Difference Between USPS First Class and Priority and Express Mail

USPS First Class vs Priority vs Express Mail

The difference between USPS First Class, Priority and Express Mail is in the duration they take to deliver the item, and naturally, the related costs. If you do not know, these are the names of three of the most popular services from USPS, the United States Postal Service. All three belong to domestic services that include both letters and other documents, including parcels and shipments. There are obvious differences between these three services pertaining to limit of weights and volumes of parcels, duration each takes to deliver the parcels across different locations and, of course, the prices of the services. If you have just arrived in the US or have not made use of USPS before, knowing the differences between first class, priority, and express services is crucial for not just saving a few dollars, but also to make sure your letter or document is delivered on time.

If you are running a small home based business, where you need to deliver the orders received on your website, you have to have a system of delivery to ensure satisfied customers. If you do not need to hurry and your customers can wait for 3-4 days for their orders, both First Class and Priority happen to be extremely effective, low cost postal services that can supply your shipments on time to your customers.

What is USPS First Class Mail?

First class mail is the cheapest mailing service available under USPS for lightweight items such as letters, cards, or small parcels. Barring Alaska and Hawaii, most of the destinations across US are covered by First Class mail in 2 to 3 business days at rock bottom rates. However, there are certain restrictions on the weight of the packages or envelopes; the weight is allowed only up to 13 ounces. The pricing changes with the size, shape, and weight and it starts from $ 0.49 (2015 March).

Difference Between USPS First Class and Priority and Express Mail

What is Priority Mail?

Priority Mail is also a fast mail service like first class mail, but here, you can send bulky parcels. So, if you are to send a parcel weighing above 13 ounces and up to 70 pounds and require faster delivery, you need to take Priority mail services that deliver within 1 to 3 business days across most of the locations inside the country. However, there is no guarantee though. In most of the instances delivery does take place within 2 days. For priority mail, you also get flat rate options that are based on envelope size or the volume of the box, which is beneficial if you need to deliver many items in a given weight range. Weight restriction of 70 pounds applies. But, if your parcel does not fit into those sizes or shape, the pricing will be calculated based on the weight and the delivery zone.

What is Express Mail?

Express mail or express priority mail is the highest type of mail available in USPS. There are times in a year when shipments do get late such as Christmas, New Year, and the whole of December in general. This is when you need to be cautious and upgrade to Express mail service that is the fastest of the three mail services. It guarantees delivery of your parcel or envelope within 24 hours, or overnight delivery as they claim. However, Express is the costliest of the three options with each parcel costing more than $10. Using Priority and First Class, you can very well send parcels in less than $6. With Express service, you also stand to get an insurance cover of up to $100 should there be loss or damage to your item in transit. Priority express mail also has flat rate options based on size and volume and a weight restriction of 70 pounds applies.

 First Class vs Priority vs Express Mail

What is the difference between USPS First Class and Priority and Express Mail?

First Class, Priority, and Express are three different mail services of USPS. USPS stands for United States Postal Service. They make sure your parcel is delivered to the place you want as quickly as possible. When you choose one or the other, you are also choosing how fast you need the item delivered and what cost you are going to bear for that.

• Features of First Class and Priority Mail and Express Mail:

• First Class Mail is the entry level service that delivers your letters and parcels up to 13 ounce weight to nearly all locations (barring Alaska and Hawaii) in 2 – 3 business days. This is suitable if you have a document or a small parcel and want a fast and affordable way to send it across the country.

• Priority Mail is a service that delivers shipments weighing up to 70 pounds in 1 – 3 business days across all destinations inside the country.

• Priority Express Mail is the costliest of the three services with an insurance cover and overnight delivery. It also has a weight restriction of 70 pounds.

• Cost:

Cost is calculated differently for different mail services. Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express has flat rate options. Here are the prices ranges for each category as at 2015 March.

• First Class Mail pricing ranges from $ 0.49 – $ 4.12 at retail. Pricing is based on weight and type of items; that is, whether it is letter, large envelope, or parcel.

• Priority Mail pricing ranges from $ 5.75 – $ 166.75 at retail.

• Priority Express Mail pricing ranges from $ 16.95 – $ 460.25 at retail.

• For both Priority Mail and Priority Express Mail, flat rate pricing is based on the envelope size or the box volume. If the parcel does not comply with the size and shape of the flat rate products, the pricing is done based on weight and delivery zone.

• Delivery Time:

• First Class Mail delivers in 2 to 3 business days.

• Priority Mail also delivers in 1 to 3 business days.

• Priority Express Mail delivers overnight.

• Weight Restriction:

• First Class allows up to 13 ounces.

• Priority and Priority Express Mail have weight limit at 70 pounds.

• Tracking Facility:

• Both Priority Mail and Express Mail have tracking facility.

• First Class does not have tracking, but you can get it included by purchasing an extra service. So that is conditional.

• Signature on Delivery:

• For both Priority Mail and Express Mail signature on delivery is available.

• First Class Mail only has this facility for parcels.

As you can see all these three mailing services give the public and opportunity to choose as service that is suitable to their needs. First Class mail delivers within 2 – 3 days. Priority mail delivers within 1 – 3 days. Express mail delivers overnight. They also come with other facilities such as tracking and signature on delivery.


Images Courtesy:

  1. USPS Headquarters by Tim1965 (CC BY-SA 3.0)
  2. USPS service delivery truck via Wikicommons (Public Domain)