USPS Vs. UPS Vs. FedEx | Which One Should You Choose?

USPS, UPS, and FedEx are the three major shipping providers within the United States. Many people simply head down to the post office when they need to mail a letter or ship a package. However, that might not always be the best choice. UPS and FedEx are private companies, while the postal service is part of the Federal government. Even given that circumstance, UPS and FedEx sometimes have better and cheaper options for getting your package to its destination. Before shipping your next package, make sure that you fully understand the differences between these three carriers. Keep reading as we give you everything you need to know about them, along with how to choose the best shipping option for you.


USPS VS. UPS VS. FedEx Shipping Options

Consumers today have many different delivery services to choose from. Each carrier offers different options, depending on how quickly you need your package delivered. Some have guaranteed delivery while others are a best-effort service. Here are the details that you should know about the services offered by these carriers.


— USPS Shipping Options

USPS offers many different shipping options, and you are bound to find one that meets your needs. The most basic is first-class mail service. This is the service that you use when you mail a letter. There is no guaranteed delivery or tracking information, but most items make it to their destination within eight days. The next most common service offered by USPS is Priority Mail. This service has a shorter transit time, as most deliveries occur within 1 to 3 days. Priority Mail includes a tracking number, and you can use it to ship envelopes or packages.

If you need your item delivered even faster, then Priority Mail Express is the way to go. This express service provides next-day delivery in most cases, although your item might get second-day delivery if you are shipping to a rural area. This is considered the post office’s version of overnight shipping. In addition to these common services, the postal service also offers some specialty shipping services.

These include things like Media Mail, Marketing Mail, Parcel Select, and others. You must meet certain criteria to use these, although the rates are outstanding. For example, if you are shipping media such as books, then you can use Media Mail. It is a slow option, but it will likely be the cheapest service that you find.

The other great thing about the service offered by USPS is that Saturday delivery is included at no additional charge. You can even choose Sunday USPS delivery with some of their services. Most of the other carriers require an additional fee for weekend delivery, although it is not always available from UPS and FedEx. USPS will also deliver to PO Boxes without any trouble. Some carriers will only deliver to a physical address.


— UPS Shipping Options

Now we will discuss the options offered by United Parcel Service or UPS. Their most common service is UPS Ground. When you send something via UPS Ground, they will deliver to both business and residential addresses. Most deliveries within the United States will take place within five business days. UPS will deliver packages with this service weighing up to 150 pounds. If your package exceeds that weight, they can still deliver it through UPS Freight.

If you need expedited service, then UPS has you covered. They offer a UPS 3-Day Select service that will guarantee your package is delivered within three business days. For even faster delivery, UPS offers a service called 2nd Day Air. In addition, they offer three different overnight shipping options. These are called UPS Next Day Air, UPS Next Day Air Early, and UPS Next Day Air Saver.

Next Day Air Saver is the cheapest of the three. It guarantees delivery on the next business day before the end of the day. For most residential addresses, this could be as late as 8:00 PM. Standard Next Day Air service provides for delivery by noon for most addresses. This means that you could send a package today, and the recipient would have it by lunchtime the next day. Lastly, Next Day Air Early will have your package delivered by 9:30 AM.

UPS Express Critical is another service offered by the carrier that will allow for same-day delivery. This service is not available everywhere, but it can be extremely useful when necessary. Remember that UPS does not always deliver on Saturday or Sunday. If you need weekend delivery, then you will probably have to pay extra for it.


— FedEx Shipping Options

When it comes to FedEx vs UPS, the two carriers are quite similar in the services that they offer. FedEx Ground is their most common service, and they deliver to both businesses and home addresses. You might hear their residential service called FedEx Home Delivery. You can expect a delivery time with this service of one to five business days. When it comes to FedEx weekend delivery, FedEx does deliver on Saturdays for no extra charge. You can even get Sunday delivery in some metros across the United States when using Home Delivery.

When it comes to expedited shipping, FedEx offers a few different options. FedEx Express Saver allows for three-day delivery. Your item will be delivered by afternoon to businesses and evening to homes on the third business day. FedEx 2-Day service gets your package to its destination in two days — delivered on the second business day. And, finally, FedEx has a few different overnight options to choose from. FedEx Standard Overnight, FedEx Priority Overnight, and FedEx First Overnight. Those guarantee delivery times of the end of the day, mid-day, and early morning, respectively.

Similar to UPS, FedEx will deliver packages that weigh up to 150 pounds. Once this weight limit is exceeded, then you will need to utilize FedEx Freight. Their freight service handles shipping and logistics all around the globe, and their freight prices are often some of the most affordable.


Comparing Costs Between Carriers

One of the biggest questions that shippers generally have is around cost. Most people are looking for a cost-effective shipping method that will still get your package to its destination on time. For letters and small packages, the United States Postal Service usually has the best rates. For larger or heavier packages, UPS will typically have the cheapest shipping rates. Finally, FedEx generally offers the lowest freight shipping costs. Here are the costs that you can expect from each carrier.


