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FedEx vs UPS: Which Is Better?

Should you use FedEx or UPS? Both are reliable shipping solutions with a slew of services. Read this blog to learn how to make the right choice for your business.
FedEx vs UPS: Which Is Better?
Jules

By Jules

 

September 12, 2017

Table of Contents

If you’re new to the world of shipping, UPS and FedEx probably look the same to you. Both are express couriers that offer better tracking and faster service than government postal services.

Still, these two are competitors – so what’s the difference between them? Is FedEx or UPS shipping cheaper? Which offers faster delivery times ? Which is more reliable?

UPS Truck vs FedEx

At Easyship, we wanted to know whether its FedEx or UPS that has better rates for:

  • Cross-country domestic shipping between cities?
  • Cross-country domestic shipping between rural areas?
  • Short distances?
  • Shipping internationally?

Here are the parameters for our little head-to-head:

Package dimensions: 13” x 12” x 2” (medium sized FedEx box)
Package weight: 3 pounds

We're shipping a medium box. And we're shipping to various places around the world to get an idea of which company is cheaper and better.

Join us as we compare these two top courier companies – FedEx and UPS – to get the cheapest rates.

UPS vs Fedex: The Differences

Before we talk exact prices, let's highlight the ways in which FedEx and UPS differ in their approach to service.

UPS specializes in domestic ground package delivery, and has a larger fleet of ground vehicles. FedEx specializes in global air express freight, and has double the airplanes than UPS. This suggests that FedEx should offer cheaper rates on international shipping, and UPS better rates on domestic.

Both companies offer a range of shipping services at various delivery speeds and prices, from Ground to Overnight and Flat Rate services. Both companies have physical store locations around the US, though FedEx has far more.

UPS also offers Supply Chain and Freight services like supply chain management, customs brokerage, and freight distribution. This means UPS can be a partner as you scale into global eCommerce sales.

FedEx has partnered with the US Postal Service for many eCommerce shipments. FedEx handles most of the shipment transport via jet, then hands off the last mile delivery to USPS for final delivery. This helps FedEx to reduce costs and accelerate delivery times for domestic shipping.

For the specific case of our experiment: UPS shipping uses different volumetric weight formulas for domestic and international shipments, seen below:

  • Volumetric weight for a 13” x 12” x 2” box using UPS domestic: 2 lbs
  • Volumetric weight for a 13” x 12” x 2” box using UPS international: 3 lbs

For FedEx, the volumetric weight for a 13” x 12” x 2” box, regardless of whether it’s being shipped internationally or domestically, is 3 lbs.

Takeaway: If you plan on shipping a 2-pound package domestically in a medium-sized box, UPS shipping would give you a better rate than FedEx.

FedEx vs. UPS: Ground Services Compared

FedEx and UPS are direct competitors. This means that every service they offer tends to match closely to the others in terms of price, delivery times, and features. For example, here's how UPS and FedEx compare in terms of their most common service: ground.

FedEx Ground vs. UPS Ground

Both services offer ground-based shipping within the domestic US. Here's how they compare.

FedEx Ground Service Details

  • Delivery lead times between 1 - 5 five business days within the contiguous US; 3-7 business days for Hawaii and Alaska
  • Delivers Monday - Friday
  • No weekend delivery
  • Weight limit is 150 pounds (68 kg); length limit is 108 inches (274 cm) and 130 inches (330 cm) for girth
  • Offers guaranteed delivery
  • Packages insured up to $100
  • Package tracking

UPS Ground Service Details

  • Delivers within 1 - 6 days within all 50 US states
  • Delivers Monday - Friday
  • No weekend deliveries
  • Weight limit of 150 pounds (68 kg)
  • Offers guaranteed delivery
  • Offers up to $100 in insurance
  • Package tracking

Takeaway: Both UPS and FedEX Ground deliver to every state in less than a week. Delivery times are comparable, come with a guarantee, and include tracking.

Update: Both companies have halted their delivery guarantees until the end of COVID-related restrictions.

UPS vs FedEx: Which Is Cheaper?

Now let's compare the rates of UPS and FedEx to find who is cheapest.

Let’s assume we ship something on a Monday from San Francisco, CA to New York, NY.

