Delivery Times for Top Shipping Carriers: FedEx vs UPS vs USPS

Let’s face it: when today’s customer wants something, they want it now. Ecommerce giants such as Amazon have made same-day shipping and next-day delivery the norm, so people have little patience when it comes to long delivery times. Now, not everything needs to be immediate; a survey cited by eMarketer shows that the majority of customers (almost 25%) consider three days to be the most “acceptable timeframe” for order shipping. 

If you’ve landed here, more than likely you’re wondering which carrier is going to deliver your product to your customer the quickest! So, let’s take a look at the three major carriers of package delivery and the delivery procedures for each.

The 3 Major Shipping Carriers for Package Delivery

There are three major package delivery carriers when it comes to your shipping solutions. You’re probably familiar with the names, of course, but before getting into their delivery procedures, here’s a little bit about each one.

FedEx

First conceived in 1965 by CEO and Chairman Frederick W. Smith, then a Yale undergraduate, FedEx was nothing more than a college project. As part of a term paper, Smith designed a cutting-edge new system that would allow for the safe delivery of time-sensitive shipments. While his professor didn’t think much of the idea, Smith believed in it. He founded Federal Express in 1971 as the world’s first overnight delivery company, and FedEx has since changed the way deliveries get done. 

UPS

Under the name the American Messenger Company, UPS was started in 1907 by two Seattle teens, James Casey and Claude Ryan, making deliveries on foot or by bicycle. Eventually, they acquired their first Model T Ford delivery truck and began delivering packages from stores, rebranding the company the Merchants Parcel Delivery. In 1916, they painted their vehicles UPS’ famous dark brown color and in 1922, rebranded again as United Parcel Service. By the end of the decade, UPS was operating all over the West Coast.

USPS

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” so goes the USPS motto. The oldest of the three carriers highlighted here, and operated by the federal government, the United States Postal Service can be traced back to 1775 when Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first postmaster general. Today, the USPS has nearly 470,000 career employees and with about 228,000 mail trucks, operates one of the largest civilian vehicle fleets in the world.

Delivery Times for FedEx vs UPS vs USPS

Here’s what you came to learn about. We’ve compiled information and links about delivery times and service from “the big three,” FedEx, UPS, and USPS, below. If you want additional information about shipping large or heavy items, be sure to check out our blog How To Ship Heavy Items and Oversized Items.

FedEx Delivery Procedures

FedEx offers a variety of services and delivery times, which will depend on whether you’re shipping overnight or ground or shipping to a residence versus a commercial property. Here are some common questions about delivery times.

FedEx Delivery Period

  • FedEx Ground delivers on business days, Monday through Friday: 
    • Within the contiguous United States: 1-5 days
    • Alaska and Hawaii: 3-7 days
  • FedEx Home Delivery delivers every day of the week, including Sunday:
    • Within the contiguous United States: 1-5 days
    • Alaska and Hawaii: 3-7 days
  • FedEx Express Freight delivers in 1-3 business days to most US locations. 
  • FedEx Overnight delivers the next business day. Saturday deliveries may be available in some locations.

FedEx Delivery Times

FedEx Ground shipping to commercial properties doesn’t usually have a specific delivery time, and operates on business days only. FedEx end of day for ground shipping typically means 5 PM local time, when most offices close up. 

FedEx Home Delivery, on the other hand, may deliver packages as late as 8 PM and also operates on Saturday and Sunday. If you're looking to have your shipment arrive on a specific date, you can select FedEx Date Certain Home Delivery. With FedEx Appointment Home Delivery, you can also schedule a drop-off window between the hours of 9 AM and 8 PM. 

For overnight shipments, FedEx offers three service levels with different delivery times. 

  • First Overnight: Weekday delivery before 9:30 AM to most ZIP codes. 
  • Priority Overnight: Weekday delivery before 10:30 AM to most ZIP codes. 
  • Standard Overnight: Weekday delivery before 3 PM in most zip codes.

Again, it’s important to note that these are weekdays only. That means a package or envelope shipped using Standard Overnight on a Friday will arrive by 3 PM the following Monday. Saturday delivery for overnight envelopes and packages, where available, will cost you extra.

FedEx Holiday Delivery

FedEx Ground services deliver on most US holidays following their regular schedule. They’re off on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day, when all but the most critical carrier services shut down.

Freight, overnight, and SmartPost services deliver, on modified holiday schedules, so be sure to check out the FedEx holiday schedule for details.

UPS Delivery Procedures

UPS has a less robust amount of service levels when compared to FedEx, but still maintains a wide variety of delivery time options to residential and commercial properties.

UPS Delivery Period

  • UPS Ground delivers on business days (Monday through Friday):
    • Within the contiguous United States: 1-5 days
    • Alaska and Hawaii: 3-7 days
  • UPS Weekend Home Delivery delivers on Saturdays to homes in more than 100 U.S. metro areas. The carrier will also deliver economy packages on Sunday through a partnership with the USPS in select areas.
  • UPS Next Day Air will get shipments delivered the very next business day (with some limitations for customers located in Alaska and Hawaii). While weekend delivery is not available, some locations will allow pick-up on Saturday.

UPS Delivery Times

UPS Ground shipping to commercial properties doesn’t have a specific delivery time but will deliver until the end of the day. UPS end of day actually corresponds with the end of the business day for each specific address they are delivering to. However, UPS drivers will continue to make deliveries after 7 PM, so some packages may arrive after-hours if a company closes its doors at 5 PM.

For home deliveries, UPS aims to deliver by 7 PM, Monday through Friday, though it’s possible for a delivery to arrive as late as 9 PM. 

UPS offers three overnight delivery services, each arriving at a different time:

  • UPS Next Day Air Early: Weekday delivery before 8:00 AM to most ZIP codes.
  • UPS Next Day Air: Weekday delivery before 10:30 AM to most ZIP codes.
  • UPS Next Day Air Saver: Weekday delivery before 3 PM to most ZIP codes. 

For an additional cost, all UPS overnight options are available for Saturday deliveries.

UPS Holiday Delivery

UPS Ground, Freight, and Air services, plus UPS Store locations, are closed on most major US holidays: Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Be sure to check out the UPS Holiday Operations Schedule for a full list of holiday closures.

USPS Delivery Procedures

Unlike FedEx and UPS, the USPS is operated by the federal government and paid for by American taxpayers. Therefore, it is legally obligated to serve all Americans, regardless of geography, at uniform price and quality.

USPS Delivery Period

Unlike private companies FedEx and UPS, Saturday delivery is standard with the USPS, so consider “business days” to be Monday through Saturday. 

USPS offers two cost-effective but slower services: USPS Retail Ground and Media Mail (the latter which has very specific restrictions on what can be sent). Each has a delivery time of about 2-8 days.

USPS Delivery Times

Delivery times for packages sent by regular USPS services vary, typically based upon the recipient’s address and the delivery driver’s postal route. Some homes and businesses might regularly get USPS mail in the morning, while others may receive their mail in the afternoon up until 5 PM. 

During busy times of the year, hardworking postal drivers will continue working beyond this time period to complete their route, delivering into the evening hours. The USPS end of day is, quite literally, midnight!

An exception to this is the expedited service USPS Priority Mail Express, which guarantees deliveries will arrive by 3 PM. This service can also be scheduled for Sunday delivery for an additional charge. 

In some cities, the USPS has a partnership with Amazon allowing for packages to be delivered on Sundays (this cannot be scheduled, however). If a non-Express package is delivered on Sunday, there’s no extra charge, it just means the postal gods were smiling down on you. 

USPS Holiday Deliveries

USPS observes all major holidays as well as: MLK Day, President's Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day.

Choosing a Shipping Carrier – or Leveling Up with a Fulfillment Center

When does FedEx stop delivering in Alaska? What time does UPS start delivering in Hawaii? What is the USPS postmark cutoff time? We know you may still have specific questions, and it’s best to reach out to the individual carrier for those answers. 

However, now that you can easily compare the shipping processes and policies of the top three shipping carriers, you should be better able to decide which is right for your eCommerce business. Remember, you don’t have to stick with just one carrier; there are benefits to using multiple carriers. By choosing the carrier that’s right for each particular shipment based on item, timing, and destination, you achieve more flexibility and greater negotiating power.

Of course, shipping on your own can be a burden, especially as your eCommerce business continues to grow. Another option is to offload shipping entirely to a fulfillment center such as The Fulfillment Lab. We store, pack, and ship products that move frequently on your behalf, while you gain access to our cutting-edge Global Fulfillment System (GFS™) software, monitoring inventory, tracking shipments, customizing packaging, and processing payments. Be sure to check out our blog, 10 Reasons to Use a Fulfillment Center for Your Ecommerce Shipping, for more.

Ready to talk to a TFL fulfillment expert about lowering your shipping costs, expediting your shipping speeds, and just boosting your bottom line altogether? Contact us today!

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