player, UPS specializes in speedy and secure shipment delivery. If you are an eCommerce merchant, you can ship with UPS due to its comprehensive and reliable tracking system.

UPS Domestic Mail and Shipping

The following are the domestic mailing and shipping options UPS offers if you want to ship within the U.S.:

  • Delivery on the next business day
    • UPS Next Day Air Early
    • UPS Next Day Air
    • UPS Next Day Air Saver
  • Delivery in one to five business days
    • UPS Ground
  • Delivery in two or three business days
    • UPS 2nd Day Air AM
    • UPS 2nd Day Air
    • UPS 3 Day Select

UPS International Shipping

For your UPS international shipping needs, you can choose from the following options:

  • Same-day delivery
    • UPS Express Critical
  • End-of-day delivery
    • UPS Standard
  • Delivery in one to three business days
    • UPS Worldwide Express Plus
    • UPS Worldwide Express
    • UPS Worldwide Express Freight Midday
    • UPS Worldwide Express Freight
    • UPS Worldwide Saver
  • Delivery in two to five business days
    • UPS Worldwide Expedited
  • Delivery in 5 to 12 business days
    • UPS Worldwide Economy

UPS Freight Shipping Services

UPS offers several freight transportation methods for moving bulk goods and cargo larger than 150lbs and up to 15,000lbs. These methods are as follows:

  • Air freight: This option is the fastest choice for freight transportation.
  • Ocean freight: This service transports freight by ship in large containers. Ocean freight is the slowest but most affordable option.
  • Ground freight: This road transportation service is a less expensive method to ship non-time-sensitive freight by truck.
  • Rail freight: This method moves cargo by train and is ideal for long-distance transportation of ocean containers.
  • Multimodal freight: This solution combines more than one transportation mode.

Other UPS Services

If you want to ship packages for a more predictable price, consider using UPS Simple Rate, the company’s flat-rate shipping solution. This service lets you send parcels in five different sizes:

SizeDimensionSample itemPrice (as of October 2023)
Extra small1 to 100 cubic inches (in3)Ceramic mugs or cellphones$10.20
Small101in3 to 250in3Hardcover book or tissue box$13.35
Medium251in3 to 650in3Shoebox$16.05
Large651in3 to 1,050in314in laptop$21.05
Extra large1,051in3 to 1,728in3Small appliance$26.05

USPS Shipping Options

The Postal Service serves nearly 165 million addresses in the U.S., providing everyone in the country and other U.S. territories access to postal services and products. The following sections discuss these services.

USPS Domestic Mail and Shipping

Regarding domestic deliveries, USPS offers standard and express mail services that can fit your needs. You can choose the service you want based on the following:

  • Delivery speed
  • Price
  • Online vs. post office shipping
Priority Mail Express: Next-Day to 2-Day Guarantee by 6 PM

When you need to send an urgent item that must arrive on the next day or in two business days and has a money-back guarantee, consider Priority Mail Express.

While prices start at $28.75 at the post office as of October 2023, you can get lower commercial rates through the online Click-N-Ship service, which allows the online creation of postage labels.

Priority Mail: Shipping in 1 to 3 Business Days

USPS Priority Mail offers a relatively fast delivery time and free package pickup at your office or home address. This service also has USPS Tracking and up to $100 in insurance for most shipments.

First-Class Mail: Mail in 1 to 5 Business Days; Small Packages in 2 to 5 Business Days

USPS First-Class Mail is an easy and affordable service for sending postcards and envelopes. You can send First-Class Mail using Forever stamps that cost $0.66 for a 1-oz letter.

Media Mail: Shipping in 2 to 8 Business Days

If you want to send books, educational materials, and other media in a cost-effective manner, consider Media Mail for your shipping needs. Prices start at $3.92 as of October 2023. However, all Media Mail packages undergo opening and inspection by USPS.

