What Is Expedited Shipping?

What Is Expedited Shipping? Most people in our fast-paced world don’t like to wait for things. For example, when we order something online we usually want our order to arrive as soon as possible. To accommodate customers with time-sensitive shipments, most carriers offer some type of expedited shipping. What exactly is expedited shipping and how does it differ from standard shipping?

In the strict sense of the word, the term “expedited shipping” refers to a type of shipping where the carrier prioritizes shipments so that they arrive to their destination faster than when shipped via standard delivery. With expedited ground shipping, for example, trucks make fewer to no stops on their way from point A to point B. When a carrier offers expedited international shipping, shipments are delivered by air rather than by sea.

But what exactly does “faster than usual” mean? Well, it depends on what is considered usual for a particular postal or courier company’s standard shipping service. For example, standard shipping time for USPS First-Class Mail and USPS Retail Ground is 2–5 business days within the contiguous United States and up to 8 business days for items shipped to Alaska and Hawaii. This means that the United States Postal Service’s domestic expedited shipping service, Priority Mail Express, delivers in 2 days or less (depending on the destination).

In practice, each carrier has its own definition of expedited shipping. Some carriers use the terms “expedited shipping” and “express shipping” interchangeably, while others use them to refer to different levels of service: expedited shipping means that delivery takes less time than standard shipping and helps to save day or two, while express shipping refers to two-day, next-day/overnight, or even same-day delivery. The general rule of thumb: when a carrier offers both expedited and express shipping, express shipping is usually faster than expedited shipping.

So the actual delivery time when it comes to expedited shipping depends on a number of factors: how far your package needs to travel, whether it is shipped domestically or internationally (international packages may get stuck in customs even when they are delivered via expedited shipping), and whether the carrier considers expedited shipping and express shipping the same service or not.

It also should be noted that expedited delivery services usually have cutoff time: to ensure that your package arrives at its destination as soon as possible, you will need to drop it off at the carrier’s location (or arrange to have it picked up) before specific time, usually around 6 p.m., although the exact time depends on the carrier and delivery time frame.

Unlike standard shipping, expedited shipping is often available on weekends, including Sunday delivery, and sometimes even on holidays. However, different carriers have different weekend and holiday delivery policies (some charge an additional fee for weekend pickup and delivery, some work on certain major holidays while others don’t, etc.), so you should check with your carrier if you don’t want any unpleasant surprises with expedited delivery.

Delivery speed is not the only difference between standard and expedited shipping. Expedited shipping rates are always higher than standard shipping rates because the carrier has to take extra measures to speed up the delivery process. The cost of expedited delivery usually depends on the gross or dimensional weight of the parcel, as well as the level of urgency: same-day or next-day delivery is typically costlier than two-day delivery.

Of course, the cost also varies by carrier and depends on the carrier’s definition of expedited shipping. The easiest way to figure out how much expedited shipping is going to cost you is to use a shipping calculator and compare expedited delivery options offered by different carriers.

Is expedited shipping worth its cost? It depends on the situation. When your shipment is time-sensitive and urgency is your highest priority, expedited shipping is worth the money. However, if you can wait for an extra couple of days, why pay more? The best thing about modern postal and courier companies is that they offer multiple shipping services, and you can choose the optimal one depending on your situation and budget.