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Cheapest Ways to Ship Packages

by EasyPost
People taking packages out of a delivery truck

Whether you work in ecommerce or you're an everyday person looking to send a package, shipping expenses can add up if you're not careful. But there are ways to ship cheaply - you just have to know where to look.

So how do you find the cheapest ways to ship? We've got some tips for you, so keep reading to find out.

Regarding shipping, there are four main carriers: USPS, FedEx, USPS, and DHL. And that's not even touching the surface of all the carriers in the U.S. There are plenty of regional carriers and smaller companies too.

Choosing which carrier to ship with will depend on your unique shipping needs. You may be looking for speed and reliability factors, both of which can influence shipping rates. When choosing a shipping carrier, each option has its pros and cons.

USPS

The United States Postal Service is an independent government agency that manages domestic and international postal deliveries. USPS claims to process and deliver 46% of the world's mail volume. It is known for being incredibly reliable with shipment deliveries, but its packages may not arrive as quickly as the competition.

Why ship with USPS?

  • Specializes in shipping small packages
  • Competitive flat rate pricing
  • Delivers to P.O. boxes and mailboxes
  • Free pickup services
  • Free tracking
  • Free insurance up to $100

FedEx

FedEx is a shipping company that offers a variety of services to its customers around the world. According to the company, it is one of the most popular shipping carriers, delivering to more than 220 countries with an average daily package volume of 16.5 million. FedEx is known for reliable express deliveries, but these services may come at a greater cost compared to other carriers.

Why ship with FedEx?

  • Specializes in express deliveries
  • Many options for those looking to ship specialty items
  • Free tracking
  • Free insurance up to $100
  • Commercial shipping discounts

UPS

UPS is one of the world's largest shipping carriers, servicing over 220 countries and delivering 6.4 billion packages in 2021, according to their website. UPS is known for handling large, heavy, and high-value items with care, but these benefits may come with higher rates than similar carriers.

Why ship with UPS?

  • Specializes in shipping large and heavy packages
  • Specializes in shipping high-value items
  • Free tracking
  • Free insurance up to $100
  • Commercial shipping discounts
  • A wide number of service level options

DHL

DHL is a global shipping leader specializing in international shipping, courier services, and transportation. They report delivering over 1.8 billion parcels per year in over 220 countries. DHL is known for international deliveries, but its presence in the U.S. is limited compared to other major carriers.

Why ship with DHL?

  • Specializes in cross-border shipping
  • Free tracking
  • Free pickup services
  • A wide number of delivery services
  • Flexible delivery options

Regional carriers

Beyond the key players in the shipping industry, many regional carriers ship parcels within specific regions or countries. Each of these carriers has its own set of pros and cons. Generally, they are often more affordable than global carriers, but they may not have as many features or services that are common with major carriers.

Why ship with regional carriers?

  • Usually has next-day delivery options
  • Lower operating costs
  • Typically provides more flexibility
  • Regional familiarity
Person carrying packages

Cost of shipping based on delivery speed

The cost of shipping can vary based on desired transit times. The faster you need a package delivered, the more it will cost. As a result of carriers putting more money into transportation and labor costs, express shipping is typically more expensive than standard shipping.

When it comes to finding the cheapest shipping option, it's important to compare the cost of shipping with the delivery speed. Transit times will vary from service level to service level, depending on whether you choose standard ground shipping, expedited shipping, or overnight shipping. You may be able to find the cheapest shipping option if you're willing to wait a bit longer for your package to arrive.

Standard shipping

Standard ground shipping is typically the cheapest and slowest service level offered by carriers. Standard ground shipping usually takes 2-8 business days for delivery, depending on how far a package has to travel. If you're not in a hurry, standard shipping is a great option. It's also a good choice if you're on a budget and are looking for the most affordable shipping option.

Expedited shipping

Expedited shipping is a service level above standard ground shipping. Depending on the carrier, expedited parcels are typically delivered within 1-3 days. While more expensive than standard ground shipping, expedited shipping is a good option if a package is time-sensitive and needs to be delivered quickly.

Overnight shipping

Overnight shipping is typically the fastest service level carriers offer. These packages typically arrive within 1-2 business days, depending on how far they are traveling. Overnight shipping is the fastest and most expensive shipping option offered by many carriers, but it's a good choice if you need a package delivered quickly and you're willing to pay for the convenience.

Cost of shipping based on package size

The cost of shipping can vary based on the size of a package. Generally, the larger the package, the more expensive it is to ship. This is because it takes up more space and will likely weigh more, requiring more resources to ship. If you're looking for the most affordable shipping option, it's important to consider the size of your package, whether it's a standard envelope or a large parcel.

Envelopes

Envelopes come in many different sizes and can be made from different materials, such as paper or plastic. They usually cost less to ship than packages, so they're a good option if you're looking for a more affordable shipping option.

Envelopes are a good choice for shipping small items, such as documents or greeting cards. However, they do have some limitations. They can only hold items that are small and flat, so if you're shipping somewhat larger items, such as books or clothing, an envelope may not be able to accommodate.

Small packages

Small packages are best for shipping items such as books, clothes, and small electronics. These packages generally cost more to ship than envelopes, but they can hold more and are less likely to be damaged in transit.

