What is a Courier?

A courier, or a courier service, is a privately owned organization that delivers packages and documents. They usually deliver in smaller quantities, from business to customers or between individuals.

What Do They Do?

Couriers deliver up to 15 boxes per shipment, and their delivery method extends to dropping the package off at a person or business’s doorstep. UPS, FedEx, and DHL are some of the major couriers you can choose from. Depending on the courier you pick, you can avail of some courier-specific services such as special services for worldwide shipping and domestic, as well as same-day delivery.

Difference Between a Courier and a Carrier Service

Since we already know what a courier service is, let’s define what a carrier service is. A carrier service differentiates itself from a courier service by delivering heavier packages exceeding 150 pounds. In order to deliver these hefty packages, carrier services use specialized methods of handling and delivery. For example, carriers can handle loading cargo ships, and shipping freight internationally whereas couriers are simply delivering individual packages to customers.  Carriers deliver larger shipment quantities at a relatively affordable price, however, they take longer in the shipping process when compared to couriers. Couriers, on the other hand, might cost more if you have numerous items you want to deliver, but they deliver more quickly.

Courier vs. Postal Service

In order to differentiate the two, let’s first define what a postal service is. A postal service is generally an organization that is government-owned and delivers letters and packages. While postal services can be used to send shipments similar to that of couriers, postal services are generally utilized for smaller items that are not as time-sensitive. A postal service consists of companies like USPS and Canada Post.

Here are some of the major differences between a courier and postal service:

  • Postal services tend to be cheaper than courier services when shipping smaller items.
  • Postal services tend not to offer day-definite services, so their time frames are more or less an educated estimate.
  • International shipping can be more convenient with courier services since they deliver the package to the receiver. Sending international packages via postal services might require it to pass through different postal services.
  • Courier services often offer more in-depth and extensive tracking features when compared to postal services.

When to Use a Courier Service

Courier services specialize in the speed with which they deliver your packages, so if you’re short on time and want your package delivered as soon as possible, then your best bet is with a courier service. Another option to consider is whether you want scheduled delivery or pickup since couriers offer that service as well.

Best Couriers for E-commerce Shipping

There are numerous couriers to pick from. Here are some of the popular national couriers in the U.S.:

  • FedEx
  • USPS
  • DHL

Some popular regional couriers include:

  • LSO
  • Ontrac
  • CDL

To find out more of the best couriers for shipping in and out of the U.S., check out our partners page.

Related Shipping Terms

< Back to Glossary
Ship smarter.
Grow faster.

Get Started Today for Free

Everything you need for professional-grade shipping + deep discounts from top carriers.
Sign Up Free