When you need a document or a package to get somewhere tomorrow, it can get really expensive.
Sometimes you have to ask yourself if you truly need it to be there the next day, or if you only need it to be postmarked by today. For example, if you mail your tax return, you only have to have it postmarked by the 15th of April. It doesn't need to get to the Internal Revenue Service on the 15th. So if you head to the post office thinking you need to overnight it, you can save yourself the money!
Sometimes you do need the package there the very next day. Perhaps it's a gift or an important document that someone needs.
If that's truly the case, then you'll need to overnight it.
We explain what the different names are for the overnight class of service, a comparison of the prices for a mix of different letters and packages, and hopefully, you'll be able to find the best option for you!
All prices were quoted March 2020.
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USPS vs. UPS vs. FedEx Services
For overnight delivery, the three services you should consider are the post office (USPS), the United Parcel Service (UPS), and Federal Express (FedEx).
With the USPS, the guaranteed overnight service is called Priority Mail Express or sometimes shortened to Express. Regular Priority Mail is not guaranteed. Priority Mail Express delivers 7 days a week and is guaranteed.
With UPS, the guaranteed overnight service is called UPS Next Day Air. There is a UPS Next Day Air Early if you need the package delivered before 9:30 AM (sometimes as early as 8 AM in a lot of areas). If it doesn't have to be there until 3 PM or 4:30 PM, you can opt for UPS Next Day Air Saver.
With FedEx, the guaranteed overnight service is called FedEx Overnight. There is FedEx First Overnight for delivery the next morning. There's FedEx Priority Overnight for delivery by 10:30 AM or the afternoon in more remote areas. Finally, there's FedEx Standard Overnight for delivery by 3 PM or 4:30 PM for rural areas and 8 PM in residences.
For our purposes, we're assuming that getting it there the next day is the important part so we'll compare the cheapest of the three next day options.
If it's a letter, the cheapest option is the USPS because they have a flat rate envelope that starts at $26.35. It ships any distance and any weight (that fits), for the quoted price.
UPS Next Day Air for a half-pound UPS letter starts at $35.29. If you need UPS Next Day Air Early, it costs $67.73! (2nd Day Air drops it to $25)
FedEx Standard overnight in a half-pound FedEx Envelope starts at $32.03 if it gets there by 3 PM. If you need it FedEx First Overnight, delivered by 9:30 AM), it starts at $65.56!
For price comparisons on a package, we did a 6″ x 6″ x 6″ package from New York, NY (10001) to San Francisco, CA (94105). For UPS and FedEx, we have a range because of the different types of overnight services they offer. The most expensive is the class where the package is there in the morning. The least expensive is when it'll get there sometimes before your recipient goes to bed. 🙂
USPS Overnight Shipping Prices:
- 1 lb. – $44.00
- 5 lb. – $71.35
- 10 lb. – $105.20
- 50 lb. – $321.35
UPS Next Day Shipping Prices:
- 1 lb. – $80.53 – $121.09
- 5 lb. – $102.27 – $140.56
- 10 lb. – $140.79 – $175.31
- 50 lb. – $427.11 – $463.26
FedEx Overnight Shipping Prices:
- 1 lb. – $86.49 – $127.87
- 5 lb. – $107.31 – $147.42
- 10 lb. – $147.69 – $183.49
- 50 lb. – $140.55 – $451.72
Want to see prices for yourself, here are the calculators for each provider:
If it needs to be overnight internationally, you're pretty much limited to DHL. This price is quoted from December 2018.
DHL will overnight a half-pound letter from New York to London, England for $107.72 to $63.07, depending on what time of day you need it.
A 10 lb. box measuring 13.2″ x 12.6″ x 2″ will set you back anywhere from $248.86 to $226.71.
What Does “Guaranteed” Really Mean?
Each of the services will do their best to deliver packages the next day but no service will be able to do it with 100% success. The guarantee simply means that if the package is not delivered by the time they promise, you will be refunded the shipping fees.
Sadly, they cannot go back in time and ensure it gets there the next day.
If you don't need it there the very next day, the prices change a bit. This post captures the cheapest shipping options available from each of the carriers for any speed. USPS wins in quite a few cases but reliability can be an issue.