Who’s Cheaper: UPS Or USPS? | Full [Shipping Guide] Inside

Whether you run a small business or just ship items to friends and family, you likely want to find the cheapest shipping option out there. Several shipping services are available today, but UPS and the U.S. Postal Service are still two of the biggest players. Each has some unique advantages and disadvantages, but who has the lowest prices? Keep reading as we give you the details about how much it will cost you to ship a package with both carriers. We’ll also run through some differences between the two services and discuss the pros and cons of each.


USPS Shipping Rates

So, how much does it cost to ship items through the United States Postal Service? The answer depends on a few different factors. The type of service that you select plays the biggest role, as does the size and weight of the package. The distance that your package must travel can also affect the price of shipping. Let’s take a look at some common USPS shipping costs.

Sending a regular, first-class letter at the post office is by far the cheapest option out there. If your letter weighs less than one ounce, then it will only cost you $0.58 to send the letter. Each additional ounce will cost you $0.20. There is no guaranteed delivery time with first-class mail, but it generally makes it to its destination within 2 to 8 business days.

When it comes to packages, the U.S. Postal Service has a few different options. You can send a package through first-class mail, but it can only weigh up to 13 ounces. Prices start at $4.30, so that is a great option if you are shipping small packages that are very lightweight. The most popular shipping option for a package with the post office is USPS Priority Mail. Prices for that service start at just $7.95, and the flat-rate box option means that you don’t even have to worry about the weight of your package. Priority Mail has a typical delivery time of 1 to 3 days, and it automatically includes Saturday delivery at no additional charge.

If you need your item to arrive quickly, then Priority Mail Express is the service that you need to consider. As you might expect, overnight shipping costs a little more. Prices for Priority Mail Express Service start at $26.60, and your package will be delivered either the next day or the second day. Priority Mail Express packages are delivered seven days per week and 365 days per year, with only a few exceptions. If you need to ship packages quickly, this USPS package service is a great option.

USPS also has many other options like Media Mail, Marketing Mail, Library Mail, Retail Ground, and other services. Prices on those services vary from $3 to $8 for most packages, and there are also USPS shipping restrictions that you must follow to use many of those services. In most cases, we will only compare the services mentioned in the previous paragraphs because they are comparable to services offered by UPS. You may also get a USPS shipping estimate directly from their website.


UPS Shipping Rates

UPS offers a few different services, and their prices vary based on the same factors that most major carriers use. The bigger and heavier your package, the more it will cost to ship it. Likewise, the shipping zone also plays a role in the cost. The farther the package must travel, the higher the shipping cost will be.

UPS Ground is one of the most common services that UPS customers use to send packages. For a five-pound package, the UPS cost to ship will be around $10 to $14, depending on the shipping zone where the package is headed. UPS Ground shipments will usually arrive within five business days. Remember that UPS does not include Saturday delivery, although you can request Saturday delivery with some expedited services for an additional surcharge.

UPS 3-Day Select is the next level of service. This ensures that your package will arrive within three business days from the shipment date. For a five-pound package sent with this service, you will pay $16 to $44. This service is only available within the contiguous United States, and you can request Saturday delivery for an additional fee.

If you need your package delivered in an even shorter timeframe, then UPS has options for that too. You might select UPS 2nd Day Air, UPS Next Day Air, Next Day Air Saver, or Next Day Air Early. These are premium services that also come with a premium price tag. Let’s dive into the details of these services.

UPS 2nd Day Air will guarantee that your package is delivered within two business days. The price of this service for a 5-pound package can range from $22 to $86, but the service includes Puerto Rico, Alaska, and Hawaii with only a few limitations. If you need next-day delivery, one of the UPS next-day services will be for you. That same 5-pound package will cost you anywhere from $37 to $150, depending on the time of day that you need it delivered.

UPS also offers international shipping options, which can be especially useful if you run an eCommerce store that ships internationally. These options range in price from $100 to over $200 for a 5-pound package depending on where it goes and how quickly it needs to get there.


USPS VS. UPS — Which Is The Cheapest Option?

On average, when comparing UPS vs. USPS, USPS tends to be cheaper most of the time. However, there are some situations in which UPS will be a cheaper option. Let’s look at a few scenarios and compare prices between the two carriers.

If you need to send a simple letter, then USPS will definitely be the cheapest delivery service option available. USPS offers an extremely cost-effective way to send a regular letter. At only $0.58 for a first-class stamp, none of the other major carriers will come close to matching this price. UPS Ground prices start at just over $8, so the price is not even close to the rate with USPS.

When it comes to shipping heavier packages, the dimensional weight plays a big role in the price of the shipping. For larger packages, UPS can match and sometimes beat the prices at USPS. In addition to their normal ground services, UPS now offers flat rate shipping options. USPS Priority Mail and UPS Simple Rate flat rate shipping options are comparable in price. Prices start at $7.95 for USPS and $8.80 for the UPS Simple Rate Service.

When it comes to overnight delivery, USPS is typically cheaper, but their service area options are more limited. UPS may be able to get your package delivered the next day, but USPS might require two days to get the package where it is going. Prices start around $26 for each service, but the price quickly increases with UPS as the weight increases. Priority Mail Express flat rate boxes can be used with USPS, and you will get the same price regardless of the weight as long as the item fits within the box.


Differences Between UPS And USPS

One of the biggest differences between the two is that UPS, or United Parcel Service, is a private company while USPS is a branch of the Federal government. UPS is publicly traded on the stock exchange, and the goal of the company is to make a profit for its investors. USPS, on the other hand, is the postal service for the United States that was established by the government. While the postal service uses its revenue for its own operations, making a profit is not the sole intention of the entity.

Another big difference between the two is some of the services that are offered. USPS offers cost-effective delivery of letters and small packages to both business and residential addresses. Although they provide international shipping, they mostly handle domestic shipments. UPS handles shipments all over the globe, and they specialize in larger packages. In fact, UPS offers many freight services that are unavailable through USPS. USPS does not deliver packages that weigh more than 70 pounds, but UPS Ground will deliver packages up to 150 pounds. If your package weighs more than that, then UPS Freight can handle your package delivery. Large boxes are no problem for their freight service.


Advantages & Disadvantages Of Using The Postal Service

There are both pros and cons to using the postal service to ship your items. We will discuss both here. One of the biggest advantages of the postal service is that they offer some of the best rates available. USPS is often the cheapest way to ship an item within the United States. They almost always have better rates than other shipping carriers, and you can even print your own shipping labels from home.

Another advantage of USPS is that they offer several different shipping methods to meet the delivery speed you need. USPS Retail Ground service is highly cost-effective, while Priority Mail Express can get your package delivered the next day. USPS also delivers to PO Boxes, while some private delivery companies only deliver to physical addresses. Finally, USPS provides Saturday delivery at no extra charge, and Sunday delivery is available in some cases. Most other shipping companies do not provide weekend delivery, especially without an additional fee. Though USPS has these advantages, it also has a few drawbacks.

One of the biggest drawbacks to USPS is the shipping speed. Standard service can take up to 8 days for your package to arrive. Another con is that USPS is not a good shipping solution for large items. They are often more expensive when shipping large and heavy packages, and they do not even deliver packages that weigh more than 70 pounds. They are also not the best shipper for international deliveries. Other carriers like UPS and FedEx offer more international delivery options, so you should likely look elsewhere when sending items across the globe.

There are many USPS shipping restrictions that you must also comply with when you send an item through USPS. Many items, like alcohol, cannot be shipped through USPS, although they can be sent with other carriers. If you need to send an item that is on the USPS prohibited list, then you are out of luck unless you select another shipping company.


