Shipping Mailers: How Do Different Carriers Stack Up?

Posted by Sam Beyaz on

There are many things to consider when selecting the best carrier to use for shipping packages. Whether you're mailing items across town or the country, you want to know your items will get to the desired location safely, quickly, and affordably. But how do three of the country’s major companies compare when stacked against each other? What are the different pros and cons for each carrier? As the holiday season creeps closer and closer, we've done the hard work for you! Keep reading to see how FedEx, UPS, and the United States Postal Service (USPS) stack up!

Meet the Candidates

Regardless of where you live in the United States, there are three primary options to choose from when shipping packages: FedEx, UPS, and the USPS. We see their trucks, watch their commercials, and even see branding for each company associated with athletic teams and in films and television. But which one offers the best perks? Which one is going to ensure your poly mailers are shipped safely and securely to their destinations? We'll take a look at the options for each brand, then do a more in-depth dive for each quality you need to evaluate when shipping packages. Let's start with our friends in purple — FedEx.

FedEx

At FedEx, team members around the globe come together under what the brand calls the Purple Promise: "I will make every FedEx experience outstanding." Reaching more than 220 countries and territories around the world, FedEx is a great option for affordability. Fun fact: the brand isn't just about mailing. In addition to shipping packages ranging from oversized cardboard boxes to small poly mailers, FedEx offers a variety of printing services, as well.  

If you're looking for speed, FedEx is a great choice. You'll pay more for the convenience, but FedEx offers a variety of same-day delivery options that can be a lifesaver. Also, FedEx has competitive prices for shipping packages over three pounds. Although it may not sound like a lot for casual mailers, many businesses frequently ship heavy items that can drive up the cost substantially. Knowing where you can turn for affordable shipping can save thousands of dollars in the long run.

With the holidays around the corner, those who plan on shipping alcoholic beverages will want to be familiar with FedEx. It's the only company out of the three that will send alcohol directly to consumers, provided you use FedEx Shipping Manager to create your labels.

UPS

Founded in 1907, UPS operates in over 200 countries worldwide. If fast shipping is what you're looking for, FedEx isn't the only notable option. Thanks to its Express Critical service, UPS can deliver your packages in hours rather than days. Whether you're shipping poly mailers full of jewelry or a cargo container of bananas, UPS has a staff of customer service representatives available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist with any urgent shipping needs. Plus, if you're shipping internationally, UPS often over-estimates delivery times, so your package may arrive much sooner than promised. And although UPS will mail alcohol, there is a caveat: it must be going to a distributor, not a consumer.

When visiting an independent UPS location, you can expect to find a small assortment of packaging items such as boxes, poly mailers, and packing tape for purchase. Additionally, the UPS Store offers a variety of printing, laminating, and binding services for small and large businesses alike.

USPS

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…" Although by no means a formal motto or creed of the United States Postal Service, the phrase inscribed on New York's James Farley Post Office in New York City has long been used to describe the dedication of postal workers. The USPS is a self-supporting, independent federal agency. It is the only delivery service reaching every address in the nation — 155 million residences, businesses, and post office boxes, to be exact.

Customers at local post office locations can purchase stamps, browse a small selection of poly mailers in various sizes, and even pick up a birthday or holiday card. USPS offers some of the most affordable shipping rates of any carrier, especially if your package weighs less than two pounds. Unlike FedEx and UPS, the USPS does not offer any options for delivering alcohol — domestically or internationally.

Pricing & Delivery Times

The two most significant areas that differentiate one brand from another are price and delivery speed. For many small businesses, affordability is a notable selling point when shipping packages. Whether you're shipping a 70-pound box or flat poly mailers, USPS is generally the most affordable price overall. However, each carrier offers an expansive selection of options that determine the final price you'll pay. 

When shipping packages, some ground routes operated by FedEx are cheaper and faster than USPS. For example, let's see the cost and time associated with shipping a 2-pound box from Los Angeles to New York City. 

  • FedEx Ground: $12.73 / 4 days
  • UPS Ground: $13.61 / 4 days 
  • USPS Ground: $12.98 / 6 days

In this case, FedEx ground is the least expensive and offers the quickest arrival. When we change the locations, however — let's say Chicago to Miami for the same package — it alters which carrier offers the best price. However, which carrier offers the best deal depends on whether or not timeliness is essential. 

  • FedEx Ground: $11.64 / 3 days
  • UPS Ground: $11.94 / 3 days
  • USPS Ground: $11.17 / 5 days

As you can see, the time on general ground package shipping varies quite a bit between FedEx, UPS, and the USPS, while the price isn't a major player.

However, before you make up your mind on one carrier or another, check out this comparison for a 2-pound box traveling from Los Angeles to New York City on the three-day express rates offered by each company.

  • FedEx Express Saver: $32.01
  • UPS 3-Day Select: $30.41 
  • USPS Priority Mail 2-Day: $14.35

Not exactly what you were expecting, right? Additionally, the USPS doesn't offer a 3-day option for this route, so your package is arriving sooner than it will with FedEx and UPS. 

