Can I Ship Lithium Ion Batteries with UPS?

Learn the process of shipping lithium ion batteries with UPS (spoiler alert: it's not so different from USPS)
Lithium ion batteries with UPS
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USPS isn’t the only game in town when it comes to shipping lithium-ion batteries; you can use other carriers like UPS, too! The thing is, UPS also considers lithium-ion batteries as a type of hazardous material, so you’ll need to follow a certain process when it comes to shipping them. We’ve laid out what you need to do below.

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UPS Allows You to Ship Lithium Ion Batteries with Ground and Air Service

Just like the process with USPS, if you intend to ship lithium-ion batteries by themselves, UPS will relegate you to Ground service only. That means you won’t be able to use any of their air-based domestic services, such as 3 Day Select, 2nd Day Air, and Next Day Air. For shipments of lithium-ion batteries by themselves—meaning they’re not packed within the equipment they power—you’ll also need to affix this UN3480 label to your package. This label indicates what the contents of the shipment are, and UPS won’t accept the package into their network without it.

Of course, UPS also allows for air transportation of lithium-ion batteries if they’re packed within the equipment they power (just like USPS does). Some examples of this sort of equipment are laptops, tablets, and rechargeable cameras. In this case, you’ll need to affix the UN3481 label to your package, and you can pay for any of the air-based services listed in the above paragraph. You won’t need to do anything else!

The Exception to the Rule: Obtaining a Dangerous Goods Contract for Air-Based Services

If you want to send lithium-ion batteries by themselves with any of the UPS air services, there is a way to do so…it’s just a tad more complicated. For this process, UPS will require you to sign a Dangerous Goods Contract, which you need to include with your package and present to your local UPS Access Point when you drop off your shipment. You can download a UPS Dangerous Goods Contract here. That’s the only way you’ll be able to send lithium-ion batteries packed outside of any equipment with any of the UPS air services.

Pay Attention to the Rules of Your Shipping Software for Sending Lithium Ion Batteries with UPS

Some shipping software platforms have different rules when it comes to allowing lithium-ion battery shipments with UPS. While you can send these types of packages when shipping directly with UPS, each company that sells discounted UPS postage likely has a different policy. In most cases we’ve seen, you’ll only be allowed to send lithium-ion batteries with UPS if the batteries are packed within the equipment they power, and if the item you’re sending is brand new with unopened packaging. If that’s the case, you’ll need to meet the following requirements to ship with any UPS service you like:

  • The package must contain no more than 4 cells or 2 batteries
  • The whole shipment contains no more than two packages of lithium-ion batteries contained in equipment
  • The item that the lithium-ion batteries power is new and unopened

UPS Ground vs. USPS Ground: Which is the Better Choice?

While the process for shipping lithium-ion batteries is fairly similar between UPS and USPS, the details of the ground services they both offer couldn’t be more different. First of all, UPS Ground is way faster than USPS Retail Ground (or “Parcel Select Ground,” if you’re using shipping software to buy postage online). While ground service from USPS can often take up to 7 days for delivery, the timeframe for UPS Ground only runs between 1-5 days. In our experience, though, UPS typically delivers Ground packages within 3 days. Sometimes they even deliver Ground packages overnight, if the destination is close enough to the origin ZIP code!

Secondly, if you use online shipping software to buy discounted labels, UPS labels often come with $100 of carrier liability…including any labels for Ground service. Parcel Select Ground from USPS, on the other hand, doesn’t include any built-in insurance whatsoever, whether you’re using shipping software or buying postage at your local Post Office. So, between the quick delivery speed and the built-in insurance you get, UPS is clearly the winner over USPS when it comes to Ground service.

Learn more about the differences between UPS Ground and USPS Ground.

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