The Cheapest Ways to Ship Packages (2024 Guide)

The Cheapest Ways to Ship Packages (2024 Guide)

With the rising cost of living, high shipping rates can stop consumers from purchasing your products. Data suggests that almost half of all abandoned carts are left due to additional shipping and tax costs.

So how can small businesses develop effective shipping strategies that keep product prices down without moving the cost of shipping on to customers?

And if you want to send a package from home, how do you find the cheapest rate?

To help, here are the latest prices for sending packages with popular shipping carriers. Rates are compared by package size and weight, delivery speed, and whether the destination is domestic or international.

The cheapest way to ship a small package

For most purposes, the cheapest way to ship a small package such as a box or mailer bag is through USPS.

Each carrier has its own guidelines on what is considered a “small package.” The size and weight of your shipment will affect its price, along with its destination and delivery speed.

To help you compare small package shipping rates among the major carriers, here’s an example. The table below shows how much it costs to send a small box from New York to Chicago using a standard mailing class:

Shopify merchants in the US and Canada enjoy heavily discounted rates when shipping with USPS, UPS, DHL, Canada Post, and Sendle.

The cheapest way to ship a large package

Again, for personal and retail shipping, the cheapest way to send a package is usually by using USPS.

What is considered a large package varies depending on the type of mailing service that you request from a courier, such as whether it needs to travel by ground or air.

Below is the maximum regular package weight and dimensions for each of the major shipping companies:

For even larger packages, choose a freight service.

Here is the estimated cost of sending a large package from New York to Chicago using a standard mailing service:

Provider Service Estimated delivery time Rate
USPS Ground Advantage 3 business days $19.15
UPS Ground 2 business days $26
FedEx Ground 2 business days $23.74
DHL Express Domestic 1 business day $116.69

The cheapest way to ship internationally

Many couriers calculate their international shipping costs according to global import regulations and distance. So, for US merchants, the cheapest international shipping rates usually apply to packages bound for Canada.

Duties and import taxes can vary widely, depending on the value of your shipment and the destination country. It’s up to merchants to decide whether they’ll pass responsibility for these fees onto customers, or offer a solution for international customers.

Here are the lowest international shipping rates for individual small packages sent from the US to Canada:

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Shopify Markets helps you sell to multiple countries and scale your business internationally—all from a single Shopify store. Manage store localization, shipping, duties, and compliance all in one place.

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The cheapest way to ship based on delivery speed

Sometimes, you need to get a package to its destination quickly, regardless of its weight or size. Whether you’re sending a personal item or shipping orders to customers, these are the best current options for fast shipping of standard packages.

Best rates for 2- to 3-day delivery

USPS Priority Mail is generally the cheapest shipping service for faster shipping. It offers 1- to 3-day shipping from $10.40, depending on the size of your package and its destination. USPS flat-rate boxes are a convenient, economical option here.

For larger packages, UPS and FedEx offer competitive rates for sub-three-day shipping.

Best rates for next-day delivery

Next-day delivery is your friend when you don’t have time on your side and need to ship your products as quickly and safely as possible.

All major couriers offer next-day delivery options, but USPS Priority Mail Express is the cheapest, with regular pricing starting at $30.45. 

UPS Air Saver and FedEx Standard Overnight are both guaranteed next-day services for US domestic packages. 

Prices depend on package size, destination, and delivery requirements (such as delivery at an exact time, or signature upon delivery).

Types of shipping methods

There are several types of shipping methods to consider depending on your location and how quickly you want to get a package to its destination. 

  • Flat-rate shipping: Flat-rate shipping prices are based on weight and size bands. Customers pay a single rate, wherever their package falls within a size or weight category.
  • Free shipping: Businesses offer free shipping by incorporating the costs of shipping into their product pricing model.
  • Real-time carrier rates: Real-time shipping rates show the exact amount that a carrier will charge at checkout, taking package dimensions, weight, and distance into account.
  • Local shipping: An item is delivered to the customer without using a shipping service.
  • Pick-up: The customer picks up their package from a selected location.
  • International shipping: Used to ship a package across a national border.
  • Same-day delivery: An order arrives on the same business day that a customer makes a purchase.
  • Next-day delivery: An order arrives on the business day following a customer’s purchase.
  • Expedited shipping: Any method of delivery that is guaranteed to arrive at its destination faster than standard delivery methods.

