FedEx vs UPS vs USPS: 2023 Shipping Comparison
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. The biggest differences between FedEx vs UPS vs USPS are the carriers’ available shipping features and pricing for special services.
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
Did you know?
The Postmaster General announced a 10-year plan to address problems including service times, staffing challenges, outdated networks and infrastructure. 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.
When to Use FedEx vs UPS vs USPS
Overall, FedEx is best for:
- Businesses that need expedited shipping options, such as express and overnight delivery; especially ideal when shipping perishables
- Businesses that ship large parcels like furniture or appliances
- Merchants that sell and ship alcoholic beverages
FedEx is a good choice for larger businesses that can negotiate volume discounts or need international shipping since it offers competitive pricing for small and lightweight packages. It’ll also ship packages seven days per week, so if you need a package to arrive Sunday, use FedEx.
FedEx is also the top shipping option for specialty items, like perishable food products or temperature-controlled goods. It provides specialty boxes like its proprietary cold packaging that can keep shipments between 35 and -46 degrees Fahrenheit for 48 or 96 hours without using dry ice or gel packs. FedEx can ship alcohol, provided you use FedEx Shipping Manager for your labels.
Generally, UPS is best for:
- Businesses that need competitive pricing on larger and heavier packages
- Merchants that sell and ship high-value items
- Selling to a global customer base and fast shipping for international orders
UPS provides one of the fastest shipping options through its UPS Next Day services, which put your package on the next available flight (and often arrive the same day). Customers find that packages arrive much sooner than promised if you’re sending a package internationally.
UPS also has affordable and, generally speaking, quick and reliable ground shipping. Plus, it can ship alcohol, provided it’s not going to a consumer.
UPS also is the ideal choice if you are shipping heavier packages, such as pre-assembled furniture. UPS has a maximum weight limit of 150 pounds for its packages, compared to the 70-pound package limit of USPS. Additionally, you can insure packages up to $50,000, making it the better choice for sending luxury products such as collectibles.
If you need to ship fragile items, UPS provides delicate packing services using packing techniques such as block-and-brace, double box, and suspension.
USPS is best for:
- Shipping domestic orders within the US
- Businesses that need budget-conscious pricing
- Merchants that sell small items
USPS is one of the most competitively priced shipping carriers, particularly for packages under 20 pounds. It offers free pickup, Priority and Express Mail packaging, and a range of delivery options, making USPS one of the best shipping options for most small businesses.
One of the advantages of using USPS as a shipping courier is that it has discounted services, such as Priority Mail Cubic, where you can base shipping rates on a package’s outer dimensions rather than its total weight.
In general, USPS Priority Mail shipping is cheaper and faster than the other options in our cost comparison. Note that you can’t ship alcohol domestically or internationally using USPS.
Most ecommerce stores go with USPS because of the deep discounts it provides. USPS partners with many online software companies and offers shipping discounts even for small businesses, usually reserved for mid- to enterprise-level companies that send more than 50,000 parcels annually.
FedEx vs UPS vs USPS: Pricing & Speed Comparison
2023 Updates & Pricing Changes
FedEx and UPS increased rates by an average of 6.9% for 2023. This is the highest general rate increase (GRI) in recent years.
- FedEx: Rates for FedEx Express, Ground, and Freight increased on Jan. 2, 2023. Surcharges for extra handling, oversized shipments, address corrections, dangerous goods, and more also increased as of Jan. 2, 2023.
- UPS: 2023 rate increase went into effect Dec. 27, 2022. Additional Demand Surcharge went into effect on Jan. 15, 2023.
- USPS: Small postage rate increases take effect Jan. 22, 2023. There are also small changes to Priority Mail Flat Rate shipments, some of which are increases. However, notably, the price for Small Flat Rate boxes is decreasing. There are no planned changes for Parcel Select Ground services.
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 (Updated March 2023)
Starts at $11.10
Starts at $10.20
Starts at $9.35
Starts at $61.25
Starts at $67.44
Starts at $28.75*
Starts at $10.10
Starts at $10.10
Starts at $8.95
Starts at $12.40 for a small box (up to 420 cubic inches)
Starts at $13.35 for a small box (up to 250 cubic inches)
Starts at $6.15 for 12-ounce parcel
Starts at $24.95 (up to 1,100 cubic inches)
Starts at $21.05 (up to 1,050 cubic inches)
Starts at $11.90 for a five-pound parcel
*Priority Mail Express, which guarantees one to two days
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.
See FedEx’s current pricing sheet at the time of publication.
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.
See the UPS rate sheet at the time of publication.
USPS Pricing & Speed
Did you know?
The USPS maintained an average delivery time of 2.5 days with 11.7 billion mailpieces and packages during the 2022 holiday season.
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.
See the USPS pricing sheet at the time of publication.
FedEx vs UPS vs USPS: Shipping Features
Once you’ve reviewed the price comparisons between UPS vs FedEx vs USPS, the next element to compare is their shipping features.
FedEx offers many different service options for domestic and international shipments. Some of these options include:
- FedEx First Overnight and FedEx Priority Overnight, which arrive the next business day
- FedEx 2 Day, which arrives in two business days
- FedEx Economy and FedEx International, which arrive in two to three business days
You can also choose options for delivery confirmation and signature requirements.
UPS has several shipping options, including:
- UPS Next Day Air, which arrives the following day
- UPS 2nd Day Air, which arrives on the second day
- UPS 3 Day Select, which arrives in three business days
- Ground shipping, which typically takes one to five business days
If you need a package delivered as soon as possible, you can choose same-day delivery with UPS Express Critical. There are also options for delivery confirmation and signature requirements. You can also collect payment at the time of delivery with the UPS COD service.
