What Is The Cheapest Shipping Option – USPS, FedEx Or UPS?

It has been a while since I’ve done a competitive analysis of the various shipping carriers so I thought I’d do a quick update. With the United States Postal Service jacking up their rates every 4-6 months, what used to be the most economical shipping method is now priced inline or even more expensive than some of the more reliable carriers like UPS or FedEx.

Photo By Atibens

Because there are so many different shipping variables and options to choose from, it’s difficult to make an apples to apples comparison without locking down some of the basic parameters. For the purposes of this article, I am going to assume the following.

  • A 14in X 12in X 3in package is being shipped cross country from California to a residence on the east coast. Incidentally, this is the same size as a USPS Medium Priority Mail Flat Rate Box.
  • Out of the box pricing for all shipping carriers which means that lower negotiated rates based on volume are not taken into account.
  • Labels are being printed online which means all associated USPS internet discounts apply.

At the end, I’ll also discuss the trade offs between price, shipping time and reliability and give my take on the best shipping strategy.

If You Are Shipping Something 2 Lbs Or Heavier With A 5 Day Delivery Window…

FedEx Ground or UPS Ground will almost always be cheaper than USPS Priority Mail. Between FedEx and UPS, FedEx will be cheaper than UPS out of the box because they provide you with an instant 15% off all shipments just for creating an online account(Note: The level of discount will vary but there’s always a discount program).

The only exception to the above rule is that USPS offers 3 flat rate box shipping options, small, medium and large. If you can manage to shove merchandise that is heavier than 2lbs into a small flat rate box (unlikely), you can save about 4 dollars.

However more realistically, you will need a medium flat rate box to ship something weighing 2lbs or more. The break even point between FedEx or UPS Ground and a Priority Mail flat rate medium box is about 4 lbs.

The break even point for a large Priority Mail flat rate box is about 7 lbs. So if your item is heavier than 4lbs, use a USPS flat rate medium box.

If you need a large flat rate Priority Mail box, make sure it’s heavier than 7 lbs. Otherwise, FedEx or UPS Ground will always be cheaper.

Note: You can receive significant discounts on USPS shipping by signing up for a Stamps.com account.

If You Are Shipping Items Under 2 Pounds…

USPS will always be cheaper than FedEx or UPS hands down. However as the weight creeps closer to 2 pounds, USPS pretty much reaches pricing parity with UPS and FedEx Ground. USPS really shines when your package weighs less than 13 oz and can be mailed via First Class mail. If you don’t care about reliability, USPS is by far the cheapest shipping option for light items.

If You Need Next Day Service…

USPS Express is once again the cheapest solution by far and it is guaranteed. The only problem with USPS Express mail is that sometimes the delivery window is 2 days and you won’t know unless you check online. USPS also doesn’t offer a morning delivery time so if your client needs something at the beginning of the business day, they are out of luck.

I’ve also discovered that USPS Express Mail is less reliable than FedEx or UPS Next Day Service. While they “guarantee” their delivery times, what this really means is that they’ll refund your money if the package is delivered late. This has happened to me several times already and a shipping refund doesn’t make up for having an angry customer.

If You Need a 2-3 Day Delivery Window…

It is unclear which delivery service is better if you need 2-3 day delivery because USPS doesn’t guarantee their delivery times for Priority or First Class Mail. So while USPS Priority Mail cites a 2-3 day typical delivery time, it could be slower or faster depending on various unknown factors.

In my experience, I’ve had some Priority Mail packages delivered within a single day and I’ve seen delivery times as long as 1.5 weeks. While the latter tends to be an anomaly, overall the delivery speed is somewhat random.

FedEx and UPS however, always guarantee their delivery times but are significantly more expensive. In some cases, FedEx and UPS will cost you will over 2X the cost of USPS.

My Take On The 3 Carriers

While USPS is the cheapest shipping carrier in most cases, their reliability is easily the worst among the 3 carriers. Our online store primarily uses USPS because most of our orders are under 2 pounds. But we routinely get packages delayed or lost in the mail.

This past few months alone, we have had 3 customers email us wondering where the hell their order was. Given our volumes, 3 customers is probably statistically insignificant but having to deal with any unhappy customers is a pain in the neck.

While we don’t check on the status of all of our orders, I can tell you from experience that the quoted delivery times from USPS for both First Class and Priority Mail are completely hit or miss. If you are sending a package to some podunk, middle of no where town, it’s more likely to get delayed. Meanwhile, I’ve yet to ever have a FedEx or UPS package delayed or lost.

In the end, it comes down to reliability vs cost. For light items, USPS is the cheapest if that is your goal. For heavier items >2lbs in which delivery time is not a factor, FedEx or UPS Ground is the cheapest.

It’s the 2-3 day delivery window where you have to weigh the trade offs. Do you value reliability? Is actual transit time a concern? If you need a package to be delivered on time, use FedEx or UPS. If you are trying to save money, use USPS.

Our online store offers a mix of both. By default, we use USPS shipping to keep the shipping costs low (our items are typically under 2 lbs). However, if a customer has a tight deadline, we use FedEx.

Speaking from experience, the savings of using USPS is not worth the hassle of pissing off a customer if there’s a deadline. But it’s tough decision to make because customers are typically turned off by high shipping costs. Of course, the other option is always to raise your prices and lose money on shipping. You have to make the call.

Cheapest Way To Ship USPS

If you decide to use USPS as your primary shipping carrier, the cheapest way to go is to use a service like Stamps.com.

