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USPS vs UPS vs FedEx

Updated on May 16, 2020
Mark O Richardson profile image

Mark has worked for years in the shipping, supply chain and logistics industries.

Source

Shipping Service Comparison

USPS vs UPS vs FedEx. My impression is that UPS and FedEx copy each other. FedEx and UPS prefer commercial deliveries. Factors on pricing include size, distance, and speed.

Overview-Basics

USPS can go up to 70 lbs, but is typically most competitive up to 20 lbs. No guarantees. Free pickups or drop-offs at post offices and more. You get discounts from shipping software (see my PC postage article), which also allows you to rate shop. They have free tracking. 98% of USPS carriers now carry scanners, so tracking is getting better. One downside is rumblings that USPS is historically the least helpful on the service side. However, many love their postal carriers and there is a more personal feel at your local post office. USPS has some free packaging. USPS has at least $50 in coverage on priority mail shipments.

FedEx and UPS can ship up to 150 lbs, so they are more competitive on larger parcels. They have pickups for a fee. $100 in coverage for free. Discounts are volume-based. One benefit is that customer support is by email for these two. For UPS & FedEx, guarantees are funded by surcharges (hidden fees). If shipments are time-sensitive, UPS & FedEx are a better choice due to guarantees. Claims with lost/stolen packages tend to run more smoothly. UPS & FedEx have custom rates. UPS drop off locations are often Staples and Office Depot. For UPS & FedEx, if a delivery location is a residence, there can be fees.

Shipping Options

Flat rate is good for small but heavy items.

Ground: USPS has First Class Package Service (under a pound, often delivered in 3 days. ), Priority Mail (over a pound and 1-3 days), and Parcel Select (slow and economical option at 2-8 days). FedEx has Ground (1-5 days), Home Delivery (delivery on Saturdays) and Smartpost (2-7 days that uses USPS for the last mile). UPS has Ground (1-5 days) and Surepost/Mail Innovations (2-7 days, USPS does the last mile).

For overnight, USPS has Priority Mail Express. FedEx and UPS have multiple overnight/next day options. Be aware that FedEx has separate pickups for ground and express.

Air Service: USPS-Priority Mail and First Class. FedEx and UPS have multiple options.

Transit Time Comparison

Fees

While USPS is more picky about sizing (over a cubic foot), they do not have surcharges (hidden fees). They have no fee for daily pickups. UPS and FedEx have fuel surcharges (around 7%), address correction (around $16), Delivery Area Surcharge and Extended Delivery Area Surcharges (if a shipment is off the beaten path), residential surcharge, dimensional surcharges, and undeliverable package return fees. According to Parcelindustry.com in 10/2018, the biggest complaint was fees (from 34.48% responders).

Cost Comparison

Conclusion

USPS has predictable pricing and typically no contracts (unless a high volume shipper, over 2K packages per week). FitSmallBusiness.com says that USPS is best for small business owners and for small parcels. UPS and FedEx can more more competitive starting at 5 lbs. FedEx’s name is synonymous with overnight shipping. They have been shaking things up by sticking it to Amazon and working to sever its relationship with USPS on Smartpost, which is where it starts out with FedEx, then USPS delivers from the last mile. Tracking is better with FedEx and UPS as they have more scan points. However, USPS now updates customers to let them know if packages are on time. FedEx and UPS are neck and neck when it comes to tracking and insurance. UPS and FedEx have negotiated rates, often 20% or more. But with all of the fees, its like buying a car for one price, then the dealership adds other things on at the end of the deal. UPS tends to be the priciest overall.

We have not discussed regional, LTL (less than load), and freight carriers as there are many.

References

USPS, Stamps/Endicia, parcelindustry.com, and fitsmallbusiness.com.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Mark Richardson

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