Domestic Shipping

Below are the retail rates for cross-country domestic shipping rates between major US cities, with fuel surcharges included:

Rates for 3 lb. package (13" x 12" x 2") from SF to NY

Courier Service Delivery Time Cost (Retail) in USD
UPS Next Day Air Early Tuesday, 8 AM $121.22
FedEx First Overnight Tuesday, 8 AM $120.27
UPS Next Day Air Tuesday, 10:30 AM $89.64
FedEx Priority Overnight Tuesday, 10:30 AM $88.18
UPS Next Day Air Saver Tuesday, 3 PM $81.61
FedEx Standard Overnight Tuesday, 3 PM $80.26
UPS 2nd Day Air AM Wednesday, 10:30 AM $45.25
FedEx 2 Day 2 AM Wednesday, 10:30 AM $44.51
UPS 2nd Day Air Wednesday, End of Day $39.52
FedEx 2 Day Wednesday, 4:30 PM $38.86
UPS 3 Day Select Thursday, End of Day $32.03
FedEx Express Saver Thursday, 4:30 PM $31.52
UPS Ground Monday, End of Day $15.41
FedEx Ground 3 - 6 Working Days ---

Both companies offer similar, time-sensitive services at very similar rates. However, FedEx’s rates are cheaper than UPS for domestic city-to-city shipping.

For some reason, FedEx did not provide a quote for their Ground service, so we will assume that UPS shipping provides the cheapest rate for ground service if you are shipping a small package cross-country.

FedEx vs UPS article

Remember, with Easyship you can get even better rates – up to 70% off prices on either FedEx or UPS!

Below, we get cheaper rates on the same shipment by using Easyship. In fact, we see that UPS is actually cheaper for certain services.

Courier Service Delivery Time Cost (Retail) in USD Cost (Easyship) in USD
UPS Next Day Air Early Tuesday, 8 AM $121.22 ---
FedEx First Overnight Tuesday, 8 AM $120.27 ---
UPS Next Day Air Tuesday, 10:30 AM $89.64 $50.73
FedEx Priority Overnight Tuesday, 10:30 AM $88.18 $62.19
UPS Next Day Air Saver Tuesday, 3 PM $81.61 ---
FedEx Standard Overnight Tuesday, 3 PM $80.26 $57.66
UPS 2nd Day Air AM Wednesday, 10:30 AM $45.25 ---
FedEx 2 Day 2 AM Wednesday, 10:30 AM $44.51 $42.60
UPS 2nd Day Air Wednesday, End of Day $39.52 $25.99
FedEx 2 Day Wednesday, 4:30 PM $38.86 $34.95
UPS 3 Day Select Thursday, End of Day $32.03 $22.46
FedEx Express Saver Thursday, 4:30 PM $31.52 $27.68
UPS Ground Monday, End of Day $15.41 $11.84
FedEx Ground 3 - 6 Working Days --- $16.66

When sending a small package in the US, FedEx shipping provides cheaper rates if you are paying retail price. But if you use Easyship, UPS will have a better rate.

Want to see the accurate best-possible rates on your shipment? Try our free shipping calculator! From FedEx to UPS to USPS, this is the fastest way to find the best rates anywhere for your specific shipment.

Shipping Calculator Fedex vs UPS

UPS vs FedEx: Domestic rates between rural areas

Now let's compare rates for sending our 3-pound package between two rural areas, instead of cities. For this example, I chose to ship from a small town in California (Saint Helena) to a remote town in Maine (Shirley Hills).

Express couriers are known to add additional surcharges for remote area deliveries, so we wanted to see how much more it would cost to ship a small package cross-country from one rural area to another.

Courier Service Delivery Time Cost (Retail) in USD
UPS Next Day Air Early Tuesday, 2 PM $123.90
FedEx First Overnight --- ---
UPS Next Day Air Tuesday, End of Day $92.33
FedEx Priority Overnight Tuesday, 4:30 PM $90.87
UPS 2nd Day Air Wednesday, End of Day $42.21
FedEx 2 Day Wednesday, 4:30 AM $41.56
UPS 3 Day Select Thursday, End of Day $34.71
FedEx Express Saver Thursday, 4:30 PM $34.21
UPS Ground Monday, End of Day $16.91
FedEx Ground 3 - 6 Working Days ---

Surprisingly, rates are not that much more expensive.

For example, shipping between two major cities coast to coast via UPS Next Day Air cost $89.64, whereas doing something similar between 2 rural towns coast to coast turns out to be $92.33 – and this is with a remote area and fuel surcharge included.

A notable difference is that there are less amount of services to remote areas than if you are shipping to a major city. Additionally, in this case, UPS offered one more service than FedEx did.