Stamps.com lets you print “First Class” postage from your printer (the USPS website does not allow this) and offers significant discounts on practically every service that the United States Postal Service offers.

However, you’ll experience the most savings if you ship a lot of Priority Mail or Express Mail orders. The best part is that they’ll waive the monthly fee if you ship more than $500 in postage per month.

Stamps.com also integrates nicely with many shopping carts on the market. Check them out. We use them as our primary carrier.

Cheapest Way To Ship FedEx Or UPS

The only way to get a better deal on FedEx or UPS is to negotiate. Of course, you’ll need to demonstrate that you can and will ship in volume but that shouldn’t be too hard if you run an online store.

Ideally, you should pick one carrier and focus on them. In my experience, UPS seems to be a bit hungrier than FedEx for your business so they may be more willing to negotiate. But your mileage may vary. Don’t be too shy to pick up a phone and speak to a sales rep. Good luck!

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78 thoughts on “What Is The Cheapest Shipping Option – USPS, FedEx Or UPS?”

  1. Great to know about shipping from experience. So it seems like it basically comes down to what you are shipping.

    Wonder if you could make some safe assumptions on the size of what most people/small businesses ship and then make some accurate predictions of what’s the best overall. That’s what I was trying to do anyway! USPS = cheap and semi unreliable to remote locations. Others = more expensive, more reliable anywhere.

    Thanks for the post!

    1. It would help to know when the main article was written. Like Dec., 2011?

      1. Mr. Myxpyx says:

        My thoughts exactly Mike. There are no dates anywhere on the article or in the responses. This could have been written in 2003 for all we know.

      2. The article was written late last year and updated in the middle of this year. The information is up to date

      3. bob says:

        Exactly what I was thinking. There’s no way that this was recent because USPS is started to cost more than UPS Ground. My opinion is that this topic was posted around 2010.

        Here’s my breakdown:

        DHL: Bad shippings times and worst in reliability.
        UPS Ground: Acceptable for heavy products.
        FedEX: Probably best for medium sized packages.
        USPS: The best for smaller products.

        Final thoughts: I use to love USPS because of it’s reasonable prices, but lately their prices seemed to increase significantly. Something that would cost me no more than $12 now costs $15/$16, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you sell on ebay, people don’t really want to pay for shipping. I understand that the USPS doesn’t get much business ever since email came out, but I believe it’s a bit unethical to raise prices.

      4. bob says:


        There’s no time stamp on it to prove that this information is up to date. Plus you don’t use any references, therefore this is just pure opinion.

      5. Hey Bob,

        The info is up to date. We ship over a thousand packages a month using USPS, FedEx and on occasion UPS.

        The truth is that all carrier’s price have gone up. The true value of USPS Priority mail is with the flat rate boxes. If you can manage to fit heavy stuff in a priority flat rate box, you can save money over shipping the package vs Fedex or UPS. If you have to use regular USPS priority mail for anything over 2 lbs, fedex or ups will be cheaper.

        Even still, it’s not really an apples to apples comparison since priority mail ships within 3 days most of the time whereas ground service takes 4-5 days.

        USPS first class mail still remains the best bargain but your package has to be 13oz or less.

      6. Kevin says:

        Hi, the date-when-written still has not been answered. Statements like last year doesn’t tell us if last year was 2001 or 2011. Please update the story with a date. Thanks!

      7. The answer is that I keep this article up to date because I get a lot of traffic here. So, right now it’s 2012 if that helps. I usually revisit this article every 3 months or so or whenever there’s a big pricing change. But in general, the relative pricing between USPS, FedEx and UPS doesn’t change very often.

      8. Ray Nant says:

        So right now its 02Aug2013 if that helps.

    2. mike says:

      USPS has them all beat on pricing! I ship rocks,with a lot of weight and a med. Or large PS box can get to any place in the states in three days……Never late and simple cost!

    3. FelipeL says:

      I found that the cheapest way to ship things is thru Shippi.com. They specialize in bulky shipments and the transit time is pretty fast.

    4. Walter says:

      I can’t agree with the writers evaluation of UPS/FedEx vs. USPS, as presented in the beginning of the article. Specifically, the break-even points. I have been shipping an item that weighs 5 lbs and fits in a USPS medium flat rate box. I have shipped several thousand over the last 4 years.

      My cost ( as of 12/28/2013) to ship via USPS is $11.50 anyplace in the USA, including Alaska and Hawaii. Shipping the same item via UPS to California costs me $24.00. My shipping location is New England.

      Additionally, I also disagree with the stated opinion that the USPS delivery times and service are sub-par. In my overall experience, I have found just the opposite. As stated, I have shipped several thousand parcels via USPS priority flat rate over 4 years. In that time, not a single parcel has taken over 3 days. That includes the Hawaii shipments. Additionally, USPS moves freight over the weekend. I have turned in USPS priority parcels on a Friday in New England and had them delivered in California on Monday.

      The same item, shipped via UPS, cross country, costs me twice as much and takes 6 to 7 BUSINESS days. Over time, I have stopped using UPS or FedEx entirely, and now use USPS priority exclusively, due to the excellent service I have had through them.

      A relevant example of UPS performance is a parcel that is being shipped to me via UPS that I am presently tracking. It was accepted by UPS in Az. on 12/16/2013. AS of today, 12/28,2013, it’s still in transit, scheduled for delivery on Tues. 14 days to move a 1lb parcel cross country. While I understand this particular example is due to their recent holiday crunch, it’s still inexcusable and is not the only time I have had similar experiences with USP.

