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Cheapest Shipping
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Shipping Cost Comparison: USPS vs. UPS vs. FedEx

The U.S. Postal Service, United Parcel Service (UPS), and FedEx remain the biggest names when it comes to consumer shipping. All offer standard ground delivery, various two- or three-day delivery options, and guaranteed overnight shipping. Pricing generally varies based on the size and weight of the package and the origin and destination, although all three carriers provide flat-rate boxes that ship for a fixed price regardless of weight. To find the cheapest shipping rates, we compared the cost of sending hypothetical 5- and 10-pound packages coast to coast, from New York City to a residential address in Los Angeles.

  • FedEx and UPS provide far more options for time-sensitive shipping, with guaranteed delivery as early as 8 a.m. the next day. UPS is consistently the less expensive of the two, although FedEx flat-rate options do offer some deals.
  • The Post Office was cheapest across the board for 1- to 3-day shipping, with prices 40-55% less than UPS and 43-63% less than FedEx.
  • Opting for flat-rate packaging, offered by all three carriers, can mean huge savings. Usually the Post Office provides the best deals, but if you have a shipment that has to be there overnight, UPS’s Simple Rate Next Day Air Saver service can’t be beat on cost.
  • FedEx Home Delivery and UPS Ground services are actually cheaper than USPS Retail Ground, although the Postal Service's flat-rate shipping still undercuts the private carriers for smaller, heavier packages.
  • Given the pandemic, don’t look for guarantees on shipping times or exact delivery windows, but all three package-shipping services remain up and running pretty much as normal, give or take a potential extra day in transit here or there.

Post Office, UPS, and FedEx Shipping Rates

To calculate exact shipping cost for your specific package go to:

Overnight Shipping Rates

Carrier/Shipment TypePrice
FedEx
5 lb. package
FedEx First Overnight (M-F by 8 a.m.)$148.42
FedEx Priority Overnight (M-F by 12 p.m.)$116.33
FedEx Standard Overnight (M-F by 8 p.m.)$109.35
10 lb. package
FedEx First Overnight$183.56
FedEx Priority Overnight$151.47
FedEx Standard Overnight$148.68
Flat-rate shipping (FedEx One Rate)
FedEx Standard Overnight
FedEx Small Box$70.40
FedEx Medium Box$73.20
FedEx Large Box$101.45
FedEx Extra Large Box$141.00
FedEx Tube$141.00
*FedEx First Overnight/FedEx Priority Overnight One Rate prices also available.
UPS
5 lb. package
UPS Next Day Air Early (M-F by 8 a.m.)$141.58
UPS Next Day Air (M-F by 10:30 a.m.)$110.53
UPS Next Day Air Saver (M-F by end of day)$104.28
10 lb. package
UPS Next Day Air Early$175.44
UPS Next Day Air$144.39
UPS Next Day Air Saver$141.81
Flat-rate shipping (UPS Simple Rate)
UPS Next Day Air Saver
Extra Small$25.00
Small$31.00
Medium$35.00
Large$52.50
Extra Large$68.00
*Packaging determined by user. Must fit within fixed size ranges.
U.S. Postal Service
5 lb. package
Priority Mail Express: Normal Delivery Time (M-Sat. by 3 p.m.)$71.35
*Priority Mail Express: Hold for Pickup (M-Sat. by 10:30 a.m.)$71.35
*Priority Mail Express: 10:30 AM Delivery (M-Sat. by 10:30 a.m.)$76.35
*Where available
10 lb. package
Priority Mail Express: Normal Delivery Time$105.20
*Priority Mail Express: Hold for Pickup$105.20
*Priority Mail Express: 10:30 AM Delivery$110.20
*Where available
Flat-rate shippingN/A