Using Media Mail

When using Media Mail, you can send any of the following items:

  • Books containing at least eight pages
  • Video and sound recordings, such as tapes, compact discs (C.D.s), digital video discs (DVDs), and albums
  • Printed music and test materials
  • Films measuring 16 millimeters (mm) or narrower
  • Computer-readable media
  • Manuscripts and playscripts
  • Printed educational reference charts
  • Medical binders and loose-leaf pages
Weight, Size, and Shape Requirements

For Priority Mail, Media Mail, and Priority Mail Express, the maximum weight allowed is 70lbs. Meanwhile, The maximum weight for First-Class Mail is 3.5oz for letters and 13oz for large envelopes.

For ground shipping services like USPS Ground Advantage, you must pay a nonstandard size fee if your item has the following measurements as of October 2023:

  • Between 22in and 30in long: Add $4
  • Over 30in long: Add $7
  • Over two cubic feet (3,456in3): Add $15

For expedited shipping such as Priority Mail Express, extra fees as of October 2023 apply if your package measures as follows:

  • Between 22in and 30in long: Add $4
  • Over 30in long: Add $15
  • Over two cubic feet (3,456in3): Add $25
USPS Retail Ground: Shipping in 2 to 5 Business Days

USPS Ground Advantage is an affordable, reliable way to ship packages within the U.S., including territories, military bases, possessions, and Freely Associated States.

As of October 2023, retail prices at the post office start at $4.75, which can get lower through Click-N-Ship’s commercial rates.

Using Retail Ground

The price to send Ground Advantage packages comes with USPS Tracking. This service offers some of the best prices for items weighing 15.999oz. However, goods heavier than 15.999oz are charged by the pound up to 70lbs.

Weight, Size, and Shape Requirements

USPS Ground Advantage prices apply based on the following tiers:

  • Up to 4oz
  • Up to 8oz
  • Up to 12oz
  • Up to 15.999oz

When determining which tier your item belongs to, round up to the nearest weight tier. Therefore, a 9.12oz package requires you to pay the 12oz price.

If you send a First-Class Mail large envelope, USPS can require you to pay the Ground Advantage price if the envelope has any of the following characteristics:

  • Rigid or cannot bend
  • Non-rectangular, square, or taller than the width
  • Lumpy or not uniformly thick
  • Longer than 11.5in, higher than 6.125in, or wider than 0.25in

USPS International Mail & Shipping

USPS offers the following international services that can fit your shipping and mailing needs:

  • Global Express Guaranteed: This service is excellent for urgent items that must arrive in a few days.
  • Priority Mail Express International: This option works well for essential items that must arrive within a week.
  • Priority Mail International: This service is for shipping items heavier than 4lbs.
  • First-Class Mail International: This mailing service lets you ship documents weighing less than 1lb.
  • First-Class Package International Service: This option is for sending large envelopes or packages between 1lb and 4lbs.
  • Airmail M-Bags: This service works well for sending printed material like books.

Other Services

Aside from the abovementioned shipping services, USPS provides other services that include the following:

  • Free pickup service
  • Free supplies for Priority Mail Express and Priority Mail
  • Shipping to military destinations like APOs, Fleet Post Offices (FPOs), and Diplomatic Post Offices (DPOs)
  • USPS Tracking
  • Certified Mail
  • Free shipping insurance up to $100 on some services
  • Return receipts
  • Custom mail, stamps, and envelopes
  • Purchase money orders

Compare Mail Services

Upon determining what document or item you must send and the specific requirements you need, such as fast delivery speed, tracking, insurance, or proof of delivery, you can compare the different shipping services and choose one that satisfies your requirements.

FedEx vs UPS vs. USPS: Pricing and Speed

Whether you are the sender or recipient, price and delivery speed are some of the essential factors that determine which shipping service you want to use. Some services have lower costs but slower delivery speed, and others have higher rates but guaranteed date-certain arrival.

The following sections discuss the pricing and speed considerations when choosing a service between FedEx, UPS, and USPS.

Updates to Service Guarantees

On January 2, 2023, rates for FedEx Ground, Express, and Freight increased. Likewise, the company increased surcharges for oversized shipments, extra handling, address corrections, and dangerous goods.

For UPS, the rate increase for its services for 2023 went into effect in December 2022. Furthermore, the additional demand surcharge took effect on January 15, 2023.

Meanwhile, USPS implemented a postage rate increase on January 22 and July 9, 2023, raising First-Class Mail prices by approximately 5.4%.

For example, the price to send a 1oz First-Class Mail letter increased from $0.63 to $0.66, while a 1oz First-Class Mail International letter went from $1.45 to $1.50.

However, the Postal Service has yet to plan for any changes to Parcel Select Ground services.

FedEx vs UPS vs. USPS: Pricing Comparison

While shipping carriers vary in delivery speed, service options, and customer support, price and speed are among the most significant factors differentiating these services. Other features offered by each company are relatively equal.

FedEx Pricing and Speed

Some FedEx Ground routes cost less than USPS and can deliver your packages up to two days faster. This speed also applies to larger, heavier shipments.

When you need a package to arrive immediately, FedEx First Overnight can help get the item to your recipient as early as 10:00 AM the following business day.

UPS Pricing and Speed

UPS has competitive pricing for heavy packages and whenever you want to ship internationally. If you need a package delivered overnight, UPS Next Day Air is a suitable option despite being pricier.

USPS Pricing and Speed

USPS is among the best options for sending packages below 20lbs. USPS is also an excellent choice for shipping small but heavy items, thanks to its flat-rate shipping rates.

Many small businesses also prefer USPS for its low prices and reliable delivery.

Holiday Shipping Deadlines and Pricing Surcharges

Different shipping services can have varying holiday deadlines and pricing rates.

FedEx vs. USPS vs UPS: Shipping Features

Although FedEx, USPS, and UPS have some services that seem similar, these shipping options can vary based on these companies’ target customers. The following sections provide a glance at these shipping features.

Service Options

When it comes to service options, these three companies have the following range of products with varying delivery speeds:

  • USPS: This carrier offers several choices from express to ground delivery.
  • FedEx: This company’s products range from same-day to ground delivery.
  • UPS: This courier offers several products, from time-critical overnight delivery to ground service delivery.

Pickup and Drop-Off Locations

Regarding package pickup, you will likely save costs with USPS since pickup is free. Meanwhile, UPS and FedEx will cost extra for package pickup.

If you want to drop off your parcel, USPS has more locations that include USPS retail centers, P.O. boxes, delivery addresses, and APOs. Meanwhile, FedEx and UPS only accept drop-offs at their respective locations and retail centers.

Free Tracking

As mentioned earlier, the three carriers have free tracking included with many of their shipping services. However, some companies offer advanced, subscription-based tracking services. For instance, USPS Tracking Plus provides extended access to tracking information history.

Insurance

Many FedEx, UPS, and USPS services have free insurance up to $100 of the package’s declared value. Any amount exceeding that figure is subject to additional charges. For example, some USPS services let you buy additional coverage up to $5,000.

Label Printing Options

FedEx, UPS, and USPS offer label printing services when you access these companies’ respective websites and other related integrations.

For instance, the UPS website offers instructions to let you print labels using a thermal printer. Meanwhile, USPS enables you to print shipping labels at a post office or through the Click-N-Ship service using your USPS account.

Click-N-Ship is a USPS service that allows you to print shipping labels, shop, buy stamps, and request pickup. 

Commercial Discounts

When you ship frequently or in large volumes and want lower shipping rates, consider applying for commercial discounts with your preferred carrier. FedEx, UPS, and USPS offer such deals.

Your commercial rates may vary depending on your shipping needs. Contact your carrier to determine whether you qualify for such discounts and what rates suit your business.

