Ecommerce businesses should always be looking for lower shipping costs since it can protect your bottom line and pass savings on to your customer. Finding ways to ship cheaply doesn’t require you to negotiate huge contracts with carriers, but you do need to know where to look. There are also long-term strategies and even small everyday changes you can make to cut costs on shipping without cutting corners. Our friends at ShipStation have created an eBook that provides tips on how to save money on shipping, and they have provided a summary below:
Using a Shipping Calculator
Carriers base their rates on distance, delivery speed, weight, shipping service, and package dimensions. Use a carrier’s shipping calculator (easily found on a carrier’s website) to determine the best option for a package based on these criteria.
It’s important to remember that carriers also have additional criteria for calculating rates. For instance, it costs more to ship to residential addresses through UPS and FedEx than with USPS. There are also other delivery and fuel surcharges that can be added to a shipment after you generate a label and these may not appear in the initial calculated rate. Shipping platforms like ShipStation, though, have rate calculators that let you compare all of your carrier accounts’ rates at once. Furthermore, third-party shipping calculators may display these additional charges that are not present when rating in a carrier website directly.
Which carriers have the cheapest out-of-box rates?
USPS is typically the most economical option for US customers, particularly for parcels weighing under 10 lbs. We've broken down a few shipping configurations to show which carriers offer the lowest rates. The following price rankings are based on rates available to you with a Stamps.com Pro Plan and the FedEx Advantage Program, which are both available to ShipStation customers upon signup.
Best Options for 2-3 Day Shipping
2-3 day shipping typically works best with USPS Priority Mail. While FedEx and UPS Ground/Home services offer similar delivery times, USPS typically offers the lowest rates. If a package weighs over 10 lbs, though, UPS and FedEx start offering more lower rates—particularly to higher zone shipments.
Best Options for Next Day Shipping
Next Day/Overnight delivery is an area where FedEx and UPS outperform USPS. With strategic hubs located throughout the world, FedEx and UPS are frequently the carrier of choice for expedited shipping. Furthermore, FedEx and UPS planes frequently deliver USPS airmail orders, so you’re paying into these carrier networks anyways.
- UPS Next Day Air Saver®
- FedEx Standard Overnight®
Best International Shipping Options
Standard International Delivery
For international parcels 4.4 lbs and under, Global Post and First Class Mail International are the most affordable ways to ship. However, keep in mind that these services have no guarantee on delivery timeframes so it can take several weeks for final delivery to be made.
Fast International Delivery
For quicker delivery, USPS Priority Mail Express International has the best rates. Beyond that, FedEx offers comparable rates and shorter delivery timeframes with its Economy International service.
Quickest International Delivery
For Expedited services, FedEx International Priority® offers a slight edge over UPS Worldwide Express® and a quicker delivery time than a USPS Priority Mail International Express.
The size of a parcel impacts the shipping rate. This has led to higher dimensional weight pricing through carriers. Sorting facilities, delivery vehicles, and delivery persons’ messenger bags only have so much space. One way to maintain steady shipping costs is to opt for Flat Rate packages. These packages don’t always offer the lowest rate, so let’s explore some alternative packaging options.
Best for Envelopes or Flats
First Class Mail is always the most affordable option, with First Class Mail envelopes and flat rate envelopes being the cheapest. If this option doesn’t work, USPS Priority Mail is the way to go. Remember, First Class Envelopes are not trackable.
Best for Small Packages
Generally, the USPS offers the best rates for small packages regardless of if you’re shipping First Class Mail, Priority Mail Package or Flat Rate.
USPS Priority Mail offers the best rates on cubic pricing. This is a special service that allows you to ship small, heavy items at a lower shipping rate through the USPS. For items weighing less than 20 lbs, this is the formula for how to find their cubic feet:
Length x Width x Height / 1728 = Cubic Feet
Cubic pricing is broken into 5 categories, ranging from 0.1 to 0.5 cubic feet.
For more tips and insight into how to get carrier discounts, save on packaging costs, use more economical services, and streamline your order fulfillment process, enter your email below to receive our full Cheapest Way To Ship guide: