UPS vs. USPS

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June 25, 2023

In 2022, United Parcel Services (UPS) generated a revenue of $100.3 billion. In the same year, the United States Postal Service (USPS) had $78.8 billion in revenue.

These figures show that UPS is performing better financially than USPS. However, such statistics don’t necessarily mean UPS provides all your shipping needs or that USPS is an unreliable courier.

How do UPS and USPS differ in their shipping services? What benefits and disadvantages does each courier have? Are there differences in the costs and delivery times of these services?

This article tackles the benefits and disadvantages of UPS and USPS and how their domestic and international shipping services compare.

If you need a post office to send your parcels, use FindPostOffice.org’s online search tool to locate one near you. You can also learn about the different UPS and USPS services through FindPostOffice.org’s blog page.

What Is the Difference Between UPS and USPS?

One of the main differences between USPS and UPS is that many USPS services ship up to 70 pounds (lbs) locally, while UPS can ship larger packages of up to 150lbs.

Another difference is that United Parcel Service has same-day delivery and competitive prices for large packages, partly due to having its own airline for air cargo.

Meanwhile, the United States Postal Service is the only last-mile delivery company that can reach every address in the United States.

Do UPS and USPS Work Together?

UPS has services called UPS SurePost and UPS Mail Innovations, allowing the company to work with USPS to deliver mail.

UPS SurePost is a service for non-urgent, low-value shipping needs. In this service, UPS picks up your package, and USPS makes the final delivery.

Meanwhile, Mail Innovations is an infrastructure that allows UPS to work with USPS to provide mail solutions with less prep time, consistent transit times, reliable delivery dates, and better postal rates.

USPS Shipping Options

USPS offers shipping solutions for domestic and international deliveries to give customers more options for sending mail and packages. The following sections list these services and delivery times.

USPS Domestic Mail and Shipping

If you ship packages in the U.S., the following shipping services are available to you:

USPS serviceDelivery time
Priority MailOne to three days
Priority Mail ExpressNext day to two days
First-Class MailOne to five days for mail, two to five days for small packages
Media MailTwo to eight days
Retail GroundTwo to five days

USPS International Mail and Shipping

If you need to ship your package to a destination outside the U.S., USPS offers the following international shipping services:

USPS international serviceDelivery time
Global Express Guaranteed (GXG)1 to 3 business days
Priority Mail International6 to 10 business days
Priority Mail Express International3 to 5 business days
Airmail M-BagsVaries by destination
First-Class Mail InternationalVaries by destination
First-Class Package International ServiceVaries by destination

Other Services

Aside from the regular shipping services, USPS provides other extra services, which include the following:

UPS Shipping Options

UPS has numerous shipping services, including domestic, international, and freight, to cover your shipping needs. The following sections list these services.

UPS Domestic Mail and Shipping

If you need to send a package within the U.S., UPS offers the following shipping options:

UPS serviceDelivery time
UPS GroundOne to five business days
UPS 2nd Day AirTwo days
UPS 2nd Day Air AMTwo days
UPS 3 Day SelectThree days
UPS Next Day AirNext day

UPS International Shipping

UPS offers a few international shipping options with different shipment times. The table below shows the options UPS offers:

UPS serviceDelivery time
UPS Express CriticalSame-day delivery
UPS Worldwide ExpressOne to three business days
UPS Worldwide ExpeditedTwo to five business days

UPS Freight Shipping Services

For freight shipping services for domestic and international shipments, UPS offers the following options:

  • Air freight
  • Ocean freight
  • Ground freight
  • Multimodal freight

Other UPS Services

Other services UPS offers include the following:

  • UPS simple rate: Provides customers with a flat rate shipping solution anywhere in the U.S.
  • Signature required: Captures a signature at delivery to give you peace of mind knowing your item was delivered successfully.
  • Adult signature required: Requires an adult recipient’s signature to ensure your package gets delivered to someone at least 21 years old.
  • UPS collect on delivery (COD): Gives flexibility to customers by letting them make payments at delivery time.
  • Ship to a UPS access point: Allows customers to pick up their package at a convenient and secure address by shipping to one of the thousands of UPS Access Points across the U.S.
  • Direct delivery only: Prevents packages from getting delivered or rerouted to an alternate address.
  • Hold for pickup: Allows customers to pick up packages at a secure UPS Customer Center at a convenient time.

USPS Priority Mail vs. UPS Ground

USPS Priority Mail has a delivery time of one to three business days and allows flat-rate pricing for packages up to 70 pounds (lbs) to any U.S. state.

