Everyone loves to send and receive letters, getting something in the mail from a friend or family member that was thinking about them.
At the same time, though, most people have an impression that the USPS is anything but a faster more efficient government agency.
And while there are definitely some reasons to be a little bit disappointed with the way that the USPS works at times, and there are certainly some delays that can’t be avoided, for the most part you won’t find another federal mail handling organization anywhere on the planet as well-run as this one.
The beautiful thing about the United States Postal Service is that it has a firm commitment to making sure that every letter and every package gets to its ultimate destination, no matter what it takes.
There are a lot of stories out there about packages or parcels, and letters that had been lost in the mail for years – even decades – before they were found and delivered by US mail carriers.
You’re not going to find that kind of commitment in a lot of other organizations, that’s for sure.
Thankfully though, most of us will never have to worry about our mail taking months or even years to get to us.
For the most part USPS mail services are lightning fast, getting to us inside of just a couple of days – especially if all your sending is a letter or a postcard.
In the rest of this detailed guide we dig a little bit deeper into the ins and outs of how long mail takes to arrive at its ultimate destination, depending entirely on a bunch of different unique factors.
It’s not possible for us to tell you exactly how long your letter is going to take to reach you or your intended recipient, but we certainly can ballpark things for you!
Let’s jump right in, shall we?
How Long Will My Mail Take to Be Delivered?
As we just mentioned a moment ago, unless you purchase tracking information for every one of the letters you send through the mail (and that is pretty expensive in a hurry) there’s no real way to know exactly when your mail is going to arrive.
Some people are able to drop a letter in their mailbox or drop one off at the local post office and have it delivered across town in a day or two. Other folks might do the exact same thing and have that letter delivered a few days later – or even faster, even.
There’s always a little bit of variance across the board. But that’s just the nature of the logistical machine that the USPS is built on top of.
Now, to be fair, different types of mail service solutions are going to offer different “mail delivery windows” that you can use to better ballpark along it’s going to take things to arrive.
We dig a little bit deeper into those below.
Mail Service Options
For the purpose of this guide we are going to stick to the most foundational and “traditional” of the mailing services available from the United States Postal Service.
Just know that there are a bunch of other “specialty” delivery services you could pick and choose from that could extend the delivery window of your packages or parcels, just as there are delivery services you could use that shorten the delivery window as well.
First-class mail is generally regarded as the most basic form of letter carrying in the United States Postal Service, and as such it is a pretty good baseline as the “lowest” delivery window as well.
First-class mail generally takes anywhere between one and three business days to reach its ultimate destination, though it isn’t all that uncommon (or that unusual) for first-class mail to take even longer than that.
From time to time (depending on exactly where you are located in the country) you might need to wait 3 to 5 business days for your mail to reach its destination. This is especially true when you live in more rural areas where mail delivery is a bit slower and a little farther out from most central hubs.
All in all, if you’re looking to send a letter or postcard without spending a lot of money along the way – and do not need the letter to be delivered overnight or express – first-class mail is definitely where you want to focus your attention.
It’s very affordable (just the cost of a first-class stamp) and will get there pretty quickly, too.
Priority Mail, on the other hand, is the best selling mail service through the United States Postal Service.
This mail delivery service not only allows you to send flat envelopes and postcards but also allows you to send bigger boxes, packages, and parcels as well. There are flat rate boxes and envelopes that you can purchase directly from the USPS at your local post office (or online) to take advantage of, too.
All Priority Mail – regardless of whether or not it is a box or envelope, it makes no difference – has a delivery window of between one and three business days domestically.
A lot of this depends on where your shipping your letters or boxes from and where your ultimate destination is. If you’re sending something via Priority Mail across town it’s likely that it’s going to get where you want to go in a day or two.
If, on the other hand, you are sending something across state – or clear across the country – the odds are pretty good you’re going to be a lot closer to that three business day window than anything else.
One of the biggest advantages of using Priority Mail versus first-class mail is that you get tracking information provided with your receipt every single time. You don’t have to pay any extra but are going to be able to watch as your package, parcel, or envelope most through the logistical system of the USPS.
This can be a huge advantage for those that want to better track and anticipate first-class mail deliveries as well. If you’re sending things to the same location multiple times a week, a month, or a year try and send one Priority Mail just to track it every step of the way.