USPS offers many different service options for domestic and international shipments. These options include:
- Priority Mail Express, which arrives the next day to most US addresses and PO boxes with a money-back guarantee
- Priority Mail, which arrives in one to three business days
- Retail Ground, which is suitable for oversized deliveries and comes in two to eight business days
You also have international shipping options, like Global Express Guaranteed, which arrives in one to three business days, and Priority Mail Express International, which arrives in three to five business days. However, service to several countries has been disrupted due to COVID-19. All shipping services include options for signature requirements, Certified Mail return receipt, or collect on delivery.
In the News: 2023 Service Guarantees
- FedEx: Money-back guarantees for FedEx Express, Ground, Freight, SameDay, and Office services remain suspended. However, on Jan. 3, 2023, the money-back guarantee was reinstated for certain FedEx Express services including some Overnight and International shipments.
- UPS: Service guarantees remain suspended for many UPS services with the exception of some Next Day Air and Worldwide Express shipments.
- USPS: There are no statements or press releases around changes or reinstatements of service guarantees. However, the USPS website lists a money-back guarantee for Priority Mail Express.
Pickup & Drop-off Locations
FedEx pickup fees start at $4 and vary based on service location. You can also set up a recurring weekly pickup with FedEx for $14 per week.
Alternatively, you can drop off your packages for free at any FedEx or partnering retail location. These retail locations include places like OfficeMax, Office Depot, and popular grocery stores.
You can choose to use collect on delivery (COD) services for FedEx Ground shipments for a fee—electronic collection on delivery (ECOD) is available only in the US.
UPS offers on-demand pickup for ground, air, and international shipments. You can schedule package and freight shipments for future dates, add special instructions to the driver, and add short message service (SMS) or email confirmation messages. Same-day pickups cost $13.00, while future pickups cost $8.00.
Customers can also drop off packages for free at UPS Access Point, UPS Store, UPS Drop Box, or independent authorized shipping outlets.
You can schedule a free pickup from your regular mail delivery location via the USPS website for Priority and Express Mail, returns, and international mail.
You can arrange next-day services up to three months in advance for as many packages as possible. If your shipment needs to be picked up on a specific day within a particular time frame, you can use the Pickup on Demand service for $25 per shipment.
You may also drop off packages at any USPS collection location. Some locations have designated drop-off areas for prepaid domestic packages to avoid lines.
- 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 from the 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.
FedEx offers customers a FedEx Office Packing Pledge, which places a $100 per package liability for any items shipped via FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, or FedEx Home Delivery.
For fragile or expensive items or those with an unknown value, the limit is $1,000. FedEx needs to pack and ship the item for the pledge to apply.
UPS provides free liability for lost or damaged domestic packages, international shipments, and UPS Worldwide Express Freight pallet shipping up to $100. You can declare up to $50,000 per package or $100,000 per pallet if the value of your goods exceeds this amount.
Domestic shipments may be eligible for a maximum declared value of $70,000 when necessary. However, it’s important to note that the shipment doesn’t get any insurance when you declare a value over $100. UPS offers additional insurance coverage options that you’ll need to select.
USPS insurance is dependent upon the type of delivery service you choose. For standard shipping, the included insurance coverage only covers the value of the package contents up to $100, but you can purchase up to $5,000 of additional insurance.
The recipient must show ID for any mail insured for more than $500. Priority Mail may include insurance up to $50, and Priority Mail Express may include up to $100 of insurance in the service price.
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 (which is 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 offers a savings and reward program to small businesses that open a free account.
All account holders receive:
- Up to 30% off for 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
- Online account management tools, including online billing, reporting, and address book access
- In-store FedEx Office printing services and office supplies savings
- Opportunity to enroll in My FedEx rewards program
UPS offers discounted shipping rates, offers, and deals for small businesses that open or link an existing UPS My Choice or UPS My Choice for Business account.
All account holders receive:
- 20% to 50% discounts on shipping rates on UPS Ground, UPS Air Services, and UPS International Express Services
- Free UPS Smart Pickup service
- Other offers and savings from UPS Stores, including discounts on online print products, packing services, mailbox services, and shredding services
USPS offers several small business solutions to help reduce shipping costs. Select shipping services receive volume discounts as long as you ship a minimum number of packages per mailing. You can calculate commercial postage prices on the USPS website.
USPS Business Customers also get:
- Free USPS Tracking on select products
- 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)
- No surcharges for residential delivery
- 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. Phone support hours are 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. Eastern time, seven days a week. 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.
Tip: FedEx, USPS, and USPS all offer free shipping supplies if you use their shipping service. There are restrictions on quantity and type, but this is a cost-effective option for business just starting out, or if you only need to ship a small volume of parcels.
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. All three providers have retail partner locations inside grocery and office supply stores, many of which offer extended hours, with some operating 24/7.
Each carrier’s shipping calculator worked well, but 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. Extended hours may be found at FedEx counters within retail partner stores, such as some Walgreens, Dollar General, Office Depot, and OfficeMax locations.
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. Typical hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., although you may find extended hours at retail locations, such as those found in Walmart, Staples, or Hy-Vee. Additionally, many FedEx counters offer USPS products and services, including drop-off.
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: FAQs
USPS usually turns out to be the cheapest option 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.
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, ensuring that your package will arrive on time.
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.
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.
Shipping and fulfillment might not be your first objective when starting your retail business. But as the lines between retail and ecommerce blur, your shipping choices can have a vast impact on your total expenses and overall customer experience. 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.