2-Day and 3-Day Shipping Rates

Carrier/Shipment TypePRICE
FedEx
5 lb. package
FedEx 2Day A.M. (M-F by 12 p.m.)$71.52
FedEx 2Day (M-F by 8 p.m.)$63.39
FedEx 3Day Express Saver (M-F by 8 p.m.)$49.99
10 lb. package
FedEx 2Day A.M.$109.92
FedEx 2Day$97.13
FedEx 3Day Express Saver$76.33
Flat-rate shipping (FedEx One Rate)
FedEx 2Day
Small Box$25.35
Medium Box$44.25
Large Box$55.50
Extra Large Box$86.00
Tube$86.00
*FedEx First Overnight/FedEx Priority Overnight One Rate prices also available
FedEx 3Day Express Saver
Small Box$12.05
Medium Box$15.10
Large Box$21.00
Extra Large Box$46.75
Tube$46.75
UPS
5 lb. package
UPS 2nd Day Air (M-F by end of day)$58.87
UPS 3 Day Select (M-F by end of day)$45.67
*UPS 2nd Day Air A.M. (by 10:30 a.m. or 12 p.m.) available for commercial addresses only
10 lb. package
UPS 2nd Day Air$90.09
UPS 3 Day Select$66.20
Flat-rate shipping (UPS Simple Rate)
UPS 2nd Day Air
Extra Small$16.75
Small$19.95
Medium$25.20
Large$45.50
Extra Large$59.00
UPS 3 Day Select
Extra Small$13.75
Small$16.50
Medium$23.50
Large$31.50
Extra Large$40.00
U.S. Postal Service
5 lb. package
Priority Mail 2-Day (M-Sat. by end of day) *May take 3 days$26.70
10 lb. package
Priority Mail 2-Day (M-Sat. by end of day)$44.55
Flat-rate-shipping (Priority Mail Flat Rate)
Priority Mail (1-3 business days; M-Sat. by end of day) *May take 4 days
Priority Mail Small Flat Rate Box$8.30
Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate Box$15.05
Priority Mail Large Flat Rate Box$21.10

Ground Shipping Rates

Carrier/Shipment TypePrice
FedEx
5 lb. package
FedEx Home Delivery$19.06
(1-5 business days; M-Sat. by end of day)
10 lb. package
FedEx Home Delivery$27.09
Flat-rate shipping (FedEx One Rate)See: FedEx 3Day Express Saver
UPS
5 lb. package
UPS Ground$20.07
(1-5 business days; M-Sat. by end of day)
10 lb. package
UPS Ground$28.52
Flat-rate shipping (UPS Simple Rate)
UPS Ground
Extra Small$8.25
Small$10.75
Medium$13.00
Large$17.50
Extra Large$21.75
U.S. Postal Service
5 lb. package
USPS Retail Ground$23.90
(2-8 business days; M-Sat by end of day) *May take 9 days
10 lb. package
USPS Retail Ground$40.00
Flat-rate shippingSee: Priority Mail Flat Rate

Rates for hypothetical shipments from New York (10007) to a residential address in Los Angeles (90012). Based on the most current rate and service guide from the U.S. Postal Service and time-of-publication shipping calculations from FedEx and UPS, which include all estimated surcharges and fees required by those carriers. (Flat-rate shipments do not incur surcharges or fees.) List rates for FedEx and UPS are also available online.

Shipping schedules reflect adjustments made due to coronavirus disruptions. Rates and terms are subject to change. (Note: Both FedEx and UPS are projecting 4.9% net increases in prices beginning in January 2021.)

Flat-Rate Package Sizes:
FedEx One Rate: small box 10 7/8” x 1 1/2" x 12 3” or 8 3/4" x 2 5/8" x 11 1/4"; medium box 11 1/2" x 2 3/8" x 13 1/4" or 8 3/4" x 4 3/8" x 13 1/4"; large box 12 3/8" x 3” x 12 1/2" or 8 3/4" x 7 3/4" x 11 1/4"; extra-large box 11 7/8" x 10 3/4" x 11” or 15 3/4" x 14 1/8" x 6”; tube 6” x 6” x 38”.
UPS Simple Rate: extra small 1-100 cu. in. (ex:. 8” x 6” x 2”); small 101-250 cu. in. (ex.: 12” x 9” x 2”); medium 251-650 cu. in. (ex.: 13” x 12” x 4”); large 651-1,050 cu.in. (ex.: 12” x 12” x 7”); extra large 1,051-1,728 cu. in. (ex.: 12” x 12” x 12”).
USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate: small box 8 11/16" x 5 7/16" x 1 3/4"; medium box 11 1/4" x 8 3/4" x 6" or 14" x 12" x 3 1/2"; large box 12 1/4" x 12 1/4" x 6" or 24 1/16" x 11 7/8" x 3 1/8".