Meanwhile, UPS Ground is a domestic shipping service that delivers packages up to 150lbs in one to five business days.

Thus, USPS Priority Mail is relatively faster than UPS Ground in terms of delivery time. On the other hand, UPS Ground can ship heavier packages than Priority Mail.

Comparison of Other UPS and USPS Shipping Options

A few other shipping services between UPS and USPS have the following comparisons:

  • UPS Ground vs. USPS Ground: UPS Ground and USPS Ground slightly differ in delivery times and rates, but both services ship domestically.
  • UPS Ground vs. USPS First Class: UPS Ground provides local shipment at affordable rates, whereas USPS First Class is a shipping service ideal for important documents.
  • UPS 2nd Day Air vs. USPS Priority Mail: These options are priority services. UPS 2nd Day Air will ship your package in two days. In contrast, USPS Priority Mail will deliver in three days.

Which Is Cheaper: UPS or USPS?

When choosing between UPS or USPS to send your mail, one criterion must look for is affordability.

However, there is no single answer because the price depends on several factors, like the package size, delivery destination, shipping date, and extra services like tracking and signature.

To help you choose the cheapest option, you can use a shipping calculator and get an estimated shipping price. UPS and USPS have free shipping calculators on their official websites.

The following sections show why USPS and UPS prices differ and help you decide which courier provides the best value for your money.

UPS vs. USPS Prices

The prices between UPS and USPS usually differ due to the different services these companies offer. The cost you pay to ship your item can incorporate these services.

What USPS Costs Include

The following services can affect USPS shipping costs:

  • Scheduled pickups: USPS offers a package pickup service that lets you schedule a pickup on the USPS website.
  • Free tracking: Most USPS shipping services include free tracking with real-time daily updates as delivery scans become available.
  • Free insurance: Priority Mail Express and Priority Mail include up to $100 of insurance included in the service price. You can also buy additional coverage at a post office or online.
  • Volume discounts: USPS offers cheaper rates to business shippers who meet minimum shipping quantities for commercial postage.

What UPS Costs Include

For UPS shipments, costs can include the following services:

  • Tracking: UPS Tracking provides information about your shipment’s delivery status along its journey.
  • Insurance for items under $100: Your shipment’s declared value indicates UPS’s maximum liability for a lost or damaged package, usually up to $100.

USPS vs. UPS International Shipping

The international shipping rates for USPS and UPS vary depending on your item’s destination and size. The sections below discuss which services are cheaper for sending items to countries outside the U.S.

Is USPS or UPS Cheaper for International Shipping?

One of the best ways to compare UPS and USPS international shipping costs is to get an international shipping quote using a shipping calculator. You can access this calculator through UPS and USPS’ official websites.

USPS vs UPS International Envelope Shipping From the USA to the U.K.

Suppose you send a 1-pound letter from the USA to the United Kingdom (U.K.). The following table compares international envelope shipping rates and delivery times between UPS and USPS.

Mailing servicePriceDelivery day
UPS Worldwide Express Plus$163.35Two days
UPS Worldwide Express$116.85Two days
UPS Worldwide Saver$115.37Two days
USPS Priority Mail Express International flat rate envelope$71.60Three to five business days
USPS Priority Mail International Flat Rate Envelope$42.756-10 business days
USPS Priority Mail International Small Flat Rate Envelope$42.756-10 business days

USPS vs. UPS International Package Shipping From the USA to the U.K.

What if you send a 5-pound package from the U.S. to the U.K.? The table below shows a comparison between various UPS and USPS international courier services:

Mailing servicePriceDelivery day
UPS Worldwide Express Plus$302.97Two days
UPS Worldwide Express$256.47Two days
UPS Worldwide Saver$253.23Two days
USPS GXG Envelopes$144.90One to three days
USPS Priority Mail Express International$97.80Three to five days
USPS Priority Mail International$83.956 to 10 days

USPS Priority Mail vs. UPS Worldwide Expedited: Which Is Best?

USPS Priority Mail International and UPS Worldwide Expedited are reliable, fully tracked, and trusted services you can use to send international packages. 

