What Is Actually the Cheapest Way to Ship Something in 2023 | It’s Not As Complicated As It Seems

Cheapest way to ship

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There are three big players in the shipping industry in the United States. You don't have time to compare shipping quotes, so in this article, I've done it for you.

Hopefully it makes it easier for you to decide which service to use. 

The three big players are...

  • FedEx
  • UPS
  • USPS (United States Postal Service)

Things like customer service, product safety, and accountability are more subjective. Personally, I've had great experiences and terrible experiences with all three of the big services. 

I actually was a supervisor at UPS in Hilliard, Ohio during college, so I am a little biased AGAINST them... yes, the things I saw while working there genuinely made me fearful to use them myself. 

You can easily find shipping horror stories about any of the three providers.

Keep in mind that these aren’t the only providers you can use; I’m just focusing on these three for this article. Sometimes it’s best to go for something smaller, especially if you’re shipping locally. 

For example, Dropoff offers a local courier service in Los Angeles, which could be useful when you’re in a hub with so many people. The big three may be too busy to ship reliably in some instances.

Things to consider when researching the cheapest way to ship something include where you're  sending the package, what time-line you need it to arrive, and the dimensions and weight of the package.

I'll leave out add-ons like shipping insurance for the sake of brevity in this article...

Let's go through each provider one by one. 

I am not incentivized in any way to encourage you to use one of these services over the others.  

1. The United States Postal Service (USPS):

If your package is less than two pounds, the cheapest place to ship packages will almost certainly be the United States Postal Service.

If your parcel weighs less than 13 ounces and qualifies for first-class postage, it will be even cheaper.

Also, the USPS often offers the cheapest isps international shipping. For example, it is the cheapest way to ship to Canada from US if the package is small enough

If your parcel is slightly over two pounds, the USPS still offers good deals on parcels that fit in a priority mail flat rate box even if it isn't the cheapest way to ship internationally.

If you're looking for next day shipping, Express Mail from The United States Postal Service is always the most affordable option.

Why is USPS cheaper than UPS when it comes to lighter mail? USPS is built to mail documents and smaller shipments, while UPS is built for larger packages.

The USPS is the cheapest way to mail documents.

The only problem with it is that parcels often take two days to arrive at remote locations.

USPS mailing options:

USPS Option #1 - Express Mail

The package will arrive in one or two days if you choose Express Mail.

USPS Option #2 - First Class Mail:

First class mail will arrive within 2-5 business days.

USPS Option #3 - Priority Mail

Priority mail takes 2 or 3 days to arrive.

Is The United States Postal Service Reliable?

The USPS is not the most reliable shipping service you can choose. The USPS doesn't give any precise information about shipping dates. In rare cases, parcels could take as long as three weeks to arrive.

In addition, their tracking can be inaccurate. On occasion, a parcel could show as delivered when it hasn't arrived yet. In other cases, tracking information might not be given at all until the parcel has already arrived.

Prices From The United States Postal Service:

If you are sending a package in an envelope, the parcel will be marked with a stamp. Here are the rates on stamps:

  • First Class Mail Letter (up to one ounce at the retail store/post office rate): $0.49
  • First Class Mail Letter (metered mail): $0.46
  • Fee For Each Additional Ounce: $0.21
  • Postcards: $0.34
  • First Class Mail Flat (up to one ounce): $0.98
  • Each Additional Ounce For First Class Mail Flat: $0.21
  • First Class Mail For International Letters: $1.15

If you are shipping a larger package, these are the rates:

  • Priority Mail Express (half a pound or more for mailers in zone 1 and zone 2): starting at $21.18
  • Priority Mail (one pound or more for mailers in zones 1 and zone 2): starting at $5.95
  • First Class Package Service (parcels between one and six ounces): starting at $2.61
  • Parcel Select Ground (one pound for mailers located in zones one and two): $5.95 or more
  • Retail Ground (one pound or more in zones one and two, retail/post office price): starting at $6.65
  • Media Mail (up to one pound for mailers in zones one and two, only books and visual media qualifies): $2.63
  • Priority Mail Express International (packages over 0.5 pounds for mailers in zone 1): starting at $39.80
  • Priority Mail (one pound or more being mailed to Canada): starting at $30.16
  • Priority Mail International To Other Countries (one pound or more): starting at $36.81
  • First Class Package International Service (1 ounce or more, group one): starting at $14.73
  • USPS luggage shipping rates: Variable based on country of origin and landing between $50 to $247 international.

