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Infographic comparing UPS, FedEx, USPS, and DHL - Packola

Comparing Couriers in United States

By: Packola | Aug 16, 2023

Comparing The Top Couriers in United States: UPS, FedEx, USPS, and DHL

Having the flexibility to choose how you want your packages shipped is a good thing, but what factors should you look out for in making your decision? Should you go with the traditional and ever-reliable postal service system, or should you hand it over to private contractors such as FedEx and UPS?

The decision depends on your needs. In this article, we put the spotlight on the major shipping services in the US and explore the key differences between each one: USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL. Amazon isn’t a stand-alone shipping service, but for the sheer amount of packages they move on a daily basis, we included them for posterity’s sake.


Air Freight Excellence: Navigating the Skies for Swift Delivery

Without any other considerations, air freight is the best shipping method because it provides the fastest route from point A to point B, especially for cross-country destinations. This is important for delicate, perishable items such as fresh flowers, organ donors, and other important cargo where time is of the essence.

When shipping by air, there are a few important factors to consider:

Cost – There are no ifs and buts about it. Air freight is expensive. Flying cargo from point A to point B is blazing fast but involves paying for jet fuel and the operational costs of the plane.

Size and weight – With air freight, you’re constrained by the size and/or weight of your cargo. There’s no wiggle room here as there are set maximums for every plane. If you go beyond the prescribed measurements, you’ll be flirting with disaster.

Ever wondered just how many airplanes the most popular couriers in the U.S. have? Below is an infographic that compares the number of cargo planes each organization has. And yes, your eyes do not deceive you - USPS has no planes. They studied that for their purposes, it makes more sense from an economical perspective, to contract commercial airlines for their air freight needs.

Shipping Service Number of Planes
FedEx 688
UPS 290
DHL 212
Amazon 75


Ground Shipping Excellence: Efficiency and Economy on the Roads

Ground shipping uses road or rail and is the most cost-effective mode of transport for packages. It is the standard and most common method of shipping domestic cargo. A big misconception that a lot of people have about ground shipping is that it’s slow. Far from it. While it may not be as fast as air freight, the speed and efficiency of mail and cargo services shouldn’t be ignored.

Aside from trains, ground shipping uses a mix of trucks and vans to deliver packages across the country. Which shipping service has the biggest fleet? Check it out below:

Shipping Service Number of Motor Vehicles
FedEx 200,000
USPS 200,000
UPS 119,000
DHL 100,000
Amazon 70,000


There’s one good reason to ship by land: it’s cheaper. Customer feedback platform Usabilla notes that the number one culprit for e-commerce cart abandonment is high shipping costs. By offering free or affordable ground shipping to your customers, you’re already increasing the chances that they’ll support your business. In this day and age of e-commerce, cheap shipping is your friend.

Shipping Services by the Numbers

Just how much mail, packages, and cargo do the major shipping services move? We looked into each company’s reported numbers during 2020 and compared them below.

Shipping Service Packages delivered in 2020
USPS 7.3 billion
UPS 6.4 billion
Amazon 4.2 billion
FedEx 3.3 billion
DHL 1.8 billion

Tasty Shipping Tidbits

The future is electric – Amazon partnered with electric van manufacturer Rivian to produce and roll out 10,000 electric delivery vans on the road by 2022. This is just the start as the e-commerce giant promises to have 100,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030. This partnership is in line with Amazon’s goal to net zero emissions by 2040.

USPS is the king of e-commerce shipping – In 2020, which is arguably the most important year for the e-commerce industry, 54% of the top 500 online shops used USPS to ship their packages. UPS comes in a close second at 48%, while FedEx and DHL follow closely by.

USPS is trusted more than the CIA or Congress – In a RAND American Life Panel (ALP) survey, respondents were asked to rate their trust in Federal institutions. CDC ranked highest with USPS coming in at a close second. The CIA and Congress each got scores close to the middle.

Major Shipping Carriers at a Glance

Make an informed decision the next time you ship a package. We’ve collated the most important details about each shipping service so you can compare and select the one that fits your needs best.

Shipping Service USPS UPS FedEx DHL
Pricing Low High High High
Pick-up options Free For a fee For a fee Free
Drop-off options

USPS Mailboxes

USPS Kiosks,

USPS Contract Postal Units

USPS Distribution Centers

US Post Offices

UPS Access Point locations

FedEx locations


Dollar General

DHL locations

USPS collection sites

Tracking Yes Yes Yes Yes
Free insurance Free first $100 Free first $100 Free first $100 0.5% of the stated value of the product
Business discounts Yes Yes Yes Yes


Final Thoughts

Choosing a courier service isn't a mere checkbox – it's a brushstroke on the canvas of deliveries. Imagine sculpting the journey of each package, from joyous bundles to crucial supplies. The power is in your hands.

At this crossroads, it's not about the "best" choice; it's about the "right" one for you. Embrace tailored magic and find that perfect fit.

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