Cheapest Way to Ship a Package
November 28, 2022
The shipping industry is a lifeline to major companies in the United States. During the pandemic, small e-commerce, manufacturing, and seasonal businesses relied heavily on secure, fast, and cheap shipping to keep their companies afloat.
Suppose you are a small business that profits from selling items, especially online, or an individual who wants to send something bigger than a parcel. You will need shipping companies to deliver your products to your customers and help you save money.
The three main shipping companies, USPS (United States Postal Service), UPS, and FedEx, handle the massive volume of parcel deliveries in the country. You can always choose one of these shipping services to handle your packages.
However, you may ask questions like what is the cheapest way to ship a package? What services should you choose when shipping a parcel in the U.S.? How much does it cost to ship a package, and which company ships faster, FedEx, UPS, or USPS?
This article compares shipping companies in the U.S. and provides information about the shipping prices of FedEx, USPS, and UPS. This write-up can also help you determine the cheapest way to ship a package in the U.S. and abroad.
Do you need to find different post offices in the United States? You can check out our website, FindPostOffice.org. Our website can provide information and pinpoint the location of all 31,330 post offices in the United States.
Cheapest Way to Ship Packages Based on Delivery Speed
Delivery speed is vital for businesses that have time-critical packages. Healthcare and pharmaceutical companies ship products that require fast delivery.
Other products that require speedy deliveries include contracts, legal or other important documents, gifts, and invitations.
The shipping rate is determined by parcel size, weight, distance, and delivery time. The following shows the shipping cost of USPS, FedEx, and UPS based on delivery speed.
If you check the list, you can see which company offers the lowest rates.
Best 2–3 Day Shipping Options
These are examples of the delivery service cost for a four-pound package from New York to Los Angeles.
- USPS Priority Mail $24.05
- UPS 3 Day Select $55.01
- FedEx Express Saver $62.25
Best 2-Day Shipping Options
The following is a calculation for a two-pound package shipped from Brooklyn to Miami.
- USPS Priority Mail $12.65
- FedEx 2Day AM $57.98
- UPS 2nd Day Air $47.11
You can do your calculations using the shipping cost calculator apps on each company’s website.
The Cheapest Way to Ship Packages for Overnight Delivery
When you check the reviews from people who are sharing their shipping experience, many say that USPS provides the cheapest shipping service based on overnight delivery in the U.S.
Here is a comparison of shipping costs between the three companies.
Best Next Day Shipping Options
The following is a calculation of the overnight shipping cost for a four-pound package delivered from New York to Los Angeles.
- USPS Priority Mail Express $24.05
- UPS Next Day Air $141.70
- FedEx First Overnight $193.20
Best Next Day AM Shipping Options
The Next Day AM shipping service means your package will arrive at its destination before noon the next day.
FedEx provides the fastest next-day morning shipping service compared to UPS and USPS.
FedEx can deliver packages as early as 9:30 AM the next day. However, in terms of price, USPS offers the cheapest overnight or next-day delivery in the United States.
Cheapest Way to Ship Packages Based on Package Size
Package sizes determine the cost of shipping. Knowing your parcel’s dimensional weight can help you estimate how much you need to pay for delivery.
Therefore, small entrepreneurs, especially those in the e-commerce business, opt to pay for flat rate shipping.
Best Shipping Method for Gift Cards
Of the three companies, the cheapest way to ship gift cards is with USPS Priority Mail flat rate envelope, which starts at $8.95.
This service is suitable for gift cards, oversized greeting cards, and small documents.
Best Way to Ship Envelopes or Flats
The cheapest way to ship First Class Mail is with a USPS flat rate envelope, which starts at $7.75.
This service is suitable for sending manuscripts, documents, and passport applications.
Best Way to Ship Small Packages
The most affordable way to ship small packages is with USPS small flat rate box. It starts at $9.45, which is suitable for brochures and small electronic devices.
Best Shipping Method for Medium and Large Packages
The cheapest shipping method for medium and large packages is the UPS simple rate, which starts at $16.95.
Another option is FedEx One Rate, which starts at $15.70.
Best Shipping for Oversized Packages
You can use UPS ground service or FedEx delivery for larger packages as USPS limits its oversized packages to 70lbs.
If you ship a 100-pound package from New York to California, it can cost $191.64 (five days delivery) if you use UPS.
On the other hand, it can cost $187.80 (six days delivery) for FedEx.
Cheapest Way to Ship Based on Weight
The package’s weight impacts the pricing of the parcel. The following is a selection of the most affordable shipping service for delivering packages according to weight.
Best Way to Ship Packages Under 1 Lb.