Overnight Shipping

This is the costliest option, period. But if speed is of the essence, FedEx and UPS both offer guaranteed early-morning delivery by 8 a.m., depending on the city. That convenience comes at a price. It costs $148.42 to ship a 5-pound package and $183.56 to ship a 10-pound package via FedEx First Overnight. UPS Next Day Air Early costs slightly less: $141.58 for a 5-pound box and $175.44 for a 10-pounder. It's worth noting that this early option is available only in the contiguous United States.

FedExPhoto credit: fotograv/istockphoto
If your overnight shipment doesn't need to get there first thing, both companies have options for guaranteed delivery later in the morning as well: UPS Next Day Air packages will arrive by 10:30 a.m. and FedEx Priority Overnight will deliver by noon. Adding those extra hours to the delivery window saves about $30 at both companies. And if it can wait until the evening, FedEx Standard Overnight and UPS Next Day Air Saver guarantee delivery by 8 p.m. or end of day, respectively. FedEx is the more expensive option every single time, with UPS usually about $5 or so less expensive.

The U.S. Post Office offers just one main next-day service. Priority Mail Express Delivery doesn't arrive quite so early in the day as the speediest commercial services, but it’s considerably cheaper than standard shipping with either of the private competitors: a 5-pound box delivered by 3 p.m. costs only $71.35; a 10-pound box, $105.20. In certain markets, a 10:30 delivery option is available for an added cost of $5. If you really want your recipient to get their package earlier in the day and are willing to forego delivery to their door, pickup at the Post Office by 10:30 a.m. can be arranged in many cases; where it’s offered, the service carries no additional charge.

While the Post Office appears to offer an incredible deal, the elimination of its flat-rate Priority Mail Express option makes a huge difference. If you can fit your shipment in flat-rate packaging from UPS or FedEx, the savings can be steep: An extra-large flat-rate box scheduled for evening delivery would cost just $68 with UPS. Squeeze your item(s) into an extra-small box and prices drop to a jaw-dropping $25. That’s about $47 less than our lowest quote at the Post Office.

2-Day and 3-Day Shipping

FedEx and UPS standard overnight rates are fairly on par price-wise, but, when it comes to 2- and 3-day shipping, consumers will start to see more pronounced differences emerging. For delivery of our 5- and 10-pound packages, FedEx is the only carrier that will guarantee a delivery earlier in the day, with FedEx 2Day drop offs scheduled by noon; UPS 2nd Day Air promises only that packages will arrive by the end of day two, and the Post Office is similarly noncommittal in terms of Priority Mail 2-Day delivery windows. If your materials aren’t time-sensitive, however, there are serious savings to be had by opting for delivery from FedEx’s competitors: For a 5-pound package you’ll pay nearly $13 less with UPS and about $45 less with USPS Priority Mail 2-Day.

Add flat-rate options to this mix and the three shipping companies become much more evenly matched, although the Post Office generally offers the lowest prices. Still, it pays to carefully consider every combination of box size and delivery speed to determine which will ultimately be the best buy according to your particular shipping needs.

Flat-Rate Shipping

Cheapest ShippingPhoto credit: asiseeit/istockphoto

Flat-rate shipping offers a huge advantage over regular shipping. Not only do these pre-sized boxes eliminate the need to pay for your own boxes, they're always cheaper to send. Also, the key here is that weight doesn't matter: "If it fits, it ships," the Post Office likes to say. UPS Simple Rate shipping takes flat-rate shipping one step further and, true to its name, makes things even simpler by allowing customers to use their own packaging, as long as it fits the measurement parameters stipulated — cubic-inch ranges are laid out for each shipment size, so many different types of boxes can be used.

