Are you sending a small item in the mail? You might be wondering what the best options are for shipping it quickly and inexpensively – so let’s find out!
Small Flat Rate Boxes are an ideal option. These are provided by USPS, and they are charged at a fixed rate, regardless of what the package weighs or where it is going in the US. This makes it perfect if you are shipping something heavy or something that has to travel over a long distance. Flat Rate Boxes can even be shipped internationally using the international service.
What Is A Small Flat Rate Box?
A Small Flat Rate Box is a box that USPS provides to its customers who want to ship items using the Flat Rate service. This service means that you will be charged a fixed price for the item’s size, which is predetermined by the boxes that are provided.
Most mail is charged according to its size, weight, and destination, but Flat Rate Boxes are charged just according to their size. That means you will pay the same amount for a package that is going right across the US as you would for a package that is going to the next town.
Similarly, you can mail a very heavy item for the same as you would pay to mail a very light item, provided that they both fit into the same box. It should be noted that there is a weight limit of 70 lb., but as long as your package weighs less than this, it will be fine.
Small Flat Rate Boxes are therefore ideal if you are sending packages across the country or mailing heavy items, so they are well worth considering.
What Does It Cost To Mail A Small Flat Rate Box?
A Small Flat Rate Box will cost you around $9.45 if you purchase your shipping label from a post office. Businesses may pay less, as the commercial rate is $8.05, so if you run an ecommerce business and you will regularly be using Flat Rate Boxes, see if it’s worth signing up for USPS’s commercial rates.
Even if you can’t get the commercial rates, this is generally considered an excellent price if you are mailing something over a long distance.
By comparison, if you simply purchased zoned shipping for a small package weighing around 5 lb., you would pay $11.25 to send it to zones 1 and 2, $12.20 to send it to zone 3, and as much as $27.75 for zone 8 and $55.15 for zone 9.
That’s a big difference, and even if your package is lighter than 5 lb., you could enjoy major savings by using the Small Flat Rate Box.
If your package is only 2 lb. or lighter, it could be cheaper to send it via zoned shipping if it is being delivered locally.
For example, a 2 lb. package will cost $9.25 to zones 1 and 2, but if it’s going to zone 3, it will be $9.90, so it’s already more expensive than the Small Flat Rate Box. To send it to zone 9 will cost $30.75.
As you can see, flat rate shipping can massively reduce the prices that you’ll pay to mail small packages, except for very light and local mail, which may be a little cheaper with the non-flat rate option.
The cheapest zoned option is a package that weighs less than 1 lb., and this costs $8.70 to send to zones 1 and 2 – so it’s not much cheaper than the Small Flat Rate Box. It’s still worth checking whether you could save money by using zoned shipping, but in general, flat rate services cost less.
Where Do You Get A Small Flat Rate Box?
It is important to use the right size box for flat rate shipping, or you will get charged the non-flat rate. Fortunately, the boxes are easy to acquire, because USPS provides them for free in its stores and online. You can order them on the website to be delivered to your home, or just pick them up from your local post office.
This is a very convenient way to ship packages, because you don’t have to buy your own packaging, and you don’t have to spend time measuring the box and making sure it fits the allowable size.
This also removes any risk of you using the wrong size and getting charged extra for the error.
A Small Flat Rate Box measures 8 11/16 inches x 5 7/16 inches x 1 ¾ inches. There’s only one size of flat rate box and it is approximately the same size as three DVD cases.
People use Small Flat Rate Boxes for a variety of purposes, including sending movies, jewelry, small items of clothing, tickets for events, and more.
How Quickly Will A Small Flat Rate Box Reach Its Destination?
USPS Flat Rate Mail is part of the Priority Mail service. A Flat Rate box will take between 1 and 3 working days to arrive. It is usually quicker if it is going to a local destination, but will often take the full 3 days to arrive at a further destination.
Note that the Flat Rate service doesn’t offer a guarantee of the delivery date, so if you need something to travel quickly or to arrive by a specific time, you may wish to use one of the other services. However, these will cost more.
What’s The Weight Limit For A Small Flat Rate Box?
Small Flat Rate Boxes are not charged by weight and this is one of their biggest advantages; you don’t have to weigh them before mailing them. However, they do have an upper limit of 70 lb. USPS rarely ships items over 70 lb., and none of the flat rate services can be used if your item is above this band.
The 70 lb. limit applies to all flat rate boxes, not just the small ones. If your item is heavy, make sure you weigh it before purchasing your shipping label, although it is unlikely that a small item will weigh as much as 70 lb.
