Experts have two tips for this holiday season: Buy early and ship early.
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing a “confluence of events” that could delay shipments in the coming months, according to Sam Agyemang, co-founder of HaulerHub, a logistics platform.
“It’s not just because (the holidays) are in high demand,” Agyemang says. Instead, shipping companies face a variety of labor issues, from a lack of dockworkers to unload shipping containers to fewer truck drivers moving packages.
Still, the top three shipping companies in the United States – US Postal Service, UPS, and FedEx – should be able to provide reliable service leading up to the holiday season. Using a lesser-known company can reduce costs, but service can suffer.
“While the shipping cost can be cheap, the package can be delivered damaged, late, or not delivered at all,” says Anthony Nuzio, CEO and Founder of ICC Logistics Services.
Read on to see which carriers offer the best service and the lowest rates depending on what you need to ship.
Cheapest Shipping Methods to the United States
While the U.S. Postal Service often offers the most cost-effective prices, it has struggled in recent years with shipping delays, Agyemang said. For small items, the USPS is probably still the way to go, but for larger packages, consider delivery times as well as price.
Here are the cheapest rates for packages of different sizes. Prices are based on starting rates for various services, and actual costs, of course, will depend on your location, shipping destination, and other variables.
- Best shipping method for gift cards: 2 Day USPS Priority Mail Envelope
- Best shipping method for small packages: USPS Priority Mail 2 Days Small Flat Box
- Best shipping method for medium and large packages: UPS single rate
- Best Shipping For Oversized Items: FedEx home delivery
- Best shipping for overnight delivery: USPS Mail Express 1 day
Best Shipping Method for Gift Cards: 2-Day USPS Priority Mail Envelope
If you are sending someone a gift card, the cheapest way to send it would be to slip it in an envelope and send it by first class mail from the post office. It would cost less than a dollar.
However, the USPS recommends using a padded envelope or other sturdy packaging to ensure that gift cards reach their destination safely. By the time you buy the right envelope and add insurance, you might be better off using USPS Priority 2-Day Mail, which costs $ 7.95.
The postal service will provide a free envelope for priority shipping. Plus, most priority mail comes with free tracking and up to $ 100 insurance in the event the package is lost or damaged. As the name suggests, your gift should also arrive in two days.
Best Shipping Method for Small Packages: Small 2 Day Flat Box USPS Priority Mail
Small gifts, such as socks, t-shirts, and jewelry, may be best sent using the USPS Priority Mail 2-Day Small Flat Rate Box for $ 8.45. This box measures approximately 8 inches long by 5 inches wide by 1 inch wide and comes with free tracking, up to $ 100 insurance, and two-day delivery.
The second in this category is FedEx Express Saver, which prices start at $ 9.95 for a small box sent through the FedEx One Rate service. Delivery will take approximately four days. Or you can use UPS Ground Service, with rates starting at $ 11.50, for delivery around the same time.
Depending on the weight of your package, both could be cheaper than USPS Ground delivery, which can take a week to deliver a package.
Best shipping method for medium and large packages: UPS Simple Rate
If price is your main consideration, send your medium and large boxes using UPS Simple Rate. Prices for medium boxes start at $ 13.90, while large boxes up to 1,050 cubic inches have prices starting at $ 18.40. FedEx pricing is similar with starting rates of $ 12.95 for a medium FedEx box and $ 20 for a large FedEx box.
However, if you want your package to arrive earlier – in two days instead of four – go to the post office for 2-day priority mail. Its flat rate boxes cost $ 15.50 for a medium box and $ 21.90 for a large box.
If you’re sending books, movies, or music, your package must be eligible for USPS Media Mail, which is the cheapest way to ship a box. Prices start at $ 3.19 for a 1 pound package. However, it is also the slowest method to ship and will take at least a week. Additionally, multimedia mail does not come with tracking or insurance, making it less than ideal for gifts or other important shipments.
Best shipping for oversized packages: FedEd Home Delivery
For furniture and other heavy or bulky items, you will need to look elsewhere than the US Postal Service. Priority mail through the USPS cannot weigh more than 70 pounds. This means UPS or FedEx will be your best bet for oversized packages. Both carriers will ship up to 150 pounds with their regular shipping services.
The price of large packages may depend on the weight, dimensions and destination. “It’s always difficult to compare apples to apples,” Agyemang notes.
However, assuming you ship a 100 pound box from New York to California, FedEx Home Delivery barely beats UPS when it comes to shipping across the country. His quote is $ 178 with delivery in four days. UPS Ground Service also has a four-day transit time for a price of $ 180.61.
Best Shipping for Overnight Delivery: USPS Mail Express 1-Day
Sending a package overnight will be expensive, no matter which carrier you use. However, using the US Postal Service’s 1-Day Mail Express service will likely be your cheapest option. Prices at the post office start at $ 26.75 for a one-pound package with delivery before 6 p.m.
Meanwhile, UPS Next Day Air Saver will deliver before 8 p.m. at prices starting at $ 28.27 for a 1 pound shipment. FedEx prices are $ 36.30 for overnight delivery from a small FedEx box before 3 p.m.
Before spending more, check delivery times for cheaper services first. “Some people pay for expedited shipping when in fact ground shipping would provide the same… transit times,” says Nuzio. Again, it depends on where you are shipping to and from.
Whichever service you use, keep in mind that shipping times may not be guaranteed during the pandemic. Last minute shopping and shipping could be a disappointment during the holidays if there are any delays this year.