Shipping with USPS, Fedex and UPS

In: shipping

1 Apr 2009

The USPS offers several shipping options:

  1. Priority Mail. This is the preferred shipping method for many experienced auction sellers, if only for its relative convenience. Although Priority Mail used to be predictably low-cost (with flat fees based on weight, not distance), recent price increases have left the service less competitive than before. (You also have to factor distance into the pricing equation, for packages over one pound.) There’s also the advantage of getting a flat rate on small packages shipped in one of their flat-rate envelopesjust $3.85 to go anywhere in the U.S. Service is typically in the one-to-threeday range, and the postal service has lots of free Priority Mail boxes you can use. And you can print out Priority Mail shipping labels and postage on your own PC, direct from eBay/PayPal, as we discussed previously.
  2. Express Mail. This is the USPS’s fastest service, offering guaranteed next-day delivery 365 days a year, including weekends and holidays. Merchandise is automatically insured up to $100. Express Mail is considerably more expensive than Priority Mail.
  3. First Class Mail. This is an option if your item fits into an envelope or small package. It also provides the benefit of shipping directly from your mailbox, without necessitating a trip to the post officeassuming that you can figure out the correct postage. Delivery is similar to Priority Mail, typically three days or less.
  4. Parcel Post. This used to be known as the “slow” USPS service for larger packages, but it has gotten faster of lateand it’s priced lower than Priority Mail. Still, shipping something Parcel Post from coast to coast might take seven to nine days, as opposed to Priority Mail’s two (or three) days.
  5. Media Mail. This is what USPS used to call “book rate”; it can be used to ship books, DVDs, videotapes, compact discs, and other printed and prerecorded “media.” The rates are much cheaper than those for Priority Mail, although delivery is typically in the Parcel Post rangeseven to nine days. Still, this is a good, low-cost way to ship many popular items; the cost for shipping a CD across the country is less than two bucks, compared to $3.85 for Priority Mail.

Media Mail is reserved for publications without advertisingso you can’t use it to ship magazines, newspapers, or comic books.

Using UPS

UPS is a good option for shipping larger or heavier packages but can be a little costly for smaller items. UPS offers various shipping options, including standard UPS Ground, Next Day Air, Next Day Air Saver, and 2nd Day Air.

You can find out more about UPS shippingand access a rate calculatorat the UPS website, located at

Using FedEx

FedEx is probably the fastest shipping service, but it can also be the most costly. FedEx tends to target the business market (which can afford its higher rates), so it isn’t widely used for auction or retail shippingwith one significant exception: FedEx Ground.

FedEx Ground is a terrific choice when you’re shipping out larger items. It’s designed for bigger and/or heavier packages, and its rates are well below similar services offered by the Postal Service and UPS. I use FedEx Ground to ship DVD players and various audio equipment, and it’s extremely cost effective. For example, FedEx charges almost $5 less than Priority Mail to ship a five-pound item from coast to coast. That’s a big savings!

FedEx is also a convenient choice for many sellers, especially since you can now ship from any Kinkos location. (The stores are now called FedEx Kinkos, by the way.) You can find out more about FedEx shipping at its website, located at, and can access the company’s rate finder directly at

Because weight is an important part of the shipping equation, here are a few tips for bringing down the weight of the items you ship:

  • Use peanuts instead of paper for cushioning; peanuts are much lighterand don’t leave ink stains on the merchandise.

  • Even better, use air instead of peanutsin the form of those air-filled bags that uses to cushion their packages.

  • Use less heavy-duty boxes, if you can. (This is generally an option only when you’re shipping light objects.) You’d be surprised at the difference in weight between similarly sized boxes, based on the thickness of the cardboard.

  • Don’t use oversized boxes. If the box is too large, either trim down the unused portion of the flaps or move to a smaller box.

Finally, be sure to include the weight of the box and the cushioning material when you weigh your item for shipment. A big box with lots of crumpled paper can easily add a half-pound or more to your item’s weightexcess weight you’ll have to pay for.

Shipping Large or Heavy Items

Most of the standard shipping services I mentioned earlier in this chapter, such as the U.S. Postal Service, won’t handle packages that weigh more than 70 pounds, or have a combined length and girth of more than 130 inches.

Some items are just too big to ship via conventional means. Suppose you just sold an old pinball machine, or a roll-top desk, or a waterbed. How do you deal with items that big?

Assuming that the item is too big even for UPS, you have to turn to traditional trucking services. Some of these services will pack or crate the item for you (for a fee); others require you to do all the crating. In addition, some of these firms require you to deliver the item to their shipping terminal, and for the buyer to pick it up from their dock. (Other firms offer door-to-door serviceagain, sometimes for a higher fee.) In any case, it helps to make a few calls and ask for specifics before you decide on a shipper.

Comments are closed.

About eBayweb

eBayweb provides you with free eBay tips, tools, information and resources for beginning and professional eBay sellers and buyers.

  • bud: I know that people want to make a profit. But most of the people on ebay are asking outragous prices [...]
  • rich: i have early 1940's 50's photos of country musicians i have had some authenticated and have got som [...]
  • Con Heagney: I purchased an excaator for £11000 through ebay and transfered the funds to ebays bank account, pro [...]
  • V S Agarwal: Ebay and paypal helping scammers to cheat buyers. Seller get registration on ebay with only user id [...]
  • Mike Online Auctions: Good points about shipping internationally. I usually just ship domestically but I have been lookin [...]