BlogRSS Feed

Jaidyn Farar

Best Way To Get Overnight Shipping (Speed & Cost Comparison)

by Jaidyn Farar

As ecommerce has evolved, speedy shipping has become one of consumers’ most sought-after perks. In fact, 48% of people say that shipping speed is the number one thing they’d improve about ecommerce deliveries.

For some types of products, fast shipping can mean two- or three-day delivery. But for industries like food and beverage and pharmaceuticals, you’ll probably need to offer next-day delivery, or overnight shipping.

Unfortunately, this service comes with a steep price tag, one that many consumers won’t want to pay. You’re left with a conundrum: how can you ship packages overnight while keeping costs low? 

Trust us, it’s possible. And this article will tell you everything you need to know to get the best deals on overnight shipping.

What is overnight shipping?

Overnight shipping, also known as express shipping or next-day delivery, is the fastest shipping method available, allowing customers to receive their shipments as early as 8:00 a.m. the next business day.* This shipping method is often used to send time-sensitive items such as perishables or documents. 

Major carriers such as USPS, UPS, and FedEx offer overnight shipping. In addition, many local and regional carriers specialize in overnight and two-day shipping. 

If your customers need a package to arrive within 24 hours, overnight shipping is their best bet. However, if a product isn’t urgently needed, offering a slower delivery method like ground shipping can save money

*Note that weekends and holidays aren’t considered business days, though many carriers offer Saturday or Sunday deliveries (often for an extra fee).

Overnight shipping vs. next-day delivery

Overnight shipping and next-day delivery are the same thing; both terms refer to packages that are delivered within one business day. 

How does overnight shipping work?

The success of overnight shipping depends on many moving parts working together. As a business, you’re responsible for preparing your shipments and dropping them off before the cutoff time. Carriers are responsible for coordinating transportation, ensuring they have adequate staff levels, and determining the most efficient travel routes. 

1. Carrier selection

First, select your carrier(s). Later in this article, we’ll include a full breakdown of overnight shipping services offered by USPS, UPS, and FedEx. 

2. Package preparation

Get your packages ready to go by picking products, packing boxes, and creating shipping labels

3. Package handoff

Carriers have a cutoff time for passing packages to them, usually in the late afternoon or early evening. This deadline allows carriers to process and transport parcels during the night, ensuring they arrive by the guaranteed time. 

You can either drop packages off at a carrier location or schedule a pickup. 

4. Shipment scanning, sorting and transportation

Packages are sent from one carrier facility to another as they travel closer to their end destinations. Overnight deliveries are generally sent via plane, which is the fastest method of transportation.

5. Last-mile delivery

Eventually, a package arrives at the closest hub to the customer’s address, and last-mile delivery begins. Depending on the shipping service you use, overnight deliveries can arrive in the morning, afternoon, or night. 

Benefits of overnight shipping

Overnight shipping has some great benefits when used in the right situations. 

  • Fast delivery. With overnight shipping, products are delivered very quickly. If your customers need something fast—whether it’s a prescription drug or a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day—overnight shipping is the way to go.
  • High customer satisfaction. While many people don’t mind waiting a few days for their shipment, others could want express delivery. By providing a next-day shipping option, you boost customers satisfaction and loyalty. 
  • More secure shipping. Because overnight shipments are sent via air, there’s a lower likelihood that products will be damaged by jostling or rough handling.

To tap into these benefits, you’ll need to choose a carrier capable of handling your overnight shipment volume and delivering packages to customers on time. But which carrier should you choose? Read on to explore some of the most popular options.

Which carriers do overnight shipping?

While many local and regional carriers offer overnight shipping, this section will focus on the three largest carriers in the United States: USPS, UPS, and FedEx. 

These carriers have extensive logistics networks that make them reliable and affordable. Each has pros and cons, so it will be up to you to evaluate your overnight shipping needs and choose the best option. 

The rates in the tables below are retail pricing: what you’d pay at the post office. Your business can save money by negotiating a contract with a carrier—but there’s a simpler way to save. With the EasyPost Shipping API, you can integrate with over 100 domestic and international carriers, accessing discounted rates and shipping method optimization tools. 

USPS overnight shipping

USPS Priority Mail Express® is an affordable overnight delivery service. Perks include free package pickup, Sunday and holiday delivery (for an extra fee), $100 of included insurance, and a flat-rate pricing option. 

