Shipping costs can increase when you run an online business selling shirts. It’s important to use the courier that offers you the best service. But you still need to make a profit. How can you do that and still keep postal costs low? What is the cheapest way to ship a shirt?
The cheapest way to ship shirts within the United States is via USPS. First Class Mail is the best option for single shirts weighing less than 15 ounces. Depending on the packet size and destination, costs can vary between $3 and $6. Heavier parcels containing more shirts can be sent via USPS Priority Mail. Prices start at $7.75.
In this article, you’ll find out how to get the best price for shipping your shirts. You’ll learn what couriers offer the best service and how third-party postage providers can help you save money.
How Are Shipping Costs Calculated?
Shipping costs are calculated using several factors. The main one is the carrier you are using. There are a few companies that offer a shipping service. These can be funded by the public, like USPS, for instance. Or they can be private haulage firms.
Each company sets its own postal rates. The amount they charge is determined by how much they need to cover overheads. You’ll find that private firms will have slightly higher rates due to the need to turn a profit. Particularly on smaller packages.
How far the parcel has to travel also has a bearing on shipping costs. Shipping your shirt to the next town will be cheaper than sending it across the country simply because it has fewer miles to traverse.
Then you weight the package. One shirt in a poly mailer will be cheaper to ship than several shirts in a small box. Weight makes a difference because it alters the number of packages that can be carried.
Whether you’re sending your shirt by airmail or via a truck, both have weight limits. If you’re sending a heavy package, you’ll be reducing the number of parcels the courier can ship at the same time. So expect to pay more if your parcel is heavy.
Similarly, the size of your package will impact how much you pay to ship it. This is because the overall dimensions of your parcel of shirts will take up space. The larger your box of shirts, the less chance the carrier will have to ship other items.
When it comes to shipping, space comes at a premium. Use a lot of it and you’ll be hit with higher shipping charges.
Lastly, there are actual delivery times. You’ve probably heard of expedited shipping when you’ve bought items online. This is where you can pay extra for an express delivery service, so you get your item in one or two days instead of taking a week or more to get to you.
The quicker you want the item to arrive, the more expensive it will be. The courier may have to add an extra truck to the route to accommodate your request. Doing so uses up more of their resources. So they’ll charge you more.
Shipping Couriers That Can Ship Shirts
Three major shipping companies can handle small shipments of shirts or larger bulk orders. Although they all ship items, each has a different focus or area of expertise.
One offers the best service for larger items. While another is better for express delivery. The one you choose depends on the level of service you are looking for. Let’s take a look at them in detail.
Originally known as Federal Express, FedEx is your go-to option for non-urgent but time-sensitive items and international shipping. Their main forte is overnight shipping of specialty items, including perishable food products. They also offer a service for shipping commercially sensitive documents and contracts.
FedEx prices are in the same ballpark as the other two providers on this list. They are more expensive than USPS on ground shipping but cheaper than UPS for overnight rates. Having said that, though, the difference in their charges is minimal.
You get a few perks thrown in with your shipping price. FedEx offers free tracking with all their services. Free insurance is available for all items valued at less than $100.
Better still, they have a FedEx Packing Pledge. If you ask FedEx to pack your item and it goes astray, they will cover the cost of postage and the value of the lost item up to a maximum of $100. You can increase this amount if you pay extra.
Commercial discounts can be negotiated if you run a business with a high volume of deliveries. Even if you don’t qualify for a discount, their business-to-business delivery rates are probably some of the best available.
However, FedEx isn’t the best choice if your shipping requirements are small. Or if you are shipping to a domestic address. They can work out expensive for smaller, one-off packages like single shirts.
Another slight disadvantage is, although they offer overnight service, it isn’t suitable for emergency deliveries. They let you choose when you would like the item delivered, but it’s not necessarily a quick service.
United Parcel Service, or UPS for short, is one of the world’s largest shipping companies. They specialize in larger, heavier parcels and shipping high-value items. With UPS, you can insure your package for up to $50,000.
