This article is part of a larger series on Retail Management.
Shipping companies and carriers deliver products to merchants and customers alike. When comparing the top shipping companies—FedEx vs UPS vs USPS (United States Postal Service), you should consider cost, speed, and service. Each carrier is reliable, offers affordable options if your package doesn’t need to arrive quickly, and allows you to pay more for faster delivery. Most small packages ship for less than $20 with each carrier.
FedEx vs UPS vs USPS at a Glance
High; competitive on larger parcels
High; competitive on larger parcels
Lowest; best overall value
Ground through same-day
Ground through time-critical overnight
Ground through express
For a fee
For a fee
FedEx locations and retail centers
UPS locations and retail centers
Delivery address, post office box, US Army Post Office (APO), USPS locations, and retail centers
Up to $100 Free Insurance
Label Printing Options
FedEx.com and other integrations
UPS.com and other integrations
USPS.com and other integrations
Customer Support Via Phone, Email, and In-person
Updates on FedEx, UPS, and USPS Pricing & Surcharges
When To Use FedEx vs UPS vs USPS
FedEx vs UPS vs USPS: Pricing & Speed
In the News: Updates to Service Guarantees
- FedEx has reinstated money-back guarantees on selected FedEx Express services, US domestic, and US import/export shipments. However, money-back guaranteed for FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, FedEx Freight, and FedEx Office® services will remain suspended until further notice, as of Jan. 17, 2022.
- UPS has restored service guarantees for select services. All other service guarantees are still suspended due to COVID-19.
- USPS hasn’t released a current statement regarding service guarantees. It has a dedicated frequently asked questions (FAQ) site for businesses to address service standards changes. The USPS was facing delivery and financial challenges before the pandemic. The Postmaster General has announced a 10-year plan to address the problems, including service times. Effective May 1, 2022, the Postal Service implemented new service standards for First-Class Package Service (FCPS) that are designed to increase delivery reliability, consistency, and efficiency.
Each carrier has different options for shipping speed, customer support, and service options. Price and shipping speed are the most significant differentiating factors as each carrier is relatively equal in other areas.
USPS averages the best overall rates for shipping everything from flat mailers to packages up to 70 pounds. However, shipping rates depend on many factors, including size, distance traveled, and service speed. The type of delivery location—home or business—also factors in since both UPS and FedEx charge more for home deliveries. All three options can be viable choices for ecommerce shipping, depending on your circumstances.
Shipping prices can vary if you purchase postage in person, and rates will be higher during the peak holiday season. Discounted rates are available from many fulfillment companies and shipping solutions such as Stamps.com.
To give you a better idea of pricing among UPS vs FedEx vs USPS, look at the table below for a cost and speed comparison on flat rate, overnight, ground, priority, small, and heavy packages.
FedEx vs UPS vs USPS: Pricing Comparison
Starts at $11.10
Starts at $12.78
Starts at $8.95
Starts at $65.14
Starts at $32.74
Starts at $26.95
Starts at $9.36
Starts at $11
Starts at $8.50
Starts at $9.36
Starts at $14.79 for a 12-pound package
Starts at $9.45
Starts at $23.52
Starts at $34.02 for a 12-pound package
Starts at $26.95
Starts at $12.05 for a small box (up to 420 cubic inches)
Starts at $12.55 for a small box (up to 250 cubic inches)
Starts at $5.80 for 12-ounce parcel
Starts at $165 (from Los Angeles to New York)
Starts at $45.27
Starts at $50.25
Use the shipping calculators available on each of the courier’s websites to find exact rates for your specific package and route. Alternatively, you can use our dimensional weight calculator and learn how dimensional weight works, when it applies, and how to use it to reduce shipping costs.
FedEx Pricing & Speed
Certain FedEx Ground routes are cheaper than USPS and will get the package to your destination up to two days faster. This is especially true for larger, heavier shipments.
Should you need a package to arrive as soon as possible, you can get it to your destination as early as 10 a.m. the following day with FedEx First Overnight. You’ll find many drop box locations and retail partners if you don’t have a corporate location near you.
UPS Pricing & Speed
UPS pricing is competitive for heavier packages and any time you need to ship internationally. Should you need a package overnight, UPS Next Day Air is a suitable option, albeit a pricey one. You’ll pay a small fee if you choose for UPS to pick up your package, but the convenience can be worth it if you’ve already got your shipping label and box packed. UPS also offers attractive commercial discounts compared to USPS.
USPS Pricing & Speed
USPS is one of the best options for sending packages under 20 pounds. It’s also a great option for shipping anything heavy and small, thanks to flat-rate shipping rates. USPS is part of the executive branch of the US federal government, so the hours are more limited than those of FedEx and UPS. However, you can find a workaround by using one of USPS’s many retail partners—often grocery stores. USPS’s low prices and reliable delivery make it the best shipping option for many small businesses.
FedEx vs UPS vs USPS: Shipping Features
Once you have reviewed the price comparisons between UPS vs FedEx vs USPS, the next element to compare is their shipping features.
Pickup & Drop-off Locations
- FedEx: FedEx customers can track up to 30 order numbers at a time. Small businesses may sign up for the free FedEx Delivery Manager service, which includes more tracking capabilities, pickup management, and delivery notifications.
- UPS: UPS offers free tracking for up to 25 tracking numbers via its website. Small business owners can sign up for the free UPS My Choice for Business program. With this, you can monitor inbound and outbound packages, manage returns, and track claims online dashboard. You can also create a branded tracking page for your customers to track their orders.
- USPS: USPS offers free tracking for up to 35 tracking numbers via its website. You can sign up for free business shipping services to track more orders.
Label Printing Options
- FedEx: You can print a label on a regular or thermal printer. All FedEx Office locations will also print labels.