Pricing is one of the main reasons we recommend frequently evaluating your shipping materials as well as your carrier options. For example, shipping in cardboard is more expensive than choosing poly mailers due to the difference in the weight of the packaging itself. 

Pick-Up & Drop-Off

If you're busy running a business, shipping packages should work with your schedule. FedEx, UPS, and the USPS all offer different options for pick-up and drop-off to help keep your day running as smoothly as possible. 

  • FedEx: If you are shipping packages with FedEx and would like them picked up from your location, expect to pay a fee. FedEx's pick-up fee starts at $4 and varies by your location. For drop-off, you can take your packages to any FedEx office, as well as several retail stores like OfficeMax, Office Depot, and some major grocery store chains. 
  • UPS: If you would like UPS to pick up your package for you, pricing begins at $3.20. However, businesses that ship more frequently may also choose from a variety of scheduled pick-up options. For drop-off, customers can choose from more than 42,000 dropbox locations across the country. 
  • USPS: In terms of affordability for pick-up services, USPS is the winner. Scheduling a business or residential pick-up by USPS is free. Packages can also be dropped off at any post office or USPS dropbox. 

Package Tracking 

In the day and age of technology, finding your package's location is easier than ever. Each carrier offers free tracking for both personal and professional services through its websites as well as its apps. UPS also offers customers the option of receiving automated text messages with updates on arrival and departure scans.

Insurance

When shipping packages, adding protection can be a smart option to ensure your bases are covered should your items experience any damage. Each carrier offers options for insurance. While some are included based on the shipping option you select, there is also the option to add additional coverage based on your item's value.

  • FedEx: For items valued at under $100, FedEx offers free insurance to cover the cost of your item if it is damaged. For items valued at over $100, the cost of additional coverage is based on the overall value of the item.
  • UPS: The insurance offered by UPS operates under the same policy as FedEx. For items under a $100 value, you will receive free insurance. For items that cost over $100, insurance is added based on the item's overall value.
  • USPS: The Postal Service offers a bit less free insurance coverage than FedEx and UPS. For items under a $50 value, USPS will insure the item for free. As with the other two options, the cost of insurance for higher valued items depends on the item's overall price.

When thinking about insurance, it's also essential to keep in mind the type of packaging you're selecting. For example, if liquids can easily damage your item, consider purchasing poly mailers for shipping. Poly mailers come in a variety of sizes and styles, including options that have an easy-close seal to ensure items aren't lost during transit.

Customer Reviews

Unfortunately, no carrier — or business in general — can always make everyone happy. In terms of ratings, FedEx, UPS, and the USPS come out reasonably equal in terms of the fastest overall shipping times according to customer reviews. For shipping packages internationally, however, customers tend to rate UPS above the other two carriers because packages tend to arrive faster than expected. Although pricing tends to be higher when shipping packages with UPS and FedEx compared to the USPS, the frustration with the customer service portion of USPS tends to cause customers to fork over the additional dollars.

  • FedEx: Customers value the fast shipping times offered by FedEx, as well as the ability to track their shipment along its route. Another perk offered by FedEx that is noted by customers is its seven days a week delivery. While other carriers take a day off, FedEx never rests. One of the biggest complaints by FedEx customers is the carrier's contract with the USPS. While FedEx employees deliver some packages, others are passed along to the USPS for the final leg of their trip.  
  • UPS: As we mentioned above, customers of UPS appreciate its faster-than-expected international shipping times. Customer complaints surrounding lost or damaged packages and damage done to property by delivery trucks are mentionable. Still, customers also note that drivers often go out of their way to ensure packages are delivered. According to reviews, if a driver calls to help find your address while delivering a package, chances are they work for UPS. 
  • USPS: Customers looking to save money on shipping packages are big fans of the affordability of the USPS. However, complaints range from lack of access to post office store locations due to restrictive retail hours and lost packages to major frustrations dealing with the carrier's customer service representatives. On the plus side? Customers rave about the kindness and generosity of USPS mail carriers. 

Packaging Needs

Regardless of which carrier you select for shipping packages, it's essential to have the proper materials for your items. Poly mailers are one of our favorite choices because they offer durability and marketing variety as well as a high level of affordability. Poly mailers protect against punctures, rips, and tears, as well as dirt and moisture. Additionally, poly mailers come in a variety of designs and can be custom printed. Businesses can select poly mailers with their company logo printed directly on the packaging or choose a fun and festive option like hearts or pineapples in bright colors. Poly mailers are also compatible with each of the three carriers we mentioned, though some may not be applicable for certain added features.

Whether you're shopping for simple white poly mailers, poly mailers with fun designs, or even shipping labels, Shop4Mailers has everything you need for shipping packages for your business. Visit our website or call us at 714-891-1313 to learn more.