This article is part of a larger series on Retail Management.
Shipping companies and carriers deliver products to merchants and customers alike. When comparing FedEx vs UPS vs USPS, 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 speed. Most small packages ship for less than $20 with each carrier.
FedEx vs UPS vs USPS Quick Comparison
Competitive on larger parcels
Competitive on larger parcels
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
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
- FedEx: FedEx continued to roll out rate changes through 2021 and announced holiday surcharges that are effective through Jan. 16, 2022. Various surcharges for additional handling go into effect throughout January 2022. Like UPS, it adjusts fuel surcharges weekly.
- UPS: UPS has had select surcharges in place since 2020 due to increased shipping volumes. Peak surcharges include steep fees for oversize packages, products requiring additional handling, and for qualifying businesses shipping 110% or more of their February 2020 volumes. Though holiday surcharges decreased on Dec 26, 2021, fuel surcharges still remain in place and are updated weekly.
- USPS: USPS implemented holiday surge pricing for the first time in 2020. It also increased prices for domestic mailing and shipping and international shipping at the beginning of 2021. USPS peak holiday rate adjustments expired Dec. 27, 2021, and there are currently no peak surcharges in place. However, standard pricing increased Jan. 9, 2022.
(For planning purposes only; rates may change)
- FedEx: FedEx’s 2022 rates are effective Jan. 3, 2022. There are changes to its freight surcharges and fees as well. View them here. It is also changing the Delivery Area Surcharge ZIP code lists for FedEx Express and FedEx Ground. (12/3/2021) Like UPS, it adjusts fuel surcharges weekly.
- UPS: UPS has published its 2022 rates (effective Dec 26, 2021). It’s expected to continue to adjust its fuel surcharge weekly.
- USPS: The US Postal Service has announced its new rates as well as two new products for 2022. Prices are increasing an average of 3.1%. Its Plus One mailing advertising program and its USPS Connect Local program (which provides same-day delivery in local areas) are still subject to approval by the Postal Regulatory Commission. (11/10/2021)
When to Use FedEx
FedEx is a good choice for larger businesses that can negotiate volume discounts or need international shipping and has competitive pricing for small and lightweight packages. It ships alcohol, provided you are FedEx-approved and use FedEx Shipping Manager for your labels. It’ll also ship packages seven days per week, so use FedEx if you need a package to arrive Sunday. It even made our list for best order fulfillment services for combined freight and fulfillment services.
Overall, FedEx is best for
- Businesses that need expedited shipping options—especially ideal when shipping perishables
- Businesses that ship large parcels like furniture or appliances
- Merchants that sell and ship alcoholic beverages
When to Use UPS
UPS provides one of the fastest shipping options through its UPS Next Day services, which puts your package on the next available flight and often arrives the same day. If you’re sending a package internationally, customers find that packages arrive much sooner than promised. UPS also has affordable and, generally speaking, quick and reliable ground shipping. Plus, it has the ability to ship alcohol, provided you are a government-approved commercial seller. You’ll need to sign a contract with UPS as well.
Generally, UPS is best for
- Businesses that need competitive pricing on larger packages
- Selling to a global customer base and fast shipping for international orders
When to Use USPS
USPS is one of the most competitively priced shipping carriers, particularly for packages under 2 pounds. It offers free pickup, free Priority and Express Mail packaging, and a range of delivery options, making USPS one of the best shipping options for most small businesses. 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.
USPS is best for
- Shipping domestic orders within the US
- Businesses that need budget-conscious pricing
- Merchants that sell small items
FedEx vs UPS vs USPS: Pricing & Features
In the News: Updates to Service Guarantees
- FedEx has suspended money-back guarantees for various FedEx Express services, US domestic, and US import/export shipments. It will reinstate them on Jan. 16, 2022. (11/1/2021)
- UPS has restored service guarantees for select services. All other service guarantees are still suspended due to COVID-19. It has also extended the delivery time for next-day deliveries to noon as opposed to 10:30 a.m. (10/18/2021)
- USPS hasn’t released a current statement regarding service guarantees, but the April 2020 statement said Priority Express is still guaranteed, as is local one-day Priority mail. The two- and three-day Priority mail are extended to three and four days. It has a dedicated FAQ site for businesses to address any COVID-related issues. 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.
Each carrier has different options for shipping speed, customer support, and service options. Price and shipping speed are the biggest 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.
To give you a better idea of pricing among UPS vs FedEx vs USPS, we compared the same shipping sizes and weights against each carrier. The following quotes are retail rates for online postage purchases. 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.
FedEx vs UPS vs USPS Cost & Speed Comparison
Click through the tabs below for a cost and speed comparison on ground, express, and overnight rates.
FedEx Pricing & Features
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.
FedEx offers many different service options for both domestic and international shipments. Some of these options include FedEx First Overnight, FedEx Priority Overnight, FedEx Standard Overnight (which arrives the next business day), and FedEx 2 Day, (which arrives in two business days—or three days during peak seasons). FedEx Economy takes two to seven business days and is best for low volume, non-urgent deliveries. FedEx International ships to 215 countries and territories and takes two to five business days (two to three to Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.) You can also choose options for delivery confirmation and signature requirements.
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 $15 per week. You can drop off your packages at any FedEx or partnering retail location for free. These retail locations include 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.
FedEx customers can track up to 30 order numbers at a time. Small businesses may want to sign up for the free FedEx Delivery Manager service, which includes more tracking capabilities, pickup management, and delivery notifications. With this service, you can also place temporary holds on packages, redirect deliveries, and allow customers to use their phone or computer to sign for eligible packages.
