USPS vs. UPS: What's the Difference?

Are you interested in learning about the differences between USPS and UPS? Keep reading to find the right shipping solution for your business.

Jim Sharkey
July 6, 2023
USPS Shipping service

USPS and UPS are well-known shipping services that cater to various businesses' shipping needs. Understanding the distinctions between these carriers is crucial to optimize your shipping processes. 

This article will explore the histories, size and scope, services offered, pricing differences, delivery times, customer service, technology, and environmental impact of USPS and UPS. We'll also mention a few alternative shipping options

Brief History of USPS and UPS

The USPS, established in 1775, is the oldest and most recognized postal service in the United States. It operates as an independent federal government agency, delivering mail and providing postal services domestically and internationally. 

On the other hand, UPS was founded in 1907 as a messenger company in Seattle, Washington, and has grown into a global logistics giant, offering package delivery, freight transportation, and supply chain management solutions.

Size and Scope of USPS and UPS

The USPS boasts an extensive network with thousands of post offices across the United States. It serves every address in the nation, delivering mail and packages to urban and rural areas. 

UPS operates globally, with a presence in over 220 countries and territories. It has an expansive transportation network, including delivery trucks and cargo planes.

Services Offered by USPS and UPS

Both USPS and UPS provide various services to meet diverse shipping needs. 

The USPS offers various mail classes, international options, and additional services like Registered Mail and Certified Mail.

UPS provides domestic and international shipping services like UPS Ground, UPS Next Day Air, and UPS Worldwide Express. UPS My Choice enhances package tracking and delivery management.

1. Pricing Difference

Regarding pricing, there are notable differences to consider between the two.

Domestic Shipping Rates

The USPS offers cost-effective options based on package weight, dimensions, and distance. They have various mail classes and flat-rate options advantageous for heavier items. 

UPS pricing is typically based on package weight, dimensions, and origin/destination addresses. Ground shipping is more cost-effective for heavier packages and non-urgent fulfillment, while expedited options come at a higher price point.

International Shipping Rates

The USPS offers international mail classes with rates based on package weight, dimensions, and destination. They’re generally more affordable for small and lightweight packages. 

UPS provides a comprehensive range of international shipping services, with rates depending on various factors. While UPS rates may be higher for certain international fulfillment services, they often come with expedited delivery and advanced tracking.

Additional Fees and Surcharges

The USPS charges optional fees for insurance, certified mail, and signature confirmation.

UPS sometimes features surcharges and fees, including residential delivery, fuel, address correction, and additional handling.

Discounts and Promotions

The USPS offers Commercial Base Pricing, Commercial Plus Pricing, and seasonal promotions for eligible businesses.

UPS features Volume and Tiered Pricing programs, promotional discounts, and incentives.

2. Delivery Times 

USPS and UPS have different service levels and guarantees for domestic and international fulfillment.

Domestic Delivery Time

The USPS offers various domestic shipping services with different delivery speeds, ranging from 1-3 business days. 

UPS guarantees delivery times for their domestic services, ensuring the next business day, two or three business days, depending on the service level.

International Delivery Time

The USPS international delivery times vary significantly based on the destination country and service selected. 

UPS provides guaranteed delivery times for their international services, ranging from one to three business days or two to five business days, depending on the location.

Delivery Guarantees

The USPS doesn’t feature guaranteed delivery times; unexpected delays can occur.

UPS does include guaranteed delivery times for domestic and international services. They also offer refunds or credits for late deliveries.

Tracking and Notifications

The USPS and UPS feature robust tracking capabilities via websites, apps, email, or text messages. Just enter the unique tracking number of the package, and you can track its real-time location. 

3. Customer Service

Both USPS and UPS strive to provide responsive and helpful support to their customers.

Contact Information

USPS and UPS offer multiple channels for customer contact, including toll-free phone numbers, web-based contact forms, email, live chat, and social media platforms.

Hours of Operation

USPS and UPS customer service hours may vary, but automated services and self-service options are available 24/7 through their websites.

Online Support

USPS and UPS provide comprehensive online resources, including FAQs, shipping guides, knowledge bases, and tools to assist customers with shipping-related topics.

