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!
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 Commercial Plus 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!
Pro Tip: Commercial Plus Pricing is now called “Commercial Pricing!” While the name is new, it still represents the same level of USPS discounts.
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.
So…How Do I Choose?
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, Pirate Ship’s free USPS shipping software lets you ship Priority Mail Cubic at the Commercial Pricing rate with ZERO contracts, markups, or hidden fees! 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.
That’s a Wrap on Choosing the Right Shipping Carrier!
Phew. You made it through this crash course on choosing the right shipping carrier! Go get yourself a cookie—you earned it. We tried our best to equip you with enough knowledge so you feel comfortable choosing the right shipping carrier for you, but there’s still so much more to learn.