What Is Free Ground Shipping?

by Ashley Adams-Mott ; Updated September 26, 2017
Many consumers receive packages sent with free ground shipping.

Free ground shipping is offered by many e-commerce sites as an incentive for the buyer. Many sites offer free shipping as a service after a single order has crossed a certain dollar threshold. The United States Postal Service, UPS, and FedEx all offer domestic ground shipping options that are used by many sites, business and average consumers. These ground options are typically chosen by companies offering free shipping promotions on their websites.

Ground Shipping

After an item is ordered, the shipper packages it for mailing and affixes ground shipping postage either in a mailing unit operated by the business or at a retail shipping counter. The item is picked up by an authorized carrier for the shipping service or dropped off at a mailing center. At the end of the business day for the shipping center, the package is sent via truck to a larger facility where it is sorted based on its destination. After the sorting, all ground shipments leave via truck and travel to another sorting facility closer to the package destination.

UPS Ground Shipping

E-commerce sites and businesses with higher price points commonly use UPS ground shipping after an order reaches a certain point, such as orders of $50 or more. This is because UPS ground shipping is a guaranteed service for packages, meaning companies know in advance the exact date when their package will arrive at the home of a recipient. This type of date-specific service is only offered through UPS and FedEx with ground shipments.

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FedEx Ground

FedEx offers a business delivery service via ground shipment. This service provides day-definite delivery. Businesses offering free ground shipping to other businesses prefer to use services which provide them with a definitive delivery date to tell the recipient. The one-day to five-day delivery window of FedEx business ground does.

FedEx Home Delivery

FedEx home delivery is a service used when a website provides free ground shipping. This service is very similar to business ground but with a purely residential focus. Home delivery offers one-day to five-day business delivery between 9:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. The delivery is day-specific and can accommodate packages up to 70 pounds.

USPS Parcel Post

The USPS does not have a specific service labeled for ground shipping, but the USPS service parcel post is typically considered a ground service because of the wide two-day to eight-day delivery window quoted by USPS for most locations. Many packages shipped via direct mail companies with free ground shipping use USPS parcel post. Products offered as free trials with free ground shipping and money back guarantees are commonly sent via parcel post. Smaller e-commerce businesses that offer free shipping use parcel post over priority mail to reduce expenses in many cases.

USPS Media Mail

USPS media mail is a parcel service and is also commonly referred to as a ground shipping method despite being not being specifically labeled as one. Like parcel post, media mail has a wide delivery window of two to eight days and does not receive the preferential handling priority mail and express mail services do. Many companies and publishing houses that ship books to customers, in particular free trial books with free shipping, use media mail.

About the Author

Ashley Mott has 12 years of small business management experience and a BSBA in accounting from Columbia. She is a full-time government and public safety reporter for Gannett.

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