Cheapest Way to Ship

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April 1, 2020
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Below are the highlights of discounted services ShipStation offers as well as the most affordable shipping services. While these are highlights of the cheapest way to ship, click here to view our full guide on affordable shipping practices.

DISCLAIMER:
COVID-19 is constantly reshaping shipping rates and surcharges. As a result, please check out our COVID-19 resources page for the most up-to-date changes impacting your shipping rates. And if you are reading this post to save on shipping costs, ShipStation is offering everyone a free 90-day trial with the promo code letushelp90. Simply follow this link and create a new account!

Shipping discounts are everywhere. If you have an ecommerce business, you should not be paying retail shipping rates. Through incentive programs, carrier negotiations, and shipping software, there are many ways to get discounts with major carriers.


Cheapest Shipping Based On Delivery Speed

Different services ensure delivery within specific timeframes. We’ve made a list of preferred services for some of the common delivery timeframes. Keep in mind that these services are in reference to parcels around 10 lbs and lighter. For anything higher, it’s recommended you check carriers individually or via ShipStation’s rate calculator.

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 competitive rates.

BEST OPTIONS FOR 2 DAY SHIPPING

It is important to note that USPS offers no services with guaranteed 2-day delivery. So any parcels that require a hard 2-day delivery work best through FedEx 2 Day or UPS 2nd Day as they do offer this timeframe.

BEST OPTIONS FOR NEXT DAY SHIPPING

Next Day/Overnight delivery is where FedEx and UPS start offering competitive rates to USPS. With strategic hubs located throughout the world, FedEx and UPS are frequently the carrier of choice for expedited shipping.

  • UPS Next Day Air Saver®
  • FedEx Standard Overnight®

BEST OPTIONS FOR NEXT DAY AM SHIPPING

Similar to standard Next Day Shipping options, UPS and FedEx offer guarantee delivery by noon the following day. Rates between UPS and FedEx don’t vary too differently between the 2 carriers. The best services are:

  • FedEx Priority Overnight® (by noon)
  • FedEx First Overnight® (by 10:00 am)
  • UPS Next Day Air® (by noon)
  • UPS Next Day Air® Early (by 10:00 am)

Best International Shipping Options

STANDARD DELIVERY

For parcels 4 lbs and under, Global Post and/or First Class Mail International will be the most economical way to ship internationally. However, keep in mind that there is no requirements for estimated delivery time on this, so it may take weeks to arrive at its final destination. For parcels weighing 4 lbs and over, USPS Priority Mail International typically offers the best rates.

FAST DELIVERY

For fast delivery, USPS Priority Mail Express International will typically offer the best rates. Beyond that, FedEx may offer comparable rates and delivery timeframes with their Economy International service.

EXPEDITED DELIVERY

For Expedited services, FedEx International Priority® offers a slight edge over UPS Worldwide Express®.

Package Size

The size of a parcel is going to greatly determine your shipping rate. The more space a package takes in the back of a truck, the fewer parcels the carrier can transport at once. One way to maintain steady shipping costs is to opt for Flat Rate packages. But since this is not always going to offer you the lowest rate, let’s explore some more packaging options.

BEST FOR ENVELOPES OR FLATS

If First Class Mail is an option, First Class Mail envelopes and flat rate envelopes will offer the lowest rate. Beyond that, USPS Priority Mail will be the way to go. Remember, First Class Envelopes don’t offer tracking.

BEST FOR SMALL PACKAGES

Generally, the USPS will offer the best rates for small packages regardless of if you’re shipping First Class Mail, Media Mail, Priority Mail Package or Flat Rate.

BEST CUBIC PRICING

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.

BEST DIMENSIONAL PRICING

The inverse of cubic, dimensional pricing increases the shipping rate if a parcel is deemed too large in relation to its weight. Since packages take up space in cargo vehicles and airplanes, etc., their shipping rate increases with their size. The way it works is you multiply the parcel’s dimensions (LxWxH) by a divisor.

L x W x H

Divisor

The larger the divisor, the cheaper the parcel. USPS has the lowest rate when it comes to dimensional weight pricing:

As you can see, since USPS has the largest divisor, thus its rate is the lowest.

Weight

The weight of a parcel can greatly impact its rate. Since we’ve already discussed cubic and dimensional weight pricing, let’s take a look at what the most cost-effective shipping service is based on different weight groups.

BEST OPTIONS FOR UNDER 1 POUND

USPS First Class Mail is the most affordable shipping option for parcels weighing under 16 oz. If you are shipping physical media, USPS Media Mail can be even more affordable.

BEST OPTIONS FOR UNDER 10 POUNDS

For parcels between 1-10 lbs, USPS Priority Mail is usually the most affordable option. Anything under 16 oz works best with USPS First Class mail

BEST OPTIONS FOR HEAVY PACKAGES

FedEx Ground typically offers the best option for domestic parcels over 15 lbs.

ShipStation Carrier Discounts Available

USPS Discounts

New Accounts: USPS is a great place to start for shipping discounts. For many packages, they will offer the lowest rate. And if you’re a ShipStation user, you’ll receive a free PC Postage account (ShipStation Pro Plan) through Stamps.com simply by having a ShipStation account (A $15.99 value). There’s no contract, you’ll receive this deal for as long as you have an active ShipStation account. Take advantage of rate discounted up to:

  • 40% off Priority Mail
  • 18% off First Class Mail Package
  • 13% off Priority Mail Express
  • 5% off International First Class, Priority Mail, and Priority Mail Express
  • 40% off USPS Package Insurance Rate

ShipStation offers discounted USPS rates that you can take advantage of simply by signing up.

