Like maps? If so, USPS zones maps will tickle your fancy. Before we nerd out on geography, it's important to remember:
USPS shipping rates are based on a few key factors, including:
- Your delivery service
- Package size and weight
- Distance to delivery
The further your package must travel, the more it costs to ship (except via Flat Rate). This is where USPS zones come in handy.
A shipping zone is a geographic area that corresponds to an expected delivery time and service price, as based on the factors above. There are eight USPS zones in the US and each corresponds to different shipping rates.
You can use zone maps to estimate the delivery time and cost of USPS services like Priority Mail and First Class Mail. This blog explains how to read USPS zone maps, and what they mean for your business.
Want to save on USPS shipping? Easyship saves you up to 70% off USPS retail rates on every shipment. For an instant savings quote, you can use our Free Shipping Rate Calculator.
USPS Zones Determine Shipping Rates & Times
The United States covers 3.7 million square miles. And USPS ships to all of 'em.
USPS zones are geographic areas that correspond to different delivery lead times and shipping rates. In other words, USPS uses shipping zones to determine your shipping rate and delivery time.
The origin of your shipment is Zone 1, also known as the local zone. This determines all other surrounding shipping zones. As you get further from Zone 1, the Zone number increases – as do the cost and time to delivery.
Here are the distances that match every USPS zone:
- Zone 1: 1-50 miles
- Zone 2: 51-150 miles
- Zone 3: 151-300 miles
- Zone 4: 301-600 miles
- Zone 5: 601-1000 miles
- Zone 6: 1001-1400 miles
- Zone 7: 1401-1800 miles
- Zone 8: 1801 miles or more
- Zone 9: US territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, etc.)
USPS shipping labels don’t usually show a zone on the rate. Rates are calculated automatically by zone for all USPS shipments (except Flat Rate, which doesn't factor in distance).
Shipping to USPS Zones with First Class Mail
Packages sent to nearby USPS zones typically arrive faster and cost less than those headed for high-numbered zones. So how much does it cost to ship economy to different USPS shipping zones? How long will it take to each zone?
This section offers examples of delivery speeds and shipping rates to different USPS zones. All examples use the cheapest USPS shipping service, First Class Mail.
Zone 1: Delivery in 1-2 days
Local shipments within a 50 mile radius are classified as Zone 1. With USPS First Class Mail, shipping within your city and the surrounding area usually arrives in 1-2 days.
For example, here’s the USPS zone map for Madison, WI.
Your shipping rate for Zone 1 also depends on the shipping services you choose. Faster services typically cost more. Here are the USPS rates for a Madison-to-Madison shipment that weighs one pound.
For around $5, you can mail in and around your hometown. Expect delivery in 1-2 days.
These rates were live-sourced from Easyship’s Shipping Rate Calculator. This free tool makes it fast and easy to compare shipping rates from anywhere to anywhere in seconds. Simply enter your zip code and the package weight for a real-time accurate rate quotes from all the cheapest couriers to your destination.
Zone 2: Delivery in 1-2 days
Say we want to ship with USPS First Mail from New York City to Philadelphia, PA. The distance is 95 miles, making this a Zone 2 shipment (51-150 miles).
Below is the USPS zone map for New York City.
Fortunately, shipping to Zone 2 is priced and delivered much like local deliveries. This is because USPS delivery vehicles can easily travel the 50-150 miles that make up a Zone 2 delivery in a day.
Here are the shipping rates for a one-pound package sent from New York to the City of Brotherly Love.
As we can see, the rates are almost identical between USPS Zones 1 and 2. You’ll also save 25-60% on all USPS rates (as seen in yellow), when you ship with Easyship.
Zone 5: Delivery in 3-4 days
Now let’s look at USPS economy shipping from Miami, FL to Houston, TX. Falling within 601-1000 miles, this is Zone 5 shipment. We can expect higher rates and slower delivery speeds due to the greater distance.
Here’s the USPS zone map for Miami.
What does USPS Priority Mail cost for a one-pound package sent to Texas from Florida? Our rate calculator shows only slightly higher prices on economy rates, but steep hikes on expedited delivery.
Here we see that Zone 5 rates for First Class Mail are roughly the same. But expedited delivery with Priority Mail Express jumped by more than $20. The increase is expected, given the long distance to delivery.
The takeaway here is that economy rates are typically similar across USPS zones, but premium services tend to increase between zones. This is because expedited delivery services are flown instead of driven, which raises the cost of shipping for the courier.
Zone 8: Delivery in 3-6 days
Now let's ship from LA to New York, a Zone 8 shipment.
All cross-country shipments are Zone 8. This means they incur the highest rates and the slowest deliveries with economy services like First Class Mail.
Remember how rates for a one-pound shipment didn’t go up much between Zones 2 and 5? What if we both increase the package weight to 5 pounds – and increase the distance?
As expected, we see rates increase sharply for a five-pound package sent from LA to NY.
At five pounds, our rate for Priority Mail shot up to nearly $10. By contrast, the price for a one-pound package would have remained at $6 – even though we’re shipping to Zone 8.
The takeaway here is that low-weight shipments don’t vary much in price between zones. Heavier items, however, cost couriers more to ship over great distances. For this reason, you’ll pay much more to ship heavy items as distance to delivery increases, even with economy shipping like First Class Mail.
Improving Fulfillment with USPS Zone Maps
USPS zones help you estimate the cost and delivery time for economy shipping services like Priority Mail and First Class Mail. But what if a customer in a Zone 8 area (3-6 days for economy delivery) want faster shipping? The rate for expedited services like Priority Mail Express can break the bank.
Many merchants partner with fulfillment centers near their buyers to decrease delivery times and shipping costs at once. What’s a fulfillment center? It’s the location from which a third-party logistics provider (3PL) fulfills orders on behalf of your eCommerce brand.
When you hire a 3PL, a portion of your inventory gets stored in the fulfillment centers nearby your customers. When you receive orders for buyers near your fulfillment center, the 3PL fulfills these orders for you. This accelerates delivery and saves money because you're instead using near-distance shipping rates.
If you think fulfillment centers would help your business grow, check out this full guide to using 3PLs.
USPS Zones with Easyship
USPS zone maps help you get a sense of shipping times and costs for Priority Mail, First Class Mail, and USPS Regional Rate services.
If you like, you can skip the map. Our free shipping rate calculator makes it fast and easy to get instant rate quotes for all USPS services. Just enter your shipment weight, origin and destination for a real-time USPS shipping rates. Plus, you’ll save up to 70% off all USPS rates with Easyship.
To access these savings for your next shipment, create a free Easyship account.