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Cheapest Shipping Methods in the U.S.
While the U.S. Postal Service often has the most cost-effective prices, they have struggled in recent years with some shipping delays, Agyemang says. For small items, the USPS is still likely the way to go, but for larger packages, consider delivery times as well as price.
The following are the cheapest rates for various size packages. Pricing is based on starting rates for various services, and actual costs, of course, will depend on your location, shipping destination and other variables.
  • Best shipping method for gift cards: USPS Priority Mail 2-Day Envelope
  • Best shipping method for small packages: USPS Priority Mail 2-Day Small Flat Rate Box
  • Best shipping method for medium and large packages: UPS Simple Rate
  • Best shipping for oversized items: FedEx Home Delivery
  • Best shipping for overnight delivery: USPS Mail Express 1-Day
Best Shipping Method for Small Packages: USPS Priority Mail 2-Day Small Flat Rate Box
Best Shipping Method for Medium and Large Packages: UPS Simple Rate
Best Shipping for Oversized Packages: FedEx Home Delivery

 

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Shipnerd.com and PirateShip.com will get you much more affordable rates, especially on bulky items, vs. purchasing shipping at a UPS Store or FedEx Office retail store, or using your individual account. Essentially, these services resell UPS, FedEx, etc. shipping at a discount. Sounds too good to be true, but I've personally used Shipnerd with success.

These services are particularly helpful for shipping large but relatively lightweight items, such as motorcycle luggage. All shippers penalize heavily when an item exceeds certain dimensions, regardless of weight.

Greyhound Package Express (GPX) is a space-available "shipping" method where your item goes as cargo in a Greyhound bus. Rates can be as little as half comparable UPS service, but with significant drawbacks:

1) service is only between towns having Greyhound stations.

2) it's slow.

3) you must drop off and recipient must pick up at the Greyhound station on each end. Not a door to door service like USPS, UPS, and FedEx.

#3 can be rather inconvenient. One shipment I quoted would have required the recipient to drive over an hour out of his way to pick up.

If using USPS Priority Mail, there's no need to physically visit a post office. You can order the boxes online. They will be delivered with your mail a few days to a week later, no charges until you buy postage. You can have Priority Mail packages picked up with your regular mail delivery, from your door. No extra charges. Super convenient.
 

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We played with some shipping quotes last night and learned the following:

--PirateShip.com includes USPS postage, which ShipNerd does not. For smaller packages at least, PirateShip is around $1-$2 cheaper than you can get buying your own Priority Mail shipping directly through USPS. You can still get free home pickup for these packages, so it's an even better deal than I thought.

--Another advantage of PirateShip: you can get lower rates on USPS Priority Mail without using a Priority Mail flat rate box. This is super helpful when you need to ship something that doesn't quite fit in those boxes.

--For smaller packages (no more than 12" in any dimension for UPS and FedEx, IIRC), PirateShip and ShipNerd rates will be close to rates you can get on your own. In some cases it's actually cheaper not to use them.
 

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Ups winds up cheaper for most stuff if you use one of the discount codes they always have and print your own labels from your own account. FedEx is the most unreliable way to ship ground , it gets there eventually though.
 
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One other tip. Never ever ship through the ups store. You can drop your pre labelled packages there with no problem. But if you pay them to do the shipping and your package is damaged, they have to file the claim and you need to put them in the middle of the whole mess. Then they get paid and have to pay you.
 

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Good idea.

Also, I'm not sure why exactly but the UPS Store always wants to charge me higher rates for the same shipment.

Twice this year, I took something already packed to a UPS store to get a rate, because I couldn't accurately weigh it at home.

Both times, I got lower rates through my online UPS account. Same weight and package dimensions.
 

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Another thing we discovered when using PirateShip: when you buy USPS postage, you can schedule the package pickup right there in your PirateShip account.

This saves you the extra step of logging into USPS.com and making a pickup request there.

We also noticed that both ShipNerd and PirateShip vastly reduce the cost of overnight shipping. If it has to be there in a hurry, there's no cheaper way.
 

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Good idea.

Also, I'm not sure why exactly but the UPS Store always wants to charge me higher rates for the same shipment.

Twice this year, I took something already packed to a UPS store to get a rate, because I couldn't accurately weigh it at home.

Both times, I got lower rates through my online UPS account. Same weight and package dimensions.
Because the UPS store is a franchise - they are not UPS. They are free to tack on a little extra.

 
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Yes, the "UPS Store" are a mom/pop run business, just linked to UPS.........their rates are always higher than what you see on the UPS Internet Site. And.........the store near me will not accept "Simple Rate" UPS shipments. My UPS Hub is 12 miles away, in city traffic, if I want the internet rates........not worth it.
We have a FedEx Store inside my local Walmart......have always had good luck with them, and their rates will beat USPS on larger items on occasion.
 

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Once a package gets over about 1 cu/ft I've found UPS ground to be the most affordable with the omnipresent 40% off discount. About he biggest thing I send is 24 x 24 x 24 (panniers) with a weight of less than 50lbs and it usually under $100 anywhere in the lower 48.

While shipping seems expensive it really amazing how cheap it really is when you consider how many people are involved to get it where its going and how quickly that happens. No way I could get a pair of panniers to Kalifornia in 4 days for $100. I;d have spent $30 in fuel just getting out of my home state and still have 2,500 miles and three or for days more of travel.

I once sent a guy a Griswold skillet in Indonesia. It cost something like $50 but was there in about 10 days 9,533 miles away.
 

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Yes, the "UPS Store" are a mom/pop run business, just linked to UPS.........their rates are always higher than what you see on the UPS Internet Site. And.........the store near me will not accept "Simple Rate" UPS shipments. My UPS Hub is 12 miles away, in city traffic, if I want the internet rates........not worth it.
We have a FedEx Store inside my local Walmart......have always had good luck with them, and their rates will beat USPS on larger items on occasion.
There are many UPS drop off points like Staples. I print labels at home and drop off at a local drop off point. Heck you can even schedule UPS to P/U at your door if you like.
 

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Yes, the "UPS Store" are a mom/pop run business, just linked to UPS.........their rates are always higher than what you see on the UPS Internet Site. And.........the store near me will not accept "Simple Rate" UPS shipments. My UPS Hub is 12 miles away, in city traffic, if I want the internet rates........not worth it.
We have a FedEx Store inside my local Walmart......have always had good luck with them, and their rates will beat USPS on larger items on occasion.
You can get the internet rates by using the internet to login to UPS, print your own label and then drop it off at the UPS store ;)

In general "UPS simple rate" is a higher cost way to ship. Just makes it easy for people who have a hard time weighing/measuring.
 

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I used PirateShip again last week. I was picking up a used motorcycle in another state, and there was a whole collection of extra parts and accessories that couldn't possibly be packed on the bike itself.

All of it went into a large box, shipped home for under $30 via PirateShip, should be here this week. UPS had the best rate.
 

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Just used PirateShip,com for the first time. Arrrr... Very easy to use. Dropping the package off at UPS store tomorrow. We'll see how that goes. Wonder if I can get a tracking number?
 
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Yes, the tracking number is in your PirateShip account. Look under the "Ship" tab.

You should also get a receipt from the UPS Store when you drop the package off. That will also have the tracking number on it.
 

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Another thing that's helpful is if you don't have to buy shipping boxes. I just recycled one to ship out those DL1000 wheels. Good thing, the big boxes don't come cheap.

That said, there's a fine line between "keeping a couple boxes and some packing materials around just in case" vs. "hoarding."
 
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