Key Points:

  • Speed, distance, weight, and size are all factors to consider when determining the cheapest way to ship boxes
  • USPS, FedEx, and UPS all provide reliable shipping services for your domestic and international shipments
  • To get the cheapest shipping rates from multiple couriers, use a shipping rate calculator to compare rates based on package size, weight, destination, and delivery speed

Coming into 2024, eCommerce delivery expectations are changing, and most online buyers have come to expect faster, cost-effective (or free!) shipping options. That means high shipping costs can be a big turnoff to potential buyers and can cost you a lot of business down the line.

Therefore, it is important to be able to determine the cheapest way to ship a package to your buyers from different shipping zones within the US or overseas. This will not only help you convert shipping-cost-sensitive shoppers and stay ahead of the competition but it will also improve your bottom line and help you to remain profitable.

So, what is the cheapest way to ship a package these days? While there is no one-size-fits-all answer that suits, well, boxes of all sizes this article will help you figure out the factors that affect shipping rates and some ways you can negotiate shipping discounts from the major couriers.

Table of Contents

Cheapest Way to Ship a Package Based on Delivery Speed

Different courier services provide different lead times and different shipping costs. We’ll offer the best and cheapest way to mail a package that weighs under 10 pounds. Be sure to check out Easyship’s Shipping Rates Calculator to view our shipping rates discounts with up to 91% off.

The cheapest option for 2-3 day shipping

USPS Priority Mail is generally the cheapest shipping service for 2-3 day shipping. FedEx, UPS, and other courier companies offer delivery services with similar lead time expectations, but USPS offers the lowest rates.

If you’re shipping a package over 5+ pounds, UPS and FedEx begin to offer competitive rates for the cheapest option for 2-3 day shipping.

Let’s say you’re shipping a 4-pound package from New York to Los Angeles again; we’ll use the Easyship shipping calculator to find the cheapest way to ship a package with an overnight delivery service.

Courier Service Cost
USPS Priority Mail $24.05
UPS 3 Day Select® $55.01
FedEx Express Saver $62.25

Cheapest option for overnight shipping

UPS and FedEx are more reliable when you’re looking at overnight shipping services. USPS Priority Mail Express may offer affordable rates for 1-day delivery, but UPS and FedEx guarantee delivery by the next day or your money back.

Let’s say you’re shipping a 4-pound package from New York to Los Angeles again; we’ll calculate the example rates so you can see which overnight delivery service is best.

Courier Service Cost
USPS Priority Mail Express $24.05
UPS Next Day Air® $141.70
FedEx First Overnight $193.20

Cheapest Way to Ship a Package Based on Weight

The weight of your parcel largely influences the cost of shipping. We’ll consider the most affordable shipping services based on the weight of your package.

The cheapest option for under 1 pound

USPS Retail Ground or USPS First Class Package is the cheapest option for shipping packages under 1 pound. For any media-related materials, USPS Media Mail is even cheaper.

Courier Service Cost
USPS First Class Package $6.25
UPS Ground® $13.18
FedEx Ground $12.78

The cheapest option for under 5 pounds

USPS Retail Ground or USPS Priority Mail is the cheapest option for anything between 1-5 pounds.

Courier Service Cost
USPS Retail Ground $6.25
UPS Ground® $19.50
FedEx Ground $18.91

The cheapest option for 10 pounds

As we can see in this example, UPS Ground® or FedEx Ground are the cheapest options for anything 10+ pounds. USPS is the cheapest option for packages that are generally under 7 pounds.

Courier Service Cost
USPS Retail Ground $38.95
UPS Ground® $31.08
FedEx Ground $30.14

The cheapest option for 50+ pounds

UPS Ground® and FedEx Ground are the winners for the cheapest shipping option for a package that weighs 50 pounds. USPS also imposes a 50-pound weight limit for parcels, so anything above 50 pounds should be shipped with FedEx or UPS to avoid any surcharges.

Courier Service Cost
USPS Retail Ground $120.60
UPS Ground® $118.69
FedEx Ground $115.12

Cheapest and Fastest Shipping Options: Table Overview

Now that we have looked at the different delivery factors that affect shipping rates, it is time to look at the options side-by-side based on each one of them.

Less than 10 lbs (Standard) X
Over 10lbs (Standard) X X
Envelopes X
Light boxes X
Heavy boxes X X
Two-day shipping X X
Next-day shipping (AM) X
Next-day shipping (PM) X X
Expedited International shipping X
Priority International X X
Overnight X

4 Crucial Shipping Rate Factors to Consider

No singular, universal shipping method is considered the gold standard for inexpensively shipping a package. Keep in mind that depending on what you’re shipping you must also factor in a parcel’s weight and size, how quickly you need your package to get to its destination, and your shipping zone or country.

Here, we discuss the four crucial factors to consider when determining the best way to reduce shipping costs:

1. Speed

How fast do you want your package to get to its destination? As instant gratification becomes the norm, speedy shipping will certainly play a role. But keep in mind, the faster the delivery speed, the more you will have to pay.

Do you want your package to be delivered overnight, the next day, in two days, within three days, or you are willing to wait for 7days? Different courier companies offer various time-sensitive delivery options to cater to your preferred delivery timeframe. But you’ll have to pay to play, so to speak. Overnight delivery may cost five times more than ground delivery.

For 2-3-day shipping, USPS Priority Mail offers the most competitive rates for packages weighing 10lb and below. But UPS and FedEx services offer more enticing rates when shipping packages above 10lbs within the same delivery window.

For packages with a hard two-day delivery timeframe, UPS 2nd Day and FedEx 2Day are the best options because USPS doesn't offer guaranteed services within this timeframe.

For expedited next-day Day or overnight delivery, UPS Next Day Air Saver and FedEx Standard Overnight offer competitive rates compared to USPS.

