Domestic Shipping Explained: How to Choose the Best Carrier


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Domestic shipping has its perks:

  • It’s affordable.
  • There are several carrier options to choose from.
  • It’s much easier to navigate than international shipping.

But establishing a shipping strategy for domestic orders still takes some planning to ensure you meet customer expectations around fast, reliable shipping.

In this article, you will learn the steps to developing a domestic shipping strategy that’s fast, reliable, and affordable. 

What is domestic shipping?

Domestic shipping refers to shipping a package via a carrier within a country’s borders.

For example, in the US, this includes shipments sent within all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico, as it is considered a US territory. There are many domestic shipping carriers to choose from in the US, including regional parcel carriers. Oftentimes, businesses use a combination of carriers and shipping services to meet customer needs throughout their borders.

Domestic shipping carriers offer domestic shipping options based on what you’re sending, volume, and how quickly the recipient needs their shipments.

Choosing the right domestic shipping carrier for your needs

Domestic shipping carriers offer a variety of shipping options based on package size, delivery speed, and the contents of what’s being sent.

For instance, in the US, USPS offers flat-rate shipping for documents and other small to mid-size shipments that are sent within the country. There are also options for overnight deliveries, overweight and heavy shipments, and more.

The major US shipping carriers are USPS, UPS, and FedEx, which all offer their own set of options and benefits based on what your shipping needs are.

DHL, an international carrier, also offers US domestic shipping for online businesses that ship a high volume of orders each month.

In addition to the major US carriers, there are regional parcel carriers, such as:

Regional US-based carriers specialize in serving a specific region, which enables same-day or overnight last-mile delivery services at an affordable rate.

Domestic shipping carriers & rates

Each country will have its own domestic shipping carriers. And the more options there are, the harder it can be to make decisions on which carriers to partner with and the specific services to use.

For starters, you will find that USPS mail types tend to be the most popular shipping services for domestic shipments because they are cost-effective when compared to FedEx and UPS.

Also, its flat-rate shipping makes it easier to calculate shipping costs and estimated transit times. 

Overall, here are the average prices of domestic shipping in the US:*

1-2 days$34.50$26.95$26.75
3-5 days $13.57$9.95$8.50
5-7 days $9.36$8.90$8.70

*Please note that we calculated the above rates using each carrier’s online pricing calculators for a consistent example of a 1.2 lbs package in January 2022. Exact prices are subject to change and dependent on weight, dimensions, destination, and more.

Best practices for domestic shipping

A high shipping fee is the leading cause of cart abandonment for online stores, driving nearly half of consumers to abandon their carts in 2021. And 81% of consumersswitched retailers because shipping was too expensive. 

Though domestic shipping is much easier to navigate than international, there are some best practices to keep in mind to help you meet customer expectations around fast, affordable domestic shipping.

Compare carriers for best rates

Each carrier competitively prices its services based on the shipment’s:

  • Contents
  • Size and weight
  • Shipping distance

Shipping carriers in the US also use shipping zones to measure the distance a package travels (not in miles but rather groupings of zip codes) from the point of origin to the destination — something to keep in mind when calculating shipping costs for US destination shipments.

Calculating shipping rates for each order can be a tiresome and time-consuming process.

To save you time and headaches, there are cloud shipping solutions that make it easy to compare real-time shipping rates. Cloud shipping software integrates with your ecommerce platform so you can compare shipping carriers and rates.

“Working with ShipBob has been great. Being able to take advantage of USPS’s Media Mail shipping rates through ShipBob has helped out a ton.”

Lee Nania, Founder of SubSubmarine 

Keep package size down

All major shipping carriers use dimensional weight (DIM) to calculate the costs of shipping items. DIM weight is computed by multiplying length times width times height. This means the heavier or bigger the parcel, the higher your shipping costs. 

If you sell mostly heavy items or do a lot of oversized shipping, there may be options that cater to those packages (for example, FedEx Ground offers affordable prices to ship heavy and oversized shipment domestically with a 5-day transit time in the US. 

Get shipping insurance for expensive or important items

Lost, delayed, and damaged finished goods during transit can be a common problem. To avoid these losses, it would make sense to purchase shipping insurance.

Shipping insurance is pretty cheap so when in doubt, it may be best to purchase it. If your package is valuable enough that you’re considering insurance, the small investment is worth the potential upside if something goes wrong.

Use basic ground shipping when speed isn’t a factor

When speed isn’t a factor, ground shipping is a great option for domestic shipments. Generally, ground shipping has a longer transit timeline than air, but with more 3PL companies helping online business expand their distribution reach, there are now more ways than ever to optimize ground shipping and speed up transit times.

