This article is part of a larger series on Retail Management.
Getting your products to customers in one piece is essential for building loyalty and fostering trust—and a successful delivery starts with your shipping supplies. The best shipping suppliers offer a wide range of customizable, high-quality packaging materials with pricing that fits into your order fulfillment budget.
This guide narrows down a list of the best sources for shipping supplies based on price, product selection, user experience, reviews, reliability, and overall quality.
The best sources for cheap shipping supplies are:
- The Packaging Company: Best overall, including for customizable options
- Amazon: Best for free shipping and returns
- PackagingSupplies.com: Best for wholesale pricing
- ULINE: Best for fast and reliable shipping
- ShippingSupply.com: Best for customer service
Top Sources for Shipping Supplies Compared
Unit Price Scaling
(does not apply to custom products)
30 days; return shipping + 15% restocking fee
30 days; no fees (Prime)
30 days; return shipping + 20% restocking fee*
30 days; return shipping fee*
10 days; return shipping + 10% restocking fee
*Does not apply in cases of fulfillment error
The Packaging Company: Best Overall Source for Shipping Supplies
The Packaging Company is an excellent resource for your shipping supplies needs. It has everything from classic cardboard boxes to custom tapes and tissue paper. The provider also offers a competitive price point and allows you to customize every aspect of your shipping materials.
Customers can set exact dimensions, colors, and even add custom branding (this is the only provider on our list with these branding features). With all this to offer, The Packaging Company was the top-ranking provider in our evaluation with a score of 4.65 out of 5.
In addition to custom products, The Packaging Company offers a complete array of standard shipping materials without any of the bells and whistles. It also has an excellent customer service department with 24-hour messaging support and friendly phone support during standard business hours. Plus, the provider doesn’t tack on any additional shipping fees.
The Packaging Company lost points in our assessment for its lack of price scaling for custom products and its 15% restocking return fee.
The Packaging Company Pricing
The Packaging Company offers competitive pricing on both its standard and custom materials. For standard materials, your minimum order is set at 10 to 50 units. The quantity can be increased by set amounts, and the unit price drops as you increase your order. Custom products can be purchased in increments of 25, but the unit price stays the same regardless of quantity.
The Packaging Company Features
The Packaging Company is most remarkable for the breadth of its supplies and customization options. It offers custom sizing, adhesives, stickers, boxes, and mailers of all kinds.
In addition, it has standard packaging materials for every type of product—from food and perishables to posters and clothes. As a plus, The Packaging Company uses eco-friendly materials and can keep its prices down simultaneously.
What The Packaging Company Is Missing
While it offers a lot of great services, The Packaging Company charges a restocking fee of 15% on top of return shipping costs for all returned merchandise. This means that returns can get somewhat expensive—especially if you order in large quantities, as shipping rates are based on size and weight. Amazon, on the other hand, offers many free shipping and return options.
Additionally, the provider only offers a discounted unit price on non-custom items, so custom materials don’t receive kickbacks for ordering in bulk.
Amazon: Best for Free Shipping & Returns
Amazon is an online marketplace where sellers can list goods for consumers to shop. With thousands of suppliers to choose from, Amazon is sure to have the materials to satisfy your shipping needs.
Plus, If you’re a Prime member and work with a Prime-eligible seller, you’re guaranteed free shipping and returns—which sets Amazon apart from other options.
Amazon’s major drawbacks are its inconsistent price point and quality standards and limited customization options. All in all, Amazon earned an impressive 4.13 out of 5 for its score.
Due to the number of vendors on Amazon, its price points are highly varied. This means that you can find both amazing deals and high prices on the Amazon marketplace.
My best advice would be to base your price point on a steadily economical supplier like PackagingSupplies.com or ULINE, then look for Amazon listings that can compete.
In general, Amazon requires a little more digging and research to make sure you get a fair price, but in many cases, it’s worth the effort to save on shipping and return fees.