Advantages & Disadvantages Of Using UPS

One of the biggest advantages of using UPS is the speed of delivery. Most packages within the United States are delivered within three days, although it might take up to five days in some cases. They also offer express services for next-day and even same-day delivery. If you have a time-sensitive package, then UPS is the way to go. The tracking capabilities provided by UPS are another advantage of their service. They have an excellent tracking system that allows you to see where your package has traveled and get an estimated delivery date.

If you need to send large packages, then UPS can accommodate that. UPS Ground will send packages up to 150 pounds, and you can use their freight service for packages that are even heavier. For packages that weigh more than two or three pounds, their rates are competitive with other carriers. Lastly, UPS offers a money-back guarantee on their overnight shipping service. This means that you can get a refund if your package does not make it to its destination on time.

UPS has a few cons as well, and here are a few of those. One of the biggest cons is the fact that they are usually more expensive than USPS, especially for smaller packages. While UPS does allow you to print your own labels, they do not provide a free pickup service. You must drop off your package at the UPS Store or pay a fee to have them pick it up. This can be a big drawback for many eCommerce businesses. Lastly, UPS does not offer free Saturday delivery. Saturday delivery is not always available, but you must pay for it as an extra service even when it is.


How Does FedEx Compare To UPS And USPS?

When comparing FedEx vs. UPS, there are many similarities. FedEx is the other primary carrier serving the United States, and their service is comparable to USPS and UPS. FedEx is also a private company that provides shipping and logistics services all over the globe. FedEx Ground is their standard shipping service that is comparable to UPS Ground. Prices for that service are typically a little more expensive than USPS, and they usually start around $8 to $10 for a small package. In addition to standard ground service, FedEx Express service is also available.

When using FedEx shipping to send an overnight delivery, the rates and services available are extremely comparable to UPS. FedEx offers three overnight options that will allow your package to arrive within a specific timeframe the next day. Overnight delivery starts around $40 and can exceed $100 in some cases. While FedEx delivers to many business addresses, FedEx Home Delivery makes sure that your packages are delivered to residential addresses properly and on time.

When it comes to weekend delivery, FedEx does deliver on Saturday at no extra charge to most of the country. In some places, Sunday delivery is even included with their standard Ground service. However, if you need an overnight package delivered on Saturday or Sunday, then you can expect to pay extra for that service.


The Bottom Line

When comparing UPS and USPS, you will usually find that USPS is cheaper. However, their delivery times can be a little longer, and they don’t offer as many options for heavier packages as UPS. FedEx pricing and services are similar to UPS, while DHL is a little more expensive in the United States. USPS and UPS both have pros and cons, and the carrier that you select probably depends on your specific situation and needs.


Frequently Asked Questions


Which package delivery service is cheapest?

USPS post office shipping rates tend to be cheaper than UPS Ground shipping costs, especially for smaller packages. UPS prices are often comparable for larger packages and sometimes even cheaper than USPS. Remember that USPS will only handle packages that weigh up to 70 pounds. UPS will routinely deliver packages up to 150 pounds, and they offer freight service for items weighing more than that.


Does UPS charge by weight or size of the package?

The answer is both. When determining the pricing, UPS will measure both the dimensional weight and actual weight of the package. Dimensional weight is based on the size of the package. The larger of the two numbers will be used to calculate the shipping cost. So, a small package that is very heavy will likely be calculated using the actual weight. However, a big box that is lightweight might have its shipping charge calculated based on the size of the box.


How much does USPS shipping cost per pound?

The answer varies based on the type of service that you use. If you utilize one of the flat-rate boxes or envelopes, then the weight is not a factor. As long as your item fits inside the box, it can ship for the same rate — shipping for packages that weigh more than a pound starts at about $7. You can expect the price to increase by about $0.25 per pound beyond that.


What is the best company to send a package?

The answer to this question comes down to personal preference and specific needs. If you need a guaranteed delivery early the next day, then UPS is likely the choice for you. Many people prefer UPS for their timely deliveries and detailed tracking information. However, if you want the most cost-effective solution, then USPS is probably the answer.

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