Check the table below to help you decide which service to choose and make an informed decision:

ServiceUPS Worldwide ExpeditedUSPS Priority Mail International
PickupYes (door-to-door)Yes
Delivery timeTwo to five business days6 to 10 business days
Weight limitsUp to 150lbsUp to 70lbs
Shipping labelsYesYes
TrackingYesYes
InsuranceMaximum of $100 ($500 for jewelry)$100 for nonnegotiable documents and $200 for merchandise
Countries served220180

USPS vs. UPS for Domestic Shipping in the USA

Shipping prices between USPS and UPS can vary based on distance, the mail service used to ship your item and other services included.

Which Is Faster, USPS or UPS?

To help you determine which courier provides faster delivery, here are several factors influencing UPS and USPS delivery speed:

  • Overnight domestic deliveries: UPS Next Day Air offers guaranteed next-day delivery. In contrast, USPS’ fastest next-day delivery option is Priority Mail Express, which guarantees delivery by 6:00 PM of the next business day.
  • Expedited deliveries: UPS offers 2nd Day Air and UPS 3 Day Select, which provide two- and three-day domestic delivery, respectively.

For USPS, Priority Mail delivers in one to three days, and First-Class Mail delivers in one to five days.

  • Ground shipping domestic deliveries: UPS Ground delivers in one to five days, making it slightly faster than USPS Retail Ground, which ships in two to five days.
  • International shipping: UPS Express Critical’s same-day delivery is a faster shipping service for urgent shipments than USPS’ GXG, which ships in one to three days.

UPS Offers Faster Services Than USPS

UPS has comparatively faster service than USPS through UPS Express Critical. This shipping option provides same-day delivery for the U.S. and Canada.

In comparison, USPS’ fastest shipping service is Priority Mail Express, which offers next-day to two-day delivery.

UPS vs. USPS: Which Is Cheaper for Overnight Shipments?

The following table compares the flat rate prices of UPS and USPS for overnight delivery of a small package within Los Angeles:

ServicePrice
UPS Next Day Air Saver$45.00
UPS Ground$13.45
USPS Priority Mail Small Flat Rate Box$10.20

What UPS Is Best for and Why

Suppose you’re looking for a major shipping industry player that specializes in speedy and secure delivery and has a comprehensive tracking system. In this case, consider UPS as one of the best choices.

Advantages of UPS for Business Shipping

Businesses can experience the following benefits when shipping with UPS:

  • Guaranteed express shipping: UPS Next Day Air provides guaranteed, time-definite next-day delivery.

If you have guaranteed delivery, you’ll likely be at ease knowing your parcel will arrive on time. This guarantee can also help keep customers happy and your business running smoothly.

  • A preferable choice for heavy shipments: As discussed earlier, USPS has a weight limit of 70lbs for most services, while UPS lets you ship up to 150lbs. Thus, you can consider choosing UPS for shipping heavier packages.
  • Comprehensive tracking services: UPS Tracking has several ways to track your package and helps you stay informed of your item’s current status, unexpected delays, and shipment delivery.

Disadvantages of UPS for Business Shipping

While UPS can be an excellent service in many ways, it isn’t perfect. Here are some areas you have to sacrifice if you ship with UPS:

  • More expensive services: Two main factors that increase UPS’ shipping costs are the fees and surcharges added to the base rates. These fees include fuel, demand, and remote area surcharges.
  • No free package pickup: UPS imposes a residential or area surcharge for pickups in residential areas.
  • No free Saturday delivery: UPS charges a $4 fee per package for Saturday ground commercial deliveries.

What USPS Is Best for and Why

USPS can be an excellent choice if you need to ship small, light packages for a relatively affordable price. You can also consider USPS if you send these small packages frequently.

Furthermore, USPS can be your go-to solution if you ship to residential mailboxes and P.O. boxes.

Advantages of USPS for Business Shipping

USPS can benefit business shipping in the following ways:

  • The cheapest option for small packages: USPS is a relatively inexpensive delivery service for companies that ship small items.
  • More reliable than in the past: USPS had a reputation for delaying shipments or misplacing packages. However, the Postal Service has significantly improved its on-time delivery rates and reliability recently.
  • Delivers to mailboxes and P.O. Boxes: The USPS has a monopoly on Post Office (P.O.) boxes and mailboxes. USPS is the only shipping service that does not need to drop off packages at customers’ doorsteps.

Disadvantages of USPS for Business Shipping

While USPS has the potential for many shipping needs, it still has several downsides, such as the following:

  • Tracking is unreliable: USPS may have improved its reliability over time, but packages still go missing occasionally. USPS’ tracking system is also unreliable as it does not help address lost or delayed package deliveries.
  • Poor customer service: Merchants often report that missing packages can be difficult to locate, and the assured refund can be a hassle to claim.