That’s not all. UPS has a service called UPS Express Critical, which is its flagship emergency service. If your shirt needs to get where it’s going in less than 24 hours, you should send it by UPS.
Their 3-Day Express service is slightly cheaper than FedEx, however, UPS is priced higher than USPS for equivalent services.
Packing is one area where UPS shines above the other two services. They don’t just ship your item; they will also package it for you. Although FedEx also offers a packaging service, UPS uses specially trained packing experts to make sure your shirts arrive in the best condition.
If you ask a UPS Store to package your item using materials purchased at that location, your shirt’s safety is guaranteed. Better still, the UPS Store can ship it via a UPS service or a USPS service and it will still be covered.
As with FedEx, UPS isn’t necessarily the best choice for small or one-off shipments. UPS is better equipped to deal with large and bulky items. If you’re selling shirts in bulk or need one to get to the other side of the world in a day, UPS is probably your best option.
USPS stands for United States Postal Service. As the name suggests, it’s a service, not a company. UPS and FedEx are both privately run haulage firms in business to make a profit. On the other hand, USPS is part of the US Federal Government, which means US taxpayers partly fund it.
In 1775, USPS promised to provide an affordable service to all Americans. It’s a promise it still adheres to in 2022. Although shipping prices have increased since the 1700s, USPS still offers the cheapest rates for most services compared to FedEx and UPS.
As the incumbent postal provider, USPS is the only carrier legally allowed to put mail inside every mailbox in the USA. It has an enviable network of routes that cover every business and home throughout the country. Because of that, it is the best service for delivering small and lightweight parcels of less than 20 lbs.
Another benefit of USPS is that you don’t have to ship your shirt based on weight. USPS has several priority flat-rate envelopes and boxes. As long as your item fits into one of their mailers, you are charged by the dimensions of the packet rather than the item’s weight.
You’ll find that USPS also provides a cheaper solution for international shipping. Unlike UPS and FedEx, USPS isn’t restricted to using its own network of shipping routes and equipment. They partner with similar providers in other countries, like the Royal Mail in the UK, for instance.
This helps keep costs down because USPS doesn’t need a network in other countries. Once your shirt leaves US territory, they hand over delivery to the recipient country’s incumbent mail provider.
Should I Use Online Shipping Software?
Online shipping software allows you to purchase postage and shipping services on the internet. You’ll probably see this referred to as SaaS. This stands for Software as a Service.
All the major carriers have their own SaaS. It’s available for you to use via their respective websites. The online rates tend to mirror the ones available at their brick-and-mortar stores. So you won’t necessarily save money by using the internet to purchase your preferred shipping option. Not directly, anyway.
However, there are some advantages to buying stamps from the comfort of your computer screen. It removes the need for you to leave your home or office. There’s no need to stand in line waiting to be served. Nor do you need to jump in your car and drive to town. Using SaaS allows you to buy your shipping and schedule a pick-up.
All of which can save you time. You can use that time to design more shirts or work on promotional events. Or even get your admin tasks back up to date. Better still, not getting in the car will reduce your fuel costs. In the long run, this will save you money.
What Is a Third Party Postage Provider?
A third-party postage provider is a company that can provide shipping at discounted rates. Usually, they offer shipping services via USPS, but some offer discounts for UPS and FedEx. The third party is licensed by the carrier to offer the postage at a lower price.
Most third-party providers offer USPS commercial pricing rates. As well as Priority Mail services. However, even though you are getting bargain prices, using a third-party provider may not work out cheaper.
Many charge monthly fees to access cheaper shipping, making some providers expensive for low-level shipping requirements. You need to choose your provider carefully. Otherwise, you may find they are only financially viable if you ship in bulk.
I’ve put together a list of the best-known services for you. This should help you work out which provider can offer the cheapest way to ship your shirts.
Easyship is a shipping and logistics company with access to over 250 couriers across the globe. They can offer discounts on shipping costs from USPS, UPS, and FedEx.
