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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. 3rd 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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Published: 2005/05/10 08:53:42 GMT
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