— USPS Shipping Costs

So, how much does it cost to send an item through USPS? The answer depends on the type of service you choose as well as the size and weight of your package. To mail a first-class letter, all you need is a $0.58 first-class stamp. You can mail a letter weighing up to one ounce for this price. If you have a small package that you need to send, you can use first-class mail to send that package as well. The cost will run you about $4, but you can only mail packages that weigh up to 13 ounces.

When it comes to USPS Priority Mail, this service will accept packages that weigh up to 70 pounds. Prices for Priority Mail start at just over $7, and they increase as the size and weight of the package increase. As you might expect, Priority Mail Express is not cheap since it provides for overnight delivery. Shipping rates for this service start around $26, although it is a guaranteed service. This means that you can get at least a portion of your shipping costs back if the package is late. If you need a specific price quote, then you can always use the USPS Price Calculator to see exactly how much shipping will cost you.


— UPS Shipping Costs

UPS Ground service is going to provide the cheapest option offered by UPS. Retail ground service with UPS is both reliable and affordable. They use both the actual weight and dimensional weight of the package to calculate the shipping charge. This means that larger packages are still charged more, even if they are lightweight. Similarly, heavier packages that are small in size will incur a higher shipping rate. Lastly, UPS uses the distance that the package must travel in calculating shipping charges. The farther the item travels, the higher the cost will be.

The cost to send a one-pound package through UPS Ground starts at around $8. The cost can go up to $11 if the item travels a long distance — and even higher if it leaves the contiguous U.S. Sending a 25-pound package through ground service starts at about $15 and increases to $38 if it needs to travel across the country.

If you need express delivery, then the cost of shipping is going to increase greatly. Lightweight packages are fairly expensive to send, and heavy packages can get extremely expensive when you need overnight service. UPS Next Day Air will cost you at least $32 for a one-pound package, and that cost can rise to $86 depending on the delivery location. If the weight increases to 25 pounds, then the price for Next Day Air rises to $74 at the least. The cost could go all the way to $300 depending on the distance the package needs to travel. As you can see, this is a premium service!


— FedEx Shipping Costs

FedEx costs are typically a little higher than UPS for similar delivery options, but they provide great service for small businesses and e-commerce stores. Like UPS, they use both the dimensional weight and actual weight for the calculation of the shipping charge. You can also drop off your package at a FedEx location, or you can schedule a free pickup at your home or office.

FedEx Ground is the cheapest and most basic service offered by FedEx. The cost to send a one-pound package starts at around $10. As the weight increases to 25 pounds, the price also goes up to $20. If you have a time-sensitive delivery, then you might choose to use an expedited service for your delivery. FedEx Standard Overnight rates will run you at least $43 for the one-pound package mentioned above. Similarly, the overnight rate for the 25-pound package would start at $112. FedEx has a full tracking system that will allow you to get detailed tracking information as your package travels through the FedEx infrastructure.


Business Service Options For USPS, UPS, & FedEx

All three carriers have services available specifically for businesses. USPS offers commercial shipping options that are cheaper than retail ground rates. If you own a business that ships a high volume of items, then you should consider getting a business account for volume discounts. The savings can really add up. Depending on the volume that you ship, the discount could be 30% or more off regular retail rates.

UPS and FedEx both offer shipping solutions for business customers. FedEx is the shipping carrier that is geared more toward business customers than UPS; however, they both offer services for business customers. You can sign up for a business account and manage your shipments directly from their website. This allows you to track shipments, schedule deliveries, and make payments over the web. If you decide to print your own shipping labels, then you can save even more money.


Pros & Cons Of Each Carrier

Each of the different carriers has some advantages and disadvantages. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, so the one that you select will generally depend on your specific needs. Here are the pros and cons of each.



The biggest benefit of USPS is that they are usually the cheapest option for letters and small packages. In addition, they provide one of the best commercial volume discounts of any of the major shipping companies. Since USPS is a part of the Federal government and not a private company, they can usually offer better rates. USPS also provides Saturday delivery with no additional surcharge, and Sunday delivery is available for many items. Lastly, they provide a free pickup service upon request. This means that they will come to you and get your package so that you don’t have to drop it off at the post office.

One of the major drawbacks to USPS is the delivery timeframe. Their basic services often take longer than UPS and FedEx, although they do have premium services that will get your item delivered faster. Another drawback is their international shipping capabilities. While they do deliver letters and packages to other countries, their international service is not as robust as other carriers, particularly DHL.



UPS is the choice of many e-commerce businesses because of the many advantages of its service. First, their service is generally fast and reliable. Their tracking system provides detailed routing information and an estimated delivery date. While they might not be the cheapest for very small packages, UPS often has the best rates on packages over five pounds. Their customer support team is also excellent, and they can assist you should any issues with your delivery arise.

One drawback to UPS is their pricing on small and lightweight packages. USPS usually has better rates on packages that size. Another thing that some customers do not like is the fact that UPS generally only delivers on business days. While they have recently started Saturday delivery in some areas, it is mostly only available as a premium service. This means that you pay extra for it, and Sunday delivery is almost never an option.


