Choosing the Right USPS: First Class Vs Priority

Touseef Riaz August 5, 2020

Getting products to buyers is a vital part of the Amazon selling process. To do this, you’ll need to decide how you’re going to send products to customers. There are plenty of options out there, but the main question you’ll find yourself asking is whether you should send products via first class mail or via priority mail. Sellers are often making First Class Vs Priority services charts to learn each service’s pros and cons. In this article, we will discuss everything should know about both of these products.

You might be wondering what the difference is between the two or whether choosing the wrong one will affect your business.

We lay it all out in this piece.

What is USPS First Class?

The First Class Mailing service is basically used to ship lightweight packages such as letters or padded envelopes. Items under 12 oz are considered light and can be sent effectively and quickly with the service—some exceptions, like oddly shaped packages that need to be hand sorted and might incur extra charges.

The New USPS Initiative

First things first, we should point out that USPS has recently made some changes to its services. They will be standardizing mail delivery times and leaving more undelivered items behind to go out the following day.

The new initiative will push mail sorting to the afternoon so that letter carriers can start on their morning routes earlier. At 2 pm, they’ll return to their post offices to sort new items for the next day. This could push package deliveries out by a day depending on the time they arrive in the sorting office.

This will be trialed for a period of 30-60 days and will only be picked up by city carriers, but it’s worth bearing it in mind as you read the rest of this post as it is likely to have an effect on customers that use its package delivery services regularly.

 

First-Class mail delivery time

 

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Example: Cheapest Way to Ship T-Shirts

If you are looking to ship T-shirts, USPS First Class would be the best option with a poly mailer or soft envelope. Since most T-shirts weigh about 13 ounces, you’ll be able to ship those T-shirts out at a minimal cost with First Class Package Service.

First Class Vs Priority Mail: The Differences

When it comes to first class vs priority mail, from the outside, first class and priority mail look pretty similar. They are both a step up from second class deliveries, but they each have unique features that bring different benefits.

Most importantly, first class and priority mail differ based on weight, size, shape, and the delivery timeframe for your packages. These are the most common elements you should take into account when deciding what kind of service to go for.

First class mail is predominantly used to ship parcels that are 3.5 ounces or less. This means it’s mostly used for sending letters, thick envelopes, and lightweight packages that are of a standard size.

It’s an affordable way to send smaller, lighter items quickly and efficiently.

Priority mail on the other hand is often used to send packages weighing up to 70lbs. It’s prioritized first before standard mail, hence its name, and is the favored way to send large parcels and packages. In fact, these types of packages are almost always delivered using priority mail, while smaller packages that don’t exceed the 3.5 ounce limit are usually always sent via first class mail.

If your parcels weigh less than 3.5 ounces, they should always be sent first class since it’s often faster than priority and costs less.

Maximum Dimensions

As package size is one of the most important factors when considering which USPS mail service to go for, let’s take a closer look at the company’s sizing guide.

The maximum dimensions of packages sent via first class mail can be 108” in combined length and girth – this is where the longest side is the “length” and the circumference of the parcel’s thickest section is the “girth”. The maximum weight of a package being delivered by first class mail is 15.99 oz.

Priority mail packages can again have a maximum dimension of 108” in combined length and girth, however, the maximum weight is considerably more at 70 lbs.

 

First Class Vs Priority

 

Find out more about dimensions here.

Insurance Policies

One of the biggest differences between the two services is that first class mail doesn’t have a default insurance policy like priority mail. So, in instances where a package is lost or damaged on delivery via first class, the sender isn’t covered. But with priority mail, they are.

However, you can add insurance coverage onto your first class mail deliveries for an additional fee.

Priority mail, on the other hand, comes with an insurance policy attached. This covers up to $100 for domestic coverage and $200 for international coverage.

Keep the products that you’ll be shipping in mind here because, while some products are light in weight, they may benefit from the insurance policy that’s included with priority mail. For example, watches almost always weigh less than 1 lb, which means they can be shipped at an affordable price through the first class service, but priority mail offers up to $200 worth of coverage depending on where the watch is being shipped which will cover if the package is lost or damaged.

Transit Time

Comparing first-class mail vs. priority mail shipping time is probably one of the crucial factors when determining which service to go for. However, one thing to note here is that both shipping options have good delivery timeframes between two and three days.

USPS uses shipping zones in classifying the delivery times for both domestic and international shipping, which may vary slightly across the two services. Priority Mail is the better option if you are looking for even faster international deliveries than the other services.

Pricing

When it comes to priority mail vs. first-class cost, first-class mail is the more economical option. However, specific prices depend on several factors and are subject to the current inflation rates frequently changing. Where the fee for priority mail is calculated based on the distance and can be more costly, pricing for first-class considers other factors such as size, weight, and distance.

Often, priority mail has fixed rates for specific packages and boxes based on the sizes and weight. It is common to observe a $3 difference between first-class vs. priority mail prices for the same package shipped to the same destination.

Tracking

Both First Class and Priority Mail offer tracking updates until the package arrives at the destination. Updates include delivery dates and attempted deliveries if there is any missed delivery. The tracking feature is offered at no additional cost.

What is USPS Priority Mail?

Priority mail takes precedence over other postal services offered by USPS when shipping out. It has a better chance to arrive quickly at the destination, especially when shipping internationally. Priority Mail also allows shipping much heavier packages (up to 70 lbs). 

Below are the critical differences in deciding between priority mail and first-class mail. Priority mail is comparable to UPS and FedEx shipping services, but at economical prices, especially for not very heavy packages.

