Getting mail shipped overnight can be expensive, so if you need to send items quickly, it’s worth researching the best options so you don’t end up paying over the odds. Which courier is the cheapest will depend on the circumstances, so let’s look at the top options.
The cheapest overnight courier is usually USPS for a small package. For bigger and heavier packages, it will usually be UPS or FedEx. It is important to look at the weight and size of the package, where it is meant to be going, and what sort of insurance you need before you choose your courier.
What Is Overnight Shipping?
Overnight shipping is a service offered by several couriers in the USA. It involves the package arriving the following working day, or occasionally the one after that if the package is traveling a long way.
This kind of shipping service is used by many businesses and individuals when they are sending urgent packages, so it’s important to understand how it works.
Usually, the shipper will drop off the package or order a pickup before the cutoff time.
Once the package has been picked up, it will be processed by the courier and driven to a sorting facility. From there, it will usually be loaded onto a plane’s cargo bay, and flown to its intended destination during the night. Often, this is done in multiple steps, with the planes making short stops across the country
The following day, it will be sorted at another facility and then dispatched via the courier’s local mail carriers, who will transport it to the recipient’s door and make the delivery. This can happen in less than 24 hours, or may take a little longer, depending on the distance that must be traveled and the drop off time.
Overnight shipping is generally the fastest service offered by most couriers. There are a few that specialize in providing same day delivery, but most only offer next day delivery as their swiftest mailing option.
Which Courier Offers The Cheapest Overnight Shipping?
There is no single courier that always offers the cheapest shipping, so you may want to use an online calculator to figure out what your best option is. However, let’s cover some of the top options and find out which tend to be cheapest for which kinds of packages.
In general, you will be choosing between USPS, UPS, and FedEx when shipping packages overnight. Which is the cheapest will depend on your item’s size, weight, and destination. Optional extras like insurance may also make a difference to the price. Let’s look at some examples.
If your package weighs less than 2 lb., USPS’s Priority Mail Express service is generally the best option. This is not technically an overnight service, but it is the fastest delivery that USPS offers, and it will arrive in 1 or 2 working days, with the option to pay extra for Sunday delivery.
It’s possible to purchase a flat rate envelope or box for this service, or to pay according to your package’s weight and destination zone. No matter which you are doing, USPS tends to remain the cheapest, even though it isn’t technically an overnight service.
Sending a letter overnight with USPS should cost about $26.95, while the same letter could cost around $80 with FedEx. This makes USPS a clearly better option, and they remain so for many package categories. See the table below for a better idea of the costs.
|Package Weight||USPS Price (from)||FedEx Price (from)||UPS Price (from)|
(Note that these prices are approximate and are subject to change as the shipping companies alter their costs and offerings. The range given for FedEx and UPS reflects the fact that they offer multiple overnight services, rather than maximum costs).
It is important to be aware that USPS will only ship packages up to 70 lb. with its standard services, including Priority Mail Express. That means that any package above 70 lb. will almost certainly travel more economically if you send it via one of the other couriers.
Both FedEx and UPS will carry packages above 70 lb., and they are usually significantly cheaper than USPS, which is not set up to handle large and heavy packages efficiently. You should therefore check out these two companies if you are sending something heavy; you will likely find that you get much better shipping rates.
Is Overnight Shipping Expensive?
Overnight shipping does tend to be expensive, yes. As it’s the fastest option, it’s generally the most expensive too. In some cases, overnight shipping can cost hundreds of dollars.
Part of the expense is due to the fact that the courier has to sacrifice efficiency for speed. Even if only one package is going to a certain destination, the company must transport it, and this means it costs a lot more in terms of fuel and staff.
When packages are sent on a slower schedule, the courier can minimize its costs by maximizing its efficiency, but this isn’t an option for overnight shipping.
Additionally, overnight shipping will almost always involve the package being transported by a plane at some point, and this is expensive for the courier. Packages sent by road always cost less than those sent by air, but to fulfill an overnight shipping commitment, a plane will be necessary for all but the most local deliveries.
Overnight shipping also often provides several other extras, including things like insurance, tracking, and weekend delivery, and these things further drive up the prices. Additionally, because the companies generally offer guarantees on their shipping times, they need to pay refunds occasionally, and this increases the prices too.
What Happens If The Package Doesn’t Arrive On Time?
If the package doesn’t arrive on time, most courier companies offer a refund of your mailing costs. This may not include any extras that you have paid for (such as Sunday delivery or a fuel surcharge), but policies will vary between couriers.