      This post probably sounds like a USPS commercial. I openly admit that I am an advocate of USPS. But that is a result of them consistently providing me with quality service and saving me a ton in shipping costs in the process. Free supplies, free pickup, free tracking, and free delivery confirmation to boot.

      Of course, my experience and results are due to the ability to use the USPS flat-rate packaging. I have no way to compare standard USPS parcel shipping, as I do not use them.

      However, If you are able to ship via USPS flat rate priority parcel, that is, hands down, the least expensive, most reliable, and fastest method.

    5. Jerry says:

      His point about negotiating with UPS or FedEx is very correct. You have to make sure you call UPS or FedEx sales reps to set the best pricing when you ship. UPS unfortunately has a lot of surcharges (fuel surcharge, extended area surcharge, and residential surcharges). The UPS reps will attempt to lower the base rate based on dollar amount you are spending. They then look at your 52 week rolling average on spending to reduce the cost of shipping. You have to make sure to call every few months to renegotiate to get more discounts. I did this and it helped a lot. USPS Priority Mail is ok – however I have experienced problems with lost mail on rare occasions. Also, rural customers can always get UPS or FedEx when they give you a physical address. But USPS may not go to that physical address — instead the customer has to go to their small town post office for delivery. So in that regards, you have to check on that, otherwise USPS can’t be used.

  2. This is interesting because I never had a problem with USPS before. It could be because I only do ground shipping at this time. I switch between FedEx and USPS depending on where I’m delivering and the cost. The cost of shipping is the one thing that eats me alive due to the fact that most of my products/orders are not high value.

  3. Eric says:

    Another consideration is which of the three are more convenient for your customers to receive. For shipments to a residential address, USPS may be better because if the recipient is not home, they need only go to their local PO to pick it up. For FedEx and UPS, they may have to go well out of their way to a location in some industrial district, with hours not any better than those at the PO. And if they prefer packages go to a PO box, the USPS is the only way.

  4. Thanks for this. I was debating about using the USPS Priority Service but you have made my decision clear. I currently ship everything Fedex Overnight or 2nd Day because I sell perishable items. However shipping prices are a turn off for some customers as the shipping sometimes costs more than the item…

    I have a question for you relating to shipping, how do you currently process your orders and print out shipping labels? Do you manually copy/paste customers info into the USPS or FedEx site or is there a way to export it to them?

    1. Hi Phil,
      I use the Paypal API to automatically send the customer’s address directly to Paypal when an order is placed. Then I use the Paypal multi-shipping tool to print out labels. It’s really easy and fast. Pretty much the only thing that I have to do is to weigh each package.

      Both Fedex and UPS offer a similar API as well. You can tie your shopping cart directly to your FedEx or UPS account and then print labels en masse. I believe Fedex also has a way to read in a specially formatted text file as well. You can have your shopping cart output this file which is then read in to the Fedex website. Doing everything manually is extremely tedious and I don’t recommend it as it’s error prone as well.

  5. Thanks for the reply Steve. When you say Paypal API, are you using PayPal Payments Pro to accept credit cards on your site? This is currently what I am doing (Paypal is my merchant account) but I was unaware that I could ship through the same API?

    Currently I have a custom cart that connects to PayPal for CC verification and then connects to Fedex for shipping and creating custom labels. If I can do it with one step through Paypal that would be so much better.

    1. Hi Phil,

      That is correct. We are using Paypal Website Payments Pro. However, just using the API itself doesn’t mean that you are passing all of the necessary information to do shipping. Make sure you are sending all of the address info along with the payment and then a “Print Shipping Label” button will appear next to each customer. If you click “Multi-shipping tool”, you can batch all of your shipping labels in one fell swoop.

  6. Thanks for the info, I am going to try it out and see how it works…

  7. paul says:

    The postal service has always been very reliable for me. Plus, it’s on my way to work. UPS on the other hand can’t leave most the packages I get so I have to drive 3 towns over to pick them up. Can’t say anything about Fedex since the only deliverys I receive with Fedex on the label comes from the usps. I did ask the clerk at the counter why that was and she said they deliver the unprofitable points for ups and fedex. I then asked why express is 2 day to most points rather than overnight, like it used to be. She told me it was because Fedex transports their express for them. It was the deal USPS made with Fedex to allow them to have FEDEX drop boxes in front of the post office. I think the usps gets a bad rap probably because everyone deals with them every single day. Kinda like someone you spend too much time with, you get sick of em after awhile.

  8. angela says:

    I have never had an issue with usps either…I would say the person writing this has a “personal” issue with the usps…. on the other hand…ups has crushed and misdelievered more than once for me personally…just my 2 cents

  9. mome says:

    Hey, thanks for your article, but I’m a bit confused. I thought the USPS Priority Flat Rate Option was “if it fits, it ships” like the TV commercial says. Anything and everything that fits in the box, if under 70lbs, ships for the rate associated with the size box needed. (envelopes, too)

    I wished this option had been available when I ordered a set of silverware on ebay from a Uruguay seller, and it literally weighs a ton. (well, not literally, but you’d need a dolly to truck it up to my front door up my steep driveway) As it turned out (and this was a few years ago) it was delivered for around $60 to my front door by FedEx, by a van not a huge truck, late in day. Now these same South American sellers are offering cheaper shipping, presumably to attract buyers to the higher priced item. Some offer free shipping. Of course the items are higher priced reflecting the recent changes in the economy, so I’m sure “it all comes out in the wash” as granny used to say.

