Is It Cheaper to Send a Heavy Package with UPS or USPS?

July 20, 2023 Chase Flashman

Saving money is crucial for businesses of all sizes, particularly in logistics. UPS and USPS are long-standing providers of reliable shipping services. But which one offers better rates? 

In this article, we will compare UPS and USPS services to determine which carrier provides the cheapest rates for your small parcel shipping.

What Is the Cheapest Way to Ship Heavy Packages?

The cheapest way to ship heavy packages is through ground shipping. This is because carriers determine pricing based on delivery time, and since ground shipping typically is the slowest at 2-5 days, it tends to offer the lowest cost.

What Is the Cheapest Way to Ship Heavy Packages

It's important to note that, generally, heavy packages are defined as weighing between 71 and 150 pounds. Packages below this weight range are classified as small packages, while those exceeding 150 pounds are considered freight shipments.

Please note that USPS does not ship packages weighing over 70 pounds, so instead, we will focus on UPS and FedEx as potential shipping providers for comparison.


UPS Ground

FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery

71–80 pounds



81–90 pounds



91–100 pounds



101–110 pounds



111–120 pounds



121–130 pounds



131–140 pounds



141–150 pounds




Based on the data in the table above, when comparing UPS and FedEx, FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery are the cheapest services you can use to send large packages.

How Do I Calculate UPS Shipping Cost?

Calculating UPS shipping costs is a straightforward process. Here's how it works:

Alternatively, you can use UPS’ rate tables (daily rate tables or retail rate tables) to determine your shipping cost.

For more detailed information on UPS rate calculations, refer to the UPS shipping rates by weight chart 2023.

Does UPS Shipping Charge by Weight or Size?

The quick answer is that UPS charges packages using both size and weight, among other factors.

Let's investigate these pricing factors and how they combine to establish rates for different UPS shipping services.

Factors Affecting UPS Shipping Rates

Factors Affecting UPS Shipping Rates:

  • Shipping Distance: UPS determines shipping zones based on the package's origin and increases rates as it crosses more zones and covers longer distances. To determine your shipping zone, follow these steps:
  • Size and Weight: Heavier packages consume more fuel during transportation, increasing charges. The UPS weight limit is typically 150 pounds, with packages over 70 lbs requiring a UPS heavy package sticker.
  • Actual Weight vs. Dimensional Weight: Dimensional weight is utilized by carriers as a pricing metric to fairly charge for larger, lightweight items that occupy more space in their vehicles relative to their actual weight. This approach optimizes carriers' capacity and revenue potential by accurately accounting for the space occupied by each package.

    UPS calculates rates based on the greater of the actual weight or dimensional weight of all packages in a shipment.
  • Shipping Speed: Services with faster delivery cost more.
  • Contents of the Package: Generally, UPS does not price shipments based on the package contents. However, special procedures or handling requirements for items like dangerous goods, expensive items, or items with special handling needs may result in special pricing.
  • Additional Costs: UPS offers extra services like delivery confirmation, which may attract additional charges.

Is It Cheaper to Send a Package USPS or UPS or FEDEX?

UPS and FedEx tend to have higher costs for smaller packages but can offer competitive rates for larger and heavier shipments. They also provide a wider range of shipping options, including expedited services like same-day and next-day delivery, which can be advantageous for time-sensitive shipments. Both UPS and FedEx generally offer faster delivery than USPS.

However, for lightweight packages that don't require expedited shipping, USPS often offers the most affordable option. USPS is also commonly preferred for shipping to P.O. boxes and military addresses.

To determine the cheapest carrier for your specific shipment, it's best to compare each provider's service prices using the calculators available on their respective websites. This way, you can find the most cost-effective solution that meets your shipping needs.

UPS Shipping Rates


UPS Service


UPS Next Day Air Early

UPS Next Day Air

UPS Next Day Air Saver

UPS 2nd Day Air A.M.

UPS 2nd Day Air

UPS 3-Day Select

UPS Ground

1–10 pounds








11–20 pounds








21–30 pounds








31–40 pounds








41–50 pounds








51–60 pounds








61–70 pounds









FedEx Shipping Rates


FedEx Service


FedEx First Overnight

FedEx Priority Overnight

FedEx Standard Overnight

FedEx 2Day A.M.

FedEx 2Day

FedEx Express Saver

FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery

1–10 pounds








11–20 pounds


$62.53–$ 249.16


$36.28–$ 206.09




21–30 pounds


$78.85–$ 336.87






31–40 pounds




$74.31–$ 362.84


$61.81–$ 259.57


41–50 pounds




$94.83–$ 438.26




51–60 pounds








61–70 pounds









USPS Shipping Rates


USPS Service


Priority Mail Express 

Priority Mail

USPS Retail Ground

1–10 pounds




11–20 pounds




21–30 pounds




31–40 pounds




41–50 pounds




51–60 pounds




61–70 pounds





Comparison: UPS vs. FedEx vs. USPS Cost to Ship a Box Weighing 31–40 Pounds

Let’s begin by comparing their express shipping services:


UPS Next Day Air Early

FedEx First Overnight

Priority Mail Express

Delivery Time

By 8:00 a.m. the next business day. Delivery by 8:30 a.m. or 9:00 a.m. to most other U.S. cities

Next-business-day morning by 8 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 9 a.m. or 9:30 a.m. to most areas.

Next-day to 2–day delivery service by 6 PM






From the above rates, we can tell that USPS is the cheapest for express shipping. However, it is essential to note that USPS is known to deliver packages slower than UPS and FedEx express services.

Now let’s compare ground shipping:


UPS Ground

FedEx Ground

USPS Ground

Delivery Time

1–5 business days

1–5 business days

2–5 business days






For Ground shipping, it is evident that FedEx is the cheapest option.

What Is the Cheapest Way to Ship a 170 LB Package?

As mentioned, carriers typically classify packages weighing over 150 pounds as freight shipments. Therefore, in the case of a 170-pound package, you can choose to use either standard freight shipping or Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) shipping.

To find the most economical way to ship a 170 lb package, it is important to consider the slower options. Let's compare the slowest freight services offered by UPS and FedEx to determine which one is the cheapest. These two services are:

  • UPS 3-Day Freight
  • FedEx 3Day Freight

UPS 3-Day Freight











151–499 lbs

(Guaranteed Service)








151–499 lbs

(Non-Guaranteed Service)









FedEx 3Day Freight





(0–150 miles)


(151–300 miles)


(301– 600 miles)


(601–1,000 miles)


(1,001–1,400 miles)


(1,401–1,800 miles)


(1,801-plus miles)

151–499 lbs









Based on the data above, UPS 3-Day Freight is cheaper than FedEx 3-Day Freight. Therefore, the cheapest express freight service to ship a 170-pound package would be using UPS 3-Day Freight.

Check out the UPS Freight Cost Calculator and FedEx Freight Shipping Page to get accurate price estimates for your freight shipments.

How ShipSigma Can Help

If you're interested in optimizing your shipping rates, we can help without you having to change carriers or service levels. Reach out today to see how we can reduce your shipping costs.

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