What Is Standard Shipping?

What Is Standard Shipping? Shipping terms can get a little bit confusing, especially if you don’t deal with shipping very often. For example, shipping carriers and online stores often use the term “standard shipping”, but what exactly does it mean? What kind of delivery is regarded as standard and how are other shipping methods different from standard shipping?

As a rule, the term “standard shipping” is used to describe the cheapest shipping service offered by a postal or courier company, or the default shipping option in an online store. Its synonyms include regular shipping, economy shipping, budget shipping, basic shipping, and ground shipping. Standard shipping is the most affordable shipping option, but it is also the slowest one. More often than not, standard shipping does not offer a guaranteed delivery time.

Standard delivery is usually contrasted with several other shipping options:

Flat-rate shipping. Flat-rate shipping is often mistakenly referred to as standard shipping because of it standardized approach to pricing. Flat-rate shipping is a pricing model where you pay a fixed price for your package regardless of its weight and destination; this price is determined by the size of the flat rate box or envelope that your shipment fits into. With standard shipping, the shipping cost will fluctuate depending on the dimensional weight of the package, its shape, destination, and sometimes also other factors. Flat-rate shipping is valued for its predictability, while standard shipping offers greater flexibility.

Expedited shipping / express shipping. Expedited shipping, also known as express shipping, is a shipping option that offers faster delivery than standard shipping and often has a guaranteed delivery time. Of course, express shipping is also significantly more expensive than standard shipping, especially if we’re talking about same-day shipping or overnight delivery.

USPS Standard Shipping Options

The standard shipping options offered by the United States Postal Services are First-Class Mail and Ground Advantage for domestic shipments, and First-Class Mail International, First-Class Package International Service and Priority Mail International for international shipments. Here’s a quick breakdown of all standard shipping options offered by the USPS:

  • First-Class Mail: domestic service for postcards, letters in small envelopes, and large envelopes. Delivery in 1–5 business days. Prices* starting at $0.51 for postcards, $0.66 for letter envelopes under 3.5 oz, $1.35 for large envelopes under 13 oz.
  • USPS Ground Advantage: domestic service for packages under 70 lbs. Delivery in 2–5 business days. Prices* starting at $4.75.
  • First-Class Mail International: international service for envelopes under 1 lb. Delivery time not specified (varies by destination). Prices* starting at $3.00.
  • First-Class Package International Service: international service for large envelopes over 1 lb and small packages under 4 lbs. Delivery time not specified (varies by destination). Prices* starting at $15.75.
  • Priority Mail International: international service for low-value packages over 4 lbs. Delivery in 6–10 business days. Prices* starting at $30.35.

* Prices as of December 2023.

UPS Standard Shipping Options

UPS has two standard shipping services: one for domestic shipments and one for international shipments.

  • UPS Ground: domestic service for packages up to 150 lbs and 108 inches long. Delivery in 1–5 business days in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Prices* starting at $13.70.
  • UPS Worldwide Economy: international service for low-weight, low-value shipments. Delivery in 5–12 business days. Available on a contractual basis only.

* Prices as of December 2023.

The main advantages of standard shipping for individual customers and businesses are affordable shipping rates, a reliable and consistent delivery schedule for domestic standard shipping, and sustainability (since standard shipping uses ground shipping methods it has a lower carbon footprint than express shipping that utilizes air freight). In addition, standard shipping is the best (and sometimes the only) shipping option when you need to ship items that cannot be delivered by air.

Of course, standard shipping has its downsides as well, the main one being slower delivery times: when you have an urgent shipment, you’ll have to pay extra for expedited shipping if you want it delivered as fast as possible. Another downside to standard shipping is that some standard shipping services have limited tracking capabilities and insurance coverage, although it depends on the service.