Choosing the Best Carrier for Domestic Shipping in the U.S.

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If you’re shipping something domestically, it’s important to know the different carriers and how they handle packages. The package type, size, weight and distance traveled all factor into determining which carrier will work best for your needs. Here are some tips on choosing the best carrier for your specific situation.

What is Domestic Shipping?

Domestic shipping refers to sending packages and other items within the country’s borders. In the United States, for example, domestic shipping occurs anytime a package is transported from Los Angeles to Washington, or Miami to Chicago. Anywhere within the 48 contiguous states is considered domestic shipping.

FedEx and UPS both consider shipping to Hawaii and Alaska as international shipping, while USPS still considers those states as domestic shipping.

Domestic Shipping Carrier Options

Each domestic shipping carrier can provide you with a variety of shipping options based on delivery time, the weight and size of your packages, and what the contents are of your shipments.

A popular option for small to mid-size shipments as well as documents inside the U.S. is USPS flat-rate shipping. As the name suggests, it offers a flat shipping rate. As long as packages are under 70 pounds, they can be shipping using USPS flat-rate shipping. This is a big advantage for retailers and allows them to avoid cost overruns due to unpredicted additional shipping charges.

USPS, UPS, and FedEx are the most commonly used domestic carriers in the U.S., and each offer their own advantages based on the items you need to ship.

DHL is an international carrier that also provides domestic shipping, but is generally best suited for very high monthly shipping volumes.

You will also find regional carriers in some areas such as CDL Last Mile Solutions, OnTrac, and United Delivery Service.

If you are located in an area served by one of those regional carriers, you may find better shipping rates through them, but will be limited to their shipping footprint.

How Do You Choose the Best Domestic Shipping Carrier and Best Practices for Domestic Shipping?

It really depends on your needs. How big are the packages you want to ship? How fast do you need them to reach their destination? How heavy are the packages?

USPS is best for shipping packages that do not exceed 70 lbs. Their flat-rate shipping is cheaper than anything offered by UPS or FedEx.

On the other hand, UPS or FedEx might offer a different daily cutoff time that suits your needs better. The cost to insure your particular package might be cheaper with one of them bringing the cost in line with USPS Flat-Rate shipping.

If you are shipping anything over 70 pounds, UPS and FedEx are usually better options. USPS is mostly making deliveries with the little mail trucks you see on the road, so there is a premium charge for space.

Compare Carriers Best Rates

Carriers base their pricing around three things:

  • The contents of the package
  • The shipping distance
  • The size and weight of the package

In the U.S., carriers use shipping zones to measure the shipping distance rather than miles.

Limit Your Package Sizes

All three of the major domestic shipping carriers utilize something known as DIM weight, short for dimensional weight, to calculate shipping costs.

DIM weight is a pricing strategy utilized by shipping carriers to make sure they do not lose out on shipping charges for large, but very lightweight packages. For example, a shipment of 100 tshirts, would require a large box, but likely not weigh all that much.

In simple terms, the carriers will get the higher price based on the weight of your package or the size of your package.

Because of that, you want to make sure you are not using oversized boxes or additional packaging materials that are not absolutely necessary, as you are likely to face additional DIM weight charges.

Do You Require Weekend Deliveries?

The major carriers will all make deliveries on Saturdays, but none of them make deliveries on Sundays. FedEx and UPS offer delivery on Saturday morning, while USPS offers a Saturday afternoon delivery.

DHL offers weekday deliveries only.

If you require weekend deliveries, keep this in mind when choosing a carrier.

Do Your Products Face Any Restrictions?

Each carrier has its own list of restricted items that cannot be shipped. You will need to check the website of each carrier you are considering to see if your products face any restrictions.

Products like food, supplements, and makeup may have additional handling and shipping needs.

If you are shipping CBD oil and CBD based products, be aware that the carriers have a verification process you need to go through in order to ship those products through their services. In addition, there are restrictions your products must meet based on the THC composition and where the THC is grown.

Shipping hazardous materials is another consideration. If you are shipping any kind of potentially hazardous material, you will want to check with each carrier on what restrictions and policies they have in place.

Shipping Fragile Items

When shipping fragile items, you want to use a carrier that offers either free packing materials or discounted rates on packing materials.

USPS is the only domestic carrier that offers free packing materials. FedEx and UPS both offer discounted rates on packing materials.

Obviously, make sure you package your fragile items well. All three of the major domestic carriers have extensive lists of do’s and don’ts when it comes to shipping fragile items.

Make sure you talk to each carrier about what kind of assurances they provide on fragile items arriving undamaged as well as what sort of insurance coverage you can purchase through them.

Shipping Large Volumes

If you are shipping large volumes, you can often negotiate better pricing with the domestic shipping carriers. 

All three of the major carriers have sales teams that you can reach out to in order to get a quote for your shipping needs.

In addition, FedEx and UPS both offer volume discounts for shipping large packages. UPS, in particular, has been known to be very aggressive in their pricing for larger businesses.

USPS does not offer volume discounts, but they do have a program known as Commercial Plus pricing which can provide better pricing for larger shipments.

Wrapping Up

When choosing a carrier for your domestic shipping needs, it is important to consider the weight, size and distance of your package, as well as any restrictions or policies that the carrier may have.

USPS is the only domestic carrier that offers free packing materials, while FedEx and UPS both offer discounted rates.

Each carrier has its own list of restricted items, so be sure to check before shipping.

Additionally, each carrier offers different pricing structures based on weight, size and volume.

If you are shipping large volumes, you may be able to negotiate better pricing with the carriers.

In conclusion, when choosing a carrier for your domestic shipping needs, be sure to consider all of the factors involved. Doing so will help ensure that your package arrives safely and on time.

If you are looking for someone to take the decisions off your hands and make sure you are always getting the best shipping rates, you can contact us for a free quote.

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