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Online business / Ecommerce Strategy / Articles: Shipping: US Postal vs. UPS


Shipping: US Postal vs. UPS

By Erin Eschen | November 11, 2004


Shipping calculation is often a road block for small e-commerce businesses. Many issues come into play when calculating shipping costs:

  • Ship from/to addresses
  • Weight of product and packing material
  • Dimensions of your items/containers
  • Insurance
  • Delivery Time
  • Confirmation
  • Tracking Numbers
  • Handling Fees

Let's discuss two popular shopping carriers: USPS Priority Mail vs. UPS.

USPS Priority Mail

The US Postal Service offers standard and priority shipping. Priority mail is usually a 2-3 day ground delivery anywhere in the continental US.

USPS Advantages

  • Cost. Priority mail will almost always beat the price of UPS Ground Service.
  • Free materials. The post office offers free boxes for Priority Mail customers.
  • Confirmation #. This allows you to confirm delivery of your product. This is also free if you print your labels from the USPS web site:


  • Insurance is expensive. Current rates show insurance on a $100 package at $3.75
  • Confirmation number is not a tracking number. You cannot use the USPS confirmation number to track where your shipment is, only if it has been delivered or not.


UPS offers a wide range of delivery methods. Anything from a next-day air to three-day ground.

UPS Advantages

  • Tracking numbers. UPS allows customers to find out exactly where the shipment is once it leaves your store.
  • Insurance is cheap. UPS includes $100 of insurance into their price. After that the insurance is pennies on the dollar compared to USPS insurance.
  • More Flexible. UPS offers a wide range of shipping options.


  • UPS is more expensive, around 40% more for light packages between 2 and 5 pounds.
  • You must find a UPS drop off location. UPS locations are often harder to find than post offices. Third party drop-off locations will add their own fees. Be sure your drop-off location offers true UPS rates.

Bottom Line

If most of your shipments are relatively light (under 6 pounds), and have a value under $100 USPS Priority is a good bet. If you are shipping expensive, heavy, or extremely fragile products that need insurance, UPS will probably be a better solution.

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Online business / Ecommerce Strategy / Articles: Shipping: US Postal vs. UPS
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