    I think it’s worthwhile to comparison shop between USPS Parcel Post vs Flat Rate Option (smallish boxes only), and compare those with UPS and FedEx. I almost bid on an ebay item that was $35 opening bid or $45 buy it now, and luckily I noticed the shipping was $50!!! I realize some sellers profit on shipping by calling it Postage and “Handling”. I wished him luck.

  10. Biggesmalz1 says:

    Hey thanks so much for this review it was super helpful!

    I have long been wondering about this and now I know. :-)

  11. Poupon says:

    Thanks for the analysis. A factor not mentioned is your location. Years ago, I did business from the Rockridge neighhborhood in Oakland California. We shipped almost exclusively by UPS by customer request (stores universally believed it to be the most economical method, which it actually wasn’t). Our local facility was hideous to deal with. They never, under any circumstances, made good on claims. They twice lost very large boxes, valued at about $1000.00 each, and which were time sensitive, for six months, and then returned them with floor sweepings, including rocks qnd broken glass in them. When I asked for the supervisor’s name, I was told ” Jesus Christ”. we did not have many problems on the recieving end, and some customers told us their UPS facilities were well run. However, during that period I had a friend whose father did an efficiency analysis on UPS (the company paid him) and reported that he’s never studied a company that was more poorly run, nor one thwt wqs more hostile to its own employees ( which explains our problems with them – customers get the trickle down from angry employees). One of the things they did was begin to harrass employees when they got within five years of retirement. Our regular driver ( who was not the cause of our problems) was one of these, and told us yes, it was true and was happening to him. One of the tihings expected of him was to work faster than was safe.

    The problems were so regular and so devastating to our business that we closed up shop and moved across country. Now we’re in a hilly suburb north of Atlanta. Our neighhbors warned us about the UPS truck zipping down our hill ( working faster than is safe?) and said they had killed two dogs there. That problem wqs solved in a unique way. We don’t see UPS at all in this neighborhood ever since the USPS changed our zipcodes and gave us two zipcodes ( we have a 3/4 acre plot) Now UPS can’t find us and turnns deliveries to sender. When I tried to get this rectified, the USPS manager laughed at me, and told me to ship USPS. We no longer run a regular business, but if we did we’d again have the problem of dealing with a UPS facility that doesn’t function well emough to use.

    About ording postage online. I did this for a while, but every single time, the PO weighed it ( my facility always does this) and in every case, they said I overpaid and you can’t get a refund. I recommend you run some boxes in, have them weighed at the Po and then go home and calculate postage and see which is higher.

  12. Dan Chao says:

    Though on paper most of the time it looks like UPS or Fedex will have the advantage, the farther the package has to travel sort of exposes the problems with those carriers.

    USPS Priority would be ranked lower in terms of a 5 day window, on paper. But, at longest, (in the history of my ebay business, though might just be with my area) USPS priority has taken 3 or less days. That said, most of the time the prices of UPS and FedEx are similar to, yet they almost ALWAYS take the max 5 days.

    1. There’s more to shipping than just costs. In fact, I tend to value predictability more. While USPS Priority mail is advertised as 2-3 days and maybe gets there within that time frame 75% of the time, the other 25% is where you get killed. I’ve had priority mail packages take 3 weeks to arrive and when it comes to an ecommerce business, that can kill you reputation. Fedex and UPS tend to be on time. If they say 5 days, it will arrive in 5 days.

  13. Cindy says:

    USPS is in my experience more reliable than FedEx and UPS combined. Of the few packages that I’ve ever gotten with UPS, more than once it has gotten delivered to the wrong address. Most of the packages that are supposed to be delivered with FedEx end up getting sent with USPS to me, and the ones that FedEx does deliver is simply dropped on my doorstep without so much as a knock, door bell ring, or a slip. Out of the hundreds (if not thousands) of packages that I’ve ever sent and/or received with USPS, only ONCE was something “lost” but for all I know the buyer might have lied since I didn’t put delivery confirmation on it. I trust USPS more than the other two because, even though it’s cheaper, it is far more reliable in my experience. The mailman in my neighborhood has a good idea of who lives where, so I never have to worry about my packages getting delivered to the wrong address. One time a seller wrote the incorrect address on a package and I STILL ended up getting it because my mailman caught the error :) People tend to associate “cheap” with “unreliable” without actually having the solid evidence to prove it.

    1. Hi Cindy,

      I don’t think your sample size is large enough to make a conclusion about reliability. Arguably, my data is not enough either. But we ship hundreds of packages every week and USPS is easily less reliable than FedEx. The best part about FedEx is that they can track down exactly where your package is at all times. With USPS, once it’s lost or late, you have no clue where it is and no one is there to help. We usually just eat the cost and ship the customer another order.

      1. Larry says:

        First, it’s 9/15/2013

        Wow, it’s kind hard to believe this post is unbiased with a UPS AD in the middle of it.
        I sell books and records(vinyl)prominently, from Nashville, Tn. I can tell you that 99% of the time the USPS is cheaper. I have never had a package lost, when properly packaged, addressed & included tracking, which is free with priority shipments using the USPS Internet shipping service. UPS & Fedx are usually at least twice as much. As I buy what I sell via shipping services as well, I see them coming and going. UPS is way ahead on delivering damaged packages.

        If it needs to be there overnight, it’s Fedx! Believe me, I spent 3 weeks at the Fedx plant in Memphis filming the movie Castaway. We followed the “hero” box through the entire facility. In the process we came to a point where there was a mountain, easily 10′ high & wide, of crushed pagages of all shapes & sizes. I asked our contact about this & he said it was quite normal given the quantity of packages, BUT, if you REALLY want a package to get there, always ship next day, as it goes through a completely different facility with little to no losses.

