All Things Shipping
Nov 29, 2023

Economy Shipping: What it is, Options, & Why You Should Offer It

For some deliveries, speed is critical. But when it’s not, retailers can save big by opting for economy shipping solutions that trade longer delivery times for lower prices.

But before selecting economy shipping for your next delivery, take the time to familiarize yourself with how it differs from other solutions, the service lines that are available to you, and how you can save on your shipping labels—whether or not you opt for economy shipping.

What is Economy Shipping?

Generally speaking, economy shipping refers to the lowest-cost service lines that are available through individual shipping carriers. Packages shipped through economy services typically travel by land or water rather than air, meaning that delivery times are usually longer than the standard or expedited shipping solutions offered by the same carriers.

The trade-off for economy shipping’s longer delivery times is its lower costs. That makes economy shipping a good choice for non-time-sensitive parcels and oversized or overweight shipments that would be cost-prohibitive to send through standard or expedited services.

Economy Shipping vs. Standard Shipping

Compared to economy shipping, standard shipping services offer faster delivery times and more expensive rates (though not as fast or expensive as expedited services). Depending on the carrier, standard shipping services may also offer perks that aren’t included in economy shipping service tiers, such as the ability to add signature confirmation or guarantee delivery dates.

As an example of how the two compare, let’s look at transit times and costs for an economy shipping service UPS® Ground Saver and a standard shipping service UPS® Ground on Shippo. In this example let’s take a 3 lb package measuring 8x5x5 inches traveling from Pittsburgh, PA to New York City, NY.

UPS® Ground Saver would cost $6.80 and take 3 days to arrive at its destination whereas UPS® Ground would cost $7.06 and take 2 days to arrive. With an economy shipping service, your business can save money on each shipment and often deliver in a timeframe that is still deemed acceptable by your end customer.

Economy Shipping vs. Ground Shipping

Though economy shipping and ground shipping are often used interchangeably, there’s a key distinction. Where economy shipping always refers to the cheapest rates available from a carrier, ground shipping includes only those services that move packages on the ground. This means a shipping service can be classified as economy shipping, but not actually be ground shipping (as in the case of USPS First-Class Package International Service®).

Economy Shipping vs. Expedited Shipping

Unlike economy shipping, expedited shipping services prioritize speed, but they do so at a cost. To see the difference, let’s continue with our 3 lb package example. If next-day delivery was critical, you could opt to use USPS’s Priority Mail Express 1-Day® service—but you’d pay $39.05 for the privilege.

Individual carriers may have multiple expedited shipping lines that help you fine-tune the specific delivery date and time you need and the cost you’re willing to pay.

For example, expedited domestic service lines available through FedEx include:

  • FedEx Sameday®
  • FedEx First Overnight®
  • FedEx Priority Overnight®
  • FedEx Standard Overnight®
  • FedEx 2Day® A.M.
  • FedEx 2Day®

Similarly, UPS® domestic expedited shipping services* include:

  • 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®
*All expedited services listed are available on Shippo.

Economy Shipping Options For Shipping in the U.S.

If you’re looking for an economy shipping solution for your domestic deliveries, consider the following options:

USPS Economy Shipping Options

Your best options for economy shipping within the USPS ecosystem are USPS Ground Advantage™ and USPS First-Class Mail. Be aware, however, that First-Class Mail rates only apply to parcels weighing up to 13 ounces. Above that, you’ll need to use Ground Advantage, which takes roughly 2-5 business days for deliveries, includes standard USPS tracking, and comes with $100 of insurance. USPS Ground Advantage™ is also considered a standard shipping service due to its transit times.

UPS Economy Shipping Options

While UPS® Ground is a popular option for cost-effective ground delivery within one to five business days, UPS® Ground Saver—an economy option recently launched on Shippo—is also a good bet for non-urgent packages. UPS® Ground Saver shipments are delivered within 2 to 7 business days but include delivery 7 days per week. They come with 100% population coverage for Monday-Friday shipments and 71% population coverage for Sunday shipments. UPS® door-to-door tracking is also available for these shipments, and when you ship with UPS on Shippo, you get access to deeply discounted rates for this option. Because of all these benefits, UPS® Ground Saver can be a good and reliable choice for residential deliveries.

FedEx Economy Shipping Services

FedEx Ground® Economy (formerly FedEx SmartPost®)—available through Shippo as one of the only multi-carrier businesses offering this line—is another reliable option for e-commerce sellers seeking affordable shipping solutions. While add-ons like signature confirmation and day-definite delivery aren’t available with this service, it’s an excellent choice for high-volume sellers of small, lightweight items. Order tracking and full population coverage are included with FedEx Ground Economy shipments as well as discounted rates found in Shippo. Shippo users choosing this option also have residential and fuel surcharges waived and Sunday shipping to select areas.

Economy Shipping Options For Shipping Internationally

International shipments will almost always be more expensive than their domestic counterparts, but you can still save on shipping costs by selecting international economy service lines when appropriate.

Some of the most commonly used international economy shipping options include:

  • USPS Priority Mail International®
  • USPS First-Class Package International Service®
  • FedEx International Economy®
  • FedEx International Ground®
  • FedEx International Connect Plus
  • UPS® Worldwide Economy Shipping

You may also be able to find economical solutions for international shipping outside of the “big 3” carriers. DHL, Canada Post, and Australia Post are just a few carriers offering international shipping solutions that may meet your needs.

How to Get More Affordable Shipping Labels

Selecting domestic and international economy shipping solutions is one way to drop the costs of your shipping labels. Other options include:

  • Trimming your packaging weight: While you shouldn’t compromise on the level of protection your parcels need, reducing the total weight and volume of your packaging materials can help cut your shipping label costs. For example, switching to poly mailers over cardboard boxes or reducing the size of the cardboard boxes you already use can make a difference.
  • Purchasing third-party insurance: Though every major carrier offers optional insurance for eligible items, you may be able to get a better deal through a third-party provider like XCover through Shippo.
  • Securing volume-based discounts: While it may be tempting to price-shop multiple carriers to find the best deal on each package you ship, consolidating your purchases with a single carrier may enable you to take advantage of volume-based discounts.

But if carrier-based volume discounts aren’t an option for you—or if you simply want the convenience of accessing multiple carriers within a single platform—check out Shippo. Not only will you get the best rates from the nation’s leading carriers, but you can also take advantage of Shippo’s scalable shipping tools and world-class support.

Economy Shipping FAQ

How long do economy shipping services take to deliver?

Delivery times for economy shipping services vary depending on the carrier and service line used. However, most domestic packages sent via economy solutions are delivered within 2-7 business days.

How much do economy shipping services cost?

The cost of economy shipping services depends on the size and weight of your package, the total delivery distance, and the specific shipping service you select. Economy shipping services will always be less expensive than standard or expedited services.

Are economy shipping options reliable?

Many economy shipping options come with the same tracking and insurance benefits that standard and expedited services offer. This makes them reliable, affordable options for sending packages that don’t need day-definite or expedited delivery.

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Sarah Gage
is a Michigan-based freelance writer covering business, marketing, and technology topics. She is also the owner of Content Conquered, a B2B-focused content marketing consultancy.

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