USPS vs. UPS: Which Is Better for Small Businesses?

To determine whether UPS or USPS is better for your small business, you should evaluate their customer satisfaction ratings and solutions for online stores.

According to the 2023 American Customer Satisfaction Index survey results, UPS scored 78, while USPS scored 71.

UPS vs. USPS Reliability: Which One Is Safer?

Comparing the reliability of UPS and USPS is challenging because they are two of the main carriers in the U.S.

UPS is one of the first companies to provide real-time tracking and offer highly predictable shipping services with a 97% rate of on-time deliveries.

Meanwhile, USPS also has a tracking service for each package. However, the USPS system is less reliable because it has different rules for scanning parcels.

USPS often doesn’t scan the package until it arrives at a depot. So if you’re checking your shipment’s tracking information, you can get confused about the item’s exact status.

Can You Drop Off a USPS Package at a UPS Store?

Previously, you could drop off your USPS package at a UPS Store because USPS drivers regularly made collections from these locations. However, USPS officially suspended this service at the beginning of 2020. From then on, you can no longer drop off USPS packages at these locations.

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

The following use cases show which courier you can consider using for a particular event:

  • Flat rate shipping: Consider USPS for flat rate shipping as this service is cheaper than UPS Simple Rate. As of June 2023, USPS’ price starts at $8.55 for a small flat-rate box, while UPS’ flat rate for extra small mail starts at $10.20.
  • Three-day delivery: If you’re shipping packages up to 150lbs within the U.S., choose UPS 3 Day Select for your three-day shipping needs. USPS also has a three-day service under Priority Mail but can only ship up to 70lbs.

Examples of Use Case Scenarios With Answers

The examples below demonstrate situations based on the use cases mentioned above.

Example 1

Suppose you want to send an item using the smallest-sized flat-rate packaging. Since USPS has lower flat-rate prices than UPS, according to the discussion earlier, you can choose USPS for shipping your item.

Example 2

If you want to send an item weighing 100lbs that must arrive in three days, consider UPS as your choice. With UPS 3 Day Select, you can send up to 150lbs of packages. Thus, this service can cover your package’s weight.

Which Is Cheaper: UPS, USPS, or FedEx?

Determining which courier is the cheapest can be challenging because multiple factors can influence shipping prices.

For example, one courier may provide the cheapest flat rate prices for a specific date or weight, while another courier may be more affordable for heavier packages.

UPS vs. USPS 

Aside from cost and delivery time comparisons, customer reviews and ratings are other factors to consider when choosing which courier will send your package.

UPS Reviews

Trustpilot reviews show that UPS scored 1.2 stars out of 5 based on more than 28,600 reviews as of June 2023. Some issues raised were lost packages and failure to deliver parcels.

USPS Reviews

USPS’ Trustpilot reviews scored 1.2 stars out of 5, similar to UPS, but with only a little over 6,200 reviews. Significant issues raised include lost packages and poor customer service.

5 Ways to Cut Shipping Carrier Costs

Here are five valuable tips on lowering shipping costs, no matter which carrier you’re using.

Optimize Your Item’s Packaging Size (the Smaller, the Better)

Whichever carrier you choose, keeping your packaging as small as you can get can help keep your shipping costs down. If your packaging is too large for your items, the carrier can charge for your package’s dimensional weight (DIM) instead of the actual weight.

DIM is the space your package occupies in a carrier’s truck. Shipping companies usually bill you according to the actual weight or DIM weight, whichever costs higher.

Ask for Discounted Shipping Rates

Saving money on shipping involves taking advantage of economies of scale.

Economies of scale occur when production increases and causes costs to spread over many goods, leading to higher cost savings.

In other words, the more items you ship, the more leverage you have when negotiating discounted rates with the carriers.

Ship From Closer Shipping Zones

If you’re starting an e-commerce business, you may consider keeping your inventory on hand to fulfill your orders. However, doing so can present a challenge when you include distance in the equation.

Aside from how heavy and how big your package is, the total distance it must travel to reach its final destination counts.

Switch to Poly Mailers

Poly mailers weigh less and take up less space than boxes. Since weight and volume affect your shipment’s price, the reduced weight and volume poly mailers provide can help reduce costs.

Select Standard Shipping

Choosing a service with a slower shipping speed can help lower costs because it uses fewer resources. If you’re not in a hurry, consider standard shipping rather than the faster but more expensive services.

Is It Better to Use USPS or UPS?