        My biggest problem by far is incoming shipping costs. I end up purchasing a great deal of inventory through Goodwill.com auction sites. They are scattered throughout the country, and each store chooses its own option of shippers. Most give me a rational choice, USPS for under 10lbs, UPS for heavier & more fragile shipments, which they do so well. But ever since congress has been on its rampage to bring down the Post Office in its quest to privatize everything in the name of $$$, I hear a lot of trash talk about the USPS, mostly on line, but more and more through my vendors. In the goodwill.com world, the customer seems to be becoming; insignificant. I routinely get charged $15 or more to ship a couple small books that would be $5 media mail, because they refuse to use the USPS, and always for the same reasons, the USPS is BAD in all ways, & is going out of business soon anyway. The Spokane Wa. Office told me they didn’t get USPS where they are, San Diego, now Portland jumped on the bandwagon with more every month it seems. When I ask local vendors and regular people for opinions of the USPS, they are usually quite satisfied.

        Shipping has become a highly politicized subject in the last few years because of the same old same old. The Republicans want the USPS to die because their doners want to own it, and can’t until they can get that darned “United States” out of the USPS.

        It seems inevitable, but who knows… when you are paying $7 to mail a letter via UPS, it will be too late, & thousnds of very small businesses like mine will be forced out of bussiness, without question.

      2. Hey Larry,

        Those ads are not under my control and I have no bias towards any of the carriers. Personally, I use a combination of USPS and Fedex and don’t even use UPS.

  14. I agree that 4 lbs is the breakpoint for USPS. They don’t want the mail service to deliver packages larger than that. However, I am found that your analysis of shipping costs matches ours when shipping from coast to coast. However, it is not so simple when shipping to a closer site. Usually to ship to a state within 300 miles is much cheaper with USPS. And to make matters more complicated, shipping by FedEx or UPS to a commercial address costs less than to a residential address. Just last week, it was cheaper for us to ship by ground a package, 4 lbs by Fed Ex from Michigan to Ohio than USPS or UPS and it was delivered overnight.

    There is just no one size fits all when it comes to shipping if the package is over 13 ounces. We offer flat rate shipping so that it leaves the final decision to us.

    1. tony g says:

      post office if it fits it ships flat rate

  15. Erika says:

    Hey wow thank you for your original write up it was very helpful and informative!!! I have been an ebay seller for 15 years (yep a veteran :) And over the years, postage just keeps creeping up to my dismay :( When I started, tyvek envelopes ran about $3 to ship almost anywhere….now, anything I list is the $10.50 medium flate rate and UP! Plus their boxes for mailing have gotten smaller. you wouldnt believe the volume of goods I have literally STUFFED into a regular flat rate envelope or a legal flat rate envelope lol. Sadly, they used to offer that priority industrial strength tape but now they no longer do….but I do still have a few rolls left from when they did, so tape those STUFFED envelopes up well :) I know a lot of buyers are dismayed by shipping costs on ebay and elsewhere, they must not realize what the services are charging for shipping now….the good news is flat rate shipping leaves the guesswork out of thing much of the time. But what do you recommend for larger very light items? Like 24″x18″x15″? I have an item I will need to ship in a few days….first dilemma is finding a darn box. Second is which shipping method is best for a 4 lb larger item….

  16. John says:

    I just did a comparison on shipping three boxes. These are Home Depot boxes, one small, two medium. The weights were 9, 12, and 15 pounds.

    UPS ground on-line was $86.89.
    UPS Store ground was $101.xx (They did help me carry the boxes back to the car.)
    USPS Parcel Post was 53.04

    All three included the same amount of insurance.
    It pays to check.

  17. leon says:

    usps is definately the worse I have always had problems with their service but the prices for ups and fed ex are too high so I agree with the article it depends on the person or situation!

  18. tony g says:

    Post Office must be pretty low cost half the stuff I get from UPS and FedEx comes in the mail if they can charge me and afford to send it through the mail and still prophet that must say something

  19. How about this:-

    BUYERS are the ones that select the Shipping service AND Level of Service that THEY WANT.

    Sellers merely act as Fulfilling Agents for THAT Buyers “Choice”.

    Sellers do NOT have any control over shipping services & they merely honour the CHOICE & SELECTION that the BUYER Makes.

    Once a Seller is able to PROVE (Via a Drop-Off or “Acceptance” Scan for example) that they have indeed dropped the Buyers Item off with the Buyers selected Choice of Service Provider, THEN it is literally out of the hands of the Seller.

    It is no longer the responsibility of the Seller to provide for “Managing” where the Buyers item IS or not, because it is the BUYER that takes responsibility for their OWN Selection of the Shipping services.

    Sellers Merely Outline the choices with the caveat of the preceding.

    As a Seller, I Cannot & certainly don’t tell USPS, FedEx, DHL, or UPS what to do nor how to do it.

    I also have no control or managerial over-sight on Home-land Security, Customs Bureau’s or even (Gasp!!) LOCAL Postal Services Policies, delivery or processing times or procedures.

    It’s HIGH TIME that sellers step-up & EDUCATE Buyers on this matter.

    As a Buyer, if I want Reliability for a purchased item, I select UPS, DHL, or Fedex respectfully since those services, although MUCH more expensive provide “Point-to-Point” Tracking….but I will have to PAY for that “Service”.

    As a Buyer, if I want to pay the LEAST POSSIBLE for shipping, then that is MY CHOICE as a Buyer….& thus the RESULTS are myne to OWN.

