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The Cheapest Way to Ship Anything

The Cheapest Way to Ship Small Items

Calculating shipping costs and choosing the most economical shipping method can be confusing. Our Cheapest Way to Ship Anything guides make it easy to compare shipping costs and choose the right method for your cargo, whether you're shipping common items like boxes or difficult-to-transport goods like antiques or artwork.

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1. How Much Does it Cost to Ship Small Items?

We've calculated shipping costs for three common shipping methods: USPS, parcel shipping, and consolidated freight.

i. USPS shipping costs

ii. Parcel shipping costs (eg. UPS or FedEx)

iii. Consolidated freight

2. Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to the most frequently asked questions about shipping small items.


Mailing or shipping small items is often straightforward—most of the time, you can simply drop them off at your local post office or courier and send them on their way.

“Small items” can refer to just about any type of shipment, including tubes, envelopes, padded mailers, and small parcels. Small items can be shipped for just about any reason, including:

  • People sending small items or paperwork to loved ones, friends, or businesses across the country.
  • Homeowners moving long distance and shipping small items to their new home—in this case, they may have several small items packed into multiple larger boxes.
  • Business owners shipping purchases to customers, or items to other locations in their network

Small items can generally be packed into three types of package:

  • Tubes: Ideal for safely shipping rolled up papers such as blueprints, posters, or artwork. Tubes are not usually subject to special pricing as long as they are under the weight limit for your chosen shipping service.
  • Envelopes and padded mailers: These are lighter and less expensive to purchase and ship, but are less durable and more susceptible to damage. Envelopes and padded mailers are ideal for single items or small, durable cargo that can be safely transported without risk of damage as long as the proper precautions are taken.
  • Boxes: Boxes are more expensive to purchase and ship, but are more durable than envelopes or padded mailers. They’re ideal for fragile items that require more protection than an envelope can provide, or for shipments of multiple small items.

There are some special considerations to keep in mind when shipping small items:

  • Package size: Some envelopes are thin enough to ship using the regular postal service, while some are thicker and will be considered “nonmachineable”. This means they’ll incur oversized envelope charges when shipped with USPS. Some items are also best packed into boxes, which will increase your shipping costs.
  • Package weight: Small items can still be heavy, which can make them expensive to ship even if they have a small footprint. For some shippers and shipping services, a small but heavy package may cost more to ship than a large but light package.
  • How many items you’re shipping: If you’re shipping multiple small items to the same destination, boxes will offer more convenience and protection than envelopes and padded mailers.
  • Fragility: The more fragile the small item you’re shipping, the more padding you’ll need. A small but fragile item might need to be packed into a larger box in order to ensure you can use the appropriate amount of padding to keep it safe in transit.
  • Destination: If you’re shipping multiple small items to the same destination, it may be cheaper to ship all the items together packed into a larger box than to ship them separately in smaller packaging.
  • Unboxing experience: Sometimes it’s worth the extra expense of shipping items to customers in a box over a padded mailer, especially if you’re a retailer.

How much does it cost to ship small items?

The cheapest way to ship small items depends on the size and weight of the item, your chosen carrier, and the speed and distance of travel. For most small items, USPS will offer the cheapest rates.

Compare rates for shipping oversized packages using the most common shipping methods:

  • USPS
  • Parcel shipping (such as FedEx or UPS)
  • Consolidated freight

The estimated shipping costs included below will reflect the cost of shipping a variety of small items, including:

  • A rigid envelope weighing 1 oz and 10 ozs.
  • A USPS “Small” box weighing 1 lb and 5 lbs.

USPS

The United States Postal Service offers three services for shipping small packages:

  • First Class Mail: For items under 13 ounces, such as thin, flat items, documents, and letters. First Class Mail does not include tracking.
  • First Class Package Service: For items under 16 ounces. First Class Package Service includes tracking, with delivery in 2-3 days.
  • Priority Mail: For items that weigh more than 1 lb. Flat rate and variable pricing are available. Priority Mail includes tracking and insurance.

First Class Mail and First Class Package Service are variably priced, with shipping costs dependent on the size and weight of the package, as well as speed and distance of travel. Priority Mail service includes both flat rate shipping and variable pricing and is available for padded mailers and boxes.

Priority Mail flat rate pricing depends on the size of the package you are shipping—the weight of your package, as well as speed and distance of travel, do not factor into your shipping costs. Flat rate packages are delivered within 1-3 business days.