If you are shipping packages under 16 ounces, USPS First Class Mail is the cheapest option. If you are sending over physical media, like books, movies, and records, choose USPS Media Mail.
The Cheapest Way to Ship Packages 2Lbs. or Heavier With a 5-Day Delivery Window
For packages two pounds or heavier, you can always go to either UPS Ground or FedEx Ground for a cost-effective shipping solution.
You can also check their service to take advantage of discounts or promos, that can dramatically reduce costs.
Best Shipping Services for Packages Under 5Lbs.
For packages weighing up to five pounds, you can choose the USPS Priority Mail, which often offers the cheapest shipping option, especially for business owners.
The Cheapest Option for 10Lbs.
UPS Ground or FedEx Ground is the most affordable option for packages 10 pounds and above. Here is a price for shipping options for 10-pound parcels.
- USPS Retail Ground $38.95
- UPS Ground $31.08
- FedEx Ground $30.14
What Is the Cheapest Way to Deliver a 20-Lb Package?
You can use USPS Priority Mail for packages that weigh up to 20 pounds and have a volume range of 1,728 cubic inches.
However, FedEx or UPS will be cheaper for packages that weigh more.
Best Way to Ship Heavy Packages
For packages over five pounds, your best choice is UPS Ground. However, shipping service prices from other couriers may be better if your package weight increases.
The Cheapest Option for Packages Weighing 50+ Pounds
For parcels weighing 50 pounds or more, you can choose the USPS Priority Mail flat rate. You cah enjoy a flat rate price of only $21.50.
You do not need to worry about added weight and travel distance prices. You only have to pay the initial price if your package fits the flat rate box.
What Is the Cheapest Way to Ship Light Packages?
Despite the competition from other courier services in the United States, USPS still offers the cheapest shipping rates for light packages.
Usually, USPS packages are delivered overnight, depending on the destination.
What Is the Cheapest Way to Ship Large or Light Packages?
The most affordable way to ship large or light packages is through USPS. However, if you need overnight or next-day shipping, you can choose FedEx or UPS.
The Cheapest Way to Ship a Package Under 2 Pounds
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is the cheapest way to ship packages under two pounds. However, as the package weight reaches more than two pounds, USPS shipping prices will be similar to the costs provided by FedEx and UPS.
If your package is less than 16 ounces and can fit into USPS first class mail, then the U.S. Postal service is your best choice.
Cheapest Way to Ship Packages via FedEx or UPS
For business owners, you can get better discounts from shipping carriers if you negotiate with them. You can do this if you ship in volume consistently.
You can always try to talk to these companies personally and see what options they have that can save money.
If you are planning to negotiate your shipping rate with carriers, FedEx One Rate is an excellent service to use.
It is one of the best flat rate package deals, where you do not need to worry about distance and weight, as long as your package fits the one rate box. You can save a lot of money using that convenient shipping option.
On the other hand, if you want to deal with other carriers, you can choose USPS Priority Mail, where you can negotiate a lower shipping rate in the promise of volume shipments.
UPS Simple Rate is also a suitable shipping option for small packages. You can always talk to your carrier for possible discounts or to lower your shipping rate every year.
Cheapest Way to Ship Packages via USPS
USPS is one of the most well-known shipping carriers in the United States. It caters to eCommerce businesses, providing these companies with affordable shipping rates and reliability.
USPS also offers many services for both domestic shipping and international deliveries.
To find the cheapest way to ship your package using USPS, you need to know the factors used to calculate shipping costs.
Use Lighter Packaging When Sending With First-Class Mail
If you want to save money shipping with USPS, you can use lighter packaging, especially if you are sending through First Class Mail.
You can use poly mailers or shipping rolls for packaging if you are shipping fragile materials.
You can also use free shipping materials, like boxes and labels, when shipping with USPS to save money.
It can only be a few dollars, but the amount you save can be significant if you ship in volume.
Use Regional Rate Boxes A and B for Heavy Items
You can save money through the USPS Priority mail regional rate if you want to send packages on short distances. However, you must use USPS-branded packaging (boxes A and B).
For Box A, you can ship a maximum weight of 15 pounds for domestic locations and 10 pounds of the maximum weight for international shipping.
For Box B, you can ship a maximum weight of 20 pounds for domestic and international destinations. Both boxes have different sizes, which you can choose to fit your shipping needs. This branded packaging is suitable for heavy packages.
Ship Boxes With Flat Rate Envelopes
A flat rate envelope is a shipping option with fixed rates. It means that the parcel’s weight and shipping distance do not determine the delivery price. It is a good option when you want to save on shipping costs.
You can use a flat rate envelope if you can fit your package into an ordinary or padded box for protection.