    I certainly & quite logically cannot hold a Seller responsible for ANY CHOICES (Bad or Good) that I make UNLESS I select UPS, FedEx, or DHL & then the Seller SWITCHES & uses USPS or some lesser/cheaper service & Pockets the difference.

    As well, If the Seller states that they have a handling period of 3 days or less & I find (Due to the Scan or Acceptance Date/Time Stamp) that they took over a week to process my item??, THEN the Seller is at fault but only for not maintaining their self imposed policy of that 3 day or less processing time…..THAT I can hold the Seller responsible for.

    If UPS, FedEx or DHL mis-ship or mis-handle an item OR if Home-Land Security pull a parcel for a bit further inspection due to (5 Days), say some off-gassing of some 3M VHB Tape (Yeah, ask me how I know THIS Happens) then it is NOT the Sellers Fault NOR can they be reasonably held accountable for it either.

    In this type of matters, it is the BUYER who needs to be respectfully & reasonably educated as to who holds the responsibility for the choices & selections made for “Shipping Services” & the levels thereof.

    But of course, every-one wants to blame the wrong person in these matters & Sellers are not bold enough to expect of Buyers a decorum of decency & critical logical thinking & assessment.

    I’m insane in the membrane though…..with a whole lot of French Canadienne thrown in & that certainly doesn’t tame my tongue or my perspective.

    What say YOUS Guys??.

    1. Mark says:

      In my experience you’re entitled to your personal opinion about what responsibility the seller has vs. the buyer but, in a free market economy, that’s all it is…your opinion. If your competitor decides to own an issue that you’ve refused to own, and it benefits the customer? You’re out of business, unless you have an offsetting benefit or an extremely loyal customer base. Good luck with your crusade tho! :-)

  20. Sal Monella says:

    Mail order business for 25 years, 20k+ Ebay fb’s:
    getting more complaints about USPS in the last few months than in entire previous years.
    What is this, corporate deathwish?

  21. Great article…I think you are pretty much spot on. I am a shipper using all 3 and I was contacted by this guy Bart at discountshipcosts.com. He got to me through a Chamber of Commerce list. Suffice it to say, his company offered me 40% off next day air and 35% 2 day shipping off regular UPS and FedEx prices. I do NOT want to seem like I am advertising for him, but he has saved my company about $600 a month in shipping fees. My average package is between 3 and 8 lbs. But even an overnight letter can save me 40%. Seriously, you (everyone) should check it out. It costs nothing. By the way? My opinion of USPS is that within a few years they will be gone, at least on the package end. They lose EVERYTHING, LOL! I’d rather pay the extra few bucks and have it done right by the big boys.

    My posts are my own opinion and I take no responsibility for others’ success or failure by acting on my recommendations.

    Jill Marchetti
    Baltimore, Maryland

    1. bill downes says:

      Jill–I was truly excited when I went to their website. Anxious, I called the toll number. Rang 6-7 times and some guy answers “hello?”. I said, oh sorry, I was trying to reach discountshipcosts and hung up. Very unprofessional of them. Too good to be true. I’d like to see what Chamber of Commerce list they might be on!!

  22. Paul says:

    So helpful to hear from a shipper’s point of view, since you have enough data to form a real opinion. As a receiver, I’ve only had a package not arrive once that I know of, from USPS. I do find it a pain to go the UPS depot. Having said that, I have an important package to send next week, and now I’m clear about not using USPS for it.

  23. Great comparison Steve! This is exactly what I was looking for. I’ve been using USPS for two years now, and am wondering if it really is the cheapest way. Thanks!! :-)

  24. Andrea says:

    I find it humorous that the first few responses question how up-to-date this article is, and then they are reassured that it is timely, i.e., written this year. What year would that be? Could someone actually put a date somewhere? Beyond that, however, I would like to thank everyone for contributing this important information and sharing it with others. Cudos!

    1. Hey Andrea,
      I update this post whenever there are any major changes to the shipping rates. That being said, things have been relatively stable in terms of comparisons for quite a while now.

  25. Lisa L says:

    While we don’t check on the status of all of our orders, I can tell you from experience that the quoted delivery times from USPS for both First Class and Priority Mail are completely hit or miss. If you are sending a package to some podunk, middle of no where town, it’s more likely to get delayed. Meanwhile, I’ve yet to ever have a FedEx or UPS package delayed or lost.

    Do a little more research….the fact is that most of the UPS and FedEx packages get delivered by the USPS. Its called last mile delivery, because FedEx and UPS won’t go to those podunk places you write of, if they did they would charge even more.

  26. Misty says:

    Thanks for this very useful article. hehe, I also went to look for the date of your post as soon as I read the article.

    One way to show the date near your name above the article is to add the following in your filename.php file that contains “Written by” Steve C:

    1. Misty says:

      Uh, It didn’t show the PHP code due to the brackets. here it is:

      (Left angel bracket)?php the_time(‘F j, Y’); ?(right angel bracket)

  27. Misty says:

    Uh, It didn’t show the PHP code due to the brackets. Just place the time function within the PHP brackets:

    the_time(‘F j, Y’);

  28. misty says:

    Here are the shipping rates that I’ve got today while shipping a 6.7 pounds package from California to Virginia:

    UPS Ground: $20.45
    US Postal Service: $14.61

    1. Hey Misty,

      The $14.61 amount is for a flat rate box. Note that in the above article, I mention that flat rate boxes are the exception to the rule depending on how much junk you can fit in it. For a 7 lb package, FedEx should be cheaper.