2. Distance

First thing’s first, consider which shipping zone your package is being sent from. Shipping carriers split the US into 8 shipping zones based on the distance your package has to travel from the mailing address or zip code. The further the shipping zone from the destination address, the higher the shipping rate will be.

Domestic shipping vs international shipping also comes to play when sending packages to your customers in different places. As you would expect, international shipping comes at higher shipping rates than domestic shipping.

Having distribution centers in different parts of the US can help your business mitigate the shipping costs and shorten the delivery time for your customers by ensuring your merchandise is stored closer to the final destination. With that in mind, Easyship partners with 3PL providers and warehouses across different cities around the world to help you shorten your shipping distances and times.

3. Weight

The weight of your package is a crucial factor to consider when finding the cheapest way to ship boxes. How heavy or light your package is will impact its shipping rate.

USPS offers the most competitive rates when shipping lightweight packages under 1 pound or 16 oz, using USPS First Class Mail or USPS Media Mail when shipping physical media.

USPS Priority Mail offers a cost-effective option when sending items between 1-10 lbs, while FedEx and UPS Ground/Home delivery offer the lowest rates for heavy packages within the US.

4. Size

The size of a package has everything to do with how much space it occupies in the back of a track based on its dimensions. The larger the package, the greater the shipping cost. Different couriers offer several options to help you optimize your package size for shipping.

One such option is to use Flat Rate Packages with USPS. Although this isn’t always guaranteed to be the cheapest way to ship a box, it will help you maintain steady shipping costs. First Class Mail envelopes, flat rate envelopes, and USPS Priority Mail offer the lowest rates for small packages.

Another option is to use cubic pricing. Cubic pricing is a special USPS service that offers lower shipping rates when sending small, heavy items that are under 20lbs with USPS Priority Mail.

Here is how to calculate the cubic feet for your package:

Cubic feet = Length x Width x Height/ 1728

Dimensional pricing is also used when determining the shipping cost of your package. If your package is too large in proportion to its weight, the dimensional weight will be used to determine the shipping rate. The larger the dimensional weight, the higher the shipping rate, as the package will take up more space in airplanes and other cargo vehicles.

Dimensional weight is calculated by dividing the dimension of your package by a divisor. The larger the divisor, the cheaper the shipping rate.

Dimensional weight = (L x W x H)/ Divisor

USPS has the largest dimensional weight divisor, hence offering the cheapest way to ship a package based on its dimensional weight.

Additional factors to consider

There are also other additional factors that you need to consider — apart from the cost. A cheap option that doesn't offer excellent tracking services, insurance, or doesn't commit to its delivery timeframes may come with its share of inconveniences that outweigh the eye-catching price.

Here are some additional factors you should consider:

  • Insurance: Insurance provides security for your goods in transit. Plus, it helps to mitigate any risks related to lost or damaged packages. While researching how best to reduce shipping costs, it is smart to check whether the carrier with the most competitive rates offers insurance for your packages. While it may cost extra, it could make sense to go for a carrier with a higher shipping rate that includes insurance cover a cheaper option that doesn't cover you, and requires a separate purchase of insurance.
  • Tracking: Tracking helps you streamline your buyers’ shipping experience and it builds trust by providing package visibility throughout its journey. The most inexpensive way to ship a package may come with spotty tracking services, so you may need to weigh your options right to make sure that you select an option with excellent tracking services.
  • Handling Fees: Handling fees sometimes are applied depending on how delicate your shipment is. When choosing the cheapest way to ship boxes, you should always check to see whether you will need to pay any separate handling fees.
  • Fuel and residential surcharges: Often, inexpensive shipping plans have hidden costs — like last-mile delivery fees, like fuel or residential surcharges. When making your shipping choice, make sure to check for these additional charges.
  • Delivery guarantee: You need to check whether the cheapest shipping option commits to its delivery timelines so that you don't inconvenience your customers. After all, it’s always about serving your customers.

When Shipping Discounts Apply

Getting shipping discounts from courier companies can be a game-changer for your eCommerce business, as they can help you reduce your shipping cost per package. Shipping carriers will discount your rates depending on the volume of packages you send. The more you shop, the better your rates become.

Another great way to get discounted shipping rates is to access the major carriers through a 3PL company like Easyship. You'll always get better rates when using the services of a third-party courier as compared to trying to negotiate directly with the courier companies.

3PL companies tend to get huge shipping discounts because of the large number of packages they send to these couriers. Then, they pass down the benefits to their partners by offering them discounted rates. It’s a win-win.

Find the Cheapest Way to Send a Package with Easyship

Easyship is the top shipping and logistics company working with a network of over 250 couriers worldwide. This has put us in a position to negotiate some of the best shipping discounts with leading couriers and we can help you reduce your shipping expenses by up to 91%.

Some of our major discounts include the following:

  • Save up to 65% on USPS First Class Package
  • Save up to 89% on USPS Priority Mail
  • Save up to 50% on UPS® Ground
  • Save up to 76% on UPS Worldwide Saver®
  • Save up to 85% on USPS Ground Advantage
  • Save up to 91% on DHL eCommerce

We also offer a range of easy-to-use shipping tools, to help streamline your shipping experience and delight your buyers. Popular features include:

  • Comparison Tool: With our courier comparison tool, you can compare the different shipping services offered by each courier, allowing you to choose your cheapest way to ship based on other factors, not just the cost.
  • Insurance: To help keep your packages safe in transit, Easyship offers you insurance up to $10000
  • Tracking: From custom-branded tracking emails to automatic message alerts, Easyship helps you maintain package visibility with your buyers throughout the delivery process.

Sign up for a free Easyship account today!

If you're looking for more cheap shipping options, check out the following guides: