- USPS, UPS, and FedEx are three of the most popular shipping couriers for domestic and international shipments
- USPS is an affordable option for media mail, lightweight and fragile parcels
- FedEx is known for its detailed tracking and express delivery services
- UPS is best suited for larger shipments and freight packages
USPS, UPS®, and FedEx are the three most widely known delivery couriers — but choosing the best-suited for your small business can be complicated. Consider three essential criteria: speed, affordability, and reliability when evaluating the services.
In this article, we'll break down the three industry giants' popular services and provide you with a better understanding of how to navigate which is best suited for your eCommerce stores.
Table of Contents
Price and Time Comparison
The two primary comparisons you'll want to make are our shipping prices and delivery time. Each courier will have different services that cater to different package sizes and delivery time frames. Let's look at how UPS vs. FedEx vs. USPS compare prices, including the timeframes for various services.
Let us now compare FedEx vs. UPS vs. USPS rates for the following services:
Flat Rate: Each courier offers a version of flat rate shipping for packages with comparable price points and sizes. USPS offers you free flat rate boxes for packages weighing 20 pounds. They can be delivered within 1-3 business days around the US. FedEx provides flat-rate services to parcels weighing up to 50 pounds. The shipping timeline is more definite from 1, 2, and 3-day delivery. UPS simple rate comes in 5 flat rate options up to 50 pounds, with ground, 2nd-day air, and 3-day select options.
|Extra Large Box||$24.30||$39.10||N/A|
Overnight: All three couriers offer guaranteed overnight delivery services: FedEx 2Day AM, USPS Priority Mail Express delivery by 10 am, and UPS Next Day Air®.
Below, you’ll find an example of overnight shipping costs for the standard couriers when shipping a 2lb package sized 10” x 5” x 5” from Brooklyn, New York, to Miami, Florida.
|USPS Priority Mail Express||$50.35|
|UPS Next Day Air®||$102.86|
|FedEx First Overnight||$140.79|
*These are the daily rates from USPS, UPS, and FedEx
Ground: FedEx and UPS both offer competitive Ground services and real-time tracking updates at every transit point. Plus, both couriers off alerts along the way in the case of service disruptions. On the other hand, USPS Retail Ground service is for thick envelopes, packages, and tubes weighing up to 70 pounds. In addition, USPS tracking is part of the service without any additional charges. So if you're shipping items under 70 pounds, USPS may be the better option.
|UPS||starts at$7.57/1lb||$3.60 residential surcharge|
|USPS||starts at $7.35/1lb||N/A|
|FedEx||starts at $8.23/1lb||$4 surcharge for home delivery|
Home: FedEx Home service is ideal for heavier packages with expected delivery within five days. UPS® Ground and USPS Priority Mail are equally good competitors for heavy packages and the same timeline. But the only difference is that USPS Priority Mail has a maximum weight limit of 70 pounds. Below, we include an example of shipping a 65 pounds package (12 x 12 x 12) from Brooklyn to Miami:
|USPS Priority Mail||$119.90|
*These are the daily rates from USPS, UPS, and FedEx
Priority: Priority Mail offers a fast service for packages that need to be delivered as soon as possible, which usually means paying extra money to get where it needs to go. USPS Priority Mail delivers within 1-3 days, while USPS Priority Express delivers from overnight to 2 days. FedEx 2 Day AM and UPS Next Day Air are competitive services.
|USPS Priority Mail||$12.65|
|FedEx 2Day AM||$57.98||UPS 2nd Day Air®||$47.11|
*These are the daily rates from USPS, UPS, and FedEx for a 2-pound package from Brooklyn to Miami (10 x 5 x 5)
Small Packages: Most of the time, eCommerce businesses need to ship small packages. That’s why finding a good courier service for such packages is essential. USPS First Class package service is ideal for any package weighing under 1 pound and delivers within 1-5 business days.
Below, you’ll find a breakdown of a package of 12 ounces.
Heavy Packages: Each courier offers competitive services for heavy packages. USPS has a weight limit of 70 pounds for shipping through its popular services. UPS® Ground and FedEx Home Delivery are perfect for such packages, though UPS is recommended for larger shipments.
Below are the costs for shipping a 70-pound package (10” x 5” x 5”) from Brooklyn, New York, to Miami, Florida.
|FedEx Home Delivery||$127.43|
|USPS Retail Ground||$111.40|
You'll want to consider the following costs for additional handling:
- UPS charges $10.85 per package for additional handling
- USPS charges $12.15 per package for special handling costs
- FedEx charges between $14-$25.50 per package for additional handling
To learn if your package requires additional handling for shipping, contact your shipping courier to learn more.
Shipping Options with UPS, FedEx, and USPS
Now that we've completed the UPS vs. FedEx vs. USPS price comparison, the next step on your logistical journey is to compare the shipping options.
- FedEx: Delivers seven days a week, so if you want to deliver a package on Sundays, FedEx is a good choice. This courier service delivers from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm.
- UPS: Open from Monday till Friday from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm. Weekend delivery is only available for certain areas.