You’ll be able to see how it moves through the logistical chain, how quickly it takes to go from you to your recipient, and can use that information to inform along it’s going to take first-class mail to go along the same route as well.
It might not always be an identical timeline but you’ll definitely be in the same ballpark.
Priority Mail Express
Priority Mail Express is and even faster expedited delivery system than the one you’ll get from Priority Mail alone.
Rather than just guaranteeing that you’ll get your packages and parcels within 1 to 3 business days, Priority Mail Express guarantees that you’ll get overnight delivery every single time (with a singular exception).
Priority Mail Express is available 365 days a year, including on federal holidays, with only a handful of limited exceptions. The only wrinkle here is that you have to have your package ready to go by 10:30 AM for it to be delivered overnight. If you miss that cut off window of time than your packages going to be delivered the following business day – turning overnight delivery into guaranteed two day delivery.
That’s something to keep in mind, anyway.
Priority Mail Express follows the same rules and parameters that Priority Mail follows, especially when it comes to the 70 pound and under weight limit.
This service is also only available domestically, though you can choose to use Priority Mail International services for guaranteed 6 to 10 day delivery around the world.
Just know that when you go with Priority Mail Express you’re going to have to pay almost 3 times as much for overnight delivery as you will for 1 to 3 business day delivery.
If the letter that you want to send is particularly long (eight pages or longer) or if you’d like to include some media in with your letter – pictures, CDs, flash drives, etc. – it’s not a bad idea to consider taking advantage of Media Mail through the USPS.
This mail delivery service from the post office guarantees delivery between two and eight business days domestically. You’ll be able to send all different kinds of media through this mail service – including books, film, printed materials, video and sound materials, educational reference charts, computer media, etc. – without paying a fortune.
Prices for this speedy mail delivery service begin at $2.80.
USPS Retail Ground
If you need to send something big and bulky, but something that weighs less than 70 pounds, and do not necessarily need it to arrive at its ultimate destination within 1 to 3 business days (like it would with Priority Mail) you might want to consider USPS Retail Ground shipping.
Instead of having to be limited by the 108 inch combined length and girth rule that all Priority Mail variations are limited to you’ll instead be able send packages that are up to 130 inches in combined length and girth through Retail Ground – know your packages still can’t exceed the 70 pound weight limit.
You get free tracking information with this delivery service and prices begin at just $7.50.
Once again, though, know that the delivery timeline is going to be slower than Priority Mail. It usually takes between two and eight business days for these kinds of letters, packages, and parcels to be delivered domestically.
Average Delivery Times Around the Country
According to the United States Postal Service, the average time of delivery for domestic mail in America sits at 2.5 days regardless of where you are in the United States.
This is for letters and postcards (obviously) and once again is only an overall average.
Some people are going to see significantly longer wait times – some having to wait up to seven days for their mail to arrive – whereas others (particularly those living in metropolitan communities) are going to see even faster delivery times.
As a general rule of phone, it’s not a bad idea to expect your mail to be delivered between two and five business days after it was originally sent out.
Tips for Better Timing Your Mailings
Obviously there are a couple of things you can do on your end to better time your mailings and to improve the speed of them getting exactly where you want them to go.
What Day of the Week Are You Sending Mail?
For starters, it’s always a good idea to try and time your outgoing mail to the earlier part of the week whenever possible.
You may not always be able to send mail out on Monday or Tuesday, but the closer you can get to the earlier part of the week the better your odds are of your mail delivered during the same business week.
Mailing things out towards Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday practically guarantees that things are either going to be delivered on Saturday or the following Monday.
Anticipate Special Mail Holidays or Busy Seasons
Whenever possible do try and anticipate special mail holidays (like federal holidays that shut down local post office is or mail pickup/delivery) as well as busy seasons.
Christmas is always a very busy time for the post office (no surprise there), but other holidays – especially Mother’s Day – are very busy for the USPS, too. Do your level best to avoid sending things around those times of the year if delivery speed is critical – or be ready to spend a little more money to upgrade to a faster guaranteed delivery timeline.
Modernize Your Mailbox with US Global Mail
If you are looking for a better, more modern solution for receiving mail today than what you get from the USPS and their traditional PO Box options you’ll want to take a closer look at US Global Mail.
Offering digital scanning, record-keeping, forwarding, package acceptance, and even check depositing services as part of your virtual mailbox account, there’s no more reputable company than US Global Mail in this industry.
Have a look at the services they provide on their main website today.