Can You Send Items Via Flat Rate And Express?
If your item is urgent, you might be wondering if you can use both the Flat Rate and Express services combined. You can; USPS offers a Priority Mail Express Flat Rate service. This gets delivered in 1 to 2 working days, and comes with insurance and proof of delivery.
There isn’t an equivalent to the small box, however; the largest size that you can send using this service is a padded envelope that measures 12 ½ inches x 9 ½ inches. Again, the package must not be over 70 lb.
Are There Other Flat Rate Services?
If you don’t need to use the Express service, you have a lot more flexibility. The standard Flat Rate service comes in a whole range of sizes, both bigger and smaller than the Small box.
If you want a smaller package, you could choose the Flat Rate Envelope ($8.95), the Window Flat Rate Envelope ($8.95), the Small Flat Rate Envelope ($8.95), the Padded Flat Rate Envelope ($9.65), or the Legal Flat Rate Envelope ($9.25). However, all of these are envelopes and not boxes.
If you need something a little larger, you might want to choose the Medium Flat Rate Box ($16.10), the Large Flat Rate Box ($21.50), or the Large Flat Rate Board Game Box ($21.50).
Why Is Flat Rate Mail Cheaper Than Zoned Mail?
Firstly, it should be noted that Flat Rate Mail is not always cheaper than zoned mail; if you are sending small packages locally, zoned mail may cost less. However, Flat Rate is often cheaper for long distance.
This is because the US has been split into zones, and the postal service charges more to send a package over a longer distance. This reflects the increase in fuel and transport times. If you send something to zone 9, it will generally be traveling about as far from your home state as possible while remaining in the US.
This can get complicated to work out, and makes it difficult to know what your package will cost before you mail it. If you don’t know what zone the destination state is in, you’ll have to research it online according to your current location, or you won’t be able to accurately price your package.
This makes the Flat Rate service a much more straightforward option, because it lets you work out exactly what you are going to pay for the mail, no matter where it is going. It may cost a little more for local packages, but it means a small package will always be charged at the same rate.
When Do Flat Rate Boxes Get Delivered?
Flat Rate boxes will get delivered six days a week, including Saturday, which is a big plus if you want them to arrive quickly. There’s no extra charge for a Saturday delivery, but the boxes don’t get delivered on Sundays at present. Priority Mail Express Flat Rate Boxes may be delivered on Sundays.
A box can arrive at any time of day, so there’s no way of knowing in advance when the package will come. The recipient can use the tracking to determine how far it has traveled, but will otherwise just have to wait for it to arrive.
Do Flat Rate Boxes Come With Insurance?
Yes, a Small Flat Rate Box comes with up to $50 of insurance in most cases. You must have some tracking on the package in order to qualify for insurance. If you need additional insurance, you may need to choose an alternative service or pay for third party insurance, as there isn’t an option to insure the standard Flat Rate packages for more.
What Can You Send In A Small Flat Rate Box?
You can send almost anything that will fit into a Small Flat Rate Box, but you should be aware that some items are prohibited. For example, you cannot send gasoline, explosives, air bags, ammunition, or marijuana in them.
This is true of all mail in the US, but it’s worth knowing before you get a flat rate box. There are also restrictions on other items, including batteries, matches, live animals, perishables, glue, dry ice, hand sanitizer, perfume, poison, and more.
Always check the full list of prohibited and restricted items before you pack a Flat Rate Box to mail, and ensure that you are complying with the list. Be aware that this list will change if you are mailing items internationally.
Can You Use Your Own Packaging For A Small Flat Rate Box?
Unfortunately, you cannot use your own packaging if you wish to send items via the Flat Rate service. This is because USPS needs to be able to tell at a glance that your package complies with its guidelines and fits the size stipulations.
If you used your own packaging, they would need to measure the box’s dimensions to determine whether you were following the size guidelines, and even a slight discrepancy could cause issues.
You are therefore obliged to use the standard boxes provided by USPS if you want to take advantage of flat rate shipping. These have the type of box printed on the sides and top, and they should not be modified. Cutting, sticking, folding, or otherwise altering the boxes is not permitted, and may result in your mail being refused or charged at a higher price.
Anyone who gets large amounts of mail and struggles to stay on top of it might find that a Virtual Mailbox is the answer. This provides you with a secure US address that you can direct letters and packages to.
They will be accepted and signed for at any time of the day, and the mail will then be scanned so that photos of the exterior can be uploaded to your email. You can view the photos, request interior scans, or organize to have packages forwarded to you. This can all be done online, providing the ultimate convenience and security for your mail.