Customer Support

The three carriers provide customer support to help address any of your shipping-related issues. You can contact these carriers’ customer service through the following options:

  • USPS: Call 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777) or send an email via the USPS customer service page.
  • UPS: Call 1-800-742-5877 or access the UPS website’s “Contact Us” page.
  • FedEx: Call 1-800-GOFEDEX (1-800-4633339).

FedEx vs. USPS vs UPS: Ease of Use

Shipping companies have different strengths, including ease of use, that can cater to your preferences since such a feature helps ensure you can easily use services and achieve the results you want.

The following sections discuss the various features that make these companies easy to work with.

FedEx Ease of Use

When calculating shipping rates for FedEx Ground, you may need to use multiple browsers to make the rates appear. However, the other services’ rates should be straightforward to compute.

When shipping to a residential location, the FedEx Home Delivery service may appear instead of FedEx Ground. Home Delivery is usually faster and delivers on weekends to residential areas.

UPS Ease of Use

The UPS website’s shipping calculator is easy to use and has a simple table providing all the prices according to your input. Although the number of UPS locations is not that many, the company has several drop boxes and retail partners like PostalAnnex and Staples.

USPS Ease of Use

Calculating shipping rates with USPS is easy because you only need to enter your package’s weight and the origin and destination ZIP codes in the shipping calculator.

Although typical USPS hours are from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM, you may find extended hours at other retail locations like Walmart or Staples.

UPS vs. USPS vs. FedEx Reviews

Customers can have different experiences when shipping with FedEx, USPS, or UPS, and thus, will likely rate these companies’ performance in various ways. The following sections explore how customers review each of these companies.

UPS Reviews

Some UPS customers mention that fast international package delivery is among the perks of using UPS. However, some complaints include damaged goods, lost packages, and property damage caused by delivery trucks.

USPS Reviews

Customers who prefer USPS favor its pricing compared to other carriers. However, prevalent complaints include lost packages, poor retail location hours, and insufficient customer service.

FedEx Reviews

FedEx customers praise the company for its fast shipping and ease of tracking shipments. On the other hand, customers experience frustrations regarding customer service and unmet delivery times.

USPS, UPS, and FedEx: Which Is Best for Different Use Cases

Although USPS, UPS, and FedEx offer similar shipping options with some variations to eCommerce businesses, these options may suit different situations and shipping needs. The sections below show how each shipping carrier compares in various use cases.

Examples of Use Case Scenarios With Answers

Some shipping carriers have strengths for specific services, which may lead to customers preferring one carrier over another regarding those use cases. The sections below provide two examples of these use cases.

Example 1

Suppose you must deliver a small box, weighing 2lbs and measuring 3in by 3in by 3in, within the next five business days from New York to Los Angeles.

The estimated prices are as follows:

  • USPS Priority Mail: $17.05
  • USPS Ground Advantage: $14.90
  • FedEx 2Day: $58.09
  • FedEx Ground: $15.99
  • UPS 2nd Day Air: $48.29
  • UPS Ground: $16.64

From the abovementioned prices, USPS Ground Advantage has the lowest price and delivers within your specific time window. However, UPS and FedEx’s ground delivery options do not differ much in pricing.

Example 2

Suppose you want to ship the same 2-lb package from New York to Kowloon City, Hong Kong, within the next 10 business days. Consider the following options:

  • USPS Priority Mail Express International: $77.20
  • USPS Priority Mail International: $63.05
  • FedEx International Priority: $171.13
  • FedEx International Economy: $164.58
  • UPS Worldwide Saver: $152.52
  • UPS Worldwide Expedited: $145.09

In this example, USPS has the cheapest rates, followed by UPS. However, lower costs usually offer less guarantee that your package will arrive on the expected delivery date.