And here's the UPS vs. FedEx rates that are cheaper with Easyship:

3 lb. package from St. Helena, CA to Shirley Hills, ME

Courier Service Delivery Time Cost (Retail) in USD Cost (Easyship) in USD
UPS Next Day Air Early Tuesday, 2 PM $123.90 ---
FedEx First Overnight --- --- ---
UPS Next Day Air Tuesday, End of Day $92.33 $54.48
FedEx Priority Overnight Tuesday, 4:30 PM $90.87 $64.92
UPS 2nd Day Air Wednesday, End of Day $42.21 $29.74
FedEx 2 Day Wednesday, 4:30 AM $41.56 $37.68
UPS 3 Day Select Thursday, End of Day $34.71 $26.23
FedEx Express Saver Thursday, 4:30 PM $34.21 $30.40
UPS Ground Monday, End of Day $16.91 $15.39
FedEx Ground 3 - 6 Working Days --- $19.26

Just like our last example, retail rates on FedEx were slightly cheaper than UPS. However, if you use Easyship, UPS will give you a better rate.

Takeaway: When sending a small package cross-country between rural towns, FedEx provides cheaper rates if you are paying retail price. If you use Easyship, UPS will have a better rate. In this case, UPS offered one more service option to this remote area than FedEx did.

UPS vs FedEx: rates over short distances

How do FedEx and UPS  compare when it comes to delivering over short distances? Let’s compare prices from Los Angeles, CA to Las Vegas, NV:

Rates for 3 lb. Package from Los Angeles to Las Vegas

Courier Service Delivery Time Cost (Retail) in USD
UPS Next Day Air Early Tuesday, 8 AM $80.59
FedEx First Overnight Tuesday, 8 AM $81.48
UPS Next Day Air Tuesday, 10:30 AM $49.01
FedEx Priority Overnight Tuesday, 10:30 AM $48.93
UPS Next Day Air Saver Tuesday, 3 PM $41.63
FedEx Standard Overnight Tuesday, 3 PM $41.53
UPS 2nd Day Air AM Wednesday, 10:30 AM ---
FedEx 2 Day 2 AM Wednesday, 10:30 AM $22.79
UPS 2nd Day Air Wednesday, End of Day ---
FedEx 2 Day Wednesday, 4:30 PM $19.90
UPS 3 Day Select Thursday, End of Day ---
FedEx Express Saver Thursday, 4:30 PM $17.43
UPS Ground Monday, End of Day $10.17
FedEx Ground 3 - 6 Working Days ---

When it comes to short distances, rates for both are very close. Sometimes the difference is less than a dollar. In this case, it's best to choose a delivery speed that best suits your customers.

Once again, here are the UPS vs. FedEx rates from LA to Las Vegas that are cheaper with Easyship.

Rates for 3 lb Package from Los Angeles to Las Vegas

Courier Service Delivery Time Cost (Retail) in USD Cost (Easyship) in USD
UPS Next Day Air Early Tuesday, 8 AM $80.59 ---
FedEx First Overnight Tuesday, 8 AM $81.48 ---
UPS Next Day Air Tuesday, 10:30 AM $49.01 $29.61
FedEx Priority Overnight Tuesday, 10:30 AM $48.93 $36.28
UPS Next Day Air Saver Tuesday, 3 PM $41.63 ---
FedEx Standard Overnight Tuesday, 3 PM $41.53 $31.53
FedEx 2 Day 2 AM Wednesday, 10:30 AM $22.79 $23.00
UPS 2nd Day Air Wednesday, End of Day --- $17.62
FedEx 2 Day Wednesday, 4:30 PM $19.90 $20.24
UPS 3 Day Select Thursday, End of Day --- $16.52
FedEx Express Saver Thursday, 4:30 PM $17.43 $18.74
UPS Ground Monday, End of Day $10.17 $10.81
FedEx Ground 3 - 6 Working Days --- $14.65

With Easyship’s rates, you can save more if you use FedEx or UPS’s overnight services.

With the exception of early overnight delivery, FedEx shipping still has the cheaper retail rates overall, and they happen to have more services for this example. If you use Easyship, UPS still has the cheaper rates, especially if you’re looking for Ground services.

Takeaway: When sending a small package at shorter distances, FedEx shipping provides cheaper rates if you are paying retail price. If you use Easyship, UPS will have a better rate.

UPS vs FedEx: Shipping Internationally

Last but not least – how do the couriers compare when you are shipping internationally? Let’s look at the UPS vs. FedEx rates from San Francisco to London.