Packaging Sizes Flat rate price
Envelopes and padded mailers Multiple sizes available ranging from 10” x 5” to 15 ½” x 9 ½” Starting at $7.40 for commercial
Starting at $7.95 for non-commercial
Small box 8 ⅝” x 5 ⅜” x 1 ⅝” $7.90 for commercial
$8.45 for non-commercial

If you opt for Priority Mail variable pricing, your shipping costs will depend on package size and weight, as well as speed and distance of travel. USPS offers three variable price shipping options for small items:

Service Packaging Speed Flat rate price
Priority Mail Express Envelopes only Overnight delivery guaranteed Starting at $22.75 for commercial packages under 0.5 lbs and $26.35 for non-commercial, up to $101.95 for a 6 lb package traveling the maximum possible distance
Priority Mail Envelopes and boxes 1-3 days Starting at $7.16 for commercial delivery and $7.70 for non-commercial, up to $47.95 for a 5 lb package travelling the maximum possible distance
First-Class Package Service Envelopes and lightweight boxes 1-3 days Starting at $3.01 for commercial and $4.00 for non-commercial, up to a maximum weight of 13 ounces

Regardless of your packaging or whether you opt for a flat rate or variable pricing, packages shipped via USPS cannot exceed 70 lbs.

Box size and weight Philadelphia →
Miami
Philadelphia →
Los Angeles
Chicago →
Dallas
Cleveland →
San Diego
Nonmachineable rigid envelope weighing 1 oz $3.19-$31.95 $3.19-$38.95 $3.19-$31.95 $3.19-$38.95
Nonmachineable rigid envelope weighing 10 oz $3.19-$38.20 $3.19-$46.15 $3.19-$38.20 $3.19-$38.20
Small box weighing 1 lb $8.50-$38.20 $2.89-$46.15 $2.89-$38.20 $2.89-$46.15
Small box weighing 5 lbs $5.13-$63.30 $5.13-$74.85 $5.13-$63.30 $5.13-$74.85

Parcel shipping (UPS or FedEx)

UPS offers three services for shipping small items: UPS Simple Rate flat rate shipping, variable pricing, and UPS SurePost.

UPS Simple Rate flat rate shipping is the only flat rate shipping service that allows you to use your own packaging, with flat rate pricing available for five sizes based on volume and a maximum weight of 50 lbs regardless of package size. Three speeds are available: UPS Ground, UPS 3 Day Select, and UPS 2nd Day Air. Prices start at $8.80 for an extra small box at $11.50 for a small box.

Variable pricing is ideal for faster delivery. In this case, shipping costs depend on the size and weight of the package, as well as the distance of travel. Multiple fast speeds are available, including 2nd Day Air, 2nd Day Air A.M., Next Day Air Saver, Next Day Air, and Next Day Air Early.

Box size and weight Philadelphia →
Miami
Philadelphia →
Los Angeles
Chicago →
Dallas
Cleveland →
San Diego
UPS Letter weighing 1 oz $24.63-$76.39 $32.64-$83.53 $24.63-$76.39 $32.64-$83.53
UPS Letter weighing 10 oz $25.22-$103.67 $33.33-$117.81 $25.22-$103.67 $33.33-$117.81
Small box weighing 1 lb $11.83-$121.51 $12.56-$135.71 $11.83-$121.51 $12.56-$135.71
Small box weighing 5 lbs $14.98-$146.29 $20.85-$165.22 $14.98-$146.29 $20.85-$165.22

UPS also offers UPS SurePost for small packages weighing less than 10 lbs. Delivery times will be longer than other services—about 2-7 business days—and you must sign a contract to use this service.

FedEx also offers three options for shipping small items: FedEx One Rate flat rate shipping, variable pricing, and FedEx Ground Economy shipping.

Unlike UPS, FedEx One Rate flat rate shipping requires you to use FedEx packing. 12 sizes are available, including envelopes, Paks, boxes, and tubes. Packaging is free and can be ordered online with free delivery. Packages can weigh up to 50 lbs regardless of size. Six speeds are available: FedEx Express Saver, FedEx 2Day, FedEx 2Day A.M., FedEx Standard Overnight, FedEx Priority Overnight, and FedEx First Overnight, with prices depending on size, speed, and distance of travel. Shipping costs start from $8.90 for a FedEx® Envelope to $9.95 for a FedEx® Small Box.

FedEx variable pricing depends on the size and weight of the package, as well as speed and distance of travel. Multiple speeds are available, from FedEx Express Saver (delivery in 3 business days) to FedEx First Overnight (next business day by 9am).

Box size and weight Philadelphia →
Miami
Philadelphia →
Los Angeles
Chicago →
Dallas
Cleveland →
San Diego
FedEx Envelope weighing 1 oz Pricing not available for packages weighing 1 oz
FedEx Envelope weighing 10 oz $27.00-$112.97 $30.24-$125.82 $22.68-$108.65 $30.24-$125.82
Small box weighing 1 lb $11.47-$130.85 $12.18-$143.76 $11.47-$126.51 $12.18-$143.76
Small box weighing 5 lbs $14.53-$153.31 $20.22-$175.28 $14.53-$153.31 $20.22-$175.28

FedEx Ground Economy shipping, formerly called SmartPost, is for businesses looking to ship small packages that weigh less than 10 lbs. Similar to UPS SurePost, FedEx Ground Economy delivers in 2-7 business days and you must sign a contract to qualify. This service is ideal for residential deliveries and low-weight, low-value, non-urgent returns.

