Can You Ship Alcohol? | How To [Legally] Do It

Shipment box full of wine bottles

Many people enjoy alcoholic beverages, but certain kinds are only available in specific parts of the country. Perhaps you visited a new restaurant while on vacation or found a new liquor that you loved while traveling. So, what happens if you want to have your favorite bottle of wine delivered to your home? Can you ship alcohol to a friend or buy alcohol online and have it shipped to your house? The answer depends on a few different factors. It depends on the state in which you live, the state you want to ship to, and the carrier that you plan to use. We will give you all the details about shipping alcohol, so just keep reading to find out how to ship alcohol.


Can I Ship Alcohol To A Friend?

Maybe you just want to share one of your favorite beers with your friend who lives across town. Or maybe you want to send a bottle of your favorite whiskey to an old college friend across the country. Can you legally do this? The short answer is no. The Federal government has given each state the right to set its own laws when it comes to alcohol shipping and distribution. In some cases, each county and municipality within the state have their own rules.

Needless to say, this makes the rules regarding alcohol shipments extremely complicated. As a general rule, you cannot ship alcohol without the proper license. The shipper needs to have a license to manufacture, sell, or distribute alcohol in order to ship alcohol to consumers. Online retailers who sell alcohol are required to be extremely familiar with these rules. Shipping alcohol can get you in some serious trouble according to some state laws. In fact, it can even result in a felony conviction in the states with some of the harshest alcohol shipping laws. Other state laws are not quite as strict, but they still prohibit the shipment of alcohol without a proper license.


Shipping Alcohol Within The Same State

This is the easiest way to ship beer or alcohol as it only requires knowledge of your local state laws. You should also be familiar with county and municipality laws as well since some counties and municipalities set their own rules regarding alcohol. This means that the law could be different from one town to the next within the same state. However, at a high level, make sure that you remember that shipping alcohol without a license is illegal in every state.

If you still want to ship wine or beer to your friend directly, then you will need to order it from an authorized alcohol retailer and have it sent directly to that person. You should not buy the alcohol yourself and then attempt to ship it to them. This could result in some serious criminal charges, and it can be easily avoided by following your local laws. Since your shipping options are limited, then placing an order directly with a distillery or winery and having them ship to your friend is the best option.


Shipping Alcohol Out Of State

Shipping alcohol to another state adds another level of complexity to the situation. Even for e-commerce retailers who are licensed and authorized to ship alcohol, shipping between states can present challenges. Not only do you have to know the laws for the state in which you are located, but you also need to know the laws in the destination state. You will be required to follow the shipping requirements of both states in that case. Thankfully, if the package is simply in transit through multiple states, you do not need to worry about those laws in the middle.

For instance, there are a few states that do not allow alcohol shipments of any kind. These include Mississippi, Utah, and Kentucky. Alabama was one of these states until October 2021 when limited alcohol shipments started to be allowed. Other states like Delaware and Arkansas allow shipping for on-site purchases only. This means that if you purchase a bottle of wine while visiting a winery in the state, then the winery can ship that bottle to your house. However, you cannot place an order over the phone or through the web and have the wine shipped. Finally, states like Oklahoma, Oregon, and Virginia have somewhat relaxed alcohol shipping laws. Breweries and other alcohol distributors are free to sell and ship alcohol to residents in these states.


Shipping Alcohol Out Of The Country

Many people ask, “Can you mail alcohol out of the country?” If you thought it was difficult to mail alcohol across state lines, then just imagine how hard it is to send it between countries. Regardless of the type of alcohol, it is extremely complicated to send alcohol products from one country to another. Not only do you have state and local laws to deal with, but you also have to worry about import and export rules of the origin and destination. Failure to abide by these rules could cause your shipment to be seized by customs and destroyed. You might also owe taxes or duties on shipments of alcohol coming into or out of the country.

If you absolutely must purchase alcohol from outside the country, make certain that you are working with a retailer that knows the laws very well. Most people do not know the law well enough to handle these types of shipments on their own. You should always work with a reputable dealer or shipping company who can tell you exactly how these shipments should be handled. Failure to do so could result in big legal trouble as well as fines and other financial penalties.


USPS Alcohol Shipping Requirements

This is an easy one. The U.S. Postal Service does not allow alcohol shipments of any kind. So, the post office will not allow you to mail beer, wine, or liquor using any of their services. This dates back to the Prohibition era when alcohol was illegal in the United States. However, with the passage of the 21st Amendment, prohibition was repealed and alcohol was legal once again. The rules for the postal service were never updated, and it is still illegal to send alcohol using USPS.