Furthermore, you can use the small flat rate box, which can also fit inside flat rate envelopes.
Use Padded Flat Rate Envelopes
There are many flat rate packages in USPS, ranging from small envelopes to boxes for large parcels.
However, the Priority Mail padded flat rate envelope provides enough protection for fragile items without worrying about additional costs.
You can send large items as long as they fit inside this envelope and worry no longer about calculating cost. You only need to pay the flat rate. You can use this padded envelope to send items like clothes, books, or art pieces.
USPS Media Mail
USPS Media Mail is an affordable way to send media and educational materials like books with a least eight pages, printed music, manuscripts, test and educational materials, video and sound recording, and computer-readable media.
You can take advantage of its low price, which starts at $3.49. However, you can only send media-related items through this option.
Use Free Shipping Supplies
With USPS, you can use their free shipping supplies like boxes and envelopes of different sizes. You can save a considerable amount of money using these items.
Best International Shipping Options: What Is the Cheapest Way to Ship Internationally?
Worldwide shipping is one of the best ways to expand your business. A reliable and fast international shipping service is essential for a business to thrive and improve. The best international shipping service offers great service without you overspending.
USPS is among the cheapest shipping services. It ensures that your package reaches its recipient without any hassle or problems, even for international destinations.
FedEx and UPS are equally readily available to cater to any business needing fast delivery service to international locations.
Standard International Delivery Options
For parcels weighing four pounds or below, First-Class Mail International can be your best choice.
If your parcel is more than four pounds, USPS Priority Mail International can offer the most affordable rates.
There is no rigid timeframe for international deliveries, unlike domestic shipping. Your package can take days or weeks to arrive at its destination.
Affordable Fast International Shipping Options
It can be hard to set rigid delivery schedules for international shipping, USPS Priority Mail Express International offers the fastest delivery with the best rates.
Next is the FedEx International Economy service which also has fast delivery and comparable rates.
Best Expedited International Delivery Options
If you want your delivery expedited, you can choose FedEx International Priority or UPS Worldwide Express.
USPS is usually the company of choice for domestic deliveries. However, many prefer FedEx for international shipping because of its wide delivery area and expertise in overnight deliveries.
FedEx International Priority typically delivers parcels to the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean in one to three business days. For European destinations, packages can reach their destination in two business days.
FedEx also delivers to 220 countries and territories, which is broader in scope than UPS.
UPS Worldwide Express delivers to 140 countries and territories, guaranteeing next business day deliveries to Canada and Mexico. Shipments to Europe and Latin America can take two business days, while it can take three business days for destinations in Asia.
Hybrid services is a shipping process where carriers use each other’s delivery service for the final leg of the shipment journey. FedEx or UPS may use USPS to deliver the package on the last mile to the destination.
Shipping companies provide hybrid services for cost-effectiveness.
Moreover, businesses, especially those that ship regularly, can benefit from this arrangement because it tends to have cheaper shipping rates.
FedEx and UPS Hybrid Services to Use
- FedEx Ground Economy combines its ground delivery services with USPS.
- UPS Mail combines its ground services with USPS. It works best for packages weighing under one pound.
- UPS SurePost also combines its ground service with USPS services, which is best for packages weighing up to 20 pounds.
Shipping insurance is the protection service given by shipping companies to customers against lost, stolen, and damaged packages.
Insured parcels that do not reach their destination are covered by insurance, and the customer is reimbursed with the declared value of the contents of the package.
Default Insured Values
All shipping carriers in the U.S. offer default coverage for packages they deliver for their customer’s ease of mind and security.
USPS provides automatic insurance coverage for Priority Mail packages up to $100. You can purchase additional coverage at any post office in increments up to $5,000.
UPS and FedEx both provide automatic insurance for up to $100. Anything above $100 in value you want to insure comes with a fee.
You can also choose insurance provided by companies aside from those offered by shipping carriers.
You have to pay fees depending on the value of the item you are shipping. Third-party insurance can be an option for some businesses.
Other Ways to Save
There are many options you can do to reduce the cost of shipping items. One of the ways to save is to take advantage of USPS’ free shipping for domestic destinations.
Shipping Criteria: Crucial Shipping Rate Factors to Consider
Four factors can determine shipping rates. These factors can influence the time it takes for your package to be delivered and the cost of shipping.
Understanding these factors can help you budget the money you allot for deliveries.
How fast you want your package delivered affects the cost of shipping.
USPS Priority Mail offers the best rates for 2-3-day shipping of parcels weighing 10 pounds and below. For packages above 10 pounds, FedEx and UPS offer more competitive rates.
