All Things Shipping
Nov 14, 2023

Standard Shipping Defined: Options, Costs, and When to Use it

When it comes to selecting shipping services, there’s a sweet spot in the middle — one where your costs aren’t so high that they cause customer pushback, yet your delivery times aren’t so long that they push buyers towards competitors offering faster solutions. In many cases, that sweet spot lies between economy and expedited shipping services in the form of standard shipping.

When it comes to shipping times, 62% of US shoppers surveyed said that fast shipping speed is how they define a positive experience with digital brands and retailers. On the flip side.

But what is standard shipping, exactly, and how do you use it? Let’s take a closer look at which specific services can be considered standard shipping, when you should use them, and how to get the best price for them.

What is Standard Shipping?

Interestingly, there’s no single, industry-wide definition of what constitutes standard shipping vs expedited or economy shipping. Some carriers and merchants include economy shipping services underneath the umbrella of standard shipping, while others define standard shipping as the default option made available to consumers within a longer list of solutions.

For the purposes of this article, however, we’ll treat standard shipping services as the middle ground between pricier expedited services and budget-friendly economy solutions. In this context, standard shipping includes carrier-specific services that balance lower costs with slightly extended delivery times in order to provide consumers with the best of both worlds.

Expedited Shipping vs Standard Shipping

Within this framework, expedited shipping — compared to standard shipping — includes specific service lines that offer the fastest delivery times at the highest cost to consumers.

USPS Priority Mail Express is an example of an expedited shipping service. Shipping a flat-rate envelope through this service comes with a retail price tag that can be roughly 3X what you’d pay to ship the same size envelope through the carrier’s standard service, USPS Priority Mail.

In exchange for these higher costs, however, you’d gain access to next-day to two-day delivery speeds, as well as a money-back guarantee on most shipments if these timelines aren’t met. Priority Mail, on the other hand, takes an average of 1-3 days and lacks a money-back guarantee. This makes it and other expedited shipping services the right choice for time-sensitive and/or high-value packages.

Economy Shipping vs Standard Shipping

Economy shipping can refer either to specific shipping services — such as FedEx’s Ground Economy service — or to the class of services that comes with lower rates and longer delivery times than standard shipping.

With FedEx Ground Economy, for example, packages can take anywhere from 2-7 days to be delivered, based on the shipment distance and the package’s size and weight. Contrast that with FedEx’s First Overnight service, which guarantees your item will be delivered by 8:00 a.m. the next business day to most destinations, but at a significantly higher cost.

Generally speaking, economy shipping services are best for non-time-sensitive deliveries, retailers with price-sensitive customers, and large or heavy parcels that would be cost-prohibitive to ship via standard or expedited services.

Carrier Options For Standard Shipping

If you’re looking for middle-of-the-road shipping services that offer reasonable costs without extended delivery times, give the following solutions a look:

USPS Standard Shipping Services

USPS offers two services that are commonly considered to be standard shipping services:

USPS Priority Mail

  • Offers delivery in 1-3 business days
  • Both flat-rate pricing and pricing based on weight and zone are available
  • Includes free tracking and modest insurance (up to $100 in most cases; restrictions apply)
  • Covers packages up to 70 lbs in weight and 108 inches in combined length and girth

USPS First-Class Mail

  • An affordable solution for postcards, letters, and large envelopes
  • Delivery times extend to 1-5 business days
  • Letters and postcards can weigh up to 3.5 oz, while the maximum weight for large envelopes is 13 oz (large envelopes must be rectangular in shape)
  • Eligible for delivery confirmation services, but does not include them by default

USPS Ground AdvantageTM, one of the carrier’s newest services,  offers comparable service to First-Class Mail for parcels weighing up to 70 lbs. With its 2-5 business day delivery window and lack of a day-definite delivery guarantee, it can be considered both a standard and economy shipping service.

UPS Cost-Effective & Reliable Shipping Services

UPS Ground is a cost-effective and reliable service, providing an affordable solution that’s day-definite. And when you ship with UPS on Shippo, you get access to deep discounts, including up to 78% off* on UPSⓇ Ground shipments.

Though delivery timelines can range from 1-5 business days, according to UPS, 90% of items shipped with UPS Ground are delivered in three days or less. On top of that, this shipping service level guarantees delivery on specific days — a feature not found on comparable USPS services. It also covers parcels weighing up to 150 lbs, giving shippers of large items more flexibility.

UPS Ground Saver, an economy shipping option now available when you ship with UPS on Shippo, combines a 2-7 business day transit time with an increased affordability option for non-urgent, lightweight packages. You can get the reliability of the UPS network at an incredibly competitive price.

*Discounts off UPS daily rates. Rates are limited to shipping from the U.S. only. Rates and any applicable discounts are subject to change at any time without notice.

FedEx Standard Shipping Services

FedEx Ground service — as well as its corresponding FedEx Home Delivery service — promises delivery in 1-5 business days for packages weighing up to 150 lbs. FedEx Ground delivers to commercial locations and businesses while FedEx Home Delivery caters to residential destinations.

FedEx Ground Economy, a deeply discounted service level offered on Shippo, includes full U.S. residential coverage as well. Packages under this service level can weigh up to 70 lbs, measure up to 130 inches in length plus girth, and take 2-7 business days to arrive at their destination. While technically an economy shipping service level and not a standard shipping service, it could be an excellent option for your customers who are willing to wait slightly longer in exchange for more affordable shipping.

All services offer coverage across all 50 US states, but because their rates are based on package size, weight, and delivery zone, it’s a good idea to compare pricing with each carrier to see which option saves money in your specific situation.

Standard Shipping Options when Shipping Internationally

While the services listed above are limited to domestic shipping, there are several standard shipping options available for delivery as well:

Outside of these common carriers, providers like DHL, Canada Post, Purolator and Royal Mail, amongst others, offer standard international shipping services that may be appropriate for your delivery needs.

Pros and Cons of Standard Shipping

Standard shipping isn’t the right choice for every delivery. Here’s where it makes sense — and where it doesn’t:

Faster delivery speeds than economy shipping servicesSlower delivery times than expedited shipping services
More cost-effective than expedited servicesHigher cost, compared to economy solutions
Offers consumers a trade-off between high shipping costs and long delivery timesMay not offer day-definite guarantees, depending on the service
Covers the majority of parcel sizes and weightsWeight and size limits may affect service eligibility
Widespread availability domestically and internationallyLarge, heavy packages or long shipping distances can increase pricing

How to Get Discounted Rates for Standard Shipping Services

Given the overlap between standard shipping services, it’s always best to compare rates between carriers. Though several services may suit your shipping needs, the way each carrier calculates its rates can lead to different costs for the same delivery — and even small differences can lead up to major savings over time.

Another solution for accessing discounted rates is to work with a partner like Shippo. We partner with the world’s top carriers to get you the best rates, regardless of your individual shipping volume.

Sign up for a free Shippo account or speak with our sales team today to see how much you’ll save over retail rates on popular standard shipping services.

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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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