​Not only is it illegal to send alcohol through USPS, but they also have very strict rules about shipping a package that previously contained alcohol. You cannot use a box or package with any markings on it related to alcohol. For instance, if you received a shipment from an alcohol retailer with their markings on the box, you cannot reuse that box to send a different item with USPS. The post office will reject your shipment and will not deliver it.

It should be noted that a bill has recently been introduced in Congress in 2021 that would allow the USPS to deliver alcohol. Since UPS and FedEx are already allowed to deliver alcohol, this would put the USPS on a more level playing field for those shipments. It is estimated that this change could bring in an additional $50 million in revenue for the postal service.


UPS Alcohol Shipping Requirements

Can you ship alcohol via UPS? While shipping alcohol with UPS is possible, it is still not easy. You must comply with all the rules when it comes to these shipments. First, you must have a UPS account number, and you must have already signed an alcohol shipping agreement with UPS. Not only do you need the proper state and local licenses to ship alcohol, but you will also need a Federal permit that allows you to ship alcohol.

If you comply with these guidelines, then your package must meet very strict packaging guidelines. These rules are in place to avoid breakage during transport. Since nearly all alcohol is in glass bottles, UPS must be certain that your shipment is packaged so that the bottles do not break and spill the alcohol, thus causing damage to other packages. You must use inner packaging made of foam or a fiber tray when shipping bottles of alcohol. You also cannot place the bottles against the side of the package. Although not required, it is a good idea to use some bubble wrap to provide additional protection.

The package must be clearly marked as containing alcohol, and you must include both the shipping address and originating address clearly on the shipping label. Finally, there is an adult signature required at the time of delivery. An adult over age 21 must be present to receive the shipment. UPS will not simply leave the delivery on a doorstep. If you meet all these requirements, then you can ship alcohol with UPS.


FedEx Alcohol Shipping Requirements

So, can you ship alcohol via FedEx? Yes! If you have selected FedEx as your shipping carrier, then here are the rules that will apply. The FedEx rules are very similar to the rules set forth by UPS. You will first need a FedEx account number as well as the proper state and local licenses for shipping wine or other alcohol. You will also need to work with your account executive to sign a FedEx alcohol shipping agreement. This must be on file before shipping liquor or other alcohol will be allowed.

Next, you must meet some fairly strict packaging requirements. You must use a fiber tray or foam inner packaging. FedEx must deem your package to be sturdy enough to withstand the shipping process. When it comes to addressing the package, your label must clearly contain both the shipping and return address, and the package must be clearly marked as containing alcohol. Lastly, an adult signature will be required upon delivery. This ensures that no one under the age of 21 is receiving the shipment.


The Bottom Line

Shipping alcohol is difficult, although not impossible if you know the rules. First, you must have the proper licenses. This means that you are likely a distributor or wholesaler of alcohol. The average person will not be allowed to obtain a license that allows for the shipment of alcohol. If you meet the licensing requirements, you must also work with the right carriers. USPS cannot ship alcohol of any kind, although UPS and FedEx will make those deliveries if your shipment meets their strict rules.


Frequently Asked Questions


What happens if you ship alcohol USPS?

It is illegal to ship alcohol using the USPS. First, your package could be rejected if it contains alcohol. Next, you could be charged with a crime for attempting to send an illegal substance through the mail. Depending on your state, this might even be a felony. This is not something that you should risk as there are other ways that you can legally send someone alcohol.


Does UPS check packages for alcohol?

Yes, your package could be checked by UPS if they suspect that you are attempting to illegally ship alcohol. If you do not have the proper license, you could face criminal charges. Packages containing alcohol that are shipped with UPS are required to be clearly marked so that someone can easily see that there is alcohol inside the package. They must also meet strict packaging requirements to avoid breakage.


Is it illegal to ship alcohol in the United States?

Generally, no, it is not illegal to ship alcohol. However, there are a few caveats. It is illegal for anyone to ship alcohol without the proper license. These licenses are generally only granted to producers and distributors of alcohol. You cannot simply go buy a bottle of alcohol and ship it to your friend. In addition, each state has its own laws about alcohol shipments. Some states completely prohibit them, so it might be illegal to send alcohol depending on where the shipment is headed.


How much does it cost to ship alcohol?

UPS and FedEx charge regular shipping rates for the delivery of alcohol. The rate will be based on the size and weight of the package as well as the type of service selected. If you choose an overnight or express service, then the cost will be higher than standard ground shipping. Whether or not you want UPS to deliver on Saturday or Sunday might affect the price as well.

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