How to Calculate Shipping for UPS & the Post Office


United Parcel Service (UPS) and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) offer online tools to help you estimate your shipping costs and time frames. Before actually taking the package to the post office or UPS store, you can estimate shipping costs and time frames from home or work.

Determine how soon the package needs to arrive. USPS offers express (overnight) and priority (two- to three-day) mail. Parcel post is for packages more than 13 ounces and offers a cheaper alternative, but can take a week to 10 days to arrive. UPS offers, to most locations, overnight, second- and third-day air, and then ground shipment, which can take more than a week to arrive.

Estimate the size and weight of the package. The dimensions of the package may be easily estimated using just a piece of paper. A standard sheet of paper is 8.5 inches by 11 inches, and this can be quite useful for a quick estimation. Weight can be a bit more difficult to estimate. The item itself may show the weight. If you can locate the item on, the product details may indicate the weight although this may not be actual weight of the item, so use common sense. Try to compare the item with other household items, such as a 5 lb. bag of sugar.

Visit the UPS and USPS websites to estimate your shipping time frames and costs (See References).

Decide if you want additional products, including additional insurance or signature confirmation. These will add to the overall cost.

Tips & Warnings

  • USPS offers flat rate express and priority envelopes and boxes. If you can fit your items in the flat rate packages, regardless of the weight, you will pay a flat fee. Using the calculator estimator will help you determine whether or not the flat rate packaging will save you money.
  • Media mail is a USPS mail category exclusively for packages of books, film, videos, and computer-readable media. Although this is a slow delivery method, the rates by weight are generally quite cheap.
  • Both UPS and USPS offer you the chance to purchase your shipping label online and then print it out. Once you have your package labeled, you can contact the provider to come and pick up your package. USPS also lets you order shipping supplies online to be delivered by your mail carrier. Some of these products are offered free of charge.

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