UPS and FedEx have the advantage over the Post Office in that they offer flat rates for express shipments whereas the Post Office no longer has that option, but Priority Mail flat-rate shipping, which is cheaper than any of these competitors’ flat-rate prices, can take as little as one business day. The weight maximum is also higher with the Post Office’s standardized boxes: 70 pounds compared with 50-pound thresholds with FedEx One Rate and UPS packages. And, of course, the heavier the package, the greater the savings. Still, if you’ve got a small but hefty package that absolutely has to arrive at its destination by the next day, UPS’s Simple Rate price of $25 for an extra-small package simply can’t be beat — especially as it offers a savings of more than 80% on the carrier’s standard Next Day Air price for a 10-pound package. It undercuts the Post Office’s 10-pound overnight price by 76%.

Ground Shipping

In our survey, FedEx charged the least for standard ground delivery to a residential address: $19.06 and $27.09 for our 5- and 10-pound packages, respectively. UPS wasn’t far behind, however, charging $20.07 and $28.52.

To ship a parcel via USPS Retail Ground, it's $23.90 for a 5-pound box and $40.05 for a 10-pounder. That’s significantly more expensive than FedEx or UPS, but if your shipment can fit into one of the Post Office's Priority Mail flat-rate boxes, those remain the best deal of all. While UPS’s Simple Rate prices for ground shipping are competitive with the Post Office’s Priority Mail rates — for example, $13 for a medium-sized UPS package versus $15.05 for USPS’s medium flat-rate box — a longer shipping window comes along with UPS’s bargain. FedEx does not offer special ground rates on it’s One Rate packaging, and its FedEx Express Saver prices on these boxes are generally higher than the Post Office’s Priority Mail flat-rate options. And, remember, the Post Office offers the highest weight threshold of the bunch.

The cheapest shipping method by far is Media Mail from the Postal Service, starting at just $2.80 for parcels up to one pound. But it's intended only for media and educational materials (packages are subject to inspection to make sure they don't contain ineligible items). Also, delivery can take more than a week. Still, if you have eligible items to send — like a box of heavy books — this can be a huge money saver.

Weekend Delivery

All three companies offer limited Saturday residential service. FedEx Home Delivery and UPS Ground shipments are delivered to private residences by end of day on Saturdays for no additional fee, while the Post Office delivers Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express shipments on Saturdays as part of its regular mail service. Only the Post Office delivers on Sundays, although there's an additional fee of $12.50 and service is limited to Priority Mail Express 1-day shipments in major markets (and Amazon deliveries).

Free Shipping Supplies

For this comparison, we used boxes measuring 12 x 9 x 6 inches, a common size. The Post Office, UPS, and FedEx all offer boxes free of charge for overnight, two-day, and three-day shipping. But if you're using standard ground service or your shipment doesn't fit in one of those boxes, you'll have to procure your own packing materials — or pay a premium for packing service at a UPS Store or FedEx Office location. These services can also ensure that your parcel is appropriately padded and sealed for shipping.

Shipping Large Items

If the box you use is oddly shaped or exceeds certain dimensions, you will pay more than the advertised rates, no matter how much the package weighs or which service you choose. If the free shipping supplies won't work, your best bet is to buy packing materials where you do your shipping (such as the local UPS Store) or at a business-supply store like Office Depot or Staples.

UPS ReviewPhoto credit: Juanmonino/istockphoto

To determine whether you'll have to pay more than the listed shipping rate, you must calculate the dimensional weight of the packed, sealed box. Multiply the length, width, and height in inches (rounded to the nearest whole number) and divide the total by 139, if shipping with FedEx. At UPS, the divisor varies according to rate type. The average consumer, shipping with retail rates, would divide by 166, while only daily rate customers would use 139 as their divisor.

Once appropriate calculations are made, round up the result to the next whole number. If that dimensional weight exceeds the package's actual weight in pounds, you'll pay the higher rate. For instance, if we were to ship our hypothetical 5- or 10-pound parcel in a box measuring 1 cubic foot, its dimensional weight would be 13 pounds when dividing by 139 or 11 pounds when divided by 166, and we would be charged according to those higher amounts.

