Both individual customers and eCommerce businesses are familiar with the three major shipping options available: FedEx vs UPS vs USPS. They ship the bulk of the orders in this country and offer ground shipping, expedited delivery, home delivery, and other options for eCommerce orders. Each has many similar shipping features, as well as unique benefits and drawbacks. Compare these advantages to your business’s needs to choose the shipping method that suits your merchandise.
To compare these three services, we looked at the published shipping costs of a box that measures 10x8x6 and weighs 5lbs, shipping from Los Angeles to New York. Ecommerce and subscription box sellers need to ship orders based on the most efficient, secure, and cost-effective means available. Use this comparison of the three major shipping services to give your shipping procedures a leg up on the competition.
FedEx offers three main shipping methods: FedEx Ground, FedEx Home Delivery, and FedEx SmartPost. They are the newest shipping service listed (founded 1971), but their cheap estimates, packing and handling standards, and especially their large network of locations have made them a major competitor in the shipping industry.
FedEx allows individuals and businesses to send packages to any US state using contractors who drive private and dedicated vehicles to deliver packages (FedEx Ground). It also uses a partnership with USPS to deliver by post office (SmartPost) and has both private contractors and dedicated drivers available to deliver directly to residences (Home Delivery).
They accept packages up to 165” by 108” and up to 150 pounds in weight. Your customers can easily track a FedEx order – this is a major selling point for their services. Advanced order tracking through an automated Delivery Manager can be used to schedule deliveries and keep track of entire orders, which can be a huge asset for eCommerce businesses who ship to many locations at once.
For the 48 contiguous states, a FedEx delivery takes up to 5 business days to reach its destination. They also offer free Saturday delivery, which other services like UPS do not. Compared to UPS, FedEx offers discounted rates on bulk international shipping charges, which is ideal for eCommerce businesses that have many out-of-country customers. They offer one-time shipping deals for individual purchases as well as accounts for eCommerce sites that want to get discounted shipping rates by making FedEx their method of choice.
Our example package would cost $20.22 to send by FedEx Ground, $63.10 for 2-day delivery, and at most, $153.19 to deliver by 8:00 AM overnight.
At over a century old (founded 1907), UPS has a tried and true system that delivers an accurate and efficient delivery experience. For eCommerce business owners, UPS’s new shipment tracking system gives them robust tools to complete their orders efficiently. This includes customizable packages and a state-of-the-art label printing utility.
UPS Same Day and Next Day delivery services make them the shipping equivalent of Amazon when it comes to setting your arrival times and getting packages to their destinations at specific dates and times. You can also allow UPS access to your storehouses so that you don’t have to make the drops to their centers. They pick up orders at the time you decide by using the UPS business plugin to consolidate the services they offer your business.
While other shipping services have prices that favor light packages, UPS offers the best rates on heavy merchandise. Packages that weigh more than a few pounds or bulk orders that require a large shipment have the advantage with UPS’s discounted rates.
This requires you to negotiate with UPS to prove your previous business with them, but you can do so through their intuitive plugin. In addition to these discounted services, UPS Saturday Delivery keeps them in competition with FedEx. Their superb order tracking system and label printing faculties add to their usefulness for eCommerce businesses.
UPS Ground can ship our sample package for $20.85, which will reach its destination in 5 days. For 2nd day shipping, the cost goes up to $62.33. For UPS’s Next Day Delivery service, the package would cost $148.49 to ship, arriving by 8:30 AM the following day. The cost savings compared to FedEx may not be extensive, but UPS’s savings increase as the packages increase in weight. They are the shipping method of choice for large merchandise, especially over 30 pounds.
USPS, the post office, remains the cheapest option for eCommerce businesses to ship small packages (those that weigh less than 2 pounds). If your store typically ships large amounts of merchandise that weigh only a few ounces, USPS offers more ways to save money than the other available services. These include free packing materials and boxes that businesses can have shipped to their building or shipping center to expedite the process.
For those that own stores in the United States, PO boxes can only be used by USPS, meaning that they are the only shipping service available that can deliver merchandise to customers’ mailboxes rather than their doorstep. With pick-up options, packaging resources, Priority Express mail tracking, insurance options, and overnight delivery, USPS leads the industry in offering cheap shipping solutions for businesses that want to ship many small packages quickly.
USPS offers the cheapest rates for small packages, offering 5-day media mail for $5.13, a 2-day flat rate for a medium box like our example for $21.90, ground shipping for $24.35, and $27.20 for priority mail 2-day. Our box would cost $74.85 to send by priority mail express through USPS. As the boxes get heavier, however, USPS becomes a much less viable option.
FedEx vs UPS vs USPS: Features Comparison
We listed the major selling points of each shipping service as well as the estimated shipping times and cost for delivering our package at the default dimensions and locations. This direct comparison of the comparative disadvantages of each service will help you decide, not only which shipping service has the features you need, but also which ones lack the costs that you can’t afford.
FedEx’s ground delivery services compare unfavorably to those at UPS in terms of cost. In addition, FedEx doesn’t guarantee delivery time like UPS does. UPS remains the shipping service of choice for heavy packages due to the cost savings.
However, FedEx has more express delivery options and international shipping services. They also have standard deliveries on Saturdays and can be scheduled for evening deliveries, which UPS cannot.
FedEx Ground delivers slower than USPS Priority Mail and cannot deliver to your customers’ PO boxes as the post office can. However, FedEx Ground is a cheaper option when considering our 5-pound package. UPS Ground compares similarly in that it costs less than USPS Priority Mail but takes twice as long on average to deliver.
USPS Priority Mail, by far the fastest shipping method available, especially for a package weighing 13 ounces or less, takes twice as long as USPS First Class Mail. For eCommerce businesses that ship many small packages frequently, it’s hard to beat the post office. However, robust shipping options on heavier packages for the other services may make them the better option, depending on your business’s merchandise.
Each of the three services has different rates depending on your selected delivery options. However, by partnering with a fulfillment company, you don’t have to navigate these options yourself. Their partnerships with these shipping services can get you the best rates on your shipments, as well as consolidate your box sizes to make your deliveries more cost-effective and secure.
Which Service is the Best?
FedEx vs UPS vs USPS remains a pressing question for individuals and eCommerce businesses. While FedEx and UPS offer more services for larger packages, shipping them cheaply to customers’ doorsteps, USPS rules the market in terms of shipping large numbers of small packages cheaply and efficiently. If your business ships many orders of small merchandise, the post office offers free packing materials and fast shipping right to customers’ mailboxes.
However, FedEx offers a robust order tracking service, deliveries you can schedule (even on Saturday), and robust options for shipping bulk or heavy orders, even internationally. UPS has an integrated plugin that allows businesses to schedule deliveries. UPS can even pick them up directly from warehouses, even as they offer businesses the best deals in the industry on shipping heavy packages.
There is no “one size fits all” answer to the question of which shipping service offers the best deals. An eCommerce fulfilment company can help you sort through the advantages and drawbacks of each, using their partnerships with these services to find the best deal for your business.
The Takeaway for eCommerce Businesses
Compare the needs of your eCommerce business to the features and limitations listed above to figure out which shipping service you should use. There’s no easy answer to the question of the “best” shipping service, which is why the right eCommerce fulfillment company secures highly discounted rates based on their relationships with certain carriers and the high volumes of merchandise they ship.
Find a service that profiles your SKUs to customize your box sizes and get you the best rates using the advantages of these major shipping services. Reach out to your fulfillment partner to find out how much you could be saving on your eCommerce business’s shipping charges, just by switching to the right shipping method.