      So, I did the exact same shipment calculation using FedEx Ground just now and got $11.90 shipping from California to Maryland.

      Usually UPS is on par. I’m going to check UPS right now.

      1. Incidentally, if you don’t use a flat rate box, the cost of priority mail goes up to $23.00

        Just got my quote back from UPS and the rate is $20.45 which is the same as your quote. For our shop, we dropped UPS long ago because at the time our volumes weren’t high enough to negotiate a better rate.

        FedEx has been our carrier of choice for heavier packages and in general, they are on par with UPS but obviously not in this case.

        So go FedEx! But keep in mind, if you run a store or any business that ships packages, you can usually negotiate better rates.

  29. Its nice article since this article contains a lot of useful information. My wife quit her job is funny domain and this is a nice way of cheapest shipping. Here is another one company which provide cheap shipping too i.e sky2c.com

  30. glen says:

    Well, the 15% savings thing through fedex stopped in 2010 per their website:

    IMPORTANT: Enrollment in the FedEx Ship & Save program will stop for all new accounts created after May 14, 2010. The program will remain in effect for currently enrolled customers until further notice.


    1. Hey Glen,
      The specific discount program mentioned in the post ended, but FedEx always offers a savings program if you use their electronic services. Right this second, there’s a discount program that is tiered based on how much you ship. Look it up. FedEx Savings Program.

  31. frank says:

    when was this published?

  32. Liz says:

    Wow! Your information is so wrong. You really have no idea what you are talking about. It is pretty sad that people read this trash. If businesses want to know rates and what carrier to ship with they need to contact a Shipping Solutions Specialist for each carrier. Discounts vary by carrier and the business owners’ negotiating skills.
    Steve, you can’t call one carrier unreliable unless you have statistics. If you did your research you would be more careful with your choice of words. This article provides your reader with terrible information, incorrect information. I know you are trying to help others, but do your research.

    1. Well geez Liz,

      If you read the article carefully, you would have noticed that it said “Out of the box pricing for all shipping carriers which means that lower negotiated rates based on volume are not taken into account. ”

      As it stands the out of the box pricing numbers are correct. In my experience, UPS tends to be more willing to negotiate than FedEx but that of course depends on how desperate they are to have your business and your shipping volumes.

      Second of all, all of this data is from my own experience and from data of many shop owners that I keep in contact with. USPS is far less reliable and the other carriers

    2. RT says:


      Yes – statistics would help when it comes to reliability.

      But as I’ve learned, USPS will manipulate data to show something as delivered – when in reality, they have NO idea if it was or wasn’t.

      I have two cases where it shows up as delivered. One didn’t show up as delivered until March 6th (it was delivered on Feb 28th) – and that was only AFTER I called USPS about it. They called me back 2 days later and said how coincidentally it was out for delivery that very day. Funny thing is – the buyer already replied saying she received it on the 28th…so basically I alerted them to the missing tracking data & they changed it to show whatever they needed it to.

      Another one says it was delivered (at 8.45am to a residential address…does your mailman come to your residential address anytime before noon, let alone before regular work hours? Probably not…). It wasn’t.

      I was personally told by a USPS representative that the tracking data isn’t always updated because the item isn’t always scanned…meaning if you don’t see the update – they have NO idea where it is.

      So how on earth could you accurately calculate statistics with data that is (1) incomplete and (2) manipulated into inaccuracies to benefit the carrier?

      Here’s what I know. UPS has lost a few packages that were supposed to be delivered to me. But NEVER have those packages showed up as delivered. Instead they would continually be changed to show they were “out for delivery” that day…when it didn’t arrive, it was updated to show the expected delivery date as the following day. So yeah – not entirely accurate – but they never said it went somewhere that it didn’t. USPS on the other hand has jacked with the data regarding 2 of my 50 or so shipments (via 1st class).

      1. Hi Ria,

        I have had your exact same experience. What is especially frustrating is express mail since they offer a money back guarantee. I’ve had several cases where they’ve mark a package as delivered so they don’t have to give a refund. I’m hoping that as they shift away from mail that they’ll stop doing this. But in reality, you get what you pay for. USPS is like half the price.

  33. Roger C says:

    I use USPS primarily along with UPS. At least USPS doesn’t have fuel surcharges, and their flat rate boxes can be a good deal.

    I’m in New England, and using FedEx or UPS ground to the west coast will take eight days to get there. Priority mail is often only 2 days. Did I mention the free priority boxes?

    Also please note that UPS and FedEx will charge international customers customs bonding fees if you if you’re shipping out of the country which will enrage them! With USPS This is not an issue.

  34. Tammie says:

    I would like to add an update (2/26/13) that I mailed a package two days ago via USPS to a customer which weighed 1 lb 6 oz and it cost approximately $5.75 priority mail. This morning I was to mail a package via USPS which weighed 1 lb 2 oz and it was going to cost me nearly $10 with the exact same priority mail service! What the heck? The USPS is constantly complaining about how their prices have to keep going up because no one uses the service which is about to go defunct anyway and they wonder why? Who can afford to send a pair of jeans across the country at $10 a shot? You have to be a MEGA store with hundreds of thousands of dollars in sale every month to afford any kind of business reduction in shipping costs by contract and that ain’t me. USPS just put me out of the auction business!