When to Use FedEx vs. USPS vs UPS

If you operate a business, consider using FedEx to get the following benefits:

  • Expedited shipping, such as express and overnight delivery, especially when sending perishables
  • Capacity to ship large parcels like appliances or furniture

Alternatively, you can choose UPS for the following advantages, especially for businesses:

  • Competitive pricing on large and heavy packages
  • Preferred for shipping high-value items
  • Fast shipping for international orders

You can also choose USPS if you want the following benefits:

  • Preferred for orders within the U.S.
  • Work well with budget-conscious pricing
  • Preferred for shipping small items

USPS vs. FedEx vs UPS: Finding the Perfect Balance

When choosing shipping carriers for your business, try not to limit yourself to one provider. You can use two or three shipping services to offer customers more delivery choices.

For example, you can save on shipping costs by sending lightweight packages via USPS and heavy packages through UPS. You can ship everything through USPS, but send the expedited ones through FedEx.

USPS Domestic Shipping: The Most Economical Option for SMBs

Many small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) rely on USPS Priority Mail as the most economical way to handle domestic shipping. This service has comparatively affordable rates and acceptable one- to three-day delivery time frames.

Still, other express couriers offer plenty of value to SMBs willing to pay for speedy, reliable services that must arrive within specific time frames. Other features like advanced tracking services can also appeal to more demanding customers.

5 Ways to Cut Shipping Carrier Costs

Aside from choosing a delivery service with lower shipping costs, you can reduce your expenses by doing cost-reducing activities like the ones discussed in the sections below.

Optimize Your Packaging Size (the Smaller, the Better)

Shipping is an industry that puts a premium on size. Regardless of which carrier you decide to ship with, ensure your packaging is as small as you can reasonably get it. This practice is effective in keeping your shipping costs down.

Ask for Discounted Shipping Rates

Saving money on shipping also involves taking advantage of economies of scale. In other words, shipping more packages gives you more leverage to negotiate discounted prices with shipping companies.

Ship From Closer Shipping Zones

If you are a startup eCommerce business, you likely have on-hand inventory to fulfill your orders. As your business grows, this strategy can present a challenge when you include distance into your shipping costs. 

Aside from your package’s weight and size, the distance to travel to reach the final destination matters. Therefore, being mindful of the distance to the recipient can help you manage shipping costs.

Switch to Poly Mailers

Poly mailers weigh less and occupy less space than boxes on trucks. Hence, poly mailers are priced lower than three-dimensional parcels.

While poly mailers are not the best way to send fragile products, these containers can help reduce shipping costs if you put your items in poly mailers rather than boxes.

Select Standard Shipping

Choosing a slower shipping method can significantly reduce costs. Standard shipping is typically cheaper than expedited shipping, while ground shipping, such as UPS Ground, USPS Ground Advantage, and FedEx Ground, is usually cheaper than standard.

However, ground service can take longer to arrive than expected, and standard shipping is slower than expedited. Thus, you must decide which shipping speed is right for you and your customers.

Shipping Insurance Discounts

Although some shipping companies offer insurance for an additional fee, one way to spend less for coverage is to use a third-party insurance provider.

Carriers often charge between $0.75 to $0.85 per $100 of the item’s value, with a minimum cost of around $2.50. Some third-party providers have lower charges, such as $0.55 per $100 value, with no minimum fee. Therefore, you can save more by purchasing insurance from these providers.

Default Coverage by Service

Many shipping services like USPS Priority Mail, Ground Advantage, and Priority Mail Express automatically include free insurance up to $100. However, you may need to ship a high-value item worth more than that amount, so you will likely purchase additional insurance.

Integrated Index for Postal Development (2IPD)

The Integrated Index for Postal Development (2IPD) measures the performance of the top postal services worldwide. This index, developed by the Universal Postal Union, a specialized United Nations unit, measures the nations’ functionality using four crucial postal improvement measurements:

  • Reliability
  • Reach
  • Relevance
  • Resilience

Choosing the Right Shipping Carrier

Your choice of shipping carrier may depend on several factors, such as price, speed, and weight. For example, when shipping small packages for a low price to P.O. boxes, consider USPS one of your best choices.