Shipping carriers divide delivery areas in the United States into eight shipping zones where the recipient’s address is located.
Each zone is a specific distance from the post office or shipping center to the mailing address. The greater the distance, the higher the cost of shipping.
Parcel weight affects the cost of shipping. It takes fuel to deliver packages from one location to another. Each additional weight requires more resources in delivery.
Therefore, if you want to save money, know how much your package weighs and take advantage of services like USPS First Class Mail and FedEx and UPS Ground delivery.
Size means the dimensions of the package. It determines the space your parcel will take up inside a delivery vehicle.
Considering flat rate packages can help you save money, especially if you are shipping small items regularly. You may need to calculate your package size in cubic feet to determine the possible costs.
Additional Factors to Consider
Other factors that can affect the shipping costs are insurance and guarantees, handling fees, fuel, residential surcharges, miscellaneous items like boxes for your packaging, and shipping labels.
Which Shipping Services Are Available in the U.S.?
There are three major shipping options in the United States: USPS, FedEx, and UPS.
All of these companies deliver in every U.S. state and territory. Moreover, they offer international shipping.
USPS provides the cheapest rates for international deliveries, FedEx has the fastest shipping service, and UPS offers the broadest coverage.
The United States Postal Service is a semi-independent federal agency that handles mail and package deliveries in the United States.
It offers cheap services because the law mandates the postal service as a revenue-neutral company that does not sell services for profit.
Documents, cards, and small items that weigh up to 13 ounces can be shipped through First Class Mail. It is the cheapest delivery service of USPS.
The only downside to this type of service is that you do not have access to tracking for letters, cards, or large envelope mail.
If you are a business, your customers cannot track or monitor their mail when you send it to them.
First-Class Package Service
For packages that weigh up to one pound, you can use First-Class Package. It is the cheapest shipping option for USPS in this weight category. Remember that distance determines the commercial rates for package deliveries.
USPS Priority Mail and its flat-rate packaging is the cheapest option for packages that weigh more than a pound. You can ship up to 70 pounds without a price change, regardless of distance.
Priority Mail also comes with up to $50 insurance, which can be convenient for your e-commerce business.
The United Parcel Service is an American company that provides mail and parcel deliveries in domestic and international locations. Their brown trucks and UPS logo are iconic, which you can not miss.
For packages weighing less than ten pounds, this shipping company provides UPS SurePost, which is their cheapest service option.
However, you need to have a contract with UPS to use this service. Therefore, you should contact a UPS representative near you to learn more about its details.
FedEx is an American company that is previously known as Federal Express. It is one of the major shipping companies in the United States and worldwide.
This company competes with UPS in providing speedy deliveries to almost any location in the world.
FedEx Ground Economy (Formerly FedEx SmartPost)
Ground Economy is a cheap way to ship lightweight packages offered by FedEx. You can use FedEx Ground Economy to deliver to any part of the United States and its territories.
Same with UPS, this service requires you to have a contract with FedEx. It is best to talk directly with a FedEx representative to learn more about its details.
How Much Does It Cost to Ship Packages?
All shipping carriers in the United States offer flat-rate packaging and variable pricing. Here is a short guide for you to get the cheapest offer.
- For small, light items, packaged in padded mail, choose USPS. They provide the cheapest option for this type of delivery.
- For small but heavy items, USPS flat-rate pricing is the best option for you.
- For large but light items, USPS Priority Mail is the best choice.
- For large and heavy items, you should ship them through consolidated freight.
- For overnight delivery, check the parcel destination and the offers provided by the three big companies. FedEx typically has the best overnight delivery, though price-wise, it may not be the cheapest.
USPS International Shipping Rates
USPS offers low international shipping rates by compromising on some features. However, the shipping carrier offers many services for deliveries outside of the country.
- Global Express Guaranteed delivers in 1 to 3 business days.
- Priority Mail Express International delivers in 3 to 5 business days.
- Priority Mail International delivers in 6 to 10 business days.
- First Class Mail International offers a cheap option for packages weighing under 16oz.
- First-Class Package International Service offers a cheap option for packages weighing under 4lbs.
- Airmail M-Bags offers a cost-effective way to send printed materials with a maximum weight of 66lbs.
- USPS also provides free shipping supplies for international deliveries.
UPS International Shipping Rates
For International shipping, UPS has direct competition with FedEx.
UPS has an extensive network with reasonable prices.
- UPS Express Critical International offers same-day deliveries for specific countries.
- UPS Worldwide Express provides standard packages and freight options for international destinations.
- UPS Air delivers packages in one to three days.
