Page: 3 of 5

Best for shipping critical packages

If you need to see where your package is at every step, the U.S. Postal Service isn't the best choice. For that, you'll need to go with one of the other major shippers, even though it usually costs a bit more than with the Postal Service.

FedEx and UPS have a well-known rivalry that is often portrayed lightheartedly in commercials and other advertisements. Both companies offer similar services at similar prices, but UPS is better known for their ground service, while FedEx is best known for overnight deliveries. Kevin Shult at BloggingStocks.com says, "Looking at both companies, I could make the argument that while UPS owns the road with over 25,000 more vehicles, FedEx controls the skies with three times the fleet of UPS." Even the U.S. Postal Service recognizes the efficiency with which FedEx processes air deliveries. Jim Cochrane, USPS president of ground packages, told Logistics Management magazine that "nobody can move things in the air better than FedEx." In fact, USPS contracts with FedEx to handle their Express and Priority Mail packages.

UPS, however, is a bit easier to find than FedEx. With over 4,000 UPS stores nationwide, along with 40,000 UPS drop boxes and 6,300 authorized outlets, Shult says that "it would be impossible not to find a store near you." And though FedEx is slightly cheaper for some shipments, it may not be worth the hassle of driving further if that's the case for you.

Overnight deliveries are considerably more expensive with the two companies than they are with the USPS, but both offer faster delivery, with options for same-day delivery as well as early morning next-day delivery. Both companies offer three levels of overnight (or faster) service, compared to just one by the USPS.

Both FedEx and UPS also offer a two- and three-day delivery service that is comparable to USPS Priority Mail. Ground service for both companies, on the other hand, compares more closely to Parcel Post from the U.S. Postal Service.

Each company also provides office services: FedEx through FedEx Kinko's and UPS through the UPS Store. In addition to printing services, these stores sell packing supplies and will also do the packing for you for an additional fee. The UPS Store goes one step further with their "Pack & Ship Promise," in which the company guarantees safe delivery of all items packed by a participating UPS employee. If there's a problem, customers will be reimbursed for the item's value, cost of packaging materials and service, and shipping fees if the item is damaged or lost in transit. Reviewers, however, say that shipping supplies at the UPS Store are overpriced, and recommend packaging items yourself.

Customers like that packages can be tracked online at both UPS and FedEx, but according to reviewers, FedEx tracking provides much more detail. UPS.com, on the other hand, is much more informative and user-friendly than FedEx.com, with articles on such topics as packing irregularly shaped items and tips for setting up online preferences.

Both companies offer pick-up services, but some customers complain that the system is complicated with FedEx, who sends a different driver for each type of shipment (Express, Ground and Home Delivery).

Back to top