Many carriers offer competitive flat rate shipping options for small packages. This means that you can ship your package for a fixed price, regardless of its weight or destination. Just be mindful that you're choosing the right size box for the item you're shipping. If your package is too large or too small, the contents within could be at an increased risk for damage.

Large packages

Large packages can carry multiple small items or accommodate more sizable items, such as furniture, appliances, and large electronics. Large packages cost more to ship than small and medium-sized packages, but if you are shipping a large volume of items, it will likely be more economical than shipping several small packages.

Large packages are typically rated based on their dimensional weight. The greater the dimensional weight, the more expensive shipping will cost.

When shipping large packages, it's more important to put thought into which carrier you're choosing because some offer more competitive rates than others for oversized packages.

Measuring package dimensions

To calculate the shipping cost of a package based on its size, you need to know its dimensions. You can accomplish this by using a ruler or tape measure to determine your package's length, width, and height. These dimensions are typically measured in inches and can be used to calculate the dimensional weight of a package.

Flat rate shipping

Flat rate shipping is a pricing model where you pay a fixed price for your shipment, regardless of its weight or destination. Flat rate shipping is a good option if you're shipping heavy goods, as the price is not based on the weight of the package.

Person in stock room writing on tablet

Cost of shipping based on package weight

The cost of shipping can vary based on the weight of a package. This is fairly straightforward - the heavier a package, the more it typically costs to ship. This pricing structure makes sense because it costs carriers more money to ship heavier packages, especially when it comes to fuel and labor costs.

Cheapest way to ship light packages

If you're looking for the most affordable way to ship a light package under 2 lbs, USPS First Class Mail is your best option. Compared to FedEx and UPS, it may take longer to arrive. However, it's significantly cheaper, making it the best option for budget-conscious shippers.

Cheapest way to ship heavy packages

Each shipping carrier varies in its definition of a heavy package. For example, a heavy package is anything over 70 lbs for USPS, but for UPS and FedEx, a heavy package is anything over 150 lbs.

If you're shipping a medium or heavy package, the cheapest option is usually to ship via UPS or FedEx. Depending on the contents of your package, its destination, and how quickly you need it to arrive, rates may differ between the carriers. Be sure to compare rates if you want to be confident that you're getting the best shipping rate.

Find the best shipping rates with EasyPost

EasyPost's suite of shipping APIs helps individuals and businesses - both small and large - find the best shipping rates on the market. Our APIs are designed to make logistics easier and more affordable every step of the way, from order placement to delivery and beyond.

Discounted rates

EasyPost offers discounted shipping rates with many carriers, including UPS, FedEx, USPS, and DHL. Simply input your shipping information and receive real-time shipping rates from multiple carriers to find the best option. Our easy-to-use interface can be used to compare rates, print labels, track shipments, and more.

Optimized rate shopping

EasyPost's SmartRate API enables users to compare carrier rates to find the best shipping option for your package. Our optimization engine analyzes over a billion historical shipments to ensure you are getting the best rates and ideal transit times.

Reduce customer support tickets

We know how important customer support is to businesses and their customers. That's why we designed APIs to support insurance and tracking to reduce time spent on customer escalations and simplify the support process.

Shop PC Postage

Save big on USPS rates when you ship through EasyPost. As one of three PC Postage providers in the world, EasyPost users can access USPS Commercial Plus Pricing for free and print USPS labels even when their servers are down.

FAQ

Which is cheaper, UPS or USPS?

The answer to this question depends on several factors, including the weight and size of your package, as well as the shipping destination. In general, USPS rates are typically cheaper for smaller packages, while UPS rates are often cheaper for larger packages. You can use EasyPost's shipping calculator for free to simply calculate shipping rates for your package across a variety of carriers, including UPS and USPS.

Which is cheaper, FedEx or UPS?

Depending on the weight, size, and destination of your package, shipping rates can vary between FedEx and UPS. If you are shipping a single package at retail rates, you will likely find a better price from FedEx. However, if you plan to ship a large volume of packages, you can negotiate or use a service like EasyPost to find better rates with UPS. Rates will sometimes fluctuate depending on seasonality and consumer demand, so be sure to use the EasyPost shipping calculator before shipping to ensure you're getting the best rate.

How can I get free shipping supplies?

Many shipping carriers offer free shipping supplies like boxes and packing materials for customers who create an account with them. To get started, sign up for an account with your chosen carrier. Then go online to order supplies or visit a brick-and-mortar location to request materials.

If you're an individual looking for free shipping supplies, you can also try asking local businesses if they have any that they don't need. Many stores receive shipments in large cardboard boxes that they'll be happy to give away.

How can I find shipping discounts?

There are a few ways to find shipping discounts. You can start by asking your chosen carrier if they offer any discounts for regular customers. Many shipping carriers offer discounted rates for businesses that ship frequently with high volumes.

You can also sign up for shipping technology companies, like EasyPost, where you can benefit from pre negotiated discounts and compare shipping rates between carriers to ensure you're getting the best deal.

Can EasyPost save me money on shipping?

Yes, EasyPost can help you save money on shipping. We offer discounted rates for carriers, including UPS, FedEx, USPS, DHL, and more without contracts, fees, or volume minimums. On top of that, our SmartRate API can identify the cheapest rate that will get your shipment to its destination on time.