It’s a little bit confusing when you first arrive in the U.S. about which service you should use to send mail and send packages both locally and internationally. So what’s the deal with UPS, USPS, DHL, and FedEx?

You’ve probably heard of all of them, but don’t QUITE know which one is which and the advantages of each. I’ll go through each and what you should (and probably shouldn’t use them for!

For Regular Mail & Postcards

Let’s start with the local hero: The Mailman (USPS).

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is a branch of the Federal Government and have existed (in its current form) since 1971 but can be traced back to about 1775.

It’s the traditional method of sending letters both locally and internationally.

A letter domestically will cost you $0.55 for a First-Class Mail Forever letter stamp, and if it weighs more than 1oz, it’ll cost you $0.15 for every ounce on top.

If you want to send a letter internationally, then you want a “Global Forever Stamp” which will set you back $1.15 for all countries in the world. Again, if it weighs more than 1oz, then you’re going to have to go to their website to work out the exact costs based on where it’s going).

For Light Packages

For packages, if it’s light (less than 4lbs and <$400 in value) you can use USPS pretty effectively and cheaply. This is great for small gifts. Priority Mail (6-8 days) and First-Class Package International (a bit longer) are great options.

As an example, sending a 10-ounce package to London would cost around $22 with USPS.

DHL also offers a similarly priced service with their DHL Express Worldwide which for the above package would come in at about $35.

DHL is a huge company and has a strong international presence making it a good one to start with the comparisons.

FedEx and UPS offer fantastic service and can get your package there quicker and with more tracking but you’re going to pay a surcharge for the pleasure (in the realm of $116-120).

For Heavier Packages

Basically the heavier it gets, the more expensive it gets and the quotes all converge a little.

DHL becomes a bit of a winner for this and really outshines the others in terms of cost per pound, so be sure to keep an eye on them.

FedEx and UPS again can do it very quickly and track it door to door which is fantastic if you need it there right now.

A Handy Comparison Chart

Sometimes it’s just easier to see things. I know this doesn’t include USPS but you’ll just have to conclude your own things from the above.Comparison of FedEx UPS and DHL

From LatestShipment.com:

Based on the chart, it becomes evident that:

  • FedEx is strong with overnight shipping and expedited 2- and 3-day deliveries.
  • UPS has a strong ground shipment game.
  • DHL has the broadest global presence among the three and is the most vocal about its environmental commitments.
  • Priority or expedited services come at a price.
  • The slower service types work out to be more economical.

In Summary

Lots to think about here… But the take-home is that if you can plan ahead, then USPS is your go-to. If you are sending something slightly more substantial, you’re looking at DHL. If it’s domestic, look to UPS and if it’s urgent, talk to FedEx.

In reality though, and I know it’s annoying advice, but shopping around to each of them every time. One tool I did find in my travels is ShipGooder which seemed to be pretty handy for comparisons!

What do you think?