Reviews Of The United States Postal Service:

The USPS has received mixed online reviews. While there are a significant number of positive reports, there also are reports of packages that did not arrive or arrived late. 

2. UPS (United Parcel Service):

Unlike many other delivery services, you can negotiate your price with UPS despite any initial UPS shipping estimates. However, this is only possible if you ship a large volume of packages. While this option is available, it's generally not recommended to negotiate with UPS. Even after negotiation, UPS shipping rates are often higher than other delivery services. It's best to consult a UPS shipping rates by weight chart for exact figures.  

Are UPS Shipping Rates Ever Lower Than Other Delivery Services Without Negotiation?

UPS offers the cheapest shipping if you're shipping a parcel that's more than 3 pounds. It is, strictly looking at upfront cost, the cheapest way to ship heavy items.

Thanks to UPS discounted international shipping, it would be the cheapest way to ship to Australia, for example.

UPS vs USPS In Terms Of Shipping Options:

The shipping options from UPS are a bit different than the USPS. UPS offers the following delivery options:

  • 2 day shipping
  • 3 day shipping
  • Next day shipping
  • Ground shipping

UPS offers multiple types of next day shipping:

  • Next Day Air Saver (the most affordable next day option)
  • Next Day Air
  • Next Day Air Early AM (the most expensive next day option)

UPS vs USPS In Terms Of Reliability:

Unlike the USPS, UPS is one of the most reliable shipping providers. It's possible to track your package at any point during the shipping process, and the tracking is known to be exceptionally accurate. Furthermore, UPS has an excellent record of shipping parcels on time.

Examples Of Prices From UPS:

If you are shipping a hypothetical package that is 5 pounds, 5 inches wide, 5 inches tall, and 5 inches long from Atlanta, Georgia to New York City, these are the estimated rates that UPS offers:

  • Ground Shipping: $13.75
  • 3 Day Select: $29.00
  • 2nd Day Air: $37.86
  • Next Day Air Saver: $86.17
  • Next Day Early AM: $122.24
  • Next Day Air: $90.44

UPS vs USPS In Terms Of Reviews:

UPS has been reviewed even better than FedEx on the BBB website. In fact, it received 4 out of 5 stars from customers. The BBB gives UPS a rating of A+. UPS has also been reviewed well on other websites. In terms of reviews, the difference between UPS vs USPS is clear. UPS has better reviews.

UPS offers one-day international shipping along with other international shipping options:

  • Best Available Flight Shipping
  • 1-3 Business Day Shipping: The package can be available between 10:30 AM and 12:00 PM. However, you can also opt to have the package delivered by the end of the day or between noon and 2 PM.
  • 2-3 Business Day Shipping: If you choose this option, your package will arrive between 8:30 and 9 AM
  • 2-5 Business Day Shipping: The product is delivered by the end of the day if you choose this option.
  • 3 Business Day Shipping: The product is delivered at the end of the day with this option.
  • Scheduled Day Definite Shipping: The delivery will occur by the end of the day on the date you choose.

3. FedEx:

FedEx offers exceptionally affordable ground shipping that allows packages to arrive in only three days. This option is even more affordable if you sign up for a FedEx account. There is a 15% discount on shipping for those who sign up for a FedEx account. If you're shipping a package that is larger than three pounds, FedEx is usually cheaper than either The USPS or UPS. They also offer affordable same day shipping.

Is FedEx Reliable?

FedEx is usually as reliable as UPS. In some cases, it's even more reliable. They also offer reliable tracking. So even if UPS is the cheapest way to ship boxes to another state, it isn't the most reliable.

FedEx Flat Rate Pricing:

FedEx's pricing structure is fairly simple compared to many other shipping providers. If you choose their flat rate pricing, you won't have to get the box weighed. It is the cheapest way to ship a 2lb package.

Pricing for shipping varies on Fedex according to features like box sizes, type of package, and distance.