Rates for 3 lb. Package From SF, CA to London, UK

Courier Service Delivery Time Cost (Retail) in USD
UPS Worldwide Express Wednesday, 9 AM $180.72
FedEx International First Wednesday, 9 AM $181.80
UPS Worldwide Express Plus Wednesday, 12 PM $138.62
FedEx International Priority Wednesday, 12 PM $133.15
UPS Worldwide Saver Wednesday, End of Day $135.37
UPS Worldwide Expedited Friday, End of Day $125.50
FedEx International Economy Friday, 6 PM $123.42

With the exception of FedEx International First service, FedEx again has slightly cheaper rates than UPS. However, it appears that UPS shipping offers one more service than FedEx international shipping does in this example.

And here's the rates by using Easyship.

Courier Service Delivery Time Cost (Retail) in USD Cost (Easyship) in USD
UPS Worldwide Express Wednesday, 9 AM $180.72 ---
FedEx International First Wednesday, 9 AM $181.80 ---
UPS Worldwide Express Plus Wednesday, 12 PM $138.62 $84.40
FedEx International Priority Wednesday, 12 PM $133.15 $61.10
UPS Worldwide Saver Wednesday, End of Day $135.37 $82.48
UPS Worldwide Expedited Friday, End of Day $125.50 ---
FedEx International Economy Friday, 6 PM $123.42 $55.53

As you can see, Easyship can really bring down those rates if you need to ship internationally in an expedited time frame. (Psst - for a more in depth look at shipping internationally, check out our last blog post, What is the cheapest way to ship internationally?)

Conclusion: When sending a small package internationally, FedEx (for the most part) provides cheaper rates if you are paying retail price. If you use Easyship, FedEx also has the better rates.

UPS vs FedEx: Which is best?

Looking back on our examples, both UPS and FedEx had similar rates, delivery speeds, reliability, and service options.

If we were to choose a winner based on retail rates, FedEx wins in all four of our examples.

However, when using Easyship, UPS had more favorable rates, with the exception of shipping internationally. FedEx still had the cheaper rates on international air freight.

Other takeaways:

  • If you plan on shipping something that is 2 lbs domestically using a medium sized box, UPS would give you a better rate over FedEx.
  • Rates drop dramatically at the 2nd day mark when you’re shipping domestically. If you need to send something right away but the overnight rates are too high, 2nd day is your best bet.

When deciding between the two, it may come down to the amount of services offered for your route or the timing that you need your package delivered.

Pro Tip: Use a Rate Calculator to Save Time

You can skip all these comparisons by using the free shipping rate calculator from Easyship. Rather than bouncing back and forth between UPS and FedEx, just enter your shipment details into the calculator. You'll get real-time, accurate rates from the couriers websites – but all rates will show the Easyship discount.

Remember our example of shipping internationally from SF to London? The cheapest rate was $55 for FedEx and $84 for UPS.

But can we get a better rate? Here's what we see for a 3 lb. package sent from San Fransisco to London.

3 lb. package sent from San Fransisco to London.

Turns out, at just $28, it's DHL that can save you the most on shipping from San Fransisco to London. FedEx and UPS don't even appear at the top of the list.

When it comes to cheap shipping, it's important to consider all your options. And this is the beauty of a free rate calculator. You get the best UPS vs. FedEx rates, plus the best rates from any courier that ships to your destination.

Ready to start saving on shipping with Easyship? Create your free account today!

See how UPS and Fedex stack up against other competitors:

FedEx vs UPS FAQ

Which is more reliable – FedEx or UPS?

Typically, reliability is a service feature that you pay extra for. However, both UPS and FedEx offer package tracking, insurance, and delivery guarantees on most if not all of their services. FedEx specializes in international air freight, and so might be a better choice for overseas shipping. UPS is a domestic shipping specialists, and might prove to be more reliable within the US.

Which is better for large international packages – FedEx or UPS?

FedEx specializes in international air freight, while UPS focuses its efforts on domestic shipping. Both couriers set a weight limit of 150 pounds for international shipments. Exceeding this weight will result in additional fees from either courier. Use a rate calculator to compare the rates for your specific shipment size.

Which is better for a fragile package – UPS or FedEx?

Both UPS and FedEx offer fragile care shipping. The processes they follow are the same, and their insurance for packages is $100 across the board. Ultimately, you should choose the service that's cheapest and arrives fastest.