Existing Accounts: ShipStation allows you to connect your existing USPS postage provider account (Stamps.com and Endicia) to your ShipStation account. If you don’t currently take advantage of any USPS discounts on your existing Stamps.com account, you can convert it to the free Pro Plan take advantage of the above rates. Simply go through the setup process within ShipStation, and we’ll convert your account automatically!

UPS Discounts

ShipStation + UPS® Advantages

  • UPS® discounts up to 62% off Daily Rates
  • No minimum shipping volume requirements
  • Avoid certain surcharges and have others discounted, saving you even more money
  • Guaranteed delivery services
  • Updated UPS® tracking and delivery alerts
  • Domestic and international delivery services

ShipStation users can now print UPS® shipping labels with savings of up to 62% off Daily Rates. With new reduced rates, you can view real-time rates from UPS®, print labels, generate branded tracking pages, and simplify the returns process directly within ShipStation.

With ShipStation, there is no need to create a new UPS® account. New users get instant access to reduced rates, up to 62% off UPS 2nd Day Air® service and up to 48% off UPS® Ground Daily shipments, right out of the box.

Discover the best rates for UPS® Ground Shipping labels when you use ShipStation.

START PRINTING DISCOUNTED UPS® LABELS

Say goodbye to surcharges

In addition to reduced shipping rates, ShipStation users also avoid certain surcharges, saving you even more money.

ShipStation + UPS® Advantages

  • UPS® discounts up to 62% off Daily Rates
  • No minimum shipping volume requirements
  • Avoid certain surcharges such as residential surcharges, saving you even more money
  • Guaranteed delivery services
  • Updated UPS® tracking and delivery alerts
  • Domestic and international delivery services

FEDEX

If you’ve already negotiated rates with FedEx, there is required action to add them to ShipStation.

FedEx Advantage Program

Shipstation users can access heavily discounted rates through the FedEx Advantage Program. Here are some discounts you can receive. All you need for approval is a ShipStation account. Get discounts on Select FedEx services such as:

  • Express US services – Up to 29% off
  • Express international services – Up to 25% off
  • Ground services – Up to 20% off
  • Office services – Up to 20% off

The application process is easy, simply follow the steps outlined in this article.

FedEx Save Now Program: The FedEx Save Now Program is a program that lets you save on shipping rates. The caveat of this program is that it is restricted to users that ship through FedEx Ship Manager. So, be warned, if you use a shipping platform such as ShipStation or ShippingEasy, you are ineligible for these discounts.

Highlights of the savings are:

  • 16% off on select FedEx Express® services
  • 8% discounts on select FedEx Ground® and Home Delivery® services
  • up to 60% discounts on FedEx Freight® services

DHL EXPRESS

ShipStation customers can save up to 66% on DHL Express postage with ShipStation Carrier Services. DHL Express lets you make economical international shipments, and is a breeze to set up in ShipStation. Similar to the USPS, It’s a single postage purchase payment method that is tied to the same bank card on file with Stamps.com.

Other Ways to Save

Whether you want to use shipping insurance or even find alternative shipping services, there are a lot of options out there to create a more fine-tuned shipping strategy while also saving money!

Hybrid Services

An advantage to using FedEx and UPS is being able to access hybrid services. If you’re unfamiliar, hybrid services are services where either FedEx or UPS pick up the parcels, but USPS makes final delivery. These are cost effective services that allow you to get around added costs such as the residential/delivery surcharge. This also allows delivery to mailboxes/P.O boxes. These services are are comparable in rates and estimated delivery time to standard USPS Priority services.

Common hybrid services are:

FedEx SmartPost: A contract-based service that combines FedEx Ground with USPS.

UPS Mail Innovations: A contract-based service that combines UPS Ground with USPS. Works best for small parcels under 1 lb.

UPS SurePost: An economical combination of UPS Ground and USPS services, typically for larger parcels weighing up to 20 lbs.

Shipping Insurance

Regardless of circumstance, insurance is the main extra cost that you don’t want to pay for until you have to. But even still, there’s no need to pay more for it than needed. Remember, many services offer a default coverage for insured values under a certain price. And third party insurance can be a significantly more affordable option.

DEFAULT INSURED VALUES

THIRD PARTY INSURANCE

A major way to pay less for insurance is to use a third-party insurance provider, such as Shipsurance. When adding insurance to a shipment you pay the additional fees in increments of $100 insured value. Typically, carriers charge between $0.75-0.85 per $100 value, with a minimum cost of roughly $2.50. Shipsurance, however, only charges $0.55 per $100, and with no minimum cost. So you can save big by using this third party insurance. Applying Shipsurance to a parcel and filing a claim is very streamlined through ShipStation.

If you’re shipping physical media, USPS Media Mail is a great option as it is incredibly economical.

An advantage of offering free shipping through USPS is that it’s the only domestic carrier which can ship to PO Boxes or mailboxes. Because of this, home deliveries do not accrue delivery surcharges the way FedEx or UPS do. This can add almost $4 to a package’s delivery fees.

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