The cost of shipping is a top concern for 41% of retailers, and it seems like these fees continue to rise. And while you can choose to offer only in-person sales, you’re going to miss out on a lot of business. So, it’s important to figure out your logistics for shipping, the cheapest way to ship a package efficiently, and the factors affecting rates. It’s a major part of the customer experience, after all.
Continue reading for tips on how to save on shipping costs, along with the cheapest shipping options and fulfillment services.
Tips on How to Get Cheap Shipping Rates
Let’s look at a few tips on how to get the cheapest shipping rates for your small retail business in 2023.
1. Choose the Right Type of Shipping Service
Each shipping service comes with its own price point. Standard ground shipping is generally the most cost-effective, while expedited options like overnight or two-day shipping tend to be more expensive.
2. Use Shipping Rate Comparison Software
Shipping rate comparison software can help you find the most affordable options. Even if you ship identical packages, like subscription boxes, you can save by comparing rates among carriers (since some are cheaper than others when shipping to specific locations). And if you ship a variety of package sizes and weights daily, shipping comparison software is essential.
3. Know What Factors Affect Shipping Prices
If you want to learn how to get cheaper shipping rates, it’s helpful to understand what goes into the cost. Below are the key factors that you should take into consideration:
The size and weight of your package always have an impact on shipping fees. Heavier, larger items tend to cost more than smaller, lightweight packages. Many shipping companies offer flat rate shipping fees, which could be the cheapest way to ship a box for small, heavy products.
Learn more: Dimensional Weight Calculator and Tips
The delivery timeframe you choose impacts the shipping cost. Faster delivery options incur higher fees. Additionally, shipping during the holidays is also typically more expensive as many services charge higher seasonal fees.
Distance & Location
The further you ship, the more it will cost. International shipping, for example, is far more expensive than domestic shipping. Consider only shipping domestically or only extending free shipping promotions to customers within your country.
3 of the Cheapest Shipping Options in 2023
In the US, some of the main and cheapest shipping service options include the United States Postal Service (USPS), the United Parcel Service (UPS), and FedEx.
Tends to be the most affordable
Higher in cost
Higher in cost
Starts at $9.35
Starts at $10.20
Starts at $11.10
Starts at $28.75 (Priority Mail Express)
Starts at $67.44
Starts at $61.25
Starts at $8.95
Starts at $10.10
Starts at $10.10
Starts at $6.15 for 12-ounce parcel
Starts at $13.35 for a small box
(up to 250 cubic inches)
Starts at $12.40 for a small box
(up to 420 cubic inches)
Starts at $11.90 for a five-pound parcel
Starts at $21.05
(up to 1,050 cubic inches)
Starts at $24.95
(up to 1,100 cubic inches)
Ground through express
Ground through time-critical overnight
Ground through same-day
Delivery address, post office box, US Army Post Office (APO), USPS locations, and retail centers
UPS locations and retail centers
FedEx locations and retail centers
Up to $100 Free Insurance
Free for business customers
Free up to 25 orders
Free up to 30 orders
Click on the tabs below for more information on the cheapest shipping services:
The USPS is a popular choice for small businesses due to its competitive pricing and reliable service. Generally speaking, it’s the most affordable option. It offers a variety of shipping options throughout the US and its territories. You can find specific rates with its shipping calculator. You can also invest more, if you choose, for services like First-Class Mail, Priority Mail, and Priority Mail Express.
USPS generally doesn’t charge extra for delivering at a business location vs a home location, unlike FedEx and UPS, for example. UPS, like most carriers, charges higher holiday shipping fees. Businesses can purchase discounted stamps and labels from a variety of fulfillment companies and shipping solutions, including Stamps.com.
Business customers can receive volume discounts on select services as long as you ship a minimum number of packages per mailing. Other benefits include:
- Free shipping supplies delivered to your address for all Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express, and Priority Mail Express International shipments
- Free Package Pickup on select products
- Free regular Saturday delivery (except holidays)
Check out the USPS rate sheet for the most updated information.
UPS generally isn’t the most affordable option. Additionally, unlike USPS, UPS charges more for home deliveries. However, it often wins the cheapest option for international shipping. It also has bigger discounts for commercial clients. While it’s usually not the cheapest option, UPS offers competitive reliability.
UPS offers discounted shipping rates for small businesses that open or link an existing UPS My Choice or UPS My Choice for Business account. Benefits include:
- 20% to 50% off shipping rates on UPS Ground, UPS Air Services, and UPS International Express Services
- Free UPS Smart Pickup service
- Discounts on online print products, packing services, mailbox services, and shredding services
Check out the UPS rate sheet for the most updated information.
FedEx is another well-established shipping provider that offers reliable delivery services. Its rates can be competitive for certain package sizes and destinations. It tends to be more affordable for bulky and heavy shipments. However, unlike USPS, FedEx charges more for home deliveries than business deliveries.
