USPSThe United States Postal Service (USPS) historically was the lowest cost option, however, with rate hikes in recent years that has changed for many types of shipments. For shipments under 2lbs USPS will almost always be your cheapest option, and for shipments 2lbs and over their price is typically worse than other shipping options.
USPS offers 3 flat rate box sizes (small, medium, large) which can be advantageous if you have relatively heavy products that aren't too large. As Federal Express (FedEx) and United Parcel Service (UPS) both use price scales heavily tied to weight shipping, small but heavy packages can end up being far more expensive than with USPS.
The one area where USPS falls behind the other two is in the reliability of service. Priority next day mail can end up with a 2-day window, and users have observed 'express' deliveries taking anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks on shipments within the United States. While USPS on average has been reported to have the fasted delivery times in the continental U.S., their outliers can be an issue if you need reliability. USPS also doesn't offer morning deliveries, so important time dependent packages won't work well with USPS.
FedEx and UPSFedEx and UPS are largely comparable in terms of their service, conditions, and delivery times, though FedEx often has the advantage in terms of pricing for larger packages. Both services are considered to be far more reliable in that the time periods they commit to are adhered to, if they say it will be there tomorrow it will be. Morning deliveries provided by these two can also be very useful for business users. This all comes at a cost, however, and for small packages (under 2lbs) and letters FedEx and UPS can end up resulting in nearly double the cost of USPS. One major limitation for both FedEx and UPS is that they cannot deliver to Post Office (PO) boxes or Army Post Offices (APO). This can be a problem particularly if your business caters to many members of the armed forces.
The real advantage for FedEx and UPS comes with larger packages, those over 2lbs, where the costs from these providers are lower than USPS. When seeing a website that says USPS is hands down the best service provider you'll often see in the details that their price comparisons don't look at anything larger than 2lbs.
One additional differentiator is that UPS will allow the purchase of additional insurance for a charge, whereas FedEx and USPS are both capped at $99 and $100, respectively. This means that if you are shipping valuable items where insurance is a must you will almost certainly be wanting to use UPS.
So what does this mean for me?All of the carriers have extensive networks and many comparable terms, but based on the above differences there are some clearly better options based on the nature of your business.
You want to use USPS if:
- The bulk of your mail is letters or small packages that are under 2lbs.
- You have heavy products but they can fit in the USPS flat rate boxes.
- Reliability of next-day delivery or morning deliveries is not overly important.
- You primarily ship large heavy packages (over 2lbs) and they would not fit in a USPS flat rate box.
- Reliability and morning deliveries are important for your business.
- You need to be able to insure your packages over $100.