Shipping Shoes with USPS

When it comes to shipping shoes, in most cases they are shipped through the USPS Priority Mail. The Priority Mail Shoebox is designed to meet the needs of footwear specifically and is great for shoes that weigh over 16 oz. 

First Class Vs Priority Mail: Delivery Times

Delivery times are important if you’re selling goods via Amazon. You don’t want to over promise to customers and leave them disappointed when their products don’t arrive when you said they would.

Both priority mail and first class mail tend to arrive between one and three days if they are shipped to a domestic address. If you’re shipping products abroad, priority mail can be the best option because it considerably cuts down the shipping time that is associated with standard shipping.

First class international delivery times vary depending on the destination you’re sending your products to. Priority mail is often a better fit for international packages. This is because it tends to be faster, taking around six to ten business days if you’re shipping to one of the 180 countries that are listed on the USPS site.

It’s worth bearing in mind that neither first class nor priority mail can guarantee a delivery date for international mail, so promising customers their items will arrive in a specific time frame isn’t always possible.

 

First Class Vs Priority

 

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Typically, First Class Mail is used for small and lightweight parcels weighing under a pound and with a value that is not very high. Packages that are greater in weight and value should be sent with Priority Mail.

Another notable difference between the two is the dimensions. Unlike priority mail, first-class mail has several weight and size specifications for sending packages. Postcards, envelopes, and letters, for instance, have weight and dimensions specifications; on the other hand, priority mail packages should not exceed 70lbs. Businesses with packages exceeding size and weight limits are subjected to additional restrictions.

First Class Vs Priority Mail: Services Charges

You’re probably wondering how much it costs to send packages via both first class and priority mail. There’s actually no set pricing structure and prices for both services vary dramatically depending on the size and weight of the item you’re shipping and where you’re shipping it to. As a general rule, shipping via priority mail tends to cost about $3 more per package.

To figure out how much each individual package will cost to send, you can use the helpful USPS domestic calculator if you’re delivering to a US address, or the international calculator to work out prices for sending your packages abroad.

Prices are based on the size, weight, and delivery address of your product, but once you start to get a feel for the pricing structure, it gets easier to predict how much delivery will cost – particularly on your best-selling items.

Choosing the Right USPS Service

Your choice of priority mail or first class mail will depend entirely on the products you’re selling and where you’re shipping them to. Smaller, lighter items are best sent through first class mail because it’s more affordable, but if you’re selling small high-ticket products that fit into the maximum dimensions for first class, it’s worth opting for priority mail to claim the insurance that’s automatically included.

Take some time to play around with the domestic and the international calculator to see which option might be best for you in terms of price and delivery terms, especially if you’re going to be sending packages in bulk.

First Class Mail Vs Priority Mail: FAQs

What’s the difference between USPS priority mail and USPS first class?

The main difference is in the size of the packages that can be delivered via each service. First class mail is limited to smaller packages that weigh less than 3.5 ounces, while priority mail can include packages that weigh up to 70 lbs. The other difference is that priority mail comes with insurance coverage if a product gets lost or damaged during delivery. This is particularly useful if you’re sending high-ticket items.

Is priority mail faster than first class mail?

The delivery times of both services depending on where you’re sending your packages. Domestic deliveries are much quicker for both, as are international deliveries.

Domestic mail sent via first class mail usually takes between two and three days to arrive depending on the delivery address, while domestic mail sent via USPS’ priority service can take between one and three days.

For international deliveries, first class mail has no guarantee or estimate, while priority mail usually takes between six and ten days to arrive.

Is first class mail considered priority mail?

First class mail is considered a priority mail over other standard mail services. However, priority mail is an extension of first class mail that includes weightier packages. Packages sent through both services are prioritized, it purely depends on the weight of your products and whether you want to take advantage of the built-in insurance that comes with priority mail.

Can I ship first-class mail in a Priority Mail box or envelope?

No, a Priority Mail box or envelope should have Priority Mail postage, or it will be returned for additional postage.

Does first-class mail only take 1-3 days for delivery?

Absolutely! First-class mail delivery time is usually between 1 and 3 days, regardless of where you are in the United States of America.

How accurate is the USPS Priority Mail Map?

The Priority Main Map is usually very accurate. Exceptions occur only when something unexpected causes a delay.

What is faster, first-class, or priority mail?

Priority Mail is typically faster than First-Class, shipping in an estimated 1-3 business days, rather than 1-5 days.

Both Services Have Their Benefits

To wrap up, priority mail is often the most affordable way to send packages. This is because it comes with free package tracking, a one to three day delivery time frame, and $100 of built-in insurance. There is a much higher weight limit on products sent through this service and it is treated as a priority by the USPS.

When sending a package, things are not as simple as putting on a stamp and dispatching it to the correct address. In fact, if you are an e-commerce seller, you would like to explore the best (and cheapest) method of sending out products to your customers to get maximum profit in today’s competitive market.

When it comes to shipping for an ecommerce business, Priority Mail Express vs. First Class are the most popular and accessible options offered by the United States Postal Service or USPS. Not sure which one is the right choice for your business? Above, we have discussed the key differences between the two so that next time you send a package, you know the correct options that you would opt for.

First class mail is often the preferred way to send lighter items, like cards, thick envelopes, and letters that weigh less than 3.5 oz. This service is predominantly used for personal correspondence, but it can and definitely is used to ship smaller, lighter packages.

Use the USPS’ calculators to determine which method is best for sending your products depending on their size, weight, and value.

 

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