Consolidated freight (TSI)

Consolidated freight shipping is only ideal for shipping large boxes that contain multiple small items, such as boxes packed with small household goods that are being shipped as part of a larger household move or business relocation.

Freight shippers will always price your shipment using a minimum billable weight. TSI’s minimum billable weight is 120lbs, which means that a few boxes weighing a cumulative 40 lbs will be priced as if they weigh 120 lbs. This is why it makes the most sense to ship small items as part of a larger household move.

Number of boxes and box weight Philadelphia →
Miami
Philadelphia →
Los Angeles
Chicago →
Dallas
Cleveland →
San Diego
12 boxes weighing 10 lbs each (120 lbs total) $462.89 ($38.57 per box) $681.29 ($56.77 per box) $436.48 ($36.37 per box) $486.42 ($40.54 per box)

NOTE: Box size does not factor into freight pricing.

COVID-19 Precautions

TSI is carefully monitoring all of our shipments nationwide. We have seen minimal delays thus far, and are in constant contact with transportation industry leaders in order to be as proactive as possible. All members of the logistics chain are using the safety precautions recommended by the C.D.C.:

  • Clean your hands often (washing for 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer)
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Avoid close contact
  • Stay home if sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surface

NOTE: Shipping cost estimates are calculated using individuals providers’ online cost estimator tools. Details, exact prices, and shipping times are not guaranteed.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the cheapest way to ship small items with tracking?

The cheapest way to ship small items with tracking is through USPS. USPS Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express, First-Class Package Service, Retail Ground (packages only), and Media Mail (packages only) all include tracking

Media Mail is typically the cheapest option, starting at $1.91 for commercial and $3.19 for non-commercial shipments. First Class Package Service is the next most affordable, starting at $3.01 and $4.00.

What’s the cheapest way to ship small items less than 1 lb?

The cheapest way to ship small items under 1 lb is through USPS.

USPS First Class Mail is ideal for items under 13 ounces, such as thin and flat items, documents, and letters. Prices start at $0.426 for commercial and $0.58 for non-commercial shipments, with delivery in 1-3 days. First Class Mail does not include tracking.

First Class Package Service is ideal for larger items under 16 ounces. First Class Package Service includes tracking with delivery in 2-3 days. Prices start at $3.01 for commercial shipments and $4.00 for non-commercial shipments.

What’s the cheapest way to ship small light items?

The cheapest way to ship small, light items is through USPS.

For items under 13 ounces, such as thin and flat items, documents, and letters, USPS First Class Mail starts at $0.426 for commercial and $0.58, with delivery in 1-3 days.

For larger items under 16 ounces, First Class Package Service starts at $3.01 for commercial shipments and $4.00 for non-commercial shipments. First Class Package Service includes tracking with delivery in 2-3 days.

What’s the cheapest way to ship a 1 oz package?

The cheapest way to ship a 1 oz package is through USPS.

USPS First Class Mail is ideal for items under 13 ounces, such as thin and flat items, documents, and letters. Prices start at $0.426 for commercial and $0.58 for non-commercial shipments with no tracking and delivery in 1-3 days.

First Class Package Service is ideal for larger items under 16 ounces. First Class Package Service includes tracking with delivery in 2-3 days. Prices start at $3.01 for commercial shipments and $4.00 for non-commercial shipments.

What’s the cheapest way to ship a 3 oz package?

The cheapest way to ship a 3 oz package is through USPS. There is little to no cost difference when sending a 3 oz package compared to a 1 oz package.

For items under 13 ounces, such as thin and flat items, documents, and letters, USPS First Class Mail starts at $0.426 for commercial and $0.58 for non-commercial shipments with delivery in 1-3 days.

For larger items under 16 ounces, First Class Package Service starts at $3.01 for commercial shipments and $4.00 for non-commercial shipments. First Class Package Service includes tracking with delivery in 2-3 days.

What’s the best shipping company for very small packages?

The best shipping company for very small packages is USPS. USPS offers the most service options, including overnight delivery, typically for the lowest shipping rates.

What’s the cheapest way to ship small items on ebay?

The cheapest way to ship small items on eBay is through USPS. Media Mail is typically the cheapest option, starting at $1.91 for commercial and $3.19 for non-commercial. First Class Package Service is the next most affordable, starting at $3.01 and $4.00.

Moving across the country?

TSI specializes in small moves and specialty shipments.
 

Learn more

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