The United States Postal Service (USPS) is popular with online merchants because it offers affordable rates for both domestic and international shipments.
The two fastest USPS shipping services are Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express. Though the two services sound similar, they differ in their pricing, delivery lead times, and more.
Understanding the differences between Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express lets you get the cheapest rates and the fastest delivery on your next shipment.
Easyship is a direct partner of USPS, meaning we offer USPS rates at up to 70% off retail – including on Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express. In this article, we highlight the Priority Mail vs Priority Mail Express differences to help you save the most on shipping.
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What's the Difference Between Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express?
Priority Mail vs. Priority Mail Express: what’s the best choice for you?
USPS is known for being affordable. However, USPS isn’t known for being reliable. This can pose a problem for merchants.
Priority Mail Express is the upgraded version of Priority Mail. Express Mail is the faster, more reliable version of Priority Mail – but for about 3x the price.
If a package absolutely must arrive on time, though, you might want to use Express. Here’s a general overview of the differences between Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express.
Priority Mail is the standard domestic air service for USPS. Packages are delivered within 1-3 business days with tracking in the lower 48 states.
Priority Mail does not offer a delivery guaranteed, though. This means that packages may take longer to reach their destinations than the estimated 1-3 days. And there’s no recourse if your package is delayed. You and customers just have to wait.
Prices for Priority Mail start at just over $7 for small boxes and envelopes. A huge range of packaging options are available with Priority Mail as well.
Priority Mail is a good option for eCommerce merchants looking to save on shipping.
Priority Mail Express
Priority Mail Express is the fastest domestic shipping service available from USPS.
Delivery is guaranteed to most locations in 1-2 days. Overnight delivery is even available on weekends and holidays, for an added fee.
Unlike Priority Mail, Express Mail guarantees delivery lead times. If your package is not delivered on time, you can apply for a refund of the postage paid.
This faster, guaranteed service is more expensive than Priority Mail. Envelopes and small boxes start at around $22. Meanwhile, Priority Mail Express is limited to a smaller selection of packaging options.
Priority Mail Express is a premium shipping option used when packages absolutely need to get there.
Packaging is a key difference between Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express.
Before we highlight the differences, let’s touch on where the two services are the similar. Both offer:
- Maximum weight of 70 lbs
- Maximum dimensions of 108” in combined length and width
Beyond these basics, packaging is very different for Priority Mail vs. Priority Mail Express.
Priority Mail Express Packaging
Priority Mail Express offers just three packaging options, including:
- Flat Rate Envelope
- Legal Flat Rate Envelope
- Padded Flat Rate Envelope
The price of shipping in these envelopes starts at $26.35.
Remember, you can ship packages up to 70 lbs with Priority Mail Express. There’s just no specific packaging provided for anything larger than envelopes.
This means that the Post Office will weigh and measure your package at dropoff, or pickup, to determine the final cost of shipping. If you’re using Express Mail, we recommend ordering your free shipping materials from the USPS website at the size you need.
Priority Mail Packaging
Unlike Express, Priority Mail gives you access to a huge array of packaging options at different prices. This makes it easier to ship with Priority Mail than Express Mail.
The screenshot below shows all the options for Priority Mail packaging and shipping:
Being able to pick from these packaging options makes Priority Mail more convenient than Priority Express.
As mentioned above, Priority Mail Express tends to be about 3x more expensive than Priority Mail.
Express Mail also prices all rates depending on the delivery zone. This just means that areas closer to the sender cost less, and faraway areas like Alaska cost more to ship to.
By contrast, Priority Mail offers a selection of Flat Rate options that are the same price no matter their destination.
This section highlights how Priority prices differ at different package sizes – plus how you can save up to 70% off all USPS rates by using Easyship.
Say we want to send a 2 lb hoodie within the domestic US.
According to the USPS website, the cost of Priority Mail Express is $27.15 for local deliveries. The price jumps to $72.65 for delivery to faraway areas like Hawaii or Alaska.
By contrast, local delivery with Priority Mail is just $8.55. Delivery to faraway zones comes in at $26.75.
Obviously we’ll save a bundle with Priority Mail.
Now let’s try shipping a medium 5 lb box.
Priority Mail Express is only slightly higher for local deliveries at $28.35. Deliveries to Zone 9 now costs $101.95.
Priority Mail for local deliveries at 5 lbs is $10.60, and $47.95 for delivery to Hawaii and Alaska.
Can we save even more money with Easyship? Let’s hop over to our free shipping rate calculator and see what we find. Below are prices for local deliveries on a 5 lb box.
Turns out, we save about $3 on Priority Mail with Easyship, and about $4 on Priority Mail Express rates. This is because Easyship is a direct partner of USPS, and gets business rates that aren't available otherwise.
But what if we want to ship to faraway areas instead of locally? Here’s the Easyship rates for sending our 5 lb package from New York to Hawaii.
We show a Priority Mail rate of just under $10, and a Priority Mail Express rate of around $63. Again, we see a 40% savings on Priority Mail and 15% on Priority Express.
Our free shipping calculator was built to help you find the cheapest rates on every shipment from every shipping service. It’s available on all domestic and international shipments, and covers all courier services.
A final deciding factor on shipping options are features like insurance, tracking and international delivery. If any of these value-added features are important to you or customers, it could impact your choice of service.
Insurance protects your package from theft, damage, or loss in transit. Depending on your products and customers, insurance may be a key feature in your checkout flow.
Both Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express offer insurance coverage. Both services insure packages up to $100 on domestic shipments, and up to $200 on international shipments.
If you want added insurance coverage, Easyship can help you cover your items up to $5,000.
Shoppers love to track packages because it offers peace of mind.
Both Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express offer free tracking updates until the package arrives.
Tracking includes the delivery date and time confirmation, signature confirmation, and attempted delivery notices in the case of a missed delivery.
Weekend and Holiday Delivery
For an extra fee, Priority Mail Express delivers 365 days a year, regardless of holidays or weekends. You’ll upgrade your Priority Mail Express shipment to overnight delivery and have it delivered before 10:30 AM the next day.
Unfortunately, this feature isn’t available on Priority Mail. You will have to stick to the USPS-specific calendar and delivery schedule.
USPS offers Priority Mail International and Priority Mail Express International for cross-border shipping. Both services offer both weight-based and Flat Rate envelopes for international shipments. Both services cost more for international shipping. You can find international shipping rates on all USPS services in seconds with our free shipping calculator.
Priority Mail vs. Priority Mail Express : Which is Better?
Priority Mail is the cheaper but less reliable version of Priority Mail Express. If you need packages to arrive in 2 days, you’re best served by Express Mail. For shipments where affordability is key, you want Priority Mail.
Using Easyship gives you discounts up to 70% off all Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express rates. Our all in one shipping platform makes it easy to compare shipping rates and transit times to determine which service is best for your business.
Ready to automate your shipping and access discounted USPS rates? Create a free Easyship account to get started!
Priority Mail vs Priority Mail Express FAQ
How reliable is Priority Mail vs Priority Mail Express?
Priority Mail doesn't offer a delivery guaranteed, meaning your package may be delayed. Priority Mail Express is a guaranteed service, meaning your package should be delivered as promised, or you get your money back.
Can delivery be made to a PO Box with Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express?
Yes. While private shippers like UPS and FedEx aren't allowed to deliver to a PO Box, the USPS delivers to PO Boxes. That means both Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express offer delivery services to PO Boxes.
Can Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express be delivered on the same day?
Currently, USPS doesn't offer same-day delivery service. With Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express, you will have your package delivered within 1-3 business days.