While most shippers compare priority mail to parcel post by the difference in cost and in shipping time, there are more significant differences to consider. Both types of mail are handled and sorted with care, but the extra cost associated with priority mail gets you service and packaging products not included with the cost of parcel post mail.
Delivery time is the first thing that comes to mind when comparing parcel post and priority mail. Service standards for priority mail are for 2-day delivery nationwide, and 1-day delivery to addresses in the local bulk mail center. Parcel post delivery times range from 5 to 7 days nationwide, with 3-day delivery within the local bulk mail center.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) determines shipping cost through a combination of package weight and shipping distance for both priority mail and parcel post. The heavier a package is and the further it has to travel, the greater the shipping cost. Surprisingly, the difference between priority mail and parcel post is just pennies at times.
Return and Forwarding Service
What if your package is not deliverable as addressed? We all think we have the correct address on our packages, but every day the USPS handles tens of thousands of packages that are undeliverable.
When you ship your package by priority mail, the cost of forwarding the package to the addressee's new home or returning the package to you is included in the price you pay when you mail it. The lower price paid for parcel post service does not include forwarding or return service. When you parcel post package is forwarded or returned, the USPS will collect postage for that service.
The USPS provides envelopes, boxes, mailing labels and tape free of charge to customers using priority mail. The expense of packaging products adds up quickly. Boxes and rolls of packaging tape purchased at retail outlets can cost upwards of $3.00.
The USPS is vigilant when it comes to the use of its packaging products. Mailers who attempt to use priority mail packaging for their parcel post shipments will have their items returned to them postage due.
Flat-Rate Priority Mail
The concept of flat-rate boxes and envelopes is simple: it's one price to ship that size envelope or box anywhere in the United States, regardless of weight or destination. While flat rates have simplified priority mail, customers should be aware that any package over 16 oz. must be handed to a postal employee as a security measure.
Flat-rate priority mail prices for 2009 are as follows:
Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelope - $4.95
Priority Mail Small Flat Rate Box - $4.95
Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate Box - $10.35
Priority Mail Large Flat Rate Box (domestic addresses) - $13.95
Priority Mail Large Flat Rate Box (APO / FPO destinations) - $11.95