Deciding which company to ship a package with often comes down to price, and if you want to send items as cheaply as possible, you might find you spend a lot of time chasing around in search of the best deals and options.
Finding the cheapest option will depend a bit on what you are shipping, but for many small items, USPS will prove the cheapest. For larger items, you will often want to turn to a courier such as FedEx, UPS, or one of the others. You may also find it useful to use an online calculator to help you figure out shipping fees.
What Factors Alter The Price Of Shipping?
When you’re trying to work out what a package costs, you may have to consider a few different factors, because quite a few things make a difference to the overall price. Usually, the mailing service will be looking at:
- Shipping speed
Other things, like the value of the item and the shipping speed required, will also factor into the overall cost you’ll need to pay. However, it’s worth finding out what the price brackets are for weight and size. If a package you are sending is just over one of these limits and you can reduce the weight or size slightly, you may be able to save some money.
Alternatively, you may be able to opt for a slower shipping option if the package isn’t urgent, which will also make it cheaper. If you are organized and send packages out with time to spare, you can cut back on your costs this way, although it may not be an option for businesses that need to mail items with a short deadline.
You should also check whether a flat rate shipping fee will serve you better, especially if you are sending packages further afield. You will almost always pay more to send something local via the flat rate service, but if you’re sending it to one of the zones with higher numbers, flat rate tends to be a favorable option.
It’s always worth checking these things before you send a package. Most couriers will display their packaging information, weight and size bands, and shipping zones on their websites, so you should be able to compare prices and find out which is the best for you.
What’s The Cheapest Way To Ship A Small Package?
If you are shipping something like a large letter or small package, you will almost always find that USPS offers you the best deals. They have a range of options relating to delivery times, but they have a national shipping network that is usually economical for smaller packages. Items that weigh less than 16 oz will nearly always be the cheapest when sent with USPS.
For example, if you wished to mail a gift card to somebody, you would usually end up paying a dollar or less, even if you sent it first class.
A Flat Rate box for a small package is $8.45 (for 2-day shipping) and this is approximately 5 inches wide, 8 inches long, and 1 inch deep, so it’s great for small items. One of the commercial couriers will almost always charge you more for this kind of small package than USPS.
As an example of how USPS can be significantly cheaper for small packages, sending a 3 lb envelope that was 2 inches x 5.5 inches x 9 inches within a local area, using the Priority Mail service, will usually cost a little over $7. That same package would cost more than $13 with UPS Ground or FedEx Express Saver. It could also arrive faster with USPS!
For these reasons, USPS tends to be the favorite for shipping small packages in the US, particularly if you are sending the items locally. If you want the very cheapest option, you will usually be looking at USPS’s Ground Service, which tends to be the most economical of all for small packages.
Why Is USPS Cheaper For Small Packages?
On the whole, USPS is logistically set up for delivering lots of small items, since it delivers to every house in America. The couriers, with fewer deliveries to make, can carry larger items more easily.
A USPS vehicle only has space for a certain amount of mail, and because they are delivering to every house, they are better able to transport small packages. Transporting large packages means more vehicles are needed, even for a dense area, and that means they need to make a higher margin in order to justify the extra vehicles and extra staff.
A courier, however, is delivering over a much more widespread area, and therefore has more space in the vehicle, and will not need to charge as much. The margin can be lower because the courier is not visiting every house, and therefore carrying large packages doesn’t cause a logistical problem.
Overall, therefore, USPS is almost always going to be the cheapest option for a small package or large letter, but it won’t be a great choice if you want to ship something bigger. This company tends to charge a lot for large packages because it simply isn’t set up to handle them as efficiently as a courier.
What’s The Cheapest Way To Ship A Medium Or Large Package?
It can be harder to work out which courier to use if you are sending items that are over 16 oz. There are many different options, and all have different weight bands, size bands, shipping times, and prices.
It’s worth checking out all the major US couriers, including FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc. Which offers the best deal will depend heavily on what you are shipping, but below, you will find some examples based on prices at the time of writing.