- USPS: Delivers seven days a week, 24 hours a day — yes, including weekends. Deliveries are usually done from Monday to Saturday but are sometimes done on Sundays.
Insurance: The cost of insurance is determined based on the declared value of the items in the package. Sometimes courier services give standard coverage for all the packages unless obtained otherwise. Insurance can be claimed for damages incurred in the shipping process. It can also be claimed if there is a theft or packages are lost.
- FedEx: FedEx offers up to $100 of coverage for every package, but if you want additional coverage, you need to declare the value of your package.
- UPS: UPS offers up to $100 of coverage for every package. You can declare a value of up to $50,000. You will have to pay additional charges after entering the value in the UPS system.
- USPS: USPS provides coverage of up to $5,000 for damaged or lost items in their custody. In addition, registered mail can get coverage for up to $50,000 with USPS.
Pick Up and Drop Off: All three couriers have one thing in common: Boxes or locations where you can drop off your packages to be shipped.
- USPS: USPS packages can be dropped off at the post office mail drop slots.
- FedEx: FedEx pickups and dropoffs are available during business hours at each retail location.
- UPS: UPS® Drop Boxes are self-service and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. UPS customers can choose from dropping off parcels at UPS Access Point®, the UPS Store®, locations, or Customer Counter – all of which allow for easy package dropoffs with ease.
UPS and FedEx don't offer free pickup at their facilities, though. If you want to pick up items at a retail store, you will have to pay an extra fee.
Label Printing: Before requesting a pickup, you need to print your shipping labels. All three couriers offer online shipping capabilities, allowing you to print shipping labels from home. Register at their websites and follow the instructions shared to take advantage of this. If you want to print return shipping labels, you'll need to contact the nearest service center.
Tracking: USPS, UPS, and FedEx all offer competitive tracking capabilities so that you can ship packages with ease. FedEx and UPS provide real-time tracking updates at every point in transit and alert their customers in the case of any service disruption. USPS has recently revamped the way it tracks packages, as doing so is now considered an industry standard. All three also offer customer support if you can't track your package.
Reliability: The quality of a courier's tracking system is often judged by reliability and accuracy. FedEx, USPS, and UPS are all reliable in terms of tracking shipments. FedEx and UPS can be a bit expensive, but if you want to track every single movement of your shipment, they are the ones to use.
Customs: FedEx offers standard customs clearance free of charge. But if you want to import an item, they also provide different solutions for special clearance needs. Upon request, FedEx also offers customs broker services. UPS also provides customs brokerage services for your shipments and heavy freight enabling seamless border crossing. USPS handles customs until the shipment reaches its destination country. After that, it's the responsibility of the host to take the customs and delivery the package.
When to Use USPS vs. UPS vs. FedEx
USPS: an affordable option for media mail, lightweight, small, and less fragile packages. Popular services include Priority Mail and USPS Retail Ground.
- It is the cheapest service for small packages
- You can also send deliveries to mailboxes, PO boxes, Military bases and send Diplomatic mail
- A free pickup option is available
- Weekend delivery is also available
- Although tracking has improved, it is still limited as compared to other services
- A customer support system isn't as responsive compared to another courier service
Related post: 2022 USPS Shipping Rate Changes
FedEx: known for its detailed tracking and fast delivery. Because of its time-sensitive delivery, FedEx is most suitable for delivering perishable items, alcohol, beverages, and food. Popular services include FedEx Ground and FedEx international priority.
- An excellent tracking system is available, making it perfect for valuable packages
- Weekend/Saturday delivery is available
- Good discounts are offered to increase the affordability of the shipment. It is also an additional attraction for the customers
- Does not offer free pickup services for packages
- It can be expensive compared to other options, as the shipping rates are higher
- There are fewer brick and mortar locations compared to the other couriers
UPS: best suited for larger shipments and freight packages. Popular services include UPS® Ground and UPS Worldwide Express®.
- For time-sensitive deliveries, UPS offers guaranteed express delivery with same day and next day delivery system
- Competitive pricing for premium shipping services
- Real-time tracking
- UPS® Drop Boxes and UPS Access Point® locations
- It has a very airtight tracking system providing accurate information regarding your package delivery
- It is ideal for heavy shipments with affordable freight services
- Saturday delivery at no extra charge
- It is more expensive than the other services because of higher fees and surcharges added to the base rates
- It doesn't offer free pickup, and additional pickup charges also add to the expense
- Saturday delivery is available, but extra charges apply
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USPS vs. UPS vs. FedEx FAQ
Is FedEx, UPS, or USPS better in the United States?
All couriers provide a mix of affordability and service and can deliver your shipments from point A to B.
How much of a price difference is it to mail a simple letter via UPS or FedEx versus USPS?
USPS First Class Mail is typically the cheapest option for sending mail. The price to ship mail or package shipments depends on the weight, dimensions, distance, delivery speed, and courier service.
What are all the USPS services that FedEx and UPS can't do?
USPS, FedEx, and UPS provide both affordable and express shipping services. However, USPS provides the cheapest retail shipping services. For instance, USPS can deliver a letter for less than a dollar.
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