Here are their flat rate shipping options:

  • FedEx Envelope 0-150 Miles: $7.50
  • FedEx Envelope 151-600 Miles: $8.00
  • FedEx Envelope 601+ Miles: $9.75
  • FedEx Pak 0-150 Miles: $7.50
  • FedEx Pak 151-600 Miles: $8.25
  • FedEx Pak 601+ Miles: $10.00
  • FedEx Small Box 0-150 Miles: $8.50
  • FedEx Small Box 151-600 Miles: $9.75
  • FedEx Small Box 601+ Miles: $10.75
  • FedEx Medium Box 0-150 Miles: $11.00
  • FedEx Medium Box 151-600 Miles: $13.25
  • FedEx 601+ Miles: $13.50
  • FedEx Large Box 0-150 Miles: $17.00
  • FexEx Large Box 151-600 Miles: $18.50
  • FedEx Large Box 601+ Miles: $18.75
  • FedEx Extra Large Box 0-150 Miles: $26.50
  • FedEx Extra Large Box 151-600 Miles: $30.25
  • FedEx Extra Large Box 601+ Miles: $42.50
  • FedEx Tube 0-150 Miles: $26.75
  • FedEx Tube 151-600 Miles: $30.25
  • FedEx Tube 601+ Miles: $42.50

It is important to note that the flat rate pricing only applies to packages that weigh less than 50 pounds. You will have to pay higher rates if your package weighs more than 50 pounds.

Fedex Envelope Sizes

• Inside dimensions: 9.252” x 13.189” (23.5cm x 33.5cm).

• Maximum weight allowed: 17.6 oz. (500 g).*

• Weight when empty: 1.8 oz.

• For documents (up to approximately 60 pages, 8.25" x 11.75", 21 x 29.7 cm).

FedEx Reviews:

FedEx is accredited by the Better Business Bureau, and the BBB has reviewed FedEx well. While there have been a significant number of complaints against the company on the BBB website, it's important to keep in mind that FedEx is a very large company. Therefore, the complaints only represent a small portion of the business' customers. There also are many positive testimonials on the BBB site as well.

FedEx is well known for their reliable and affordable international shipping, and they offer Express International Shipping. FedEx offers shipping to more than 220 countries! FedEx allows you to ship to more regions of the world than UPS.

Are There Any Ways That You Can Get Discounts From Shipping Providers?

One way that you can get discounts on shipping is if you use the services of ShippingEasy or ShipStation.

ShippingEasy.com offers discounts on shipping for just about all the USPS shipping options, and the discounts are substantial. This can allow you to get the cheapest international shipping possible. All of the major shipping providers are listed on the interface of the website, and you can get discounts for all of them. Furthermore, the service is free as long as you don't exceed 50 shipments per month.

Shipstation is similar to Shipping Easy and caters more to businesses than average Joes. If you have a business on a 3rd party channel like eBay, Etsy, Shopify, Amazon, or WooCommerce, Shipstation can make your life exponentially easier. 


It integrates with every major 3rd party you can think of and promises to find you the best rate for your specific shipment. They filter through all the major carriers and find the one with the best price. The beauty is this can all be automated. 

PS: If you sell on Amazon (as many of my readers do), check out this article on using a 3rd party prep and ship company to handle your shipments. 


Here are some quick answers to the most common shipping questions

Whose shipping rates are cheaper, UPS or USPS? 

What is cheaper to ship UPS or USPS? The answer is, it depends on the size of the package. The general rule of thumb is that UPS is cheaper for larger packages, and USPS is cheaper for smaller packages. Use the shipping calculators shared above to find out "is UPS or USPS cheaper for small boxes," for sure, but the answer is generally USPS. 

Whats Cheaper Fedex or UPS?

Fedex and UPS are very similarly priced. Typically, the flat rate shipping will be more affordable with UPS. For variable shipping, FedEx can be more affordable for smaller items but loses its edge as the items get larger. 

What Is the Cheapest Way to Ship Clothes?

Since clothing is typically light, USPS is generally the cheapest option. Here is a graphic made by Nexcess.net that shows it well. 

Who Offers the Cheapest Overnight Shipping?

This is a battle between USPS and FedEx. 

Cheapest Overnight Shipping Choices

FedEx will be the cheapest shipping method for items over 75 lbs and a few larger items, but USPS is often the cheaper alternative for lighter overnight shipments. 

