Which Shipping Carrier Has the Best Rates in 2016?
Your choice of carrier is based on a complex mix of criteria including:
- Delivery time frame
- Package weight
- Package dimensions
- Delivery distance
- Discounts you may have negotiated (or may be able to negotiate) with a carrier
The good news is we’ve done the analysis for you and narrowed down your choices for each standard delivery timeframe. In this section of the guide, we’ll look at each common delivery timeframe and provide a summary table showing the lowest cost carrier for a given weight/zone combination.
Where relevant we’ll color code the table cells to indicate if a USPS flat-rate or regional-rate option may be more cost effective. To use these tables simply find the row in the table with your shipment weight and the column with your destination zone; the code at their intersection will tell you who is typically the lowest-cost carrier for that scenario (based on USPS Commercial Plus® pricing and standard FedEx and UPS pricing, including residential and fuel surcharges).
If the cell is colored, look at the key to find out which USPS flat- or regional-rate service might be an even better deal.
USPS has come to dominate this segment, at least from a cost-effectiveness perspective. As you can see from the table, for most weights/zones in which they compete USPS is the lowest-cost option (when comparing their Commercial Plus® Pricing to FedEx and UPS standard pricing plus surcharges). USPS also offers free Saturday delivery (the others charge extra).
While all three carriers offer delivery guarantees, some evidence indicates UPS and FedEx do a better job of delivering on time. UPS and FedEx typically exceed 95% on-time delivery according to ShipMatrix, while USPS self-reports 87.5% on-time deliveries. And of course, for packages over 70 Lbs, or requiring guaranteed morning delivery, USPS is not an option.
If you are considering USPS, it’s important to note that Priority Mail Express Flat Rate™ envelopes are generally the best option for any shipment that will fit into them. Standard and padded flat-rate envelopes measure 12.5″ x 9.5″, while legal flat-rate envelopes measure 15″ x 9.5″, and all three ship overnight for $20.66 under 2016 Commercial Plus® Pricing. This is equivalent to the lowest price available on the 2016 zone chart for a parcel, and far lower than any FedEx or UPS standard rates.
Cheapest 2-3 Day Delivery Options in 2016
USPS offers no guaranteed 2-day service. However, the USPS Priority Mail® “1-3 Day” service will get your package to most destinations in 2 days, and unlike the other carriers, it will get it to some destinations within 1 day; you can see estimated delivery times to the entire US at www.usps.com/priority-mail/map/. If you need to absolutely guarantee 2-day delivery, you will need to go with FedEx or UPS.
Cheapest 2-3+ Day Delivery Options Under 1 lb. in 2016
If delivery time is not an important factor and your package weighs less than 1 pound, USPS First-Class Mail® Package Service is impossible to beat, even with the changes rolling out in January 2016.
These changes represent a mixture of good and bad news for smaller online shippers, as shown in the table.
It’s important to note that while there are no delivery time-frame guarantees with First-Class Mail®, the USPS advertises it as a “1-3 day” service, so for items that qualify, First-Class Mail® is on average as fast as the much more expensive 2-day services.
First Class Package Service 2016 Changes
Here’s the detailed breakdown of all less-than-1-pound shipping options. For more detailed information on the USPS rate changes—and their implications for sellers who rely on First-Class Mail®—check out this post on the ShippingEasy blog: http://shippingeasy.com/usps-shipping-rates-2016-changes-4-ways-to-adapt/.
All Carriers Up to 1 lb. Delivery Options
Cheapest Over 3 Day Delivery Options in 2016
This delivery time-frame is actually the most complicated due to the number of different services that can be considered. We have attempted to simplify it by including the services that are, in our view, most relevant:
- USPS Priority Mail®: given the 2016 rate changes, Priority Mail Commercial Plus® Pricing actually becomes competitive in this space—with the huge bonus of almost certainly getting your package to its destination faster than any other option listed here
- As with the 2-Day Delivery timeframe, USPS Priority Mail Regional Rate® Boxes can also provide a compelling value proposition here; consider them for weight/zone combinations highlighted in the table
- USPS Retail Ground: Since there is no commercial pricing for this service level, USPS Priority Mail with Commercial Plus® Pricing often offers lower cost
- FedEx Ground® and UPS® Ground struggle to compete with USPS Priority Mail Commercial Plus® Pricing for most weight/zone combinations due to their surcharges
Since costs are going up across the board, thinking about diversifying shipping services used for your orders and which carrier to work with has become a bit more nuanced. Surcharges and extra fees can really cut into costs, so making them a part of your initial shipping choices can help paint a clear picture of what’s best for your business.
This is from the 2016 Shipping Rate Changes Guide from ShippingEasy: