When mailing a box or large envelope in the United States, there are three major shipping services
to choose from: the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), the United Parcel Service (UPS), and Federal Express (FedEx). Each company offers certain advantages in speed, price or extra services.
The U.S. Postal Service offers a variety of mailing options, including Parcel Post, Priority, First Class, and Media Mail. First Class Mail is usually the cheapest option for light items (like small boxes and large envelopes), while Parcel Post or Media Mail is least expensive for heavier packages. Parcel Post is usually cheaper than UPS, except when mailing heavy objects. Media Mail can only be used for mailing certain types of items, such as books and cassette tapes. Media Mail packages may take up to two weeks to arrive at a destination. It’s usually easier to find a local post office than a UPS or FedEx shipping location.
The main advantages of USPS Priority Mail include its faster shipping speed and the ability to use free boxes. It frequently costs more than UPS, but it is often faster. Some lightweight packages are not much more expensive to ship using Priority rather than Parcel Post, especially if they are being mailed to nearby destinations. Mailing insurance costs extra on all USPS services except Express, which can be quite expensive. There is usually an extra fee for tracking as well. The USPS online tracking system doesn’t provide as much information as the UPS and FedEx systems.
Flat-rate Priority Mail boxes should be considered for items of medium to heavy weight. These boxes are free and always cost the same amount to ship, as long as the weight doesn’t exceed 70 pounds. This lets you budget mailing costs more easily and use heavier packaging materials when necessary (like newspaper). Flat-rate envelopes are also available. At some mailing centers (such as Goin’ Postal) the flat rate boxes can only be mailed at regular weight-based rates. It is generally not worth the cost to ship very lightweight packages or in-state items with Priority Mail. First Class Mail is almost as quick and substantially cheaper when sending light packages, and items being mailed in the same state often arrive just as fast with Parcel Post.
UPS offers relatively fast and affordable shipping. Ground service is often cheaper than Priority Mail or FedEx and sometimes less costly than USPS Parcel Post, especially on heavy packages. It is generally faster than Parcel Post or Media Mail, but slower than Priority or FedEx. It typically costs more to send lightweight items or large envelopes by UPS (compared to USPS). Faster but more costly UPS services are also available. An advantage of UPS is that insurance for valuables worth up to $100 is included free of charge. It also includes detailed online tracking. If there isn’t a UPS Store in your area, you may be able to ship items by UPS at a Goin’ Postal franchise. Some hardware stores and other businesses also offer UPS shipping.
FedEx is generally more expensive than USPS or UPS, but it usually delivers items very quickly. It also provides the most detailed online tracking system. Like Priority Mail, FedEx offers boxes and padded envelopes free of charge. Ground, Express and Freight shipping services are available, as well as extra-fast overnight and same-day options. FedEx is a good option for shipping boxes of medium to heavy weight. It’s possible to ship items by FedEx at some of the same locations that accept UPS packages.
Overall, the best mailing service to choose depends upon the weight of your item, how fast it needs to be delivered, if insurance is necessary, and where it is being shipped.