When you mail the package, it is important to get an estimate of when the item is going to arrive; this will let you know when your recipient should expect it, and will also tell you if it is going to take 1 day or 2 days.
Keep this information and the tracking information for the package. If the package does not arrive in time, you can follow up with the courier through their website or customer service department to claim a refund.
Do note, however, that there are certain circumstances that will likely exempt the courier from having to refund you. Most couriers state that when circumstances beyond their control prevent the delivery, they will not offer a refund.
If a natural disaster hits or your recipient is not at home or the property cannot be accessed, you are not unlikely to be able to claim a refund. However, if the courier fails for preventable reasons, you can get your shipping costs back in most cases.
What Are USPS’s Overnight Options?
USPS does not technically offer an overnight option, but the Priority Mail Express is the closest service, and will often arrive as quickly as the overnight services offered by other couriers.
This is the one that you will need to choose if you want a package to be delivered within a working day. You can also pay extra to guarantee delivery by 10:30 a.m. if the package is particularly urgent.
What Are UPS’s Overnight Options?
UPS offers three different overnight shipping options:
- UPS Next Day Air Saver
- UPS Next Day Air
- UPS Next Day Air Early
As you might guess, the first of these is the cheapest service and has been tailored to make overnight shipping cheaper. It guarantees that the package will arrive by the next day, but offers no time stipulation, so it may not be until the end of the day.
The next cheapest option is the UPS Next Day Air, and this ensures that packages will arrive by noon at the latest.
Finally, there is the UPS Next Day Air Early, and this guarantees that the package will arrive by a certain time. The time varies a little depending on the destination, but it can be as early as 8:00 a.m. in many major US cities. Others will be by 9:30 or possibly later.
The UPS Next Day Air Early is only available in the 48 contiguous states, so if you are sending a package further afield, you cannot use this service.
If you are looking for the cheapest option with UPS, it will be the UPS Next Day Air Saver.
What Are FedEx’s Overnight Options?
FedEx also has three overnight options, including:
- FedEx Standard Overnight
- FedEx Priority Overnight
- FedEx First Overnight
These are similar to UPS’s three options. The Standard Overnight will get packages to most US businesses by 3 p.m., and to most residences by 8 p.m.
The Priority Overnight will get packages to most businesses by 10:30 a.m., and to many residences by noon. For rural areas, deliveries will generally be made by 4:30 p.m.
First Overnight will deliver to recipients around 8:30 a.m., and to more remote locations by 2 p.m. It is the most expensive FedEx offering, which is unsurprising given the speed. If you want FedEx’s cheapest overnight option, it will need to be sent via Standard Overnight.
Can You Send A Package Overnight To Anywhere In The US?
You can’t necessarily overnight a package to anywhere in the US. Most parts of the US are served by most couriers, but if your package is going somewhere remote, you will need to check that the courier will deliver it to that destination before you send it off. Some remote locations are not currently served by overnight shipping.
The courier’s website should allow you to enter a zip code, and you can use this to check whether overnight shipping is an option. If it is not, try another courier, or choose a slower service.
What Do You Need To Do To Overnight A Package?
If you want to send a package overnight, you must make sure that it is with the courier before their cutoff time. If a package is received too late, it will be logged for the following day’s overnight shipping – and will not arrive until the day after.
This is very frustrating if you are sending something urgent enough to need overnight shipping, and means you will be paying noticeably more than if you opted for a 2 day service.
It is therefore very important to establish what the cutoff time for the courier you are using is, and make sure that you meet this time. If you are using USPS, don’t just assume that the post office’s closing time is the cutoff; some have earlier cutoff times because of when the driver collects packages.
Once you know the cutoff time, make sure that you drop the package off at least 15 minutes before this to allow for any delays. Remember that you may have to queue, and you may face other obstacles.
The only other thing that you need to do is purchase the correct label for your package and make sure that it is stuck firmly to the package. If you don’t pay for the correct shipping or if the label comes off, this is likely to result in delays.
If you regularly receive mail and you struggle to stay on top of it, or you are rarely at home to sign for packages and important letters, you could benefit from getting a Virtual Mailbox with US Global Mail. A Virtual Mailbox provides you with a secure and permanent US address that can accept packages and letters at any time of day.
The outsides of your mail will then be scanned so you can view it digitally and decide what action to take. If you want letters to be opened and scanned so you can read the contents, this is an option, or you can get packages forwarded to your home address.