Complaints and Resolutions

The USPS and UPS have dedicated procedures to handle customer complaints and issues. They provide online forms and support teams to address concerns, file claims, and seek resolutions.

4. Technology

USPS and UPS have embraced technology to enhance shipping services and provide customers with convenient tools and software.

Shipping Tools and Software

USPS offers Click-N-Ship for creating labels and paying for postage online. USPS Tracking allows real-time package tracking. They also have Web Tools API for integrating USPS functionalities into businesses' systems.

UPS provides tools like UPS WorldShip (desktop software for high-volume shippers) and UPS CampusShip (a web-based platform for smaller businesses). These tools offer label printing, address validation, and fulfillment tracking. UPS also provides an API called UPS Developer Kit for integration.

Mobile Apps

The USPS Mobile app (iOS and Android) allows package tracking, scheduling pickups, finding USPS locations, calculating postage prices, and accessing USPS services.

UPS Mobile app (iOS and Android) offers package tracking, delivery alerts, label creation, and UPS My Choice for managing deliveries and preferences.

Integration With Ecommerce Platforms

USPS and UPS integrate with popular ecommerce platforms such as Shopify, WooCommerce, and Magento. This enables direct connection to their services for label generation, order fulfillment, and rate calculation.

Innovations and Future Plans

The USPS is exploring initiatives like the Next Generation Delivery Vehicle (NGDV) program to replace aging vehicles with more efficient and eco-friendly options.

UPS routinely invests in technology and alternative delivery methods for optimized routes, such as electric vehicles, drones, and data analytics.

5. Environmental Impact

Both USPS and UPS have implemented initiatives to reduce their environmental impact.

Sustainability Initiatives

The USPS focuses on energy conservation, waste reduction, recycling programs, and energy-efficient technologies. They promote environmentally friendly packaging materials.

UPS has set ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invests in alternative fuels and renewable energy sources. They promote carbon offset programs and offer eco-friendly shipping options like UPS My Choice Weekday.

Carbon Footprint

Both the USPS and UPS measure and report their greenhouse gas emissions. They aim to improve fuel efficiency, optimize routes, and utilize alternative fuels and technologies.

Eco-Friendly Packaging

The USPS and UPS encourage the use of recyclable and biodegradable packaging materials. They provide guidelines and resources for sustainable packaging practices.

6. Alternatives to USPS and UPS

Consider alternatives to USPS and UPS based on specific shipping needs:

USPS Consolidators, Shippo, and Pirate Ship are USPS consolidators offering discounted rates and additional services like improved tracking and enhanced customer support.


A global shipping company that operates similarly to UPS, providing domestic and international services with express delivery options, ground shipping, freight services, and specialized solutions.

Regional Carriers

Cost-effective alternatives for local or regional shipping needs with personalized service and faster delivery times within their coverage area. A few of the most popular options include OnTrac, LaserShip, and Spee-Dee Delivery.

Freight Carriers

Suitable for more extensive and heavier fulfillment with LTL and FTL shipping options. Examples include XPO Logistics, Old Dominion Freight Line, and YRC Freight.

The Bottom Line

When choosing between USPS and UPS, it's essential to consider factors such as pricing, services offered, delivery speed, customer service, technology integration, environmental impact, and specific shipping requirements. 

Evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each provider can help determine the best option for your business. Additionally, it may be worth exploring alternative shipping options like USPS consolidators, FedEx, regional carriers, or freight carriers to find a solution that aligns with your needs. 

Mochila is another fulfillment service that’s worth your consideration. We integrate with multiple carriers, providing access to various shipping options, advanced tools, and competitive rates to simplify your shipping process and improve your overall shipping experience.

If you would like to learn more about how fulfillment with Mochila compares, please schedule a call with me.


A Brief History of the United States Postal Service | At the Smithsonian

Our History | About UPS

UPS International - University Mail Services | Western Oregon University

USPS Places Order for 50,000 Next Generation Delivery Vehicles; 10,019 To Be Electric | Newsroom

Renewed Focus on Renewable Energy | About UPS

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