For ecommerce stores looking to provide an exceptional customer experience, choosing the right shipping carrier for every package you send is essential—especially if you’re shipping high volumes at scale.
The main differentiators between leading UPS, USPS, and FedEx carriers are their respective costs and delivery speed, but you should also take into account which carrier is best if you’re sending a lot of heavy packages, small parcels, luxury goods, or fragile items.
In this article, we’re looking at the differences between UPS vs USPS vs FedEx so you can make an informed decision about which carrier will work best for your unique business shipping needs.
Founded in 1907, UPS is one of the world’s largest shipping companies, and a popular choice of carrier for ecommerce sellers.
It offers competitive rates for retailers who ship globally from the USA, and is a good solution if you need a range of 2-3 day shipping options at affordable prices.
UPS is one of the best carriers if you need to send:
Large items - UPS can handle your oversized items with ease, making it an ideal carrier if you need to ship big or heavy items such as furniture. They offer a maximum weight limit of 150 pounds per package, which is more than double USPS’s limit of 70 pounds per parcel.
High-ticket items - If your products are on the expensive side, you’ll need to protect both your business and your buyers from any damage or loss to these luxury items that might occur during transit.
Unlike USPS, which typically only insures up to $5,000, UPS lets you insure up to a generous declared value of $50,000 USD per package. FedEx also offers high-value item insurance, but UPS can often give you better shipping rates.
Fragile items - Unlike FedEx and USPS, UPS provides their customers with a special Fragile Packing service. So if you don’t trust yourself to wrap that vintage Fabergé egg order properly, you can leave the wrapping and boxing to the experts and get peace of mind that your most precious items will reach your customer in one piece.
Pros of shipping with UPS
UPS offers customers a good mix of speed, affordability, and reliability
Competitive pricing against FedEx if you need premium shipping options
Free insurance for packages under $100
Cons of shipping with UPS
Surcharges and extra fees might be added to base label prices
Additional pickup and handling charges may apply (e.g. if you’re in a rural area)
Extra charge for Saturday delivery
Founded in 1775, USPS is owned by the US Government and handles over 127 billion pieces of mail every year. And they still deliver by horseback to some places!
USPS is built for the American people, and it’s the only carrier that is legally allowed access to every mailbox in the USA. This means you can send packages from anywhere, and deliver to anyone in the country.
While any type of business can use USPS shipping, it’s better suited for low-volume sellers and retailers who ship within the United States, or who don’t need things to be delivered urgently. It’s a simple, affordable carrier due to the flat-rate shipping options, free pickup, and range of shipping services.
USPS is a good option if you send a lot of small, lightweight packages
USPS beats out its competitors when it comes to sending flat mailers and parcels under 20 pounds. It also offers a variety of options for flat rate shipping, making it a competitive choice of carrier in comparison to UPS and FedEx.
But it’s not so good if your ecommerce store sells alcohol!
USPS prohibits any type of alcohol from being picked up or shipped, both domestically and internationally.
They even go a step further by preventing you from using any alcohol packaging that displays brand names, logos, or labels.
So if you’re planning to repurpose that fancy whiskey box to send out a customer order, you’ll need to remove or cover all the branding, labels, and logos first.
Pros of USPS
Cheaper than UPS and FedEx in many cases
Discounted services like Priority Mail Cubic where you pay for labels based on the size of a package instead of the weight
Free pickup options
No extra charge for Saturday delivery
Ships to PO Boxes, military bases, and isolated areas
Cons of USPS
Limited tracking options compared to FedEx and UPS
Can be less reliable than other leading carriers
Can be slow if you’re sending internationally due to global partner carriers
Many people got to know FedEx after watching Tom Hanks carefully guard his shipwrecked FedEx parcel for years on a desert island.
This private carrier company specializes in express delivery, offering a variety of expedited services and detailed tracking, with some services guaranteeing your parcel will arrive at its destination by 8am the next day.