The Post Office follows a similar policy, but only for packages larger than 1 cubic foot. To check, measure your parcel's dimensions and multiply them. If the result is greater than 1,728, divide it by 166. That's the dimensional weight, and you'll be charged accordingly for the shipping service you choose.

UPS and FedEx limit shipments in the United States to 150 pounds; the Post Office limit is 70 pounds. Both UPS and FedEx have freight divisions for shipping even heavier packages.

Tracking and Insurance

All three carriers include tracking for overnight, two-day, three-day, and ground shipping. Tracking is included with flat-rate shipping, as well. The Postal Service, FedEx, and UPS also cover their shipments with $100 worth of insurance free of charge, with the exception of regular Priority Mail, which comes with only $50 in coverage. If your shipment is worth more than that, you'll need to buy additional insurance, or run the risk of not receiving any compensation should your shipment be damaged or lost. All three providers offer extra coverage at the time of shipping, with rates based on declared value.

Guaranteed Delivery

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Be sure to hold on to your shipping receipt with the tracking number printed on it, because you may need it if delivery promises are not met. Under normal circumstances, FedEx, UPS, and the U.S. Postal Service all guarantee on-time delivery or it's free. With FedEx and UPS, guarantees apply to overnight, two-day, and three-day air shipping options as well as ground deliveries, whereas the Post Office only covers delayed Priority Express shipments.

While the Post Office limits the scope of its obligations, it’s the most generous in giving customers ample time to make claims: Patrons have 30 days from the date of mailing to request a refund, and they now have the option of filing for refunds online as well as in-person. FedEx and UPS give customers just 15 days to file late-delivery claims.

Of course, with the advent of the pandemic, most bets are off. Beginning in March 2020, both UPS and FedEx suspended money-back guarantees on all shipments. Unlike the private shipping companies, USPS still honors its guarantee on Priority Express deliveries, although in it’s own response to the COVID-19 crisis and delivery disruptions, an additional day was tacked on to transit windows for standard two- and three-day Priority Mail packages.

Additional Services

In addition to tracking, all three carriers offer delivery options for extra peace of mind, such as signature-required delivery confirmation. But that service and others, like collect on delivery (COD), cost extra at FedEx, UPS, and the Post Office. The Post Office charges $3.15 for signature service, for example, and $6.65 if the sender requires an adult to sign. FedEx and UPS each charge $5.25 for a signature and $6.35 if someone over 21 must sign to accept delivery. Small-business services like click-and-print postage and scheduled pickups are also available at all three carriers.

Ratings and Reviews

Reviews on social media and sites like Yelp aren't very useful for gauging how well a business like FedEx, UPS, or the U.S. Postal Service does its job. Most people who bother to leave reviews are doing so because they've had a negative experience or to complain about tardy deliveries, unreliable tracking, damaged items, or packages that disappeared during shipping. Occasionally a consumer reports a pleasant experience, but it's more common to find a detailed account of a back-and-forth argument with customer service.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index's annual 2019-2020 report on the business of retail and consumer shipping presents the most rounded view of the three shipping providers we could find; although it’s worth noting that respondents were surveyed in 2019, prior to major shipping disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Based on interviews with just over 85,000 consumers taken in early January and late December 2019, the ACSI rated the carriers on factors such as delivery speed, package condition, shipping options, and transaction ease. One thing that remained constant over the past several years: Consumers like FedEx and UPS a lot more than they do the Post Office, dramatic rate increases at the USPS in 2019 not helping matters much. More interesting, while there had been a steady decline in customer satisfaction with both the Post Office and UPS in recent years — UPS dropping 4% in ratings from 2019 to 2020 — FedEx gained 1% in its approval score in last year’s survey. As the ACSI study notes, automation and shipping speed were top priorities for consumers; with multiple overnight delivery options available and a mobile app that users judged more reliable than UPS’s, it’s not surprising that FedEx took the 2019-2020 customer satisfaction crown, despite being the most expensive of the three carriers. That said, 2020-2021’s reports may paint a different picture, as shipping studies conducted in the early months of the pandemic (March, April, May) showed UPS doing an overall better job than FedEx at honoring on-time delivery commitments.

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