When you need a package to arrive the very next day, overnight shipping is one of the best options. But you know that taking advantage of such offerings is going to cost you extra.
That’s life! But, there is some good news!
By being smart and utilizing this short guide, you can save money when sending packages and take advantage of the cheapest overnight shipping options available.
Cheapest overnight shipping considerations
Before we look at the cheapest overnight shipping options, it’s important to understand what factors impact shipping prices.
1. Package dimensions
Most overnight shipping companies use a pricing model called dimensional weight — also known as ‘DIM weight’ — to calculate shipping costs. DIM weight uses a parcel’s dimensions to determine how much it will cost to ship.
While it sounds complicated, the DIM weight is calculated by simply multiplying the package’s length, width, and height, then dividing that number by something called a ‘DIM divisor’. Shipping companies then determine shipping rates by choosing which is larger: the package’s actual weight or its DIM weight.
2. Package weight
The package weight is literally just how much it weighs (no calculations, divisors, nothing). If this is greater than the DIM weight, this will be what the shipping company uses to calculate the cost.
As a rule of thumb, the heavier the package, the more expensive it will be to ship (especially if you’re looking to send it overnight).
Shipping companies also use geographical zones to determine how much a package will cost to ship. Shipping zones range from Zone 1 to Zone 8 in the United States, and track the distance a package travels along its journey, from origin to destination.
Note: In some cases here is where you can really save money! If you recognize the zones, it can sometimes be better to send a flat rate package (regardless of weight) to a zone further away. For example, my wife sent Christmas gifts flat rate out west, but locally she sent gifts based on weight. The trick to this is friending the USPS worker at your local post office! 🙂
When shipping high-value items, it is often necessary to secure insurance to protect against the package being damaged, lost or stolen. While this provides peace of mind, it also adds to the overall cost, so don’t be surprised if a package with high-value contents costs you more.
Last but certainly not least is the type of service you choose to ship your package. For the purpose of this article, we’re focusing on the cheapest overnight shipping options (which are also among the most expensive services).
Remember: the longer you’re willing to wait for something to be delivered, the cheaper it’s going to be to ship.
The cheapest overnight shipping options: USPS vs. UPS vs. FedEx
The first thing to be aware of is that three of the biggest shipping carriers — USPS, UPS, and FedEx — all call their overnight shipping options something different.
- USPS's guaranteed overnight service is called Priority Mail Express
- UPS's guaranteed overnight service is called UPS Next Day Air
- FedEx's guaranteed overnight service is called FedEx Overnight (FedEx First Overnight for delivery the next morning)
So how do they all compare?
The answer is “it depends on what you’re shipping”.
N.B the following costs are accurate at time of writing (March 2021) and are based on shipping from LOS ANGELES CA 90011 to DENVER CO 80202.
For overnight letters, USPS is the cheapest. That’s because they have a flat rate envelope that starts at $26.35. You can use one to ship something of any weight (providing it fits), over any distance, for the quoted price.
In comparison, UPS Next Day Air starts at $48.49 for a half-pound letter, while FedEx Standard overnight comes in at $45.10 for a half-pound FedEx Envelope.
Now let’s look at overnight packages.
N.B the following costs are accurate at time of writing (March 2021).
For a 5lb, 6″ x 6″ x 6″ package from LOS ANGELES CA 90011 to DENVER CO 80202:
|USPS Overnight||UPS Next Day Air||Fedex Standard Overnight|
Are overnight shipping options really guaranteed?
While shipping companies provide amazing services, they can’t perform miracles, and that means there is no 100% guarantee that your overnight package will always get to its destination the next day.
When you see the word “guaranteed”, it simply means the shipping company will usually refund your shipping costs if they don’t fulfill their promise. Always check the individual shipping company’s T’s & C’s to avoid disappointment.
Cheapest overnight shipping calculators
As we’ve already mentioned, a lot of different factors determine a package’s shipping cost. Luckily, USPS, UPS, and Fedex all have their own shipping calculators to help you check costs at your leisure.
How can I get shipping discounts?
We’ll end this article by letting you into a little secret…You can actually save money on your shipping costs by taking advantage of the services offered by third-party logistics service providers.
A Google search will help you find some, but these are two of the most popular:
Flexport and ShipBob are geared for business owners and ecommerce platform owners, but there services might help you save money as well. While your best option is to roll with the big three – USPS, UPS, FedEx – you can checkout alternative options that could help you save!
When it comes shipping items, there are ways to save yourself some money in the process. While it might seem like you need to take a college course in overnight shipping, this article should provide you with enough resources to find the cheapest overnight shipping options near you!
The trick to saving money with shipping is preparing a head of time. Little things such as a slightly overweight package, not having the correct packing material
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Josh writes about ways to make money, pay off debt, and improve yourself. After paying off $200,000 in student loans with his wife in less than four years, Josh started Money Life Wax and has been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Huffington Post and more! In addition to being a life-long entrepreneur, Josh and his wife enjoy spending time with their chocolate lab named Morgan, working out, helping others with their debt and recommend using Personal Capital to track your finances.