- UPS: After creating a shipment, you can either print shipping or return labels yourself or at a UPS Store. UPS also offers easy step-by-step instructions via its website if you want to install your thermal printer for labels.
- USPS: You can print labels at a USPS location or use the Click-N-Ship feature to print shipping labels yourself. To access Click-N-Ship, you’ll need to sign up for a free USPS account. The Label Broker ID program also gives customers the ability to print their own prepaid and return shipping labels via the USPS website or at most post office locations. The feature, part of the Click-N-Ship application, provides customers with a unique ID number or a quick response (QR) code scanned at USPS locations when shipping an item.
- FedEx: You can contact FedEx via email, phone, or at one of its locations. Phone support hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays; and unavailable on Sundays. Users also have the option to chat with a FedEx representative or access an FAQs section and tutorials from the website.
- UPS: You can contact UPS via email or phone or by visiting one of their retail locations. You can also hop on to the UPS website to live chat with a virtual assistant or browse the FAQs section and tutorials. Preferred Customer account holders receive a dedicated support team and priority routing when contacting technical support.
- USPS: USPS customer support is reachable through phone, email, or in person at any location. USPS hours vary but are generally 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. local time—some branches close for lunch. There’s no chat feature on the USPS website, but you can check the FAQs section to find answers to common questions.
FedEx vs UPS vs USPS: Ease of Use
Each shipping carrier has many locations where you can drop off packages. However, these usually require you to have already paid for postage and packed your box. Retail partners with extended hours for USPS, while FedEx and UPS tend to be open later. Each shipping calculator worked well, except we had minor issues with FedEx—if you’re shipping to a residential address, it uses the FedEx Home option rather than Ground. Using a dimensional calculator before you ship can help approximate cost.
FedEx Ease of Use
When calculating shipping rates, we had difficulty finding FedEx Ground options using the company’s calculator online. You may need to try multiple browsers to get the rates to show up. However, the rest of the rates were straightforward to calculate.
The FedEx Home Delivery option may show up if you’re shipping to a residential location rather than FedEx Ground. This service is faster and offers weekend deliveries to more residential areas.
While there are many FedEx locations, some smaller communities may only have one. FedEx hours are usually 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
UPS Ease of Use
The shipping calculator on the UPS website is easy to use and provides a simple table with all the rates based on your input. There aren’t many UPS locations, although there are many drop boxes and retail partners like Staples and PostalAnnex. Hours are daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. or later, depending on location.
USPS Ease of Use
Calculating shipping is easy using USPS because you just need to enter the weight and the ZIP code you’re shipping from and to in the shipping calculator. While nearly every city and town has a USPS location, it may close for lunch in smaller cities and have limited weekend hours.
Retail USPS hours vary, so if you’re shipping or picking something up from the post office, you’ll likely have to take off work early. You may find extended hours at retail locations, such as those found in Walmart or Hy-Vee. Typical hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
FedEx vs UPS vs USPS: Customer Reviews
In a battle of UPS vs FedEx vs USPS for fast shipping times, it was a tie for most customers. When shipping internationally, customers favor UPS because shipments often arrive much sooner than expected. While pricing is higher for most shipment options through UPS and FedEx vs USPS, customers say they prefer UPS and FedEx because of customer service issues with USPS.
Here’s a breakdown of each shipping company’s customer reviews:
- FedEx: FedEx customers talk about fast shipping and how easy it is to track shipments at all stages. Complaints include frustrations with FedEx customer service and delivery times not being met. Many users have pointed out the convenience of delivery seven days per week, a service available to most of the US.
- UPS: UPS customers mention one of the perks is that UPS delivers international packages faster than promised. Customers complain about lost packages, damaged goods, and damage to property from delivery trucks. However, customers praise how UPS goes out of its way to deliver packages—even making phone calls to the customer for help locating an address.
- USPS: USPS customers favor its pricing compared to other shipping carriers. However, concerns about poor retail location hours, lost packages, and lack of customer service are prevalent. Customers also talk about how kind their personal USPS carriers are.
FedEx vs UPS vs USPS: FAQ
Which is cheaper: UPS, USPS, or FedEx?
USPS usually turns out to be the cheapest option out of the three major carriers, followed by UPS, while FedEx usually ranks last. Remember that while you can save on shipping costs with USPS, you might need to deal with delayed deliveries and lower service standards. You can offset these by getting shipping insurance for your packages.
Which is more reliable: FedEx, UPS, or USPS?
All three shipping companies are reliable. UPS and FedEx provide better tracking services if you wish for real-time updates. UPS also offers guaranteed express shipping, guaranteeing that your package will arrive on time.
Which courier is better for express delivery?
UPS offers the most affordable rates for express delivery with its two flagship services—UPS Next Day Air® and UPS 2nd Day Air®. The latter is the cheapest UPS express service for packages that don’t need overnight delivery.
Which courier is better for overnight shipping?
FedEx is the ideal choice for overnight delivery. FedEx even gives you different time frame options when you want your package to be delivered the next business day.
When starting your retail business, you might not think about shipping and fulfillment. But as the lines between retail and ecommerce blur, many retailers also need to consider their shipping options. This is where shipping companies come into play.
When comparing FedEx vs UPS vs USPS, consider the price and shipping speed that your small business needs. While USPS has some of the best pricing, FedEx and UPS offer faster shipping times for a higher cost. When reviewing features of UPS vs FedEx, UPS tends to deliver international packages faster than promised.
USPS is typically the best comprehensive shipping solution for most low-volume businesses. There are no monthly requirements, the service is reliable, and the regular retail rates are very competitive. However, even lower rates and discounts are available through services like Stamps.com, making it easy to print shipping labels from home.