- From $10.80 for a 9-1/2 by 12-1/2 inch envelope
- From $11.10 for a 10-1/4 by 12-3/4 inch envelope
- From $12.05 for a 10-7/8 by 1-1/2 by 12-3/8 inch box
- From $15.70 for an 11-1/2 by 2-3/8 by 13-1/4 inch box
- From $24.20 for a 12-3/8 by 3 by 17-1/2 inch box
- From $39.10 for an 11-7/8 by 10-3/4 by 11 inch box
- From $9.45 for a 4 by 4 by 4 inch box
- From $12.40 for a 6 by 6 by 6 inch box
- From $14.95 for an 8 by 8 by 8 inch box
- From $19.60 for a 10 by 10 by 10 inch box
- From $24.30 for a 12 by 12 by 12 inch box
As you can see, it’s quite tricky to compare the offerings of the two companies, so you need to calculate according to your actual package. UPS might be significantly better for large boxes, but for smaller ones, it will depend on other factors.
The best way to figure out your cheapest shipping option is to utilize one of the online calculators, which will compare all of the options in moments.
You will need to input certain data, like the destination, the size and weight of the package, and possibly the value. However, for many people, this is much faster and easier than trying to enter the information into the individual sites of the multiple couriers and compare the quotes offered.
Additionally, many of these sites will offer you ways to access cheaper shipping with these couriers, often by taking advantage of business rates. They can shave considerable amounts off your mailing fees, especially if you ship packages regularly and pay the standard rates.
It’s well worth checking these services out, as they will help you to identify the cheapest shipping options and potentially make them even cheaper.
How Can I Make Packages Cost Less To Send?
Many people are looking for ways to shave money off their package fees, and this might be particularly important to you if you run a small business. You may find that a good chunk of your margin gets eaten up by mailing costs, particularly if you offer free shipping.
Fortunately, there are many things that you can do to reduce your shipping fees, as well as the one mentioned above of using an online service. Other options include using lighter packaging, utilizing flat rate services, and taking advantage of free shipping supplies. Let’s explore these in more detail.
Where possible, using lighter packaging could be enough to push your package down a weight bracket, which will often save you several dollars. If you are close to the band, check whether you can reduce the amount of padding in the envelope or box, or trim a little off if it’s oversized.
This won’t always work, but it’s a good option to try and it can make the difference.
Utilizing Flat Rate Services
Often, when you send a package to a different zone, you’ll be paying more for doing so – and sometimes a lot more. This is true no matter how big or small your package is, and it’s frustrating if you ship a lot of stuff across the country.
You should therefore always check whether a flat rate service would be better for you. You can compare the prices easily online, and this could save you quite a bit of money, depending on what you are sending and where. Flat rates will be more expensive if you are shipping locally, however, so don’t default to them automatically.
Using Free Shipping Supplies
If you’re sending mail with USPS, make sure you order free shipping supplies from them if applicable. They offer free supplies for their Flat Rate and Priority Mail services, so if you’re using either of these, make sure you take advantage of this. It may also make your life easier, because you’ll know you’re within the size bands!
You can get free supplies from other shipping companies too. UPS, FedEx, and DHL all offer their customers an assortment of free shipping items, including labels, boxes, envelopes, tubes, and more. Bear this in mind when choosing a courier, because these things can be quite expensive and they will add up over time – so select a courier that offers what you need.
Getting some free supplies is a great way to shave a few cents off your prices, and over time, it could represent quite significant savings.
Is There One Single Shipping Method That Is Always The Best?
Unfortunately, no. There is no single shipping method or shipping company that offers better value than all the others every time.
The simple fact is that the shipping companies are constantly altering their prices and offerings, and some are better for large packages, while others are better for small. Speed, insurance, and other offerings will also affect which works best for you.
A good rule of thumb is to turn to USPS for small deliveries, and to the couriers for larger ones. USPS may also offer better rates for local shipping, while the couriers’ sorting depots are often more spread out, and so local rates may not apply.
However, you will always need to check either a shipping calculator or the couriers’ own sites in order to determine where the best value lies. If you are struggling to cost something, consider contacting the courier and asking them to help you, because it can be confusing, particularly if you aren’t familiar with a courier’s standard services.
Shipping and receiving packages can be a stressful chore, but you can make at least the reception part easier. Instead of waiting in for mail and risking a careless courier leaving it on your doorstep or someone stealing it from your mailbox, you could try a Virtual Mailbox.
Provided by US Global Mail, this offers you the ultimate tool in mail management. A physical location will accept your mail for you, and you can then open it virtually, scan or print letters, and keep the same mailing address for your entire life – even if you move. You can also choose which letters to save and which to shred, reducing the clutter in your life to almost nothing!