Like ULINE and The Packaging Company, Amazon offers a wide variety of products for shipping in addition to janitorial supplies and other goods your business may need. Amazon’s vast selection means it could potentially serve as a one-stop shop for setting up your entire store. Additionally, it offers free shipping and returns on eligible products.
To ensure that you are getting free shipping and returns for Prime orders, you must become a Prime member for $14.99/month.
Amazon itself is also your point of contact for customer service. Rather than dealing with individual sellers, you can take up any issues with Amazon’s 24/7 customer service reps, and they will work with the seller on your behalf.
What Amazon Is Missing
Amazon clearly has a lot to offer, but bundle sizes tend to be limited for individual listings, making it difficult to find the quantities and sizes that you need in single orders. Additionally, unlike PackagingSupplies.com and others in our guide, unit prices do not typically decrease as order quantities grow.
PackagingSupplies.com: Best for Wholesale Pricing
PackagingSupplies.com—the only wholesale seller on our list—is dedicated to providing the lowest prices for your shipping materials. It has a wide variety of products and is constantly expanding its collection.
PackagingSupplies.com is also well regarded for its customer service and for providing an easy shopping experience. With all this, PackagingSupplies.com earned a total score of 4.13 out of 5. It lost points for moderate color and size limitations in its product selection as well as return fees and authorization requirements.
PackagingSupplies.com guarantees that it has the lowest prices on the market. With wholesale pricing and a price-match guarantee, this is the place if you need quality budget supplies.
Like ULINE, PackagingSupplies.com charges shipping based on the size and weight of your order—but it doesn’t tack on any additional handling fees. Plus, the unit price will scale down as your order quantity increases.
Returns are accepted for a refund within 30 days of delivery, but the shopper is responsible for return shipping. Unless the products arrived damaged or a fulfillment error occurred, PackagingSupplies.com charges a 20% restocking fee.
PackagingSupplies.com’s best asset is its pricing. Not only are prices low, but they also decrease further as your quantities grow.
Additionally, PackagingSupplies.com offers some of the largest order sizes available. Unlike The Packaging Company (which offers small orders that work well for budding businesses), PackagingSupplies.com supports orders of up to 2,000 units.
Under its Retail Packaging product category, it also offers in-store packaging supplies (like bagging bags, candy and jewelry boxes, and take-out containers). This makes it a helpful resource for all of the packaging materials you need for your in-store operations.
What PackagingSupplies.com Is Missing
Typically, PackagingSupplies.com is best for larger businesses simply because of the large orders it expects you to place with them. Most products can be ordered in bundles that range from 500 to 2,000 pieces, and PackagingSupplies.com does not allow you to split cases or order custom quantities.
Additionally, there are limitations to PackagingSupplies.com’s customization options, so we recommend The Packaging Company for extensive customization. It also requires a return authorization for any return requests and charges return shipping plus restocking fees (unlike Amazon).
ULINE: Best for Fast & Reliable Shipping
ULINE is one of the most popular and trusted shipping supplies resources in the country, and it received a 3.95 out of 5 in our evaluation. It offers a large variety of shipping materials in an array of bundle sizes.
This provider has eight warehouses across the country, enabling reliably fast delivery if you need supplies in a rush. For most addresses, it can guarantee a two-day shipping window (although it incurs an additional fee, unlike with Amazon orders). ULINE primarily lost points in our evaluation due to its mid-tier product price range and limited customization options.
While it doesn’t run many sales or offer wholesale pricing, ULINE delivers consistent mid-range price points (along with its fast shipping). All of its products come in various bundle sizes, and unit prices decrease as your order quantities increase.
It doesn’t offer free shipping, but it won’t add any fees on top of USPS prices. All shipping costs are based on the weight and size of your materials, so be prepared for larger orders to incur fairly high shipping costs.
ULINE’s greatest assets are its reach, the expansiveness of its product and bundle size selection, and its fast shipping times. Additionally, ULINE offers office and janitorial supplies, so you can get your businesses stocked and ready in one shop.
The company provides a free catalog if you want to browse the newest products and make orders over the phone or via mail.
