We will be the first to admit it - shipping is complicated! One of the first questions that any online retailer faces is: what is the most cost-effective way to ship my packages? While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, we understand that controlling your bottom line is vital and have put together a few things that you will want to consider to answer this question for yourself.
Size versus Weight
The size and weight of a shipment are a good place to start narrowing down your options.
Weight-based rates: using custom packaging means that your shipping rates will be based on the weight of the shipment and how far it is going (which zone it is in). As a general rule, the heavier the package and the farther it travels (higher zone) the more costly it will be to ship. Learn more about zones.
DIM weight rates: there is a caveat to weight-based rates, and that is dimensional - or DIM - weight rates. This is a surcharge for large and lightweight packages. When boxes are larger than 1 cubic foot, USPS may assess a higher rate, even if the package does not weigh very much. To avoid DIM weight rates, aim to keep packaging smaller than 1 cubic foot. Learn more about DIM weight and how it affects rates.
Dimensional-based rates: for ShippingEasy paid subscribers, we also offer a dimensional shipment option - Flat Rate Green - that uses the package dimensions to calculate the rate. This can yield tremendous savings if you ship small but heavy packages. Learn more about Flat Rate Green.
Flat Rate Packaging
Depending on the size of your packages, USPS Flat Rate options might also be a good choice. These have rather high weight limits (70 lbs for domestic, less for international) so they can also yield significant savings if you are shipping heavier products. See a list of all USPS Flat Rate package dimensions. We list the rates for Flat Rate packages in our rate tables: USPS rate tables.
Some services are restricted to specific weight ranges as well as dimensions. First Class packages must weigh less than 13 ounces (except if you use a shipping solution such as ShippingEasy or have an exception from USPS). Other USPS services permit weights up to 70 lbs. Likewise, envelopes have specific dimensional requirements, and packages have their own limits. Learn more about dimensional limits.
Speed versus Cost
The faster your package is delivered, the more the postage will cost.
Priority Mail Express
For delivery guaranteed within 1-3 days, Priority Mail Express is your best option. It is also the most expensive option. Since this is a guaranteed service, you can receive a refund for your postage if the package is delivered late. Learn more about Priority Mail Express.
If you want something received quickly, but you are not up against a deadline, then Priority Mail is a great choice. An affordable service, packages are usually delivered within 5 days - often faster! However, there is no guarantee that they will be delivered this quickly, so no refunds are available for a delayed shipment. Learn more about Priority Mail.
First-Class Package Service
These packages are sure to reach your customers, but not as quickly. What you get in return are very low postage rates. Keep in mind, there are also low weight restrictions. Learn more about First Class Mail.
Rates and weight limits are similar to Priority Mail. However, delivery times are among the slowest. As a ground service, it is able to service items that cannot be transported via airplane. Learn more about Parcel Select.
This service is reserved for flat books and educational materials. Rates and delivery times are similar to First-Class Package Service, but weight limits are significantly higher. Learn more about Media Mail.
Tracking and Insurance
Some services include delivery confirmation (tracking) and insurance. Others do not include it automatically and have the option to add these on. Then some services just are not compatible with these at all.
Also known as delivery confirmation. If it is important that you or your customers can track their shipments to the destination, then you will want to be sure to either select a service that includes this or add it to a shipment "a la carte". Moreover, many e-commerce platforms require it so that they can hold you accountable for delivery. Learn more about delivery confirmation.
If you are shipping high-value goods, it is worthwhile to consider insuring them. Some USPS services include a base amount of insurance coverage, others do not include any. Find out which USPS services include insurance. Sometimes the base amount provided is sufficient, but sometimes you will want to add more. Learn more about ShippingEasy's options to add additional insurance.
Rate Tables vs Browse Rates
Once you have identified which options are likely the best fit for you, you will want to compare the specific rates for those services, weights or dimensions, and zones.
ShippingEasy makes rate tables available for the USPS services we provide: USPS rate tables.
If you have specific orders to test, ShippingEasy provides a browse rates tool to quickly view all options for the specific shipment. Learn more about the browse rates tool.
The most cost-effective way to ship via USPS will ultimately depend on what you are shipping and the services that your customers and shipping platform demand. Check out more shipping tips.
ShippingEasy loves helping merchants of all sizes find ways to optimize their business strategies, with shipping, inventory, and customer marketing solutions.