So, you’re ready to ship a package. Now it’s time to choose a carrier. People choose different carriers for a variety of reasons, like cost, how quickly the package will be delivered, or if they’re simply familiar with the carrier’s services. However, making educated decisions about which shipping carrier is right for you will boost your efficiency and end up saving you more money in the long run! Choosing the right shipping carrier can be a confusing task, but don’t worry. We’re here to help!
Table of Contents
The Three Major Carriers
Let’s kick things off with a basic rundown of USPS, UPS, and FedEx. We’ve outlined all three carriers below, but if you want to skip ahead and start comparing rates, feel free to experiment with these shipping calculators:
USPS is the only shipping carrier legally authorized to deliver mail to every residential address in the United States. Therefore, if you need to send a letter to Santa Claus or those “thank you” cards you keep forgetting about, you’ll be doing so with USPS.
That being said, USPS is also by far the best carrier for shipping small to medium sized parcels to any state in the country. That includes shipping to Alaska, Hawaii, and other US Territories! USPS also offers postage discounts such as USPS Commercial Pricing that small businesses can access when they buy postage with shipping software. Shipping costs can be an eCommerce business’ biggest expense outside of cost of goods sold. Taking advantage of postage discounts is hands down one of the cheapest ways to ship with USPS. To be frank, it’s the best shot your small business has at competing with bigger companies!
UPS generally offers the most competitive services for shipping larger, heavier packages. They allow customers to ship packages weighing up to 150 pounds each, and boast the best rates for larger items. Therefore, if you find yourself needing to ship a large or heavy item, it may make sense to choose UPS. However, if you’re running an E-commerce business, be cautious about shipping small parcels with UPS. Their trucks are designed for transporting large, heavy packages…and those packages could fall and crush your E-commerce parcel. No one wants that!
Famous for their slogan “The World on Time,” FedEx is widely used for overnight shipping. Their rates tend to be slightly pricier than UPS and much pricier than USPS. However, if you’re in a bind to have a parcel delivered overnight, your best option is to visit your local FedEx Office.
Pro Tip: It’s important to note that FedEx charges each shipment based on the dimensional weight or actual weight of the package—whichever is greater. Generally speaking, USPS is more favorable on dimensional weight than UPS or FedEx! Learn more about dimensional weight.
How Do I Choose a Carrier?
Now is probably the time you’re saying to yourself, “Okay, okay, we get it—enough with all the info!” If you’re anything like us, you’ll learn more about choosing the right shipping carrier by seeing some real-life examples. So, let’s go through some scenarios.
Paper generally doesn’t weigh a whole lot, so unless you’re sending an 1,000-page manuscript of your latest zombie thriller novel, you’ll almost always be better off shipping with USPS. USPS offers the most competitive pricing on smaller, lightweight envelopes under 13 ounces—and you’ll want to ship them First Class Mail.
Shipping a Small Box
If you’re shipping a small package (like a subscription box, for example), you’ll always want to choose USPS. Here’s why: Priority Mail Cubic. In a nutshell, Priority Mail Cubic lets you ship small rectangular boxes with USPS at INSANE discounts, as long as they fall within a certain size and the total weight doesn’t exceed 20 pounds. Simply put, shipping Priority Mail Cubic is the cheapest and fastest way to send small packages through USPS. Every eCommerce business needs to take advantage of Priority Mail Cubic if they hope to maintain a viable business, plain and simple.
Here’s the pickle, though: you can’t just walk into your local Post Office and ask for it. Priority Mail Cubic is typically only offered to large commercial shippers that ship over 50,000 packages a year. Fortunately, there are different shipping software options out there that lets you ship Priority Mail Cubic at the Postal Service’s Commercial Pricing rate! That means YOU get hooked up with the deepest USPS discounts on postage possible. Who doesn’t want that?
Learn more about how to buy postage online.
Shipping Large, Heavy Items
If your item weighs a lot, choosing UPS is your best move. USPS actually won’t even ship packages that weigh more than 70 pounds, so strike that option from the board. Both FedEx and UPS allow for packages up to 150 pounds each. However, thanks to a cost-effective service called UPS Ground, UPS rates will beat FedEx’s every single time.
The Importance of Using Shipping Software
No matter which shipping carrier you choose, it’s critical that you capture the biggest savings that you can on postage! We said it earlier in this guide, but accessing those discounts is where online shipping software comes into play. Plain and simple, you don’t ever want to take your packages to your local Post Office, UPS Store, or FedEx location to ship them. Instead, use shipping software to buy discounted UPS postage online.
When you use shipping software, you get to access special discounts that carriers typically reserve for huge shippers sending out tens of thousands of packages per year. FedEx doesn’t really have a special program like this, but that tier of discounts for the. US Postal Service is called Commercial Pricing (as mentioned above). For UPS, those special discounts come as part of the Digital Access Program. In some cases, discounts you get with shipping software can save you up to 89% off of what you’d pay to ship the same package at your local Post Office! So, whether you’re shipping with USPS or UPS, capturing these savings can end up doubling or tripling your margins…which can make or break any eCommerce business.
Looking for the right shipping software for you?
To get the deepest discounts on all USPS shipping services, check out our guide: