Many individuals and small business owners, particularly online sellers, may be unclear what the differences are between the three top major shippers in the U.S. With so many different options from each of these shipping companies, such confusion is completely understandable. Let’s unpack how these major shippers measure up with each other on price, reliable delivery and free vs. surcharged services.
United States Postal Service (USPS)
The USPS has a lot to offer in terms of cost-effectiveness and free services. However, some other aspects of USPS shipping have room for improvement.
Price: Overall, USPS is most often the cheapest when shipping packages under 2 lbs. Additionally, their flat rate shipping services can be very cost-effective.
Surcharges: Surcharges are another area where the USPS has an edge. Because they already handle general residential mail service and deliver on Saturdays, they offer free residential delivery, free Saturday delivery and free package pick-up. They also don’t add fees for fuel surcharges.
Delivery Reliability: Reliability of deliveries is where USPS struggles compared to the other major shipping players. Even priority shipping services often experience delays, which can be an issue for time-sensitive deliveries. The USPS tracking system isn’t as accurate or reliable as it could be, particularly when it comes to lost packages (and recovering them). Another factor impacting reliable delivery in some areas is the use of independent contractors for delivery. While this practice helps the USPS keep shipping costs low, it has negatively impacted reliability and has increased incidence of incorrect deliveries and lost or stolen packages.
UPS does well in package tracking and pricing for certain package weights. But UPS falls short in other key areas that can end up taking a bite out of your wallet.
Price: UPS delivers more packages from online sellers than its competitors. This shipping volume is one factor that gives UPS the edge in having the best rates for packages over 2 lbs. However, for businesses that do a lot of shipping and want to score a better base rate for shipping for the volume of packages they ship, that requires an individual negotiation with a representative at UPS.
Surcharges: Particularly for business accounts, the surcharges can quickly add up with UPS and result in much higher costs than expected. Surcharges for fuel, residential delivery and package pick-up can result in a hefty monthly invoice.
Delivery Reliability: UPS’s tracking system is more advanced and typically more accurate than their competitors’. It also offers more options and features for both businesses and their customers. The strength of their tracking system works in their favor with reliable and on-time deliveries.
FedEx is generally competitive for several types of packages and deliveries compared to the other two major shippers. However, they are top of the pack for reliability and guaranteed on-time deliveries. They are also the most highly-regarded for customer service among the top three shippers.
Price: While FedEx pricing can be fairly competitive for ground shipping, they offer many guaranteed options on overnight and 2-day shipping, including a.m. deliveries and Flat Rate pricing. Their reliability may be worth the cost though for time-sensitive packages that must be delivered on time. FedEx also frequently releases discounted rate options for businesses that ship a larger volume of packages each month. An extra bonus for these businesses is that they can take advantage of these discounts with a few clicks, instead of negotiating over the phone with a company representative.
Surcharges: Like UPS, FedEx does add surcharges for fuel, Saturday delivery, residential delivery and package pick-up. Business account customers will want to keep track of surcharges to avoid costly surprises on their monthly invoice.
Delivery Reliability: FedEx is known for being the most reliable of the major shippers. Their tracking system is accurate and reliable and they place a high priority on timeliness of deliveries.
Understanding how the major shippers stack up with each other on reliability, costs and surcharges can help individuals and small businesses make the most informed choices for their shipping needs. Working with a shipping service like ShipOnSite can also help navigate the pros and cons of the various shipping carriers to ensure your packages get to their intended destination on time and at the best rates.