The Difference Between First Class and Priority Mail Shipping

Learn about the main differences between the US Postal Service's two most popular services, First Class Package and Priority Mail
difference between first class and priority mail service
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Let’s talk about two of the Postal Service’s most popular shipping services: First Class Package and Priority Mail. At first glance, new shippers may not understand the ins and outs of each service, and may find themselves wondering which one to choose when it’s shipping time. While First Class Package is much cheaper, both services offer the same delivery timeframe (1-3 business days) and full door-to-door tracking. Millions of shippers choose both services every day. So, how do you determine which one is right for you? Read on to learn about the main differences between First Class Package and Priority Mail, and how to save the most money no matter which one you choose.

The Differences Between First Class Package and Priority Mail

There are three main differences between First Class Package and Priority Mail that every new shipper needs to know. We’ve laid out these points below.

Maximum Weight for First Class Package is 13 ounces (or 15.999 ounces with online shipping software)

The biggest difference between these two services is the maximum weight threshold that USPS allows for. The maximum weight for First Class Package is 13 ounces, while the maximum weight USPS allows for Priority Mail is 70 pounds. 

Since First Class Package is exclusively for lightweight shipments, this particular service is in fact the cheapest way to ship T-shirts, makeup, and other lightweight items. Priority Mail, on the other hand, is the best option for sending smaller, heavier packages such as subscription boxes, coffee shipments, candles, and much more.

Pro Tip: When you use online shipping software instead of going to the Post Office, the max weight for First Class Package gets bumped up to 15.999 ounces, or just under a pound.

First Class Package Doesn’t Include Built-in USPS Insurance, While Priority Mail Does

The second difference is that First Class Package offers no built-in insurance when you purchase postage. On the other hand, all Priority Mail shipments automatically come with $50 of USPS insurance (this insurance bumps up to $100 with shipping software, which you’ll read more about in a minute or so).

If you want to include insurance for First Class Package, you’ll have to pay for additional protection on top of the cost of postage. However, you’re already protected up to a certain dollar amount when you ship Priority Mail.

You Need to Use Your Own Packaging for First Class Package, but You Can Use Free USPS Packaging for Priority Mail

The last main difference between these two services is the type of packaging you can use. When you use First Class Package, you’ll need to provide your own packaging. Unfortunately, USPS doesn’t provide any packaging options for this service like it does for Priority Mail. So, you can either use generic packaging here, or opt for custom-branded packaging.

When you ship Priority Mail, however, you’ve got much more freedom when it comes to your packaging options. You can use generic packaging, custom packaging, or you can use any of the free Priority Mail shipping supplies that USPS provides, such as boxes, poly mailer envelopes, and tubes. Just make sure you’re not using any specific Priority Mail packaging, such as flat rate or regional rate boxes…because then, USPS will charge you for that particular service marked on your box or envelope.

Want to order some free Priority Mail packaging that USPS will deliver right to your door? Check out the USPS online store.

Save the Most Money on Either Service with Online Shipping Software

No matter which service you decide is right for you, it’s important that you save the most money on shipping out your items. Simply put, you’ll only save the most money when you use shipping software to buy postage online. With shipping software, you can access the deepest discounts that USPS typically only offers huge commercial shippers, known as USPS Commercial Pricing. On top of capturing those savings, shipping software also grants you the ability to print shipping labels from the comfort of your own home. The best options out there even allow you to schedule free pickups done by your letter carrier. So, you can ship your packages without ever leaving your house or putting on pants if you don’t feel like it! We won’t judge…we do it all the time.

Whether you choose First Class Package or Priority Mail, here’s the kicker: when you ship from home with shipping software, you’ll never have to pay retail rates or go to the Post Office again!


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