- UPS Worldwide Saver has next-day deliveries for Canada and a two- to three-day option for other countries
- UPS Next Day Air offers an overnight delivery option.
- UPS Worldwide Expedited provides day-definite expedited shipping.
- UPS Standard offers a cheaper ground option for international deliveries.
- UPS Worldwide Economy delivers in 5 to 10 days.
- UPS Hundredweight Service is a delivery option for multi-package shipments.
FedEx International Shipping Rates
FedEx has the highest prices for international deliveries. However, they provide customers with reliable and excellent quality of service.
If you have money to spend and want to make sure that your shipment goes to where it is intended to go, FedEx is a good option.
FedEx offers a good tracking service, where customers can track their parcels in transit anytime.
- FedEx International Next Flight provides a 24-hour delivery option to most countries.
- FedEx International First delivers packages in 1 to 3 business days.
- FedEx International Priority also delivers in 1 to 3 business days.
- FedEx International Economy delivers in 2 to 5 business days.
- FedEx International Ground delivers in 2 to 7 business days.
- FedEx International Priority Freight delivers in 1 to 3 business days.
- FedEx Freight Priority offers a fast-transit delivery of LTL Freight to Canada and Mexico.
- FedEx Freight Economy provides cost-effective delivery of LTL Freight to Canada and Mexico.
- FedEx also offers free shipping supplies like different-sized boxes, tubes, envelopes, and padded envelopes.
For large and heavy packages, consolidated freight is your best option.
Packages delivered by consolidated freight typically have variable pricing. Regardless, carriers can provide flat rate pricing for items that can be easily packed into boxes.
Best Cubic Pricing
The cubic pricing service is a particular option that allows you to ship small yet heavy items at a cheaper rate through USPS.
If your package fits into the required cubic feet measurement, your package, even if heavy, will have a lower delivery price.
How Cubic Rates Are Determined
You can use this formula to calculate the cubic rates for different packages:
Length x Width x Height ÷ 1,728 = cubic feet
It is best to remember that you need to round the answer to the nearest 0.25 inch.
Dimensions above 18 inches are not eligible for cubic pricing. When you get the cubic feet, you can check what tier your package belongs to.
- Tier 1 packages measure up to .10 cubic feet.
- Tier 2 packages measure above .10 and up to .20 cubic feet.
- Tier 3 packages measure above .20 and up to .30 cubic feet.
- Tier 4 packages measure above .30 and up to .40 cubic feet.
- Tier 5 packages measure above .40 and up to .50 cubic feet.
Best Dimensional Pricing
Dimensional pricing is based on the space taken up by your package in the delivery truck.
This space can also mean the weight of your package, which can affect the number of packages delivered by vehicles or airplanes. Increased sizes mean higher prices, and you can calculate the cost with these formulas provided by USPS, UPS, and FedEx.
- UPS and FedEx – Length x Width x Height ÷ 139
- USPS – Length x Width x Height ÷ 166
Overall, you can determine the cheapest way to ship a package by the destination, size, weight, and speed of delivery. USPS is generally best in providing domestic deliveries.
On the other hand, UPS and FedEx can both provide fast deliveries to other countries.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Which is cheaper UPS or USPS?
For packages that weigh up to 16 ounces, your best choice is USPS. However, sometimes, UPS Ground may be less expensive when packages exceed two pounds.
2. Which is cheaper FedEx or UPS?
Both shipping carriers offer almost similar shipping. However, depending on your volume, you can negotiate with FedEx or UPS to get much better deals.
3. Is it cheaper to ship in a box or a padded envelope?
Using a padded envelope in most cases is cheaper than using a box. However, for fragile or valuable items, boxes are much better.
4. Is it better to ship a large box or two smaller boxes?
Shipping two smaller boxes are sometimes better than shipping one large, heavy box. Sending out two smaller parcels spreads the cargo weight evenly, reducing your shipping cost.
If you can not use two smaller boxes for your package, you can choose consolidated freight, especially if your package is oversized and qualify for freight.
5. What Is UPS Worldwide Saver?
The UPS Worldwide Saver is a convenient option for international deliveries that need guaranteed afternoon deliveries within one to three days. However, the speed of this service is determined by three major shipping zones.
Next-day delivery tends to arrive by the end of the day in Canada. In Mexico, deliveries arrive by the end of the second business day. In worldwide destinations, delivery usually takes three business days.
6. Do I pay residential surcharges?
Residential surcharges apply when FedEx or UPS delivers your packages to home addresses. You can add $3 to $4 to every package. There are cases where the residential address is not validated or recorded in the carrier’s platform.
On the other hand, USPS does not apply these charges as the postal service delivers every domestic package to its intended address by default.