It almost seems like UPS and USPS belong together, but everybody who has ever seen their logos or even shipped with both courier services knows how vastly different they are.
USPS, the United States postal service, shines with their colour scheme heavily inspired by the United State's flag. UPS made a name for themselves with their brown logo and uniforms.
Their branding is inherently different and so are their offers, but which one is better for small businesses?
To decide which of the two wins the race, we need to look at them and their services separately first.
The Lightweight champion
USPS was the first independent postal service in the US and is still number one. Not only are they an independent agency of the US federal government, but they also handle 40% of the worlds mail volume.
Being responsible for mostly letter traffic, it isn't surprising that the USPS only handles packages up to 30 kg. It mainly operates US domestic services. As soon as the parcel arrives in another country, the service gets handed over to the local mail services. In the UK, this would be Royal Mail.
USPS only has a minimal amount of offers for imports and exports to and from the US. Having a quick look at their international rate overview show, how USPS concentrates on lightweight and low-value shipments.
Letters, Documents, Postcards, and other printed materials under 500g start at 1,90£ while documents and books between 500g and 30kg begin at a price of 39£. This is quite a jump and shows the lightweight preference of USPS even more.
While scrolling through their website with their international offers and rates, another point becomes apparent. Most of the quotes don't include a shipping time. Parcels over 1.8kg have a shipping time of 6-10 business days. The shipping time of documents and lightweight packages aren't even shown in the first place.
So while USPS has some of the lowest shipping rates for shipping to the USA from Europe, they also have some of the most prolonged and most unpredictable shipping times.
High weight, High value, High price?
Other than USPS, UPS has various domestic, international, and even freight services for all sorts of countries. Showing UPS's different offers for small businesses would require a whole book instead of just a blog post. So, to compare both services fairly, let's talk about UPS's international shipping.
With UPS, you can choose how quickly you want your parcel to arrive. Whether same-day delivery or 5 days in transit, UPS gives their customers the choice of selecting for themselves. Other added values like door-to-door deliveries and a maximum weight of 70kg make it hard for USPS to compete with UPS on a service level.
However, when shipping small international boxes and shipments, UPS can quickly get very pricey. Other than USPS, UPS adds surcharges for fuel, extended areas and many more. Before choosing UPS for your delivery to the Australian outback, double-check for any surcharges.
Who wins the battle?
It is hard to determine a winner when seeing the differences between these two shipping giants. Both have their straights and weaknesses in different areas. But at the end of the day, not all small businesses have the same priorities.
To allow you to choose your favourite based on your preferences, here is a little overview.
While USPS has unbeatable prices when sending small parcels and documents with a low value to the US, they can get very pricey with heavier shipments.
UPS is the exact opposite. Small shipments with UPS can get expensive quickly due to their fuel and extended area surcharges. However, their offers for heavier items are miles ahead of USPS's.
If fast delivery is one of your priorities, USPS will not be your next favourite shipping provider. UPS's estimated maximum delivery time is five days, and they offer same-day delivery for domestic and international shipments. USPS doesn't even show an estimated time and can, worst case, take months until it arrives.
Tracking & customer service
Both providers offer their own tracking page. UPS gives you automated tracking updates and even lets you follow the path of the delivery driver. USPS has been critiqued for their tracking and customer service for a long time now. More recently, USPS became more reliable. Trusting them with a very high-value item is still not advised.
UPS offers a UK domestic and even a freight service for their customers. USPS on the other hand is the only shipping provider that accepts mailboxes and PO boxes as destination addresses and doesn't need a customer's doorstep.
UPS's website is easy to use and very self-explanatory. You enter your details and preferences and get all UPS shipping options. Ordering as a UK small business on USPS's website turns out to be quite tricky. The website tries to get a zipcode from you for the sender address if you choose US as the destination. British postcodes aren't being accepted, and so you find yourself in an endless loop.
Why limit yourself?
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