How Much Does it Cost to Ship 200 Lbs?

If you're looking to ship an item over the 150 lbs, you'll need to ship via freight. UPS or DHL are the two big players in this space. You will need to get a quote as this is one of the most variable charges of all. 

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  1. Excellent information…Reducing shipping costs is vital for increasing profits in businesses. The main factors affecting shipping costs includeSpeed and serviceWeight and dimensionShipping destinationShipping volumesThese factors affect the calculation of shipping charges. However, shippers can reduce expenses by making changes in shipping methods.

  2. I wouldn't use Fed X if they were offering to take my packages for free. I had to discontinue both Chewy delivery for my pets & Home Chef for meals for myself, unable to shop due to disability. Driver leaves packages at the end of the driveway or literally drops my food on the porch. I placed a table with a note at my doorway hoping food would be placed on the table so I didnt have to bend & pick it up instead food was dropped in front of the table.Called Fed X, management recommended signature to resolve issues. Next package ($350.00) required signature. Received text package was delivered, waited the entire day sitting by my front window waiting, Fed X never went by my house. I have no ideal who they delivered my package to, never returned my call. Contacted company to have them deal with Fed XNever had a problem with UPS or USPS

  3. I have been shipping packages through USPS from NJ to my son in Utah monthly since 2012. They always arrived when stated and never got lost. We have been waiting for a FedEx delivery for 4 days now. Every day they say it is on the truck for delivery, but later in the day there is some sort of reason for it to be delivered the next day. Still waiting!

  4. I was hoping to see Fedex Ground in the comparison since they compete with UPS Ground. Fedex Ground and Fedex Express operate independently and have separate pricing.

  5. I really like that you talked about how a package under a certain weight will always be less expensive to ship. My brother is starting an online company soon and wants to learn how to ship his products. I think it’s a good idea for him to contact a local shipping service that can help him get the best rate.

  6. I want to send my niece a package that weighs about 9 lbs and 9 ” tall by 18″ long by 9 ” wide. Going from Newport, RI to Golden, CO? What is the cheapest way to go?Thanks so much, you are a great help.Noreen

  7. Just wondering g how much will it cost me to send a package from medford oregon to Omaha Nebraska. The package will weighs about 70 pounds, that is if you take the weight ?

  8. This is a GREAT post – if accurate. Easy to read and good info as I just got off the USPS & UPS sites and they are awful. Thanks for the post. Merry Christmas……

  9. Hay nate thankyou for the info it helped. Question for you. We are shiping a bistro table made out of wine barrols wich weighs hev_than normal to out of state wich one is cheeper? Sincerly kistin

  10. HI Nate 1st I want to say GREAT WORK on rasping a Family and Pushing yourself to work, learn, and BE A BETTER MAN than the day before, if everyone had morals, principles, and drive like yours, THIS WOULD BE A GREAT NATION.I am just starting to sell on ebay, hoping to get into Amazon soon. I really want to sell auto part. And I just posted an exhaust pipe thats 35 lbs and I think it was 70″x 19″x18″ the shipping started at $260.00 up to $920.00 fedex. What did I do WRONG. AND HOW CAN I SHIP AUTO GLASS cheap and safe.

    1. Hey Floyd! Thanks for the kind words. That is tricky, where were you shipping it? Domestic right? Truthfully, I would avoid selling things that require special care and are so high cost to replace. I’m guessing auto glass is a nightmare! Insurance on each package sounds like it isn’t optional at those price points + risk level.

  11. It’s good to know that FedEx shipping is great for shipping packages larger than three pounds. My brother wants to ship his coffee table to my mom for her birthday and he was worried that the table was going to be too big. I’ll be sure to let him know that he shouldn’t worry about shipping anything large.

  12. Nate, I have multiple inventions and I am going to launch this summer and looking for a reliable and cheap company who can deliver my products to USA and other country..12 oz or less

  13. Hi Nate!How do you reconcile these two statements of yours? I need to send a package over 3 lbs. Which service is the cheapest?”UPS offers the cheapest shipping if you’re shipping a parcel that’s more than 3 pounds.” vs. “If you’re shipping a package that is larger than three pounds, FedEx is usually cheaper than either The USPS or UPS.”

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