As mentioned, you do not need to limit your choices to one carrier. If you run a business, you can work with two or more carriers to give your customers more shipping choices.

FAQs

  1. What is the best shipping company?

The best shipping company usually depends on how you want to ship. For instance, USPS is best for small packages and shipping to P.O. boxes, UPS is excellent for reliable tracking and shipping heavy packages, and FedEx is best for Saturday shipping and fast deliveries.

  1. Which is the best shipping carrier option for my eCommerce business?

USPS offers deep discounts for your business through commercial pricing. This method makes USPS one of the best choices to help level the playing field and let your small businesses compete with the big players.

  1. Which is cheaper: UPS, USPS, or FedEx?

USPS is typically the cheapest option among the three major carriers in the U.S. UPS comes at a close second, while FedEx ranks as the most expensive but arguably the most reliable carrier.

USPS offers the best mix of service and affordability, making it one of the most popular shipping solutions for small eCommerce businesses.

  1. What’s the cheapest way to ship my package domestically in the U.S.?

The cheapest option to send a package within the U.S. depends on your parcel’s weight, dimensions, and distance to travel. For example, sending a package less than 1lb costs about $7.60 with USPS Ground Advantage. 

  1. What’s the cheapest way for me to ship large packages domestically?

When sending large packages of up to 150lbs within the U.S., consider UPS Ground or FedEx Ground among the cheapest solutions for your needs. As of October 2023, both services start at $10.10.

  1. Is FedEx or UPS better?

UPS is an excellent choice for guaranteed shipments and heavy packages, while FedEx works better for Saturday deliveries. Both companies offer excellent package tracking.

  1. Is it better to use USPS or UPS?

If you want to send letters and small packages, consider using USPS. For shipping and tracking heavier packages, UPS may be the better choice.

  1. Which courier is better for express delivery?

UPS has the most affordable rates for express delivery through UPS Next Day Air and 2nd Day Air. The latter is the cheapest option for packages that do not require overnight delivery.

  1. Which courier is better for overnight shipping?

For your overnight delivery needs, FedEx is an ideal choice as it gives you different time frame options when sending your parcel on the next business day.

  1. Which is more reliable: USPS, FedEx, or UPS?

Although these three companies are comparatively reliable, FedEx and UPS offer better tracking services if you want real-time updates. Furthermore, UPS offers guaranteed express shipping to ensure your package arrives on time.

  1. Which has the best package tracking: UPS, USPS, or FedEx?

If you want a shipping service with better package tracking features, consider FedEx and UPS for your delivery needs.

  1. What is the best shipping company for international packages?

USPS works well for small packages that do not need fast shipping. Meanwhile, UPS and FedEx have faster delivery times and are better for larger packages.

  1. How long does domestic shipping take?

Based on the services offered by USPS, FedEx, and UPS, domestic shipping can take anywhere from the same day, such as for FedEx SameDay, to up to five business days, such as for USPS Ground Advantage.

  1. How can I offer fast shipping domestically?

Suppose you run a business and want to offer fast shipping to customers within the U.S. Choose carriers that provide fast shipping speeds like same-day, two-day, or three-day deliveries.

Furthermore, not all customers need fast delivery, so offer slower, more affordable options as well.

 References

  1. Total average packages delivered daily by FedEx Express between FY 2016 and FY 2022
    https://www.statista.com/statistics/878354/fedex-express-total-average-daily-packages/
  2. SIZE AND SCOPE
    https://facts.usps.com/size-and-scope/
  3. Mail & Shipping Services
    https://www.usps.com/ship/mail-shipping-services.htm
  4. Price List
    https://pe.usps.com/text/dmm300/Notice123.htm
  5. International Mail & Shipping Services
    https://www.usps.com/international/mail-shipping-services.htm