  35. Ria says:

    The most infuriating part of USPS is that their tracking is a complete fraud. I ship small (1-2oz) pkgs via 1st class. And of the 50 or so I’ve mailed so far 2 have been manipulated by USPS to show inaccurate data. One was delivered on Feb 28th, but showed up undelivered. I contacted USPS & the buyer on the 4th of March. The buyer told me on the 5th she had received it on the 28th. USPS calls me on the 6th & tells me “oh – it looks like it’s out for delivery now” – after no updates since Feb 24th, suddenly the package is showing out for delivery on March 6th…even though that was impossible since it was already delivered…

    Now I have one that took 2 weeks – and is now showing delivered at 8:45am to a residential address…does anyone know of any residential neighborhood whose mail is delivered at 8:45am on a regular weekday…when businesses are open…because I don’t. It may be possible, but it’s a bit preposterous to me. Especially since it wasn’t delivered…

    So basically – they will update a package that wasn’t scanned to show whatever they want it to say simply to avoid having to admit it was lost. I called once about a package the woman says “well it’s not showing any updates because it just wasn’t scanned” – umm…ok….so how do you know this? If it wasn’t scanned then how on earth fo you have any idea what’s going on…? Basically, if an item is lost they will:
    1) not admit it.
    2) have no idea where it was lost since it probably wasn’t scanned in the first place.
    3) change the tracking data to show as if it was actually delivered.

    End point: they have ZERO accountability.

    And I have no other shipping options since the alternative to USPS costs 5x more!!

    It’s one thing if they lose it. I can live with that. But it’s an entirely different thing when they outright lie and modify their records to show information that is not correct. That’s just BS.

  36. Mark says:


    Best rates for me by a long shot is from FedEx SmartPost. Fed Ex has partnered with the USPS – FedEx takes your package by truck and delivers it to the post office sorting center nearest your destination – skipping multiple USPS sorting centers (zones) that would process your package and increase your cost. Then, USPS delivers to your customer while tracked through UPS.

    There are size limits and weight under 70 pounds, lwss than 130″ in girth. Also limit of liability is $100.

    1. Mark says:

      Edit: the $100 liability is based on the wholesale value. Shipping is also refunded in addition to the liability. You must also use your own boxes.

      The biggest savings are on shorter distances. For me in California, I save about $1.50 on packages to the East Coast, $3 to the Midwest and over $4 locally – compared to USPS medium flat rate box with online pricing.


  37. steve j says:

    This article is right on, my experience matches his to the letter, and this reflects having lived and shipped from 5 different metro areas over the past 20 years. Not only does USPS screw up on delivery, but even the mail I receive at home at our our p.o. box is constantly misdelivered. I have a good friend who works for USPS, and she talks about very unsatisfied employees who do care little about their jobs, and can’t be reprimanded because of union rules. Employees of FedEx seem much happier and, in my opinion, it shows in their performance. We’ve recently begun shipping more at work and FedEx is usually the best bang for the buck, and very dependable. Occasionally we are enticed by flat rate box pricing and, inevitably, get burned by a lost shipment. We then kick ourselves and go back to FedEx, hat in hand…

  38. Sean says:

    Shipping prices keep going up and up. It’s getting a little ridiculous. I agree USPS used to be cheeper and even faster in some situations. However, USPS reliability seems to be questionable. Not that the other carriers never have problems though.

    When the price to ship an item starts costing more than the item itself then there’s a problem.

    posted September 12th, 2013 in case you wondered

  39. Lei says:

    usps sucks… their service is horrible (rude clerks) and they lose their packages, mis-deliver all the time. i know because i buy online from overseas all the time. we also receive other people’s mail all the time!! i am missing a package i ordered currently.

    but anyway, we were at the post office yesterday and they berated us in front of the entire post office. we wanted to get signature confirmation on a package as well as insurance. they told us only 2 labels are allowed (confirmation + 1 more). why is it then when i purchased signature confirmation online before, the usps website tells me this is not a tracking number and i must purchase additional delivery confirmation? 3 managers came out and were very rude, shaking the packages, questioning us what’s inside, telling us to take our packages back, telling us we cause so many problems, customers laughing… there were USED DVDS inside the box for media mail shipping, yet they treated us as if we were trafficking drugs.

    bottom line, i am moving to fedex now and shipping all of my eBay packages through them. at least i will have peace of mind knowing my package is more likely to get there, and it is covered for up to $100.

  40. Brian says:

    This article is pretty accurate overall. The big thing to remeber is he is reffering to rack retail rates. If you ship over $100 a week with either FedEx or UPS you should have no problem negotiating at least 10% off ground rates and at least 25% off anything faster. And these are off daily shipper rates not retail rates. Large volume shippers will pay less than $15 to overnight a package that would say $30+ on either of their websites if not logged in on a discounted account. 7 years in parcel sales experience…

    1. Exactly. Especially with FedEx and UPS, you can almost always negotiate as long as you can offer consistent business.

  41. Felix says:

    Hi Steve, this is Felix, my wife and I are barely starting with an online store.
    I have a very simple beginners question and it is, when a costumer pays online for the product an shipment, I would print the label and take the package to the post office? but how do you do if you have multiple orders per day? Do you wait for the end of the day? or how do you do it?
    I really appreciate any feedback since , as you can see, I have no experience in this department
    Have a great day and thank you

  42. Felix says:

    Hi Steve, this is Felix, my wife and I are barely starting with an online store.
    I have a very simple beginners question and it is, when a costumer pays online for the product an shipment, I would print the label and take the package to the post office? but how do you do if you have multiple orders per day? Do you wait for the end of the day? or how do you do it?
    I really appreciate any feedback since , as you can see, I have no experience in this department
    Have a great day and thank you.

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