USPS Shipping Rates Changes and 4 Ways to Adapt

By Sarah Hansen, Nov 30, 2017

This article has been updated to reflect the new 2018 rates
New USPS shipping rates and service changes began January 21, 2018. Overall, there will be increases to virtually every USPS service. Here, we’ll go over the changes here and give some suggestions on what you can do to adapt to these new changes.

A couple of the bigger highlights to note before we go into further detail:

  • First Class Package pricing will be the same $2.66 price for 1oz-4oz. As with last year, this is good for simplifying package rates on shipments < 8oz, but hurts sellers that ship out very light packages.
  • While there are a few instances where Priority Mail rates will decrease, they are generally increasing across the board.
  • Regional Rate Box A and B will see increases in every zone except Zone 5, where Box A stays the same and Box B decreases by $0.30.
  • All Flat Rate options will have a rate increase

USPS Rate Changes for 2018

If you want a simple break down of the rate changes from USPS in 2018, here’s the general idea of what changed: just about everything is more expensive.

Let’s break down some shipping rates.

First Class Package Rates 2018

 

Example: An 8 ounce package will go from $2.77 in 2017 to $3.18 in 2018. That’s a 41-cent difference. 

 

2018 First Class Package service shipping rate increase

A favorite shipping method for online retailers (particularly since the USPS opened it up to include 13-15oz for commercial rates), First Class packages will see increases of varying amounts across the board.

Regional Rate Shipping Rates 2018

 

Example: A Regional Rate A box to zone 7 cost $9.99 in 2017 and a Regional Rate B box cost $17.93. In 2018, those prices will be set at $10.29 and $18.47. That’s a 30-cent and 54-cent difference. 

2018 USPS Flat Rate box A increases
2018 USPS Flat Rate box B increases

Regional Rates are still one of the less used and understood shipping methods by many sellers (for good reason—boxes are only available online and generally not advertised by USPS). Regional Rate boxes are completely FREE and available from the USPS.com online store. Order them ahead of time as they take a little bit of time to be delivered.

They come in four sizes, Regional Box A1, A2, B1, and B2. Since Regional Rates have only increased slightly, they end up beating Priority Mail in many shipping scenarios. Have a good supply of each box size on hand in case you can get some quick and easy savings.

Priority Mail Shipping Rates 2018

Rates increased for all Priority Mail services by an average of 3.9%, which is significant at face value. Despite this increase, USPS remains the most cost efficient alternative for the majority of shipments below 5lbs. It is their sweet spot and given there is no surcharge for residential delivery nor fuel, merchants are unlikely to find a better rate with an alternative carrier in the 1-5lb range. It is a price increase that will likely be absorbed and thus sellers will want to really analyze their margins to determine required changes to consumer facing shipping rates and thresholds.

 

Example: A package to zone 1 & 2 will go from $6.62 in 2017 to $7.09 in 2018. That’s a 47-cent increase. 

priority mail shipping rates increase

Above is an example of the current CPP rates for 2017 alongside the new rates in 2018 when shipping a 4lb package, and the price difference across zones 1 – 9. As you can see, across most weight tiers, pricing has increased $0.31 – $0.53 per shipment! As mentioned previously, there are occasional times when Priority Mail has decreased, as can be seen in Zones 4 and 5 in the example. Despite the general increase, Priority Mail is still one of the best deals for shipping due to similar increases coming from UPS and FedEx.

Going forward with your shipping process, when the weight starts getting to the 5lb+ range, or your order has to ship further than Zone 4 or 5, considering alternative shipment methods such as Flat Rate, Regional Rate, and Cubic Shipping.

A Flat Rate Padded Envelope can support high weight packages that can ship to Zone 6 for $6.90, while a 5 lb. Priority Mail package to Zone 6 will cost you $16.15! Flat Rate for orders that have to ship to the higher Zones should be used often.

Similarly, Cubic Shipping can utilize package weight up to 20lbs. A 10lb package through Priority Mail going to Zone 4 would be $11.46, and cubic shipping can potentially save you around $2-$3 depending on the volume dimensions of your package.

For a Regional Rate example, their largest box, Box B, can ship to Zone 3 for $8.42 and support up to 20 lbs. A 15lb. Priority Mail shipment going to Zone 3 would cost $15.63, which costs more even though it weighs a full 5 lbs. lighter.

There are many scenarios where alternate shipping methods beat out Priority Mail, and they should certainly be considered.

Priority Mail Express (Overnight Shipping)

Priority Mail Express, the USPS 1-day shipping option, saw big changes as well. As a reminder, Flat Rate boxes for Express shipments were DISCONTINUED in 2016, only allowing for Express Envelopes for Flat Rate 1-day shipping.

Also, rates increased substantially for this service. For example, a 3 lb. package going to Zone 4 will ship for $33.86, compared to the old price $32.62, an increase of $1.24. This could potentially add up quickly. If you ship a lot of items Express, looking into same-day shipping on orders to reduce overall delivery time might be an option worth considering.

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Tips / Takeaways / What you should do

Now that we have a grasp on the new rates, let’s go over some actionable strategies to make sure you’re not overspending on shipping, and can be better prepared for likely future increases in shipping rates.

Adapt and diversify the shipping services you currently use

Some sellers find a shipping service they like, and use that for every single order. Sacrificing shipping and overall cost margins for simplicity may become less viable, and likely unsustainable in the following years to come. Ship smarter by diversifying how you send your orders out. Here are some services that can offer savings depending on certain variables like package weight, dimensions, and delivery time.

Flat Rate

Flat Rate, for 2018 at least, should be your best friend. Flat rate allows almost every weight of package and ships to every Zone for the same price. This means that with the new rate increases Flat Rate will beat out services like Priority Mail and Regional Rate in more scenarios than ever before. Getting your orders to fit within Flat Rate Envelopes and Boxes will lead to big potential savings, with Padded Flat Rate envelopes especially.

Order Flat Rate boxes and envelopes from USPS.com completely free. They have a wide variety of sizes that should be taken advantage of, and you should probably start considering making Padded Flat Rate Envelopes a staple part of your shipping process.

As a general rule, when your orders are shipping to Zones 5-9, Flat Rate should strongly be considered as it does not factor Zone or weight into its pricing, only if it fits in the box (or envelope). With the new Priority Mail rate increases:

A Padded Flat Rate Envelope will beat Priority Mail shipment of ANY WEIGHT on price when shipping to Zone 5-9.

A Medium Flat Rate Box will beat any Priority Mail shipment that weighs 6 lbs. or higher going to Zones 5-9.

A Large Flat Rate Box will beat any Priority Mail shipment that weighs 12 or more lbs. shipping to Zones 5-9.

Regional Rate

Regional Rate is conceptually the half-way point between Priority Mail and Flat Rate. It has TWO weight tiers, pre-sized boxes (A and B), and can be cheaper than both Flat Rate and Priority Mail in certain scenarios. Always have Regional Rate Boxes on hand (which you can order from USPS.com on the free supplies page) to save money on the occasional order that Regional Rate can give you savings on.

Cubic Shipping

Not familiar with Cubic? Instead of weight (as long as it’s under 20lbs), Cubic only considers the dimensions of your order, measured in cubic feet. ShippingEasy’s Flat Rate Green Cubic shipping option allows you to get discounts on these smaller, heavier packages that you might not get with Priority Mail, Regional Rate, and even Flat Rate.

Use ShippingEasy’s Flat Rate Green Cubic Shipping Calculator to try various sample shipments and see what savings you can make compared to the new Priority Mail rates.

Start optimizing shipping NOW

There are many ways you can optimize your shipping to lower costs. Doing things like, but not limited to:

  • Reducing order weight to get packages below 16oz so they can qualify for first class package shipping
  • If your box can fit within a Padded Flat Rate Envelope, and would be cheaper by virtue of weight, see if you can tightly pack your order within that Padded Flat Rate Envelope, box and all!
  • Ship orders out the same day you receive them. While not possible beyond a certain time in the day threshold, fulfilling orders same day will get your orders to customers faster, and you can utilize cheaper shipping options like First Class without the fear of having customers waiting too long to receive their order.
  • As always, utilize free shipping supplies from USPS, UPS, and FedEx. Always have boxes on-hand so you don’t need to do the midday “box purchase rush” trip which can be expensive– as buying things retail tend to be.
  • If you’re shipping with UPS and FedEx, consider the entire cost of shipping, including extra charges like fuel surcharges and residential delivery. Shipping pricing differences may seem small on a granular level, but over hundreds and thousands of orders, the differences really show.

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Make SURE you’re getting CPP rates on postage

While these rate changes close the gap a bit between Commercial Base and Commercial Plus rates, the gap still exists. With shipping services like ShippingEasy that have Commercial Plus rates baked in with no work required on the seller’s part, there’s no reason you should ever be purchasing postage at CBP rates.

First Class Package is still the king of lightweight orders

With the standardization of shipping rates on First Class Packages up to 4 oz., merchants that ship out very light packages will likely be hurt by the change. One benefit you can pull from this is to take advantage of the wider weight range and include some extras in your shipment, whether it be a thank you card, item order protection such as more packing peanuts, or heftier packaging that protects the contents within—anything you can think of as long as you don’t pass that 8 oz. threshold.

Conclusion

Overall, these changes will affect many sellers, especially those utilizing First Class Package service, and push sellers to ship their orders out more efficiently. If anything, these changes are a step toward much bigger rate changes that will affect the eCommerce world in more impactful way. Shipping costs and margins may soon be the difference between making a profit on orders, so having a sensible shipping policy and a rock solid shipping process will be important moving forward.

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