There is no one-size-fits-all shipping strategy for businesses, and it’s often good practice to offer customers multiple shipping options at checkout.

Some types of shipping (like flat-rate and free shipping) help manage expectations and provide transparency, while premium shipping options get products into customers’ hands as quickly as possible.

How to choose a shipping provider

Each year, shipping providers update their costs, which can make choosing a carrier confusing. It’s important to stay on top of changing shipping rates to protect your bottom line and avoid expensive surprises.

Today’s shipping costs are based on multiple factors: distance, size, weight, and speed—which affect the price of each delivery. Most carriers offer shipping calculators to help customers understand pricing.

Shipping provider rate calculators

4 tips to keep shipping costs down

Negotiating rates and researching couriers will help you create a successful shipping strategy. Beyond that, there are a handful of tips and tricks that small businesses can use to help keep shipping rates low:

Use the right packaging

Shipping empty air is uneconomical and environmentally unfriendly. Aim to reduce the size and weight of your shipments by selecting packaging that fits your items. 

Consider package material

Cardboard is heavy—replace it with a poly mailer or other lightweight material when possible. Other lightweight options are air pillows, packing paper, bubble wrap, foam inserts, and wadding rolls. 

Use flat-rate shipping

Flat-rate shipping often offers the best value for money, especially for domestic delivery. Flat-rate shipping also means that you can predict prices more accurately. No matter what kind of parcel you have, the price will always be the same.

Offer local delivery and pick-up

By far, the cheapest delivery option is local delivery or pick-up. For small businesses, a local delivery service is a great way to connect with nearby customers, drive sales, and provide a personal customer experience.

Save on shipping costs with Shopify

Shopify Shipping makes it easier and cheaper to fulfill shipments. You can manage orders, print shipping labels, and track your shipments from one place.

Shopify merchants also save up to 88% on shipping costs in the US, thanks to pre-negotiated discounts with USPS, UPS, and DHL. Serve your international customers with automatically generated customs forms and discounts on cross-border shipping.

With so many carriers and delivery methods available, working out the cheapest way to ship a package isn’t easy. Hopefully, the estimated rates and advice in this post provide a helpful starting point.

Once you have a solid shipping strategy in place with shipping costs that work for you and your customers, you’ll start to spend less time fulfilling orders and more time growing your business.

Low-cost shipping FAQ

What is the cheapest way to ship a package?

The cheapest way to ship a package will depend on factors such as package size and weight, as well as distance and delivery speed. Generally, USPS Ground and Priority Mail are the most affordable shipping options.

How much does it cost to ship a package?

The cost to ship a package depends on its size, weight, destination, and shipping method. The most cost-effective shipping option is usually to ship via the United States Postal Service (USPS). The exact cost will depend on the package’s size and weight, the destination, and the type of service used.

Is it cheaper to send a package with USPS or UPS?

Costs to ship packages with USPS and UPS depend on the package size, weight, and delivery. Generally speaking, USPS is the cheapest option for smaller, lighter packages that are traveling short distances, while UPS tends to be cheaper for larger packages traveling longer distances.

What is the process of shipping a package?

  • Prepare the package: Gather the necessary supplies, such as boxes, packing materials, labels, and tape. Gather the items you are shipping and make sure they are properly packaged.
  • Calculate shipping costs: Determine the size and weight of your package and look up the cost to ship the package.
  • Address the package: Write the recipient’s full information on the package, including name, street address, city, state, and ZIP code.
  • Select a shipping service: Decide which shipping service you would like to use, such as USPS, FedEx, or UPS.
  • Ship the package: Take the package to the chosen shipping service location and pay for the shipping. The shipper will provide you with a tracking number you can use to track your package.
  • Track the package: Use the tracking number to track the package online or via the shipping service’s app.

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