What is the Cheapest Way to Ship a Package?

February 7, 2010

What is the cheapest way to ship a package? It all depends.

I received the following email from one of my readers. Thank you, you have raised some very good questions. Read my response below in blue:

I invite any of you with questions to email me at mark.taylor@myshippingcoach.com. I may not be able to get back to you for a few days, but I read all my emails and respond.

I stumbled upon your blog and I’ve got to say, it is very helpful.  I am a new Ebay seller and am new to this whole shipping business.  I was wondering if you could answer a question for me.  I use USPS for my shipping; I’ve found it to be cheaper than FedEx and UPS. Priity Mail Flat Rate Options



  Price Size
Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelope $4.90 12-1/2″ x 9-1/2″
Priority Mail Small Flat Rate Box $4.95 8-5/8″ x 5-3/8″ x 1-5/8″
Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate Box (FRB1) $10.70 11″ x 8-1/2″ x 5-1/2″
Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate Box (FRB2) $10.70 13-5/8″ x 11-7/8″ x 3-3/8″
Priority Mail Large Flat Rate Box (Domestic Addresses) $14.50 12″ x 12″ x 5-1/2″
Priority Mail Large Flat Rate Box (APO/FPO Destinations) $12.50 12″ x 12″ x 5-1/2″
Here is the priority mail flat rate prices.  What if I want to use my own packaging or some of their other boxes not on the list, such as their shoe box?  How will I know how much it is going to cost?  It is based on weight?  Basically, I just want to know how USPS determines shipping costs.   And, do you have any tips to get the lowest shipping price possible? I ship mostly clothing and shoes, not anything that would be too heavy.  I would like to get them shipped at the lowest possible price.  How can I do that with USPS? Thank you so much!!!

The cost to ship a package depends on the weight, zip code, and dimensions, among other factors. For USPS you can ship in your own box, or in a Priority Mail box that you can get for free. Priority Mail Flat Rate Boxes can be the best way, but not necessarily. It all depends. Let’s look at a few examples:
  • You have a 2-pound package that is shipping to a zone 2 (someplace close). If it fits into the Priority Mail Small Flat Rate Box, you can ship it for $4.95. BUT, if you put it in another box, it would only be $4.90. If you used the bigger Priority Mail Large Flat Rate Box, you could pay $14.50—way more money!
  • If you have a 5-pound box, the rating becomes more complex. For a Zone 5, you would pay $11.76. It would be cheaper not to use the Priority Mail Large Flat Rate Box. But the same package going to Zone 8 (cross country) would be $16.37, so it would be cheaper to the Priority Mail Large Flat Rate Box. Now, I could ship that same box with FedEx Home Delivery for $10.59 and save $5.78 with the rates I get from FedEx (email me and I will tell you how).

The bottom line is this: no carrier is the cheapest carrier for every kind of package. The USPS does a great job and is the cheapest for package shipping to residences that weigh less than 2 pounds. My advice is to compare carriers and services.


USPS Announces 2010 Price Reduction!

November 7, 2009

It is hard to believe but true, the US Post Office has announced that effective January 4, 2010 that it will reduce the price of a domestic Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelope from $4.95 to $4.90! Now a nickel is not a lot of money but it is better than an increase. Sure, some prices are going up—an average of 3.3% for Priority Mail; however, let me highlight some areas that you can save on shipping that are unique bargains in this upcoming change.

The USPS has three pricing levels: retail, commercial, and commercial plus. The first thing that everyone should know about the shipping industry is this: never pay retail. Retail pricing is for people that don’t know how to qualify for a discount. My objective of this blog is to educate so that you can save. With the USPS, you can get the first level of discount by simply using your computer to ship a package. You can do this for free at www.usps.com by simply signing up for Click-N-Ship. The savings are significant. Instead of $4.95, you pay only $4.75 for a Flat-Rate Envelope AND you get Delivery Confirmation for FREE, saving you $.70 compared to buying it at the Post Office. That is a savings of 16%. Online prices, on average, are 5 percent less than retail for Express Mail and 5.7 percent less for Priority Mail. Online savings for international shipping is 10 percent less than retail for Global Express Guaranteed, 8 percent less for Express Mail International and 5 percent less for Priority Mail International.

If you ship higher volumes, you can qualify as a commercial shipper by using PC Postage with through any other qualified PC Postage provider such as stamps.com or endicia.com for a monthly fee. Many other third-party providers embed PC Postage in their solutions.

If you are a high volume shipper, shipping over 100,000 pieces a year or 420 a day, the rates are even better and there are a couple of new bargains: a Priority Mail half-pound price, starting at $4.22 for a Zone 2 delivery and a new Priority Mail Flat Rate padded envelope for $4.95, measuring 9.5 x 12.5 inches will be available exclusively for Commercial Plus shippers.

Knowledge is power!

New USPS Small Flat Rate Box Coming Soon

November 20, 2008

Did you ever have trouble trying to fit a bulky item into a USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelope? The US Post Office is coming out with a new Priority Mail Small Flat Rate Box that will have the same rate as the Flat Rate Envelope on January 18, 2009. The dimensions are 8 5/8″ x 5 3/8″ x 1 5/8″ which is perfect for small items about the size of a video tape. Here is the best part—It is only $4.95 retail regardless of weight or destination!

  • No residential extra fee
  • No fuel surcharge
  • No Delivery Area Surcharge
  • No Extended Delivery Area Surcharge

You can send this box anywhere within the United States for this one flat fee.

And, if you process your label online or use PC Postage, your cost is only $4.80 and you get Delivery Confirmation for free. That is a savings of $.80 or 16%.

Did I mention that the box was free? Customers can begin to order it at usps.com around January 10 in packs of 10 and 25, up to a maximum of 200.

A Little Shipping Mistake Almost Cost Me 25%

November 14, 2008

Have you ever found yourself in this situation?

It is Saturday and you realize that you absolutely need to get an envelope delivered by Monday. Where do you go and how much will it cost?

Fortunately, there are multiple choices, UPS, FedEx or the US Post Office.

For me, the least expensive choice was sending it Express Mail with the US Post Office.

But, I almost made a little mistake. I grabbed a Flat Rate Envelope which would have cost me $3.90 more than a regular Express Mail Envelope.

Here are today’s Taylor’s Tips:

  1. Compare the price of the Express Mail Flat Rate Envelope to regular Express Mail. In my case, it was 25% less.
  2. Print your label online. I saved 3% compared to paying for it at the post office.

Retired DHL VP Shares Inside Secrets for Slashing Shipping Cost

April 17, 2008

Jerry Hempstead retired as Vice President of DHL in January 2006 after 33 years in our industry. At the National Conference on Operations & Fulfillment, Jerry moderated the panel discussion of experts (I was one), entitled “40 Ideas to Reduce Shipping Costs”.

I asked Jerry to if he could provide advice for small business shippers, eBay sellers, and online merchants on how they might be able to cut their shipping costs. In this video, Jerry shares, what he calls, the best kept secrets in the industry for saving on shipping.

Jerry believes that the best way to cut express shipping is to use the carrier’s pre-paid products.

DHL has a product, called ShipReady. You can purchase letter, legal, packs or boxes. The minimum quantity is 10. I looked at the price and it was $16 for an envelope guaranteed to arrive the next day before noon. I then looked up how much it would be to ship that envelope across the country using http://www.dhl.com. The price was double!

Prepaid services don’t have:

  • Residential surcharges
  • Delivery area surcharges
  • Weight limits
  • Fuel surcharges

This is a GREAT way to save money. Thank you Jerry!

Taylor’s Tip #10, “Purchase prepaid express envelopes; save 50%!”

USPS VP Offers Tips for Saving on Shipping for eBay Sellers & Small Business

April 14, 2008

At the National Conference on Operations & Fulfillment, I asked Jim Cochrane, the Vice President of Ground Packages for the United States Post Office, if he could provide some tips for eBay sellers, online merchants, and small business. In this video, Jim speaks about some of the unique opportunities for saving money that the US Post Office has to offer.

Jim specifically mentions in this video three exclusive services where shippers can gain significant savings.

The first service is the USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate Box in which you can pack in as much weight as will fit in the box and ship your package anywhere in the United States for a flat fee. These boxes come are at two price points: the new large flat rate box is 50% larger than the original Flat Rate Boxes (12″ x 12″ x 5.5″) and is $12.95 for domestic shipments, $29.95 when shipped to Canada and Mexico and $49.95 for all other countries.

The original Flat Rate Boxes come in two sizes, the shirt box size (11″ x 8.5″ x 5.5″) and the shoe box size (13.625″ x 11.875″ x 3.375″) for $8.95 domestically, $23 when shipped to Canada and Mexico and $37 for all other countries.

I have put as much as 20 pounds in this box. The same weight with another service (Parcel Post) or carrier would be twice as much. This is a GREAT deal because you don’t have to worry about fuel surcharges, residential delivery charges, or delivery area surcharges. See Taylor’s Tip #7.

The second great tip is First-class Mail Packages. The USPS is the only carrier to offer ounce based rates. UPS, FedEx, and DHL charge by the pound. This means if you have an eight ounce package that you will be billed at the carrier’s one-pound rate. For packages weighing less than 13 ounces, this is the one of the least costly shipping services available. For example, the rate for an eight ounce package is $2.36! First-Class mail is delivered in four days or less. An 8-ounce package costs only $2.32 to ship compared to the Priority Mail rate of $4.60 – a 50 % savings.

You can also add Delivery Confirmation.

Jim’s third tip was for eBay and Amazon sellers that ship books and CD’s. The USPS has a special category called Media Mail. The delivery standard for Media Mail is 2-9 days. Media Mail is a service offered by the U.S. Postal Service for shipments of books, films, manuscripts, printed music, printed test materials, sound recordings, play scripts, printed educational charts, loose-leaf pages and binders consisting of medical information, videotapes and computer-recorded media such as CD-ROMs and diskettes. The cost to send a one-pound box from New York to California using the USPS Media Mail rate is $2.13 compared to $4.60 using Priority Mail, a savings of 54 %. The package may take up to seven days to arrive, but at that price, the delay may not matter. In addition, if you want confirmation that the package was delivered, you can purchase Delivery Confirmation.

Thank you Jim!

Jim Cochrane was named Vice President of Ground Services for the United States Postal Service in February 2008. In this role, he reports directly to the Postmaster General. A 33-year postal veteran, he was previously manager of Package Services, directing product development and strategy for the Postal Service’s $11 billion portfolio of domestic and international package products.

Flat Rate Shipping May Be Hazardous

April 2, 2008

Flat rate shipping can be the best opportunity to save on shipping and it can be hazardous to your profitability. The big mistake that many eBayers and online sellers make is to assume that it is always the best deal. eBay’s new requirement for a shipper to specify shipping costs makes flat rate shipping even more tempting.

Whether or not it is the best shipping method depends on how much your item weighs.

Here is a rule of thumb guide for you to help determine if it is a good deal or hazardous.

The US Post Office has a Priority Mail Flat Rate Box in which you can put any amount of weight for only $8.95. I have put as much as 14 pounds in this box. The same weight with another service (Parcel Post) or carrier would be twice as much. This is a GREAT deal because you don’t have to worry about fuel surcharges, residential delivery charges, or delivery area surcharges.

However, if you are shipping four pounds or less, it may not be the least cost shipping method. And with the new “Best Match” eBay functionality, it might even be hazardous to getting the sale. A four pound box could be $5 or less to ship. This is 44% less.

My advice is to compare rates amongst different services and carriers to make sure that flat rate shipping is the best deal for you.

Taylor’s Tip #7: Use Flat Rate Shipping Prudently