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How do I Find the Best Rate for Shipping?

With inflation and national and global events affecting the cost of nearly everything, the cost of mailing letters, packages and freight has increased in recent years. Shipping companies have a lot of expenses that their rates help cover, including expenses related to maintaining a large enough pool of staff and transport vehicles to handle shipment requests, vehicle maintenance, replacement and fuel and shipping supplies. Yet many people who only need to send one or two packages a year can't usually afford to ship items at all and only do so when it's a necessity or special occasion. Those who ship more often and year-round must look for the best rate because the volume of their shipments makes shipping too expensive. The good news is that affordable rates do exist. Shipment senders merely need to research shipping companies and perfect their negotiation skills:

Answer: Cost Matters, But Other Factors Are Equally Important

Anyone who sends a shipment should look for deals. A sender can often receive a discount by signing up for a shipper's e-newsletter or checking coupon websites for special online discount codes. Most shipping companies also offer business, bulk order and customer loyalty discounts. Additionally, a sender can usually negotiate a lower rate since many companies match their competitors' rates

That said, a shipper that offers low rates or discounts might offset deals by charging more than other companies for faster delivery. When comparing rates, senders should use shipper calculators to generate rate estimates based on shipment weight and size, transport distance and delivery time frames. Since events like traffic congestion, construction, accidents and natural disasters can cause delays, senders should also compare insurance costs. A sender who needs to ship large and bulk items should review the number of warehouses and transport options offered by a shipper. Shippers who offer more options at higher rates usually have less difficulty working around transportation problems and deliver on time more frequently. A sender might also benefit from a higher bundled rate. For example, business bulk shipment senders often save more money overall by choosing bundled rate deals that include packing materials and custom-printed advertisement inserts.

Lastly, some shippers make their low rates worthless by relying on third-party delivery assistance. Delivery by independent contractors in the last mile increases the risk of damaged and stolen packages. In rural locations where recipients expect door delivery, last mile transfer to the United States Postal Service can cause delays when the recipient also has a P.O box. Sometimes a sender doesn't include a box number on the shipping label and a postal worker refuses to accept the package from the shipper because that branch doesn't deliver to the recipient's address. Some postal workers fail to inform box holders of deliveries in a timely fashion, which can result in costly missed deadlines for business senders.

Additional Resources

This overview obviously doesn't cover everything senders need to know about shipping rates. Plenty of other fantastic resources are available online. For more information:

  1. USPS.com - This site offers a Customer's Guide to Mailing and a wide range of important shipping details that can be applied to any shipper. This valuable information includes the types of extras typically available through shippers, differences between residential and business shipments, common shipping terms and a variety of tips.
  2. ShipGooder - This site provides users with a comparison of real-time rates offered by common shippers in the United States and Canada, including USPS, UPS, FedEx, DHL and Canada Post. The rates are based on package start point, destination, type, weight and size. The company also offers discount deals through its partners.
  3. Freightquote - This site offers real-time rate comparisons for common North American truckload, less than truckload and intermodal companies, including FedEx, New Penn, Roadrunner and Reddaway. It also offers information about the different types of freight shipments, a shipping guide and tips about how to make any type of shipment less expensive and smoother.