They have different plans to suit your level of shipping needs. A free package allows a one-person team to ship 50 parcels per month, while their premiere package, at $69 per month, allows a team of 5 to send 1500 shipments.
Their online shipping calculator allows you to enter the weight of your parcel and destination. You then get a table showing a range of price options arranged by best value, cheapest, or fastest. Although the calculator is free, you will need to open an account and pick a price plan to use the service.
Parcel Monkey offers international and domestic shipping to more than 200 destinations. You can choose from USPS, FedEx, UPS, and several other global services.
With Parcel Monkey, you can compare courier prices side-by-side. Helping you to tell at a glance which option is best for shipping your shirts. As an added perk, Parcel Monkey donate to Hope For Children every time a parcel is shipped through their system.
The online portal is free to use. There are no monthly fees, so you only pay the shipping costs. However, it’s worth noting that the company is based in the UK. If you’re based in the US, this could lead to delays in problem resolutions or being able to contact customer services.
With no monthly fees or hidden costs, Pirate Ship offers USPS and UPS rates at a discount of up to 89%. You can sign up for a free account and instantly access the best rates available. Regardless of how much or how little you use the service.
There are no transaction fees or extra charges for using a credit card. The price you are quoted is the price your shirt will ship for.
One of the benefits of Pirate Ship is the ability to validate and correct addresses automatically. You can even integrate the service with top eCommerce websites like eBay, Etsy, Shopify, and WooCommerce.
Pitney Bowes is well known throughout the world as the supplier of business franking machines. A franking machine allows businesses to stamp their mail in their own post rooms rather than go to a post office and buy stamps.
Using a franking machine usually means cheaper rates per item sent by first-class mail. So if you send out a lot of individual shirts, this could be a way to get cheaper shipping. However, you do have to pay for the privilege of having one.
As they already offer cheaper postal rates, it shouldn’t be surprising to discover Pitney Bowes offers a third-party postage service. Their PitneyShip software can save you up to 89% on USPS or UPS shipping charges.
However, you must sign up and pay a monthly premium to use the service. You get a 30-day free trial, but after that, you’ll be paying $14.99 monthly. The savings you’ll make on a first-class letter amount to 3 cents per item. Like the franking machines, this option is only viable for large-volume shippers.
Shippo is more than a third-party postage provider. It’s also an API solution for eCommerce. You can integrate all of your shirt-selling platforms into Shippo. Allowing you to manage all your orders from the same place. If you have an account with a shipping provider, you can integrate that too.
They offer three different payment plans depending on the type of service you need. They have a Starter plan, a Professional plan, and the highest tier, the Premier. The Starter plan has no monthly fees or labels printing costs if you use Shippo’s carriers. But you will pay 5 cents per label if you use your own carrier accounts.
One thing to watch with Shippo is their hidden fees. Although validating a US address is free, international addresses come with an extra $0.08 fee. You also have to pay for tracking.
Designed for sellers of shirts that operate across a multitude of platforms, ShipStation can be integrated with many of the more popular shopping platforms like eBay. They offer shipping discounts with USPS, FedEx, and UPS.
However, you do have to pay to use this service. ShipStation has a selection of 6 different pricing plans. Their Starter plan is $9.99 per month and covers 50 shipments. Their most expensive plan is Enterprise which is $229.99 per month and covers a whopping 7,500 packages!
They do offer a 30-day free trial. But they have also been known to charge a postal markup fee on top of their subscription charges. Again, this option may only be viable if you send many shirts monthly.
This option is a subscription service you pay for monthly. It gives you the ability to print USPS stamps and labels at your office or in your home. The stamps you print are at a slightly lower price than you would pay at your local post office.
Currently, the subscription price is $17.99 per month plus taxes. If you sign up for a 4-week free trial, Stamps.com will give you $5 worth of free postage to use during your trial period.
This service allows integration with top marketplace solutions like eBay. So it’s possible to streamline your shipping needs to make life easier. However, Stamps.com only offers up to 40% discount on USPS shipping costs.