— FedEx

FedEx provides many benefits to their customers, and here are just a few of them. First, they guarantee delivery times for your express shipments. This means that you will get a full refund if the package arrives late. They will also provide free packaging for some items, so there might be occasions where you don’t even have to worry about finding a box. For international shipments, their customs clearance systems are fast and efficient. Lastly, their tracking systems provide detailed data in near real-time, so this is a huge benefit when you need to see the current status of your shipment.

One of the main drawbacks of FedEx is its cost. They are typically the most expensive of the three carriers. Another con is that they do not provide a free pickup service. This can be a big drawback if you ship a large number of packages or if you don’t have a FedEx drop-off facility nearby.


Flat Rate Shipping Options

All three carriers offer flat-rate boxes that allow you to send items for the same price, regardless of their weight. If the item fits into the box, then it ships for a set price. With USPS, they offer a few different box sizes. Flat-rate options exist for USPS Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express. You can purchase a small, medium, or large box. Prices start around $7 for the small box. As with all USPS shipping, the weight of the item must remain below 70 pounds.

UPS and FedEx both offer a few more box choices. They both offer extra-small all the way to extra-large boxes. Prices with UPS start around $8, and FedEx starts at about $10. In addition to the boxes, these carriers also offer flat-rate envelopes and other types of mailers. For instance, you could get a flat-rate tube mailer for sending large items like rolled posters or baseball bats. The big benefit of these flat-rate mailers is the fact that you can stuff as much into them as possible. As long as the box closes along the normal folds, then it ships for the same price.


How To Save Money On Shipping Costs

Most people want to pay the lowest shipping cost possible when sending their items. There are a few things that you can do to save money on shipping. Here are some tips. First, make sure that you pack your item into the smallest box possible. Since most carriers use the larger of the dimensional weight and actual weight to calculate the shipping cost, a larger box will cost you more money, even if it is lightweight. If you have a small package to send, then you will probably want to use USPS. They tend to have the cheapest rates when shipping small packages.

Next, make sure that you do not pay for extra services that you don’t need. They might try to upsell you on a faster service at the UPS store, but there is no need to pay a premium price if you can wait an extra day or two for delivery. For example, UPS Ground might take four days for delivery but only cost $10. On the other hand, UPS Next Day Air might deliver your item in one day, but it could cost $50. Unless delivery time is crucial, then you should select a standard service.

Lastly, consider printing your own shipping labels. Each carrier allows for at least a small discount if you establish an account with them and print your own labels. If you ship a high volume of items, this discount will be even larger. Printing your own labels will also save you a ton of time as you won’t have to visit the retail counter each time you get ready to ship a package.


Choosing The Best Carrier For Your Needs

So, how do you select the proper carrier for your needs? It depends on what is most important to you. If you want the cheapest service for small package delivery, then you will probably want to use USPS. However, if your item is larger or heavier, then UPS will probably work best for you. Many business customers tend to prefer FedEx because of their business service offerings and customer service.

Ultimately, selecting the right carrier will be a decision that you should make based on your specific needs. If you only ship a few items, then you will likely want to make this decision each time you ship something based on that specific shipment. If, however, you operate a business that ships a high volume of orders, then you probably want to choose the carrier that can offer you the biggest discount and best customer service.


The Bottom Line

It can sometimes be difficult to decide between USPS, UPS, and FedEx when looking for mailing and shipping services. Each carrier offers many different services, and they all have their own advantages and disadvantages. Find the carrier that works best for you and your needs. You can find a reliable, cost-effective method to get your package to its destination regardless of which carrier you select.


Frequently Asked Questions


Which is better: USPS, UPS, or FedEx?

The answer depends on exactly what your needs are. If you need the least expensive way to send a light package, then USPS is your best bet. UPS is the best at providing reliable and quick delivery at a low cost. Though their prices can be a little higher than USPS for small items, they are generally cheaper for larger packages. FedEx tends to be the best for Freight service and business customers.


Why is UPS so much better than FedEx?

UPS is not always better than FedEx — it just depends on what you are using the service for. UPS rates tend to be slightly cheaper than FedEx rates for most residential deliveries. This even includes 2nd day and next-day delivery. When it comes to freight service, many people prefer FedEx over UPS.


What is the difference between USPS and UPS?

USPS was established by the Federal government as the postal service for the United States, while UPS is a private company publicly traded on the stock exchange. UPS is in business to make a profit for its investors, while USPS does not necessarily need to make a profit. As long as they take in enough money to continue operations, they are doing well. This is why USPS can usually offer lower rates than UPS.


What are the advantages of USPS?

There are a couple of main advantages to USPS. First, their prices are often the lowest of the major carriers. Next, they provide Saturday delivery at no additional charge for both regular mail and package delivery. Finally, they provide Sunday delivery for many of their express services. Their delivery options include delivery seven days per week and 365 days per year with minimal exceptions.

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