If you want to ship affordably, then a Flat rate shipping service is indeed the ideal option. It charges one price regardless of the weight of the shipment. Being easy to configure, Flat rate shipping is a natural choice for many eCommerce stores. Despite its popularity, it is important to keep in mind that there might be situations where a flat rate might not be the most cost-effective option for you. You just need to find the right time when it is ideal for you. USPS is one of the popular flat-rate shipping providers. Even though there are many flat-rate options available, here we are discussing two major ones of USPS. Let’s do a comparative study of USPS Priority Mail vs USPS Flat Rates.
Before we go ahead, we have to understand the USPS zones.
Understanding USPS Zones
To understand how the shipping cost is calculated, you need to have a better understanding of USPS zones. When we are determining the postage rates of the following USPS domestic shipping services, we consider the weight of the shipment and the distance it travels.
- Priority Mail Express
- Priority Mail
- First-Class Package Service – Retail
- USPS Retail Ground
Here are the shipping zones as defined by USPS.
|Shipping Zone||Mile Radius (from origin)|
|Zone 1 (local)||50-mile radius covering the continental US, Alaska, Hawaii, and US Territories such as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.|
|Zone 2||51-150-mile radius|
|Zone 3||151- 300-mile radius|
|Zone 4||301-600 mile radius|
|Zone 5||601-1000 mile radius|
|Zone 6||1001-1400 mile radius|
|Zone 7||1401-1800 mile radius|
|Zone 8||1801+ mile radius|
|Zone 9||Freely Associated States that are mostly based in the Pacific Ocean, such as Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and Republic of the Marshall Islands. Also the US Territories, Commonwealths.|
These zones are dynamic, as they differ based on the location you ship from. If you are interested to know about the zones, you can visit the USPS Domestic Zone Chart and find out the zones by entering the origin and destination zip codes
USPS Priority Mail vs USPS Small Flat Rate Box
Let’s get to a detailed analysis of the retail prices for shipping by Priority Mail and compare it to the USPS Small Flat Rate Box.
For example, if your parcel weighs exactly 1 pound, it will cost around $7.35 to ship it to Zone 1 and 2. However, if your parcel weighs 1 lb 1 oz, that means it is over the 1 pound mark and so it will cost you $7.85 to ship to Zone 1 and 2, even if it is a difference of just 1 oz. You can refer to the table to get more information about the rates.
|Weight Not Over (lbs.)||Zone 1 & 2||Zone 3||Zone 4||Zone 5||Zone 6||Zone 7||Zone 8||Zone 9|
When is USPS Small Flat Rate Box a better choice
If you observe the above chart, you can see that if the shipment weighs around 2 lbs 1 oz, or heavier, the Priority Mail pricing will start at $8.30 for shipping to Zone 1 and 2. Since the Small Flat Rate Box rate is $7.90, it is easy to use this flat-rate option to ship anything that is over 2 lbs.
Now if the shipment weighs under 2 lbs, it becomes economical to use the Small Flat Rate Box.
USPS Small Flat Rate Box Exceptions for shipments Under 2 Lbs
|Less than 1 lb, 0 oz||Zone 5 – 9|
|1 lb, 1 oz – 2 lbs||Zone 3 – 9|
USPS Priority Mail vs USPS Medium Flat Rate Box
The USPS Medium Flat Rate Box costs $14.35 for a box with outside dimensions 14” x 12” x 3 ½”. For example, if your shipment weighs 18 lbs 1 oz, or heavier, the Priority Mail pricing starts at $20.05 for Zone 1 & 2. And if you consider the Large Flat Rate Box rate which is $19.95, it really makes sense to use the flat rate option to ship anything that is over 18 lbs. However, when shipping something less than 18 lbs, a Large Flat Rate box is economical.
When to use the USPS Medium Flat Rate Box
If you observe the USPS pricing chart, you can see that whenever the weight of the shipment is 11 lbs 1 oz, or something heavier than that, the cost of Priority Mail pricing starts at $15.20 for deliveries in Zone 1 and 2. In that case, it is ideal to use the USPS Medium Flat rate Box, which costs you only $13.75. But if the shipment weighs over 11 lbs, it is always better to go for other flat-rate options.
If you are shipping anything under 11 lbs, then USPS Medium Flat Rate exceptions include:
|1 lb 1 oz – 2 lbs||Zone 9|
|2 lb 1 oz – 3 lbs||Zone 7 – 9|
|3 lb 1 oz – 5 lbs||Zone 6 – 9|
|5 lb 1 oz – 6 lbs||Zone 5 – 9|
|6 lb 1 oz – 8 lbs||Zone 4 – 9|
|9 lb 1 oz – 11 lbs||Zone 3 – 9|
A USPS Medium Flat Rate box with outside dimensions 14” x 12” x 3 ½” costs you $13.75. If you notice the shipping rates mentioned at the USPS pricing chart, you can see that if your shipment weighs under 2 pounds, USPS Priority Mail rates will be cheaper than the Medium Flat Rate Box. The only exception is if you are shipping something that weighs between 1 lb 1 oz to 2 lbs to Zone 9; in that case, it’s best to use the Medium Flat Rate Box.
USPS Priority Mail vs USPS Large Flat Rate Box
The rule of thumb is to ship small, heavy packages via Flat Rate, and large, lightweight items via Priority Mail. The important thing you need to consider is where exactly the package is going to, and its weight and dimensions. Note that the items traveling to far-off distances cost you more in USPS Priority Mail, but the cost is unchanged with USPS Flat Rate box.
Choosing one between USPS Priority Mail or USPS Large Flat Rate Box completely depends on the weight and dimension of the item the box can hold.
USPS Large Flat Rate Box
The USPS Large Flat Rate Box costs $19.30, and the outside dimensions are 12 ¼” x 12 ¼” x 6”.
When to use the USPS Large Flat Rate Box
When the shipment weighs 18 lbs 1 oz or heavier, the Priority Mail pricing will start at $20.05 for Zone 1 and 2 according to the pricing chart. Since the USPS Large Flat Rate costs $19.30, it makes sense to use it for shipping anything that is over 18 lbs.
However, if you are shipping items that weigh under 18 lbs, it is ideal to use a Large Flat Rate Box.
USPS Large Flat Rate Box Exceptions: Under 18 Lbs
|2 lb 1 oz – 3 lbs||Zone 9|
|3 lb 1 oz – 4 lbs||Zone 8 – 9|
|4 lb 1 oz – 5 lbs||Zone 7 – 9|
|5 lb 1 oz – 7 lbs||Zone 6 – 9|
|7 lb 1 oz – 10 lbs||Zone 5 – 9|
|10 lb 1 oz – 13 lbs||Zone 4 – 9|
|13 lb 1 oz – 18 lbs||Zone 3 – 9|
To Conclude: USPS Priority Mail vs USPS Flat Rates
Finding out the rates from the table and choosing the right shipping options that suit your business is quite a tedious task. The best way to do this is to automate the process using efficient shipping plugins on your store. This will ease the process to calculate the shipping rate based on the weight, dimensions, and distance the package has to travel. The best part of automating this tedious process is that these shipping plugins have a perfect packing algorithm that works in the background to help you find the best suitable solution.
Using the right tools integrated with your WooCommerce store, you can bring in innovative solutions, which will save time. Since both USPS Priority Mail and USPS Flat Rates shipping options could be ideal in different scenarios, you should choose one over the other depending on your business needs. Hence, it is best to leave the choice to the customer by listing all the shipping rates on your WooCommerce store during the checkout.
With the right plugin integrated into your WooCommerce store, you can easily streamline all your processes with no hassle.