Further reading: How to negotiate better shipping rates with FedEx and UPS
FedEx is one of the best options if you need to send:
Perishable items - With their range of fast, specialized shipping options, FedEx is ideal if you need to send refrigerated, frozen, or time-sensitive goods to customers.
Alcohol - Unlike USPS, FedEx is totally fine with you sending out your artisan liqueurs and craft beers using their service.
Overnight packages - With a range of speedy delivery services, FedEx is a great option if your customers are willing to pay a little more (in most cases) to get their orders on the next business day, or on the weekend.
Pros of Fedex
Can be cheaper than UPS for overnight delivery
Offers competitive pricing for small packages shipping internationally
Delivers on Sundays
Free insurance up to $100 package value
Cons of FedEx
No free pickup option
Shipping rates are generally higher than UPS and USPS
Additional surcharges for numerous things like residential deliveries and signature-on-delivery
Which carrier is fastest?
All carriers offer speedy delivery options, but these shipping times can vary depending on factors such as package size, weight, destination, and the amount your customer is willing to pay for postage at checkout.
If your customer wants their package delivered, like, yesterday—FedEx First Overnight or Priority Overnight shipping options are ideal for urgent orders.
FedEx specializes in overnight shipping, and their First Overnight service is guaranteed to be delivered by 8am the next business day in most cases.
UPS also excels at rapid shipping if your package is being delivered by ground transport within the USA, due to their large fleet of delivery vehicles.
Which carrier is most reliable?
UPS, USPS, and FedEx are all long-standing, trusted, and reliable shipping carriers. UPS offers guaranteed express shipping if you need overnight delivery, and if you need to keep your customers in the loop with real-time tracking updates, UPS and FedEx are the best options.
According to recent data, UPS delivered 97.5% of packages on time, followed by FedEx at 95.2%, and USPS at 94.3%.
Which carrier is cheapest?
All three carriers offer a variety of shipping options and services to meet the needs of ecommerce sellers.
But shipping rates can vary wildly between each individual package depending on the size and weight of the parcel, the distance it needs to go, and the speed of delivery you need.
Prices might also vary depending on whether a package is being delivered to a home or business address and whether it’s being sent at a peak or holiday season.
All of these factors can make it tricky to pin down the absolute cheapest shipping option between UPS vs USPS vs FedEx.
This is why many online retailers turn to ecommerce shipping software that allows them to enter in delivery data and see at a glance which carrier offers the best rates for any specific package.
USPS is generally considered the cheapest option for sending small to mid-sized parcels using standard shipping options - with FedEx typically coming in as the most expensive carrier out of the three.
On the downside, the cheaper USPS rates can sometimes be offset by delayed deliveries, so if your customers feel the need for speed, you might need to add shipping insurance or pay for express delivery with this carrier—both of which can put the base rates up.
You can check out the current rates for each carrier here:
How to get even cheaper shipping rates
As we mentioned above, there are a lot of factors that go into deciding the shipping rates for a parcel, which can make it both confusing and time-consuming if you’re a high-volume seller trying to keep costs down for your business (and for your customers).
And best of all, when you enter in the data for each parcel you’re sending, Veeqo will automatically show you the cheapest shipping options at a glance.
Optimizing your shipping process with Veeqo can save you a ton of time trying to choose the cheapest carrier for every parcel, and save you a ton of money in shipping costs too!
If you’re a growing business that sends a variety of packages across the country, or around the globe, shipping management software is the best way to pick, pack, and send at speed to ensure you meet (and exceed) your customers’ expectations.
It can be difficult to decide who’s the absolute best shipping carrier out of USPS, UPS, and Fedex, because it’s dependent on a variety of factors for each individual package.
USPS offers some of the cheapest rates, but their delivery times can be slower—while on the other hand, expedited shipping options with a carrier like FedEx can come with a hefty price tag.
To ensure you get the best possible shipping rate for every package, Veeqo has you covered with a rate shopping automation that selects the best value label for every order you send out.
Ready to slash hours off your dispatch times and save money on shipping labels at the same time? Give Veeqo a try today. It's free!