FedEx offers a savings and reward program to small businesses that open a free account, which includes the following benefits:
- Up to 30% off FedEx Express, US domestic, international, and return shipping
- 15% off FedEx Ground shipping and FedEx Home Delivery services, including returns
- Select business accounts can save 70% off FedEx Freight
- Free FedEx Express packaging supplies, including boxes, packs, tubes, and envelopes
- In-store FedEx Office printing services and office supplies savings
You can check out the FedEx rate sheet for the most updated information.
4 Cheap Shipping & Fulfillment Services
Apart from traditional carriers, several shipping platform providers offer fulfillment and shipping services that cater specifically to small businesses. They get bulk shipping rates, passing the savings on to small businesses.
The cost of shipping software varies based on the provider and service package, but it’s an affordable tool to add to your tech stack. Plus, many providers offer a free plan for low-volume sellers.
Here are some popular cheap shipping platform providers:
$250 min. spend
N/A; included in monthly Shopify subscription
US Warehouse Locations
International Warehouse Locations
Shipping Carrier Options
LTL, FTL, intermodal, air and sea, and various specialty freight and small transport services
99.98% with aggressive 100% guarantee
99.95% for fulfilling orders, 99.89% for orders shipping on time
To know more about these services, click on the tabs below:
Red Stag Fulfillment
Red Stag Fulfillment specializes in ecommerce fulfillment, helping businesses optimize their shipping operations and save on costs. It provides warehousing, shipping, and order fulfillment services for small and midsize businesses.
Red Stag pricing is more transparent than other options, and it also offers shipping discounts:
- Receiving: $14.25/pallet
- Storage: 75 cents/cubic foot
- Pick and pack: $1.80–$2.25 for the first item, 32 cents per additional item
- Shipping: Discounted rates available
Red Stag’s pricing follows a simple, clear structure, and it has a “No Hidden Fees” guarantee. This contributes to high levels of pricing transparency and billing predictability.
On the downside, Red Stag only provides itemized invoices if you request them—and they’ll tack on a “special projects” rate.
The company automatically provides specialty services for fragile and high-value items that would cost extra elsewhere—like liability insurance and custom-fitted boxes. These benefits make Red Stag an affordable choice if you sell products with special handling needs.
ShipBob is a 3PL company that provides warehousing, order fulfillment, and shipping solutions for small and midsize businesses. It has an affordable custom pricing structure, as well as other helpful features. However, some customer reviews note hidden and surprise fees.
ShipBob can offer discounted shipping rates with five major carriers—this is technically included in its “fulfillment fee,” which is based on the weight and shipping distance for each individual package. You can use its shipping estimation tools to predict your costs.
Check out these resources to learn more about ShipBob:
- ShipBob vs Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA): Pricing & Features
- 4 Best ShipBob Competitors in 2023 [+3 Alternatives]
- ShipBob vs ShipMonk 2023: Pricing & Features
Shopify can save you up to 88% off shipping costs through its Shopify Shipping and Shopify Fulfillment Network services. While it has fewer warehouses and a smaller network than Red Stag and ShipBob, Shopify easily integrates with your ecommerce store and can give you discounts with USPS, UPS, and FedEx. Most orders are fulfilled within three days.
It can also handle inventory storage and returns, including inspection, repackaging, and restocking. There are no order minimums or associated fees, as both services are included with your monthly Shopify subscription. Its pay-per-use pricing structure is straightforward, affordable, and predictable. However, you need to log in to your Shopify account in order to see specific rates.
uShip is a bit different from the other options on this list. It’s actually a freight broker, and more targeted toward retailers that need to send large or heavy orders—possibly even bulk or wholesale. It connects shippers with carriers specializing in handling such goods at competitive prices.
Prices range depending on a variety of factors. We were quoted $1,168–$2,289 for an order which we had to split into two pallets.
Most orders arrive in one to 10 business days, which isn’t bad for large and specialized items. You can also ship hard-to-ship products via uShip—for example, you can find options for shipping livestock if needed. It’s a great way to compare prices from different freight carriers.
Learn more: What Is Order Fulfillment? 2023 Strategy Guide
Cheap Shipping Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The cheapest way to ship a package is to make it as small and lightweight as possible, and to ship to a destination not too far away. Comparing different shipping providers and services will help you find the cheapest option.
- Consider flat-rate shipping options for small but heavy items
- Use discounted shipping options from online platforms or shipping software
- Check out USPS First-Class Mail for smaller and lighter packages
- Make sure your orders are properly packaged
- Explore Regional Rate Boxes
No, UPS is not cheaper than USPS, generally speaking. However, UPS might offer cheaper rates for bulky and heavy packages and for international shipping.
USPS is generally cheaper, but FedEx can offer cheaper options depending on package details and shipping distance. It’s always best to compare your specific parameters to find the cheapest option.
Although there’s no way to get free shipping as a small business, it’s possible to find an affordable solution by shopping around for the cheapest way to ship your package.
Create business accounts to gain discounts with carriers, compare prices using software, and enlist the help of third-party fulfillment companies to get even bigger discounts and better services. Remember to prioritize the customer experience and maintain a balance between cost and quality to thrive in the competitive retail landscape.