For instance, ShipBob offers a growing network of fulfillment center locations across the US and globe (see our locations here), enabling you to keep your inventory closer to more of your customers to speed up the ground shipping process.

“Customers get accustomed to a certain service level at a low price — often free — and want it faster over time. Ever since we started our partnership with ShipBob in the summer of 2018, they’ve been able to deliver the customer service level we need at the right cost.”

Michael Peters, VP of E-Commerce Operations at TB12

ShipBob’s domestic shipping partners

ShipBob offers an affordable and fast ecommerce shipping solution that integrates with your online store. ShipBob had relationships with domestic shipping carriers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Australia. 

We handle your shipping operations for you, end-to-end, from partnering with major global and regional shipping carriers, to providing insights into shipping performance so you can optimize your distribution and shipping strategy. 

ideal distribution

Serve customer across the world? ShipBob offers an international fulfillment network with locations in the US, UK, the EU, Canada, and Australia.

ShipBob’s industry-leading fulfillment platform provides advanced data and analytics related to shipping, shipping integrations with leading solutions, and order management functionalities to streamline your logistics operations.

Since ShipBob’s technology is connected to every fulfillment center location in its global network, you can split inventory across multiple fulfillment locations and track inventory, orders, and shipments in real time.

ShipBob’s automated shipping technology offers real-time shipping insights at a glance. You can get answers to questions like:

  • Which shipping methods do my customers choose most often?
  • How much are my customers spending by shipping method?
  • What is my average shipping cost per shipping method?
  • How long does it take my orders to be delivered by shipping method?
  • Which orders haven’t been delivered yet?
  • Which states do I ship the most orders to?

“We are very impressed by ShipBob’s transparency, simplicity, and intuitive dashboard. ShipBob’s front-end software was the primary decision-making factor for me in choosing them over other fulfillment solutions.

Their software is so simple and intuitive, especially as so many 3PLs have either bad or no front-facing software, making it impossible to enter orders, keep track of what’s leaving or entering the warehouse.

It’s fun to see orders shipping out instantaneously. I love how fast and efficient ShipBob is. Their shipping costs are very reasonable, and their platform makes fulfillment feel so easy.”

Harley Abrams, Operations Manager of SuperSpeed Golf, LLC 

To learn more about how ShipBob can help you establish a winning domestic shipping strategy, click the button below to contact our fulfillment team today.

Does ShipBob ship domestically?

Yes, ShipBob does ship domestically in every country we have a presence in, including the US, the UK, the EU, Canada, and Australia. Click here to see all the locations where our domestic shipping services can be available. ShipBob also ships to all countries in the world. 

How much does domestic shipping cost?

Domestic shipping costs can vary depending on the package’s weight, dimensions, distance, and speed. Flat-rate shipping rates start at $8.50 via USPS, but expedited shipping can costs up to $20 to $30 based on dimensional weight and distance.

How long does domestic shipping take?

This varies based on the country, and the bigger the country is geographically, the longer this average will be. Typically, domestic shipping services in the US take 1 to 5 business days to deliver goods to the recipient, depending on the shipping zones or destination a package is sent to. Regional carriers also offer affordable same-day or overnight services for local domestic shipments at an affordable rate.

What’s the difference between domestic and international shipping

When goods are sent from and to the same country, it is called a domestic shipment. When shipping domestically you usually don’t need to attach any documents beyond a shipping label. International shipping, when you ship to another country, is much more complex due to customs, tariffs, and additional taxes (in other words, there is more paperwork and fees to manage).

Which carrier is best for domestic shipping?

This depends on the country and what’s most important (e.g., reliability, speed, the cheapest shipping rate, etc.). In the US, USPS is considered a good option for shipping goods within the US, owing to its significant presence in the country which makes for easy drop-offs and pickups as well as the most affordable shipping rates.

How much is USPS domestic shipping?

USPS domestic shipping rates start at $8.50 and go up from there. There are also other options like Media Mail (only usable when shipping media) that offer an even more affordable rate for sending media such as books and DVDs.

How much is FedEx domestic shipping?

To ship a small box through FedEx that gets delivered between 3-5 days, domestic shipping rates can be around $9.95. The exact price will depend on the weight and dimensions of the box, along with how far away the destination is domestically.

How much is UPS domestic shipping?

UPS ground shipping for domestic packages start can be around $8.76 (based on a 1 lb package). The exact price will depend on the weight and dimensions of the box, along with how far away the destination is domestically.

Written By:

Kristina is the Director of Marketing Communications at ShipBob, where she writes various articles, case studies, and other resources to help ecommerce brands grow their business.

Read all posts written by Kristina Lopienski