When you consider paying a monthly fee and additional taxes, your actual monthly bill could be $20 or more, depending on your location. That’s a high price to pay for quite a low discount.
Cheapest Way to Ship a Shirt
In most instances, the cheapest way to ship your shirt is via USPS. Particularly if you are only sending the occasional single shirt to a residential address. Small packets that weigh less than 15 ounces can often be sent by First Class Mail, making USPS the best solution for the smaller shirt-selling business.
Even if you send more than one shirt at a time, the USPS flat-rate shipping options can greatly reduce your shipping costs, especially if you can fit them into the smallest mailer available.
The next option is USPS Priority Mail. Even without a discount from a third party postage provider, prices start at around $7. Comparing that with FedEx and UPS, you’re looking at closer to $10 for the same service.
USPS can also provide a faster service for less money than UPS or FedEx. A 3-day express delivery with your local post office can be as low as $4. They have a nationwide network of postal routes. Routes that they use every day. That helps them keep their costs affordable.
The best and cheapest way of shipping a shirt is by shopping around. If you combine USPS with a third-party provider like Pirate Ship, you could save up to 89% on the cost of shipping.
Best Way to Ship Shirts Internationally
The easiest and cheapest way to ship shirts internationally is via USPS. They can tap into the postal services in other countries and use existing shipping routes to keep costs down. FedEx and UPS don’t have that option. They have to use their own routes and equipment.
USPS is fully versed in all aspects of international shipping. From customs procedures, insurance requirements, and knowing shipping restrictions. They even over the lowest price. But, and it’s a big but. They don’t follow the package from the post office to the destination. Once it leaves the USA, it’s out of their hands.
This can be an issue if something goes wrong and the parcel goes astray. Although it’s rare and most shirts get to where they are supposed to, it is possible. The more companies you have to go through to find the missing shirt, the harder it is to locate it.
This is why cheap and easy isn’t always the best way to ship a shirt internationally. Both FedEx and UPS offer international shipping. They both have facilities around the world and are known global companies.
Your shirt shipment will likely be handled by UPS or FedEx from start to finish. You may have to pay more, but at least you’ll know who to contact if the shirt ends up somewhere it shouldn’t.
At the end of the day, the best way to ship shirts internationally is via the method that gives you the best quality of service. USPS is the most economical, but if you want the same firm to handle the parcel throughout, you’ll need to choose a more expensive option.
How to Package Shirts for Cheaper Shipping
How you package your shirt can make a big difference to the shipping cost. From how you pack it to what you wrap it in. All the materials you use to mail your shirt will impact your price at the post office.
Two things make a huge difference when it comes to shipping costs. Size and weight. To benefit from cheaper shipping, you need to get your shirt as small and light as possible.
You can’t change the weight of the shirt, but you can reduce the number of items you put in the parcel with it. Instead of putting a thank you card in with your shirt, put your thanks on the paper invoice.
You can also change the packaging. Rather than putting your shirt in a bulky padded mailer, switch to a poly mailer. A poly mailer is like a floppy, plastic envelope. A bit like a plastic bag, only with a fold-over flap for sealing it. These weigh next to nothing and don’t take up a lot of space on a delivery truck.
For multiple shirts, you’ll probably need to go for a cardboard box. You need to ensure the box is big enough to fit your shirts. Don’t overdo the size. Boxes are bulky and you’ll pay a higher price for larger boxes.
If you can, go for a USPS flat-rate box. They have a couple of sizes you can use. As they are based on the box size, you can cram as many shirts as you want, especially if you get creative with folding.
Shipping shirts can be cost-effective if you choose the right method. Using a postal service offered by USPS is a great way to keep prices down, particularly for smaller packages weighing less than 20 lbs.
Another way to reduce costs is to keep your shipping materials minimum. Go for lightweight poly mailers for individual shirts. A USPS flat rate box can be the perfect solution for a package containing multiple shirts.
What shipping method do you use for your shirts? Have you found it to be the cheapest option? Let me know in the comments.