What ULINE Is Missing
Except in cases of fulfillment error, ULINE charges return shipping fees (unlike Amazon). It doesn’t require a restocking fee like The Packaging Company, but larger orders can incur high shipping costs (which will be your responsibility).
It also doesn’t offer wholesale prices like PackagingSupplies.com. Overall, you may be able to find better deals elsewhere.
ShippingSupply.com: Best for Customer Service
ShippingSupply.com is a smaller supplier than the other companies on our list. It’s highly regarded for its dedication to customer service and for providing a painless buying process. As a small company, ShippingSupply.com prides itself on being able to deliver a more personalized experience.
With a competitive, mid-tier price point, ShippingSupply.com has a more basic selection of shipping supplies and fewer flashy or high-tech packaging materials (unlike some larger competitors such as ULINE). It also charges return shipping and restocking fees. Overall, ShippingSupply.com earned a 3.14 out of 5 for its offerings.
While its prices aren’t as low as PackagingSupplies.com or some that you might find on Amazon, ShippingSupply.com offers competitive pricing in most cases. However, ShippingSupply.com doesn’t offer price matching as PackagingSupplies.com does, and not all of its goods decrease in unit price with greater bundle sizes.
ShippingSupply.com offers an impressive selection of standard shipping materials in a wide variety of sizes. It also has an easy-to-use website and prides itself on its strong customer service department (which is highlighted in user reviews).
What ShippingSupply.com Is Missing
ShippingSupply.com is a good resource for small quantity orders—however, not all of its goods have prices that scale with bundle size, making it less competitive for larger-scale needs.
Additionally, ShippingSupply.com charges a restocking fee of 10% for all returns, and you also have to pay for return shipping and handling. Furthermore, the company’s return window is just 10 days from delivery, which is significantly shorter than its competitors.
Another drawback is that ShippingSupply.com tends to have longer shipping times (unlike Amazon or ULINE, which offer one- or two-day shipping on many products).
Alternative Options: Free Shipping Supplies From USPS, UPS, FedEx
FedEx, UPS, and the United States Postal Service (USPS) all offer free shipping supplies for your business, complete with free shipping.
While it’s hard to beat free supplies, these providers impose strict quantity limitations, so this option is best for microbusinesses or companies just starting out.
You can’t order more than 500 pieces from any of these suppliers, and certain types of shipping containers have a much lower threshold (some are even restricted to a single unit). The variety of supplies is also very limited; these companies mainly provide basic boxes and mailers as well as tape in standard sizes.
When it comes to returns, you can choose to ship items back at your own expense or drop them off free of charge at their respective storefronts (USPS supplies get returned to a USPS post office and so on).
Another caveat of these free options is you must use the same company that provided the boxes to ship your packed orders. So, if you get free boxes from FedEx, you have to use FedEx as your courier for those parcels.
Read our comparative review of FedEx vs UPS vs USPS for more information on these providers.
How We Evaluated the Best Sources for Shipping Supplies
When evaluating sources for cheap shipping supplies, we look for features that make the ordering process seamless and provide the best quality goods. We also factor in budgeting considerations like pricing and shipping fees, as well as each company’s return policy.
Overall, The Packaging Company was our top-ranking provider with a 4.65 out of 5 score. We found that The Packaging Company offers the most comprehensive services, the best branding and customization features, a wide product selection, competitive pricing, and a strong customer service department to help make the buying experience easier.
Click through the tabs below for our full evaluation criteria.
30% of Overall Score
We looked at the overall price point as well as shipping fees, return fees, and bundle options.
30% of Overall Score
We looked at product variety, color selection, customization options, and size availability.
20% of Overall Score
We looked at ease of website navigation and customer service quality.
20% of Overall Score
We looked at overall quality, reliability, and user reviews.
Packaging is a key element for small retail businesses, and finding suppliers that meet your needs while fitting into your budget can be a daunting task. It’s important to have knowledge of the best providers on the market, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they will function in your business’s operations.
These factors considered, we think that The Packaging Company is your best bet for reliable and customizable materials at a good price point.