Packages sent through USPS can be up to 70 pounds and 108 inches in combined length and girth. For flat-rate express shipping, you’ll need to use envelopes provided by USPS. These envelopes are best suited for documents, clothing, books, and boxed jewelry.

Next-day delivery time
Starting retail price for a 5-pound package
USPS Priority Mail Express
6:00 p.m.
Saturday delivery available; Sunday and holiday delivery may be available for an extra fee
USPS Priority Mail Express Flat Rate
6:00 p.m.
Saturday delivery available; Sunday and holiday delivery may be available for an extra fee

UPS overnight shipping

UPS offers three overnight shipping services: Next Day Air® Early, Next Day Air®, and Next Day Air Saver®. The main difference between these services is delivery time, with packages arriving anywhere from 8:00 a.m. to the end of the day.

Packages can weigh up to 150 pounds and be up to 108 inches long.

Next-day delivery time
Starting retail price for a 5-pound package
UPS Next Day Air Saver
3:00 or 4:00 p.m. to businesses; end of day to residences
Saturday pickup available; Saturday delivery not available
UPS Next Day Air
10:30 a.m., 12 p.m., or end of business day
Saturday pickup and delivery available
UPS Next Day Air Early
8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
Saturday pickup and delivery available at some locations

FedEx overnight shipping

Like UPS, FedEx offers three overnight shipping options, each with a different delivery time. Packages can be up to 150 pounds, 119 inches long, and 165 inches in length plus girth. 

Next-day delivery time
Starting retail price for a 5-pound package
FedEx Standard Overnight®
5:00 p.m. to businesses, 8 p.m. to residences
Saturday pickup available; Saturday delivery not available
FedEx Priority Overnight®
10:30 a.m. to businesses, 12:00 p.m. to most residences
Saturday pickup and delivery available
FedEx First Overnight®
8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
Saturday pickup and delivery available

How much does it cost to ship overnight? 

Overnight shipping costs start from $30 to $80 for a five-pound package, but heavier packages can cost hundreds of dollars to send overnight. Next-day shipping is one of the most expensive delivery options because it requires expedited handling, priority processing, and specialized infrastructure. The higher rates also reflect reliability guarantees—most carriers promise to refund you if the package doesn’t arrive on time. 

Of course, shipping costs depend on many variables. The following factors all come into play, and you should take them into consideration when choosing carriers and services.

  • Weight. Heavier packages cost more to ship.
  • Dimensions. Large, lightweight packages might be charged dimensional pricing, which drives up costs. To avoid this, pack products into containers that fit them perfectly, without much extra space.
  • Shipping zones. The farther a package travels, the more expensive it is to ship it overnight. You can cut down on costs by making sure your distribution centers are located near customers. By minimizing travel distances, you’ll be able to ship next-day for less. 
  • Shipping agreements. Negotiating contracts with carriers gives you access to more competitive rates. Shipping software also saves you money, eliminating the need to negotiate with carriers individually. 

Who has the cheapest overnight shipping?

USPS is the most affordable carrier for shipping lightweight packages (up to five pounds), while UPS and FedEx work well for shipping heavy packages over long distances. 

The most cost-effective method for each carrier is the following:

  • USPS Priority Mail Express, delivers by 6:00 p.m.
  • UPS Next Day Air Saver, delivers by end of day
  • FedEx Standard Overnight, delivers by 8:00 p.m.

What is the fastest overnight shipping?

The fastest overnight shipping services are UPS Next Day Air Early and FedEx First Overnight; both deliver packages between 8:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. the next business day.

What about weekend and holiday deliveries?

If you’re hoping to offer weekend and holiday deliveries, make sure to read the fine print when choosing a shipping service! Carriers have varying policies on these types of deliveries. Some exclude weekends and holidays entirely, while others make these days available for an additional fee. 

Find the best overnight shipping options for your business

Overnight shipping can seem daunting; not only does it require your fulfillment team to work quickly, but it also comes with high shipping costs. However, you can easily save money on overnight shipping while also identifying the best carriers and services for every package. The key is EasyPost.

The EasyPost suite of APIs allows your business to access discounted rates from a wide collection of carriers. You can also leverage EasyPost’s optimization and automation tools to select the best shipping methods, verify addresses, track packages, and more.

Start shipping for free with EasyPost.