Whichever courier you choose ultimately depends on your shipping needs and budget.

If you’re an e-commerce owner whose products are mainly items that don’t weigh over 70lbs, you may want to choose USPS. On the other hand, if your customer base is primarily outside the U.S., UPS may be a great choice for your international market.

USPS Shipping

USPS is the only delivery service that can reach every U.S. address comprising 160 million residences, businesses, and Post Office Boxes.

If you need to send small, lightweight packages like t-shirts, magazines, and coffee, consider USPS as your courier.

UPS Shipping

As of 2022, UPS had a global reach of more than 220 countries and delivered 24.3 million packages daily.

Choose UPS if you need to ship heavy packages like televisions, furniture, and anything between 70lbs and 150lbs.

Choosing a Shipping Company and Making Economic Decisions

Whether you’re in the e-commerce business or shipping products for personal reasons, finding the best prices and services to meet your shipping needs is essential.

In such cases, choosing a courier depends on which one best fits a specific situation. Thus, it’s not uncommon to have more than one courier. For example, one can handle smaller packages, and the other can ship larger ones.

There are also ways to lower your shipping costs, such as by using flat rate shipping. Depending on your recipient’s location and the package’s weight, flat rate shipping can be an economical choice.

A Few Words About UPS History

UPS started in 1907 when two enterprising teenagers opened a delivery service business named the American Messenger Company in a Seattle basement using a $100 loan. The company expanded to California in 1919 and renamed the business to United Parcel Service.

In 1985, UPS started its Next Day Air service. In 1988, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved the company’s plan to operate its own aircraft.

Still Not Sure?

If you’re still unsure what courier to pick for your needs, the following sections may help with your decisions.

How Large Is Your Package?

If you want to send a package below 70lbs, consider shipping with USPS, as this weight is the maximum allowed for most USPS services. For packages that go up to 150lbs, choose UPS.

Where Is Your Nearest Drop-Off Location?

USPS and UPS have numerous drop-off points in Los Angeles, Dallas, Miami, Chicago, Detroit, and other cities across the United States. Depending on your location, one may be more accessible or convenient for you than the other.

Do You Require a Pickup and Delivery Service?

USPS provides free package pickup from your office or home at a schedule that’s convenient for you.

If you prefer UPS instead, you can drop off your package for free at a UPS Access Point or UPS Store.

Which Shipping Carrier Option Is the Best for E-commerce?

Consider USPS’ business solutions if you’re seeking volume discounts for your e-commerce business. USPS has various shipping services, tools, and postage options like Click-N-Ship and Business Customer Gateway, providing cost-effective shipping methods.

If you need a solution for managing orders across large online platforms in one consolidated dashboard, you can choose UPS instead.

What Shipping Company Is the Best for International Packages?

The best shipping company for international packages depends greatly on your package’s size, destination, and how fast you need the package to arrive.

If you need to ship small packages that don’t require fast, time-sensitive shipping, consider USPS as your option. For larger packages that need fast delivery, UPS may be a viable choice.

References

  1. SIZE AND SCOPE
    https://facts.usps.com/size-and-scope/
  2. Mail & Shipping Services
    https://www.usps.com/ship/mail-shipping-services.htm
  3. Checking Shipment Size and Weight
    https://www.ups.com/us/en/support/shipping-support/shipping-dimensions-weight.page
  4. International Mail & Shipping Services
    https://www.usps.com/international/mail-shipping-services.htm
  5. Priority Mail
    https://www.usps.com/ship/priority-mail.htm
  6. What is Package Pickup?
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/What-is-Package-Pickup
  7. USPS Tracking® – The Basics
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/USPS-Tracking-The-Basics
  8. Insurance & Extra Services
    https://www.usps.com/ship/insurance-extra-services.htm
  9. Shipping for Business
    https://www.usps.com/business/business-shipping.htm
  10. Priority Mail International
    https://www.usps.com/international/priority-mail-international.htm
  11. American Customer Satisfaction Index scores for consumer shipping companies in the United States from 2017 to 2023
    https://www.statista.com/statistics/827414/us-customer-satisfaction-index-consumer-shipping/
  12. Economies of Scale: What Are They and How Are They Used?
    https://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/economiesofscale.asp
  13. About the United States Postal Service
    https://about.usps.com/who/profile/
  14. Carrier Pickup: Free Pickup Saves a Trip to the Post Office
    https://about.usps.com/news/electronic-press-kits/2009/holiday/carrierpickup.htm