Small Parcel Shipping

Delivering products quickly is important to stay competitive in today’s marketplace. With the rise of fast-shipping, companies with slow parcel delivery will quickly be outpaced by competitors. 




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Small Parcel Delivery

Delivering products quickly is important to stay competitive in today’s marketplace. With the rise of fast-shipping, companies with slow parcel delivery will quickly be outpaced by competitors. 

Let's look at the ins-and-outs of small parcel shipping, including the various delivery options available, the costs, tracking, and how ShipSigma can help you ship small packages at the best rates possible.

What Is Small Parcel Shipping?

Small parcel shipping is the transportation of small packages, typically weighing less than 70 pounds (32 kg), from sender to recipient. These packages can vary in shape and size and may include anything from personal items to consumer goods. 

While UPS & FedEx are the giants in this space, you can use other carriers, such as the postal service or regional courier services.

What Is The Small Parcel Shipping Process?

The small package shipping process is essentially a hub-and-spoke network where all packages arrive at a mail processing hub and then leave for multiple destinations. Here are the steps of the process:

Pickup: Drivers will go out and make daily pickups, then bring the packages to a central hub.

Sorting: Packages will be sorted based on destination and routed to appropriate hubs. 
Further sorting and rerouting: Once the packages arrive at subsequent hubs, they are sorted again and put on the appropriate outbound truckloads.

Arrival: The packages will arrive at a local terminal in the destination city/town. From there, the package is shipped to its final destination. 

What Is Small Parcel Tracking?

Parcel shipment tracking is vital to ensure your package reaches its destination on time and in one piece. All major carriers, including UPS and FedEx, offer local and international parcel tracking. 

Apart from in-house tracking offered by your courier, there are many tools out there that allow you to track parcels from any carrier. This is known as universal parcel tracking. Using these tools, you can track local and worldwide shipments through the “track my international parcel” option they offer. 

Small Parcel Shipping Example: Amazon FBA

Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) is a shipping service that allows online sellers to outsource order fulfillment to Amazon. Sellers send products through small parcel shipping to Amazon's fulfillment centers, and when a customer makes a purchase, Amazon picks, packs, and ships the order. 

Less than truckload (LTL) is another way to ship packages that is closely related to small parcel shipping. The two often need clarification, so let's seek an answer to this question: What is the difference between small parcel shipping and less than truckload?

What Is The Difference Between Small Parcel And LTL?

Small parcel definition: A small parcel is a package that weighs less than 70 pounds (32 kg). Small parcel sizes and dimensions vary from carrier to carrier. 

Less than truckload definition: Less-than-truckload shipping or less than load (LTL) is the transportation of freight that is not large enough to take up the full capacity of a truck. LTL shipping allows multiple shippers to share space on the same delivery truck, thereby reducing costs. It is ideal for shippers with cargo weighing between 150 and 15,000 pounds.

Example: Small Parcel vs. LTL Amazon

When FBA sellers ship inventory to Amazon fulfillment centers, they must select either “small parcel,” “less than truckload,” or “full truckload” as a shipping option. The option they choose helps an Amazon-partnered carrier to provide an estimate for shipping costs.

What Is The Average Cost To Ship Small Packages?

The price you pay to ship a small parcel depends on three main factors:

Weight of your parcel - The heavier your package the more you pay.

The destination - Parcel shipping is based on zones. If the destination of your parcel is in a nearby zone, you pay less. If it is further away, you pay more.

How quickly you want it to arrive - Shipping carriers have various services based on delivery times. For example, shipping an 8-pound parcel will cost you $53.90 with USPS Priority Mail Express and only $5.55 with USPS First-Class Package Service.

Now let's look at the average cost of shipping small packages with various shipping carriers to determine which shipping is cheapest for small packages.

Average Small Package Shipping Cost For Different Shipping Carriers

*prices shown are accurate as of March 2023


UPS Ground is a service for sending small parcels, with a delivery time of one to five business days. 
Shipping a package with UPS Ground will cost between $10.10 - $85.60.


With FedEx, you can expect to pay between $10.10 and $152.56 to ship a small package.


USPS has two shipping services that are good for shipping small parcels: 

First-Class Package Service - This is used for parcels weighing 13 oz and less. You can expect to pay from $4.75 to $8.25.

USPS Retail Ground - This service is for bigger parcels, up to 70 pounds in weight. Prices range from $8.30 to 161.75 for normal-size packages.

How Much Does It Cost To Ship At A Flat Rate

*Prices shown are accurate as of March 2023

UPS Flat Rate Shipping

UPS has a flat-rate shipping service known as UPS Simple Rate. This service allows you to pick from five flat packaging rates and the four shipping speeds shown below: 

Box Size

Flat Rate Price

Extra Small

Starting at $10.20


Starting at $13.35


Starting at $16.05


Starting at $21.05

Extra Large: 

Starting at $26.05


UPS Flat Rate Shipping Speeds:

Delivery Within Five Days
Delivery Within Three Business Days
Second Day Delivery
Next Day Delivery

Your choice of shipping speed and box size will determine how much you pay.