Customers can also upgrade to premium services on their end. This grants them access to schedule delivery times and change deliveries to another residential location or different day. Premium services start at $5.55, which fluctuates depending on location.
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 unless a higher value is declared. 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. The Packing Pledge only applies to packages packed by FedEx office employees.
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
Label Printing Options
You can print a label on a regular or thermal printer. All FedEx Office locations will also print labels.
You can contact FedEx via email, phone, or one of their locations. Phone support hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays (unavailable on Sundays). Users can also text with a FedEx representative or access a frequently asked questions (FAQs) section and tutorials from the website.
UPS Pricing & Features
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 pricey. 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.
UPS has a number of shipping options, including
- UPS Next Day Air: Arrives the following day
- UPS 2nd Day Air: Arrives on the second day
- UPS 3 Day Select: Arrives in three business days
- Ground shipping: 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 and collect payment at the time of delivery with the UPS COD service. There are also options for delivery confirmation and signature requirements.
Pickup & Drop-off Options
UPS offers on-demand pickup for ground, air, and international shipments. Prices start at $5.80 per pickup. You can schedule package and freight shipments for future dates, add special instructions to the driver, and add SMS or email confirmation messages. Customers can also drop off packages at any UPS Access Point, UPS Store, UPS Drop Boxes, and independent authorized shipping outlets.
UPS offers free tracking via their website for up to 25 tracking numbers at a time. 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.
UPS also provides additional solutions for larger entities. The Quantum View and Flex Global View allow more in-depth management and visibility of your supply chain, suppliers, and inventory.
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.
Certain domestic shipments may be eligible for a maximum declared value of $70,000 when necessary. However, it’s important to note that when you declare a value over $100, the shipment doesn’t get any form of insurance. UPS offers additional insurance coverage options that you’ll need to elect.
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%–50% discounts on shipping rates on UPS Ground, UPS Air Services, and UPS International Express Services
- 50% discount on pickups
- Other offers and savings from UPS Stores, including discounts on online print products, packing services, mailbox services, and shredding services
Label Printing Options
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 own thermal printer for labels.
You can get in touch with UPS via email or phone or by visiting one of their retail locations. Customer support is available 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. Eastern time, Sunday through Saturday; international shipping is available 24/7. You can also hop on to the UPS website to live chat with a virtual assistant or browse the frequently asked questions (FAQs) section and tutorials.
Preferred Customer account holders receive a dedicated support team and priority routing when contacting technical support.
USPS Pricing & Features
USPS is one of the best options for sending packages under 2 pounds. It’s also a great option for shipping anything heavy and small—like books—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 FedEx and UPS. However, you can find a workaround by using one of USPS’s many retail partners—often grocery stores and other mailing stores, including 800 UPS stores. Overall, USPS’s low prices and reliable delivery make it the best shipping option for many small businesses.
USPS offers many different service options for domestic and international shipments. These include:
- Priority Mail Express: Arrives the next day or within two days to most US addresses and P.O. Boxes with a money-back guarantee
- Priority Mail: Arrives in one to three business days
- First Class Mail: Delivers small packages in one to three business days
- Retail Ground: Suitable for oversized deliveries and comes in two to eight business days
- Media Mail: Delivers media and educational materials at a reduced rate 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 delivers to 180 countries 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.
Pickup & Drop-off Options
USPS offers several options for package pickups. 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 you like.
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. There are some restrictions on what can be picked up.
Customers may also drop off packages at any USPS collection location. Some locations have designated drop-off areas for prepaid domestic packages and self-service terminals to avoid lines.
USPS offers free tracking via their website for up to 35 tracking numbers at a time. You can sign up for free business shipping services to track more orders with a greater history.
USPS insurance is dependent upon the type of delivery service. For standard shipping, the insurance coverage only covers the value of the package contents, 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.
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
- Business P.O. Boxes and forwarding services (fees apply)
Label Printing Options
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 allows customers to print their own prepaid and return shipping labels via the USPS website or at most post office locations. The feature, which is a part of the Click-N-Ship application, provides customers a unique ID number or a QR code that is scanned at USPS locations when shipping an item. It also lets you print your own logo (with the USPS Picture Permit Indicia). If you have a USPS loyalty program, printing your own labels earns you points.
USPS customer support is reachable through phone, email, or in person at any of its locations. Local USPS hours vary but are generally 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. local time—some branches close for lunch. The national customer service line is available 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays; and unavailable on Sundays. 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 of the shipping carriers has many locations where you can drop packages off. However, these usually will require you to have already paid for postage and packed your box. There are retail partners with extended hours for USPS, while both FedEx and UPS tend to be open later.
Each shipping calculator worked well, except we had small 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.
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 very easy 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.
The shipping calculator on the UPS website is easy to use and provides a simple table with all of the rates based on your input. The calculator will ask if you want additional items, like COD, additional handling, even offsetting the climate impact of the shipment. These bring additional charges. 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.
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, they 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 to do so. 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. (Complaints about late and poor deliveries were especially numerous in late 2021.) Many users have pointed out the convenience of delivery seven days per week, which is a service available to most of the US.
- UPS: One of the perks UPS customers mention 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. Some customers also talk about how kind their personal USPS carriers are, while others complain that they are lazy when it comes to delivery.
When you start your retail business, you might not think about shipping and fulfillment. But as the lines between retail and ecommerce blur, many retailers need to consider their shipping options as well. 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.
Overall, USPS is typically the best all-around 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, which also makes it easy to print shipping labels from home.