UPS and USPS are differentiated by only one letter – both are internationally acclaimed courier services that offer affordable domestic and global shipping options and their own unique advantages and disadvantages for eCommerce businesses.
However, UPS vs. USPS, especially UPS Ground vs. USPS Priority Mail, has been hotly-debated by many eCommerce companies - so choosing between UPS and USPS for your eCommerce company largely depends on your specific business needs, given their advantages and disadvantages.
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Which courier is best for your eCommerce business?
USPS is often a better option for smaller packages less than 13 lbs. while UPS offers better value for shipping larger, heavier packages. USPS is also typically faster, though stricter rules may prohibit what you're able to ship with them, meaning that a courier like UPS could be a more viable option.
UPS also offers superior tracking, making it a great choice for companies shipping internationally. On the other hand, weekend deliveries are probably best left to USPS as UPS doesn't offer free Saturday delivery.
Ultimately, eCommerce companies should weigh their needs carefully - particularly their budget, ideal delivery times and whether they're shipping domestically or internationally - in order to choose either UPS or USPS.
By comparing the UPS and USPS features and taking a hard look at UPS vs. USPS prices, online merchants can glean a better understanding of how they compare and decide which one is the better option for their own business.
Below's a quick look at their differences, how two of their most popular services compare, rate and delivery time information, what they offer, their advantages and disadvantages and which one is best for your eCommerce company.
What is the difference between UPS and USPS?
Generally, USPS is designed to ship smaller packages and mail quickly and cost-effectively, while UPS is intended for shipping larger parcels worldwide.
Both UPS and USPS are two very different entities. The main difference stems from their very different backgrounds.
UPS, or United Parcel Service, is a publicly traded company known as the world's largest package delivery company. UPS, which also offers freight forwarding and logistics services, was founded in 1907 and is based in Sandy Springs, Georgia.
USPS, or United States Postal Service, is not a company but rather an independent agency of the U.S. Federal government. Serving as the postal service for the United States, its charged with delivering letters and smaller packages both domestically and internationally. The USPS, based in Washington, D.C., was established in 1775 and reorganized in its current form in 1971.
UPS Ground vs. USPS Priority
UPS Ground and USPS Priority are two of the most popular services from both couriers. Here’s a quick look at how they compare:
- Package tracking is a very important feature for international shipping, as it gives security to the customer and increases the reliability of the courier. USPS has had a less than reliable reputation in this regard in the past, though has increased its reliability through using improved tracking methods. UPS, on the other hand, has always had a solid reputation when it comes to tracking packages.
- As far as speed of delivery is concerned, USPS Priority is generally seen as superior, being able to deliver typically in two to three business days as opposed to up to two weeks with UPS Ground.
- When comparing USPS vs. UPS rates, USPS Priority is considerably more affordable compared to UPS Ground, especially if you’re shipping packages two lbs. or less. USPS Priority also offers flat rate boxes that allow for multiple items to be shipped in them.
USPS vs. UPS prices
UPS is often more expensive than USPS due to fees and surcharges, especially when it comes to shipping smaller packages.
Generally, USPS offers much better rates when shipping smaller packages less than two lbs., though UPS typically is a better choice when shipping larger, heavier packages by offering superior value.
Related: 2021 USPS Shipping Rate Changes
Prices for 5lb package
|Courier||Service||Delivery Time Frame||Starting Cost|
|UPS||UPS Ground||6 Days||$10.46|
|UPS||UPS 3-Day Select||5 Days||$16.30|
|USPS||USPS Priority Mail 2-Day||2 Working Days||$26.35|
|USPS||USPS Retail Ground||3-7 Working Days||$10.60|
Which is faster: UPS or USPS?
UPS and USPS both offer overnight delivery, though according to Stamps.com, the average total delivery days for USPS Priority Mail was just 1.79 days while UPS Ground clocked in at 2.75 days, making USPS the better option when speed is a necessity.
Delivery speed is crucial for eCommerce - with USPS generally coming out on top. Notably, USPS has much stricter rules about parcel weight and size, meaning that UPS if often a better option for shipping larger packages quickly and cost-effectively.
UPS offers a variety of services to suit different shipping requirements. To see additional details on services, please visit here .
- UPS Express Critical: As the name implies, this is the courier’s fastest shipping option. This service is available 24/7 all year round. The best shipping route is estimated based on your destination and all possible shipping methods are used for a timely delivery. Its downside is that it’s typically more expensive compared to most other shipping options offered by UPS.
- UPS Next Day Air: UPS is famous for its next day delivery service, allowing packages to be delivered on the very next business day. Early and Saver options are available, with Early delivery being in the afternoon and Saver delivery time being after 4pm local time.
- UPS 2nd Day and UPS 3rd Day Select: These options are available for shipments which are not especially urgent, with delivery dates being measured in business days. 2nd Day Select means delivery on the second upcoming business day and 3rd Day Select means that the package will be delivered on the third upcoming business day.
- UPS Ground: This is the basic and most economical shipping service available. Although typically affordable, it’s not particularly great for time-sensitive deliveries, as shipping times generally range from one to five business days.
USPS offers different services to suit eCommerce businesses and individuals who need to send personal packages and mail. To see the additional details of their available services, visit here.
- Priority Mail Express: This is the fastest service offered by USPS, with packages being delivered overnight seven days a week.
- Priority Mail: Priority Mail service delivers packages within one to three business days. It also offers a flat rate for any package below 70 lbs.
- First Class Mail: This is a service designed specifically for single envelopes and small packages weighing 13 lbs or less. The delivery time is one to three business days.
- Retail Ground: Retail Ground is a service for oversized packages, offering an economical delivery option if there’s no time sensitivity to the delivery.
- Media Mail: This is a special package for sending media and educational videos and audio files. However, shippers must follow ethical code and restrictions about the kind of media you can send. The weight is limited to 70 lbs and delivery time is two to eight business days.
Pros and Cons of UPS
UPS, like any courier, has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages. Here's a quick look at some of them to consider:
- Known for quick and secure delivery.
- Very reliable with an excellent tracking system.
- Same-day delivery and next day delivery services available.
- Offers guaranteed express shipping with a reputation for timeliness.
- Affordable rates if your package is heavier than two lbs.
- Volume discounts are available if you regularly ship with them.
- Their shipping costs are higher than USPS and services can cost a bit more due to fees and surcharges. If you’re shipping internationally, this cost can be an added burden.
- No free pickup. A flat rate is instead charged for this.
- No Saturday delivery as a regular service. Instead, it’s listed as a value-added service, meaning you must pay extra for it.
Pros and Cons of USPS
USPS, just like UPS, also has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. Some of them include:
- Best value and most economical option for small packages, especially for packages under 13 lbs.
- Has a longstanding reputation for delivering on-time despite inclement weather conditions.
- Offers flat rate boxes through their Priority Mail service, making it a cost-effective option.
- Free packing materials available in post offices and can also be sent to you directly.
- Only courier service that can deliver to P.O. boxes and mailboxes.
- Generally seen as less reliable compared to UPS and other couriers, especially in terms of tracking packages.
- Customer service has a less than stellar reputation.
UPS and USPS are both great courier services in their own respective ways. Both offer their own distinct advantages and disadvantages, meaning you should consider them very carefully before choosing which is best for your eCommerce business.
Easyship partners with both to offer you perfect hybrid solutions for your business. The Easyship rates calculator is also a great way to compare rates to help you choose the one best suited for your eCommerce needs.
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This article was updated on February 5, 2021 to reflect new information.