Which Shipping Company Should I use?

Many individuals and small businesses need shipping companies to deliver their products in a timely and reliable manner. This is especially important for small businesses who need their shipments to arrive when they promised it to their customers. While price is important, there are also other factors to consider when choosing your shipping company. We have analyzed the services provided by 3 major shipping companies, USPS, UPS, and FedEx, to help you choose what is right for you.

USPS UPS FedEx
Restrictions 70 lb limit, max length + girth is 130" No weight limit, max length is 108", max length + girth is 165" 150 lb limit, max length is 108", max length + girth is 165"
Pricing Cheapest overall pricing Good for larger packages Good for larger packages
Pickup/drop-off options Pickup: Free.
Drop-off: USPS locations and mailing stores stores
Pickup: For a fee.
Drop-off: Fed Ex locations and mailing stores
Pickup: For a fee.
Drop-off: Fed Ex locations and mailing stores
Service Options Ground through Express, not all guaranteed Ground through time-critical overnight, all guaranteed Ground through same-day, all guaranteed
Free Tracking Yes Yes Yes
Insurance $100 free, more for a fee $100 free, more for a fee $100 free, more for a fee
Commercial Discounts Online and with software, also volume discounts Volume-based Volume-based
Label Printing Options Online and with software Online and with software Online and with software
Customer Support Phone, email & in-person Phone, email & in-person Phone, email & in-person

The USPS offers the lowest prices in general. They also offer free pickup of packages, so you can mail your letters and packages at the same time. They offer free packaging for Priority and Express mail. First Class shipping often beats UPS and FedEx Ground shipments, which can often take 7 business days, while First Class can often be done in 3-days. However, USPS doesn't guarentee a delivery time in it's First Class mail, so it may take up to a week as well.

For packages under 3 lbs., USPS offers Priority Mail, which is typically cheaper than competitors and often arrives quicker. The USPS flat-rate Priority and Express boxes are a bargain for smaller heavy items. FedEx’s One Rate also offers a flat rate service, but UPS does not. If you need to mail a parcel over 5 lbs. that does not fit into a flat rate box, then UPS or FedEx are likely the way to go when it comes to price.

In addition to having high on time delivery ratios, all 3 companies offer free shipment tracking and delivery confirmation. FedEx and UPS tracking provides up-to-the-minute tracking, while USPS is not as precise. When there is a package that has been lost, the USPS often takes longer than UPS or FedEx to respond. The USPS is also the least helpful in resolving the issue of a missing package, while UPS and FedEx are more helpful. Filing a claim for a lost or damaged package is somewhat time consuming for all 3 companies, though in my personal experience, USPS has had the best rate in providing an insurance payment.

All 3 companies offer a wide range of delivery services, from standard ground transit to overnight deliveries, plus you can find same-day options in some areas. In comparing services, you’ll often find that one is faster and/or cheaper to one delivery area, but another beats them for other locations. So it’s a good idea to compare rates and time in transit among all carriers when shipping.

$100 of insurance is free with each package (only on Express shipments for USPS – Priority offers $50), and more can be purchased from each company. The USPS has a maximum coverage of $5000, while UPS is $70,000 and FedEx is $100,000.

Commercial discounts are available from all 3 companies. For the USPS, you can simply purchase and print shipping online from USPS.com. If you ship large amounts you can also receive volume discounts. UPS and FedEx offer volume-based discounts that typically range from about 6%-20%. These rates will need to be negotiated with an account representative from the company.

Label printing is simple for all 3 companies by going to the company website. You can also go to any of their respective stores or a retail mail center to have them take care of it also.

Customer service is normally good with all 3, especially in person at one of their stores. However, it can be frustrating trying to deal with a lost package. A lost package claim can be initiated for any of them either in-person, over the phone, or online. The USPS tends not have a time frame for dealing with lost or misdelivered packages over the phone, though you can use their online claim form. FedEx and UPS typically resolve claims within 30 days, but both are somewhat infamous for blaming the shipper for improper packaging that caused damaged items.

Hopefully this information will help you make the decision that is right for the shipping needs of you or your company.