Let’s talk about the most basic question we get asked all the time: “What is the cheapest way to ship something?” We wish we could answer this simply, but the truth is, it all depends on what you’re shipping. Is your package lightweight, or heavy? Is it traveling local, or across the country? How big is your box? Fortunately, we’ve laid out a few different scenarios below, so you can determine how to save the most money when shipping your particular item.
USPS is the Cheapest Major Shipping Carrier for Most Packages
When first starting out, it’s important to determine which shipping carrier best fits your needs. Out of all the major carriers, USPS will give you the cheapest rates on most packages. USPS specializes in handling lightweight packages, as well as small packages on the slightly heavier side. With mail classes like USPS First Class Package Service and Priority Mail, you won’t find better rates for these kinds of boxes and envelopes anywhere else. That makes USPS the premier carrier for eCommerce packages, and explains why they are far and away the leader in the package game.
Of course, there are situations where other carriers should be considered. Generally speaking, UPS offers better rates for large, oversized packages, and for emergency overnight delivery. On the other hand, FedEx specializes in niche shipments, such as frozen food or pre-packaged meals. While they are the most expensive carrier, FedEx also handles the most amount of business deliveries, and will typically offer the best rates for those types of shipments.
The Cheapest Way to Ship Something Depends on the Item’s Weight, Size, and Distance to Travel
As is the case with all shipments, rates depend on how large the package is, how much it weighs, and how far it needs to travel to reach its final destination. That said, most shipments with USPS can be broken down into two distinct categories: those under 1 pound, and those over 1 pound.
Ship First Class Package For Packages Under 1 Pound
If your item weighs less than one pound, USPS First Class Package Service (or FCP, for short) will always be the cheapest way to ship it. These prices can vary anywhere from just around $3 to $5 per package, and delivery occurs between 1-3 business days. With this service, you can enjoy the cheapest prices on top of quick delivery—the Postal Service’s bread and butter!
However, while FCP is one of the most popular USPS mail classes out there, it’s not a perfect solution for shippers. There are no free USPS boxes or envelopes you can use, so you’re responsible for providing your own packaging if you want to use this mail class. It also doesn’t come with built-in insurance like all Priority Mail packages do. So, if you’d like to protect yourself in case your contents get lost or damaged with FCP shipments, you should consider purchasing shipping insurance for added security.
Ship Priority Mail Cubic For Packages Over 1 Pound
For anything over 1 pound, there’s a specially-discounted mail class USPS offers called Priority Mail Cubic that you need to know. If you’ve never heard of it, don’t beat yourself up. It’s kind of a secret in the shipping world! USPS doesn’t offer this mail class at the Post Office, and you can only access it when you buy discounted USPS postage online.
The thing that makes Priority Mail Cubic so special is that its rates are based on your package’s dimensions and not its weight, like every other mail class out there. That means that you can load these boxes (or envelopes) up with a ton of product and you won’t pay more for it. In fact, as long as your boxes are under 0.5 cubic feet, you can make them as heavy as 20 pounds and the price won’t change! That makes Priority Mail Cubic the perfect mail class for sending smaller, heavier packages containing items like candles, coffee, and everything in between.
Pro Tip: The smaller your boxes are, the more you’ll save with Priority Mail Cubic! Play around with this Smart Cubic Calculator to find how small you can get your boxes and capture the most savings.
Sometimes the Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelope is the Cheapest Service
If your item weighs more than 1 pound but can fit into an envelope, then you may also want to consider using the Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelope. This is a relatively cheap option that doesn’t alter its price no matter how much your item weighs, or how far away it needs to travel. Hence the name “Flat” rate.
Personally, we’re big fans of shipping with the Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelope. This service costs just $7.75 at the Post Office, and comes out to even less at $7.15 with online shipping software. If this sounds like a nice option, you can order these envelopes for free on the USPS website.
Wait… What’s Online Shipping Software?
Speaking of online shipping software—if you’ve never heard of it, now is a great time to get familiar. No matter what you’re sending off, buying labels with online shipping software is the best way to ensure you save the most money on all your shipments. You can buy discounted postage for every single USPS service with shipping software, including First Class Package, Priority Mail Cubic, and flat rate labels for the Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelope.
Most online shipping software companies hook users up with the deepest discounts USPS offers, known as Commercial Pricing. The Postal Service typically reserves this level of discounts for huge commercial shippers that send over 50,000 packages a year. However, the best shipping software options allow you to access these savings for free! On top of that, you’ll be able to buy and print shipping labels from the comfort of your own home. You can even schedule free pickups done by your letter carrier, so you’ll never have to wait in line at the Post Office again.
Here’s the bottom line: if you’re not using shipping software to buy discounted postage, you’re doing it wrong. With all of the benefits to using it, there’s literally zero downside.
Choosing the Best Shipping Software for Your Needs
We know that all of this information can be overwhelming when just starting out, and that there’s a good chance you’ve never even heard of “shipping software” until a couple of minutes ago. So, if you’re on the hunt for some shipping software options, feel free to check out our Reviews page! We’ve got detailed write-ups of every shipping software company out there, and a detailed lists of pros and cons for each one.
If you’re in a hurry, we’ve listed out the four best (and easiest) shipping software options for new shippers below:
Have any questions? Leave a comment on this post below and drop us a line!
Looking for the right shipping software for you?
To get the deepest discounts on all USPS services, check out our guide: