When you're mailing a letter or package and want it to get to its destination quickly, Priority Mail from the United States Postal Service is an ideal service to use. USPS also offers Priority Mail Express for quicker service.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Depending on the type of USPS Priority Mail service you select, the USPS mail delivery time is expected to be between one and three business days.
Using Standard USPS Priority Mail
If your letter or package doesn't need to arrive immediately and taking as long as three days for delivery is OK, then USPS Priority Mail is an efficient, affordable service for letters and packages weighing up to 70 pounds. The number of days for delivery depends on weight, distance and whether the destination is in or near a major city or a rural or isolated area.
For example, mailing from a city to a close-in suburb or vice versa might only take one day. Mailing to a neighboring state would likely take two days but could take three if the destination is a rural or isolated area. Mailing across the country might also take three days. The one-to-three-day delivery window is an estimate but is not guaranteed with standard USPS Priority Mail.
Restrictions and Benefits
There are some restrictions on USPS Priority Mail, such as the maximum weight of 70 pounds and a maximum combined length and girth (thickest distance around). USPS Priority Mail service comes with numerous benefits:
- Tracking is included.
- Insurance of up to $50 is included with most shipments, and you can buy more insurance.
* USPS will pick up packages from your home/office for free.
- There are no extra charges for rural or Saturday deliveries.
- Mailing envelopes (including padded envelopes) and boxes are provided for free.
- Flat-rate, regional and prepaid pricing is available, and Forever stamps — which carry the prevailing first-class rate forever — can be used on flat-rate packages.
Choosing Priority Mail Express
If your letter or package needs to arrive quicker, Priority Mail Express is another option. This is an overnight service, although mailing to certain locations such as rural and outlying areas may extend the timing to two days. You will be notified at the time of mailing if it's likely to take two days, and the one- or two-day timing is guaranteed (with a few exceptions). Priority Mail Express is significantly more expensive than standard Priority Mail, but if extra speed is important, it may be worth the price.
Priority Mail Express carries most of the same benefits as standard Priority Mail, except:
- Included insurance increases to $100, and more can be purchased.
- Overnight deliveries arrive by 12 p.m. or 3 p.m. or by 10:30 a.m. for an extra fee.
- Delivery time is guaranteed for most major markets.
- Sunday and holiday deliveries may be available for an extra fee.
- Proof of signature is included in the price if you request it at the time of mailing.
Differentiating Priority From First-Class Mail
Many people believe that Priority Mail and First-Class Mail are the same thing. Although both services estimate delivery within one to three days and neither guarantee the timing, there are actually some important differences between the two, the most significant being:
- Cost: A First-Class letter can be mailed as cheaply as the cost of one stamp, while Priority Mail prices start several dollars higher, even for a letter.
- Weight: First-Class maximum weight is 13 ounces; Priority Mail's maximum is 70 pounds.
- Delivery: First-Class mail is delivered Monday through Saturday; Priority Mail is delivered seven days per week in most locations.
Comparing Priority Mail With Other Services
Other USPS delivery services have different timing and pricing, such as:
- Retail Ground: This is often cheaper than Priority Mail, but delivery can take up to eight days. Insurance is available but not included in the pricing.
- Media Mail: Books, 16mm or narrower films, scripts, printed music, educational charts and tests, medical looseleaf pages/binders, video/sound recordings and computer-readable materials can be mailed more economically than Retail Ground, Priority Mail and First-Class Mail, with a delivery timing of two to eight days. Insurance is available but not included in the pricing.
Other companies offer similar speed and pricing options. For example, United Parcel Service offers Ground, Three-Day Select and Second-Day Air shipping as well as UPS flat-rate boxes, called UPS Simple Rate. Boxes fit into one of five pricing categories depending on their size; then, you choose the speed you need. Depending on the size, weight and destination of your shipment, it could be worth looking into how quickly UPS and other companies can deliver and at what cost.
Barbara Bean-Mellinger is a freelance writer who lives in the Washington, D.C. area. She has written on business topics for afkinsider.com, smallbusiness.chron.com, Harbor Style Magazine, the Charlotte Sun and more, as well as advertising copy and materials. Barbara holds a B.S. from the University of Pittsburgh and has won numerous awards in B2B and B2C marketing.