For non-flat rate shipping, use the ups shipping calculator to get a cost estimate.

FedEx Flat Rate Shipping

FedEx One Rate, a flat rate pricing option, is available for qualifying FedEx Express U.S. shipments in FedEx Express packaging.  

Flat rate FedEx shipping rates are as follows:

Local zone (zone 2) - Price ranges from $8.90 to $106.90, depending on your selected service. 
Regional zone (zones 3–4) - Price ranges from $9.50 to $166.20, depending on your selected service. 
National zone (zones 5–8, and Alaska and Hawaii shipments) - Price ranges from $11.55 to $223.35, depending on your selected service. 

For international shipments, check out FedEx international shipping rates

USPS Flat Rate Shipping

USPS offers a flat-rate shipping option for these two services:

Priority Mail Express - Flat-rate envelopes range from $28.75 to $29.45.
Priority Mail - Flat rate envelopes range from $9.65 to $10.40. Flat-rate boxes range from $10.20 to $21.20.

How Are Packages Tracked For Each Carrier?

Shipping carriers offer package tracking to help customers know when the parcel will arrive and how far along it is in the shipping process.

UPS Tracking

UPS lets you track your small parcel or LTL shipping packages through its online portal. You can also reroute, hold, or cancel your delivery through this portal. 

Using your tracking number, you can check the current status of your shipment. The status can be any of the following:

Label Created - Shipment details and billing information have been received from the sender. UPS is waiting to receive the parcel.
Shipped/On the Way - UPS has begun moving the package, and a delivery date has been set. If the shipment travels a long distance, you won't see the status change, since it likely won't be scanned again until it reaches its destination hub.
Out for Delivery - The local UPS center has received the shipment and allocated it to a driver for its final delivery.
Delivered - The parcel has arrived at its destination, and the delivery timestamp has been recorded.
Delivered to a UPS Access Point - If the sender requests it, the parcels are dropped off at an access point for the receiver to pick up at their convenience.
Transferred to Post Office for Delivery - at the sender's request, the package has been transferred to the local post office to finish the delivery.
Exception - This indicates that an unexpected error occurred, which may result in a change in the scheduled delivery date.

FedEx Tracking

FedEx allows users to track packages using a tracking number, reference number, or Transportation Control Number (for government orders) through its online tool. Using your tracking number, you can also get proof of delivery, including an image of the recipient's signature. 

Other than standard tracking, FedEx also offers other tracking options, depending on the shipping service. For example:

  • FedEx Express and FedEx Ground customers can sign up for FedEx Delivery Manager, which allows you to get tracking notifications, provide delivery instructions and requests, and more.

  • FedEx Freight users can manage multiple shipments and receive custom reports using FedEx Advanced Tracking.

DHL Tracking

Local and global tracking of your DHL packages can be done through the DHL online tracking portal. To view your package status, you need to enter the tracking number provided by the sender, such as a merchant or online shop.

What Is an Amazon Partnered Carrier?

The Amazon Partnered Carrier program is a discount shipping service that allows authorized third-party logistics companies to transport packages on behalf of Amazon. 

This service is mainly used by Amazon sellers to send inventory to Amazon fulfillment centers. As a user of this service, you have the option of small parcel deliveries (SPD), less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments, and full truckload shipments. 

The partner carrier program lets Amazon sellers quickly and easily restock inventory, create shipments, and print labels all in one place. 

To ensure smooth logistics, Amazon has guidelines that dictate how Amazon partnered carrier shipments are made. Check them out at the links below:

Small Parcel Delivery - Amazon SPD requirements

Less-than-truckload and Full truckload - Amazon LTL requirements

How ShipSigma Can Help Lower Small Parcel Shipping Costs

ShipSigma’s tech-powered process helps you to reduce your parcel shipping cost by an average of 25%. We offer AI-backed audits and analytics to help you recover lost fees and gain deep insight into your shipping accounts. 

Contact us today to see how we can cut your small parcel shipping costs.


What is the difference between parcel and freight?

A parcel typically refers to a relatively lightweight small package that is usually small enough to be easily handled by one person. A parcel can range in weight from a few ounces to around 70 pounds. Parcel shipping is often used for sending personal mail, business-to-business deliveries, and direct-to-consumer shipments.

On the other hand, freight refers to a larger consignment of goods transported using special means such as freight trucks, ships, or planes. Freight shipments typically consist of multiple packages bundled together on pallets, crates, or other large shipping containers. 

What is the cheapest way to ship a 1-pound package?

USPS Retail Ground and USPS First Class Package are the cheapest ways to ship a 1-pound package.

What is the cheapest way to ship a 20 lb package?

UPS Ground and FedEx Ground are the cheapest options for sending 20 lb packages.

What is the cheapest way to ship a 2lb package?

USPS Retail Ground and USPS Priority Mail are the cheapest options for shipping packages with weights of between 1-5 pounds. 

What is the difference between Amazon partnered carriers and other carriers?

Amazon partnered carriers are authorized by Amazon to transport packages on behalf of the company, while other carriers are not affiliated with Amazon in any way.