SurePost versus SmartPost: What Happens When Shipping Rivals Play on the Same Team

Mailbox waiting for SurePost or SmartPost

SurePost versus SmartPost: What Happens When Shipping Rivals Play on the Same Team

Once considered on opposite camps in the shipping arena, the United States Postal Service and its main shipping competitors–UPS and FedEx –joined forces. The results: UPS SurePost versus SmartPost by FedEx. Hybrids between UPS or FedEx and the Postal Service, these services work together with the USPS to maximize service and cost.

As you make the decision of whether to continue to ship in-house or outsource to a fulfillment partner, here are some things to consider:

How do UPS SurePost and FedEx SmartPost work?

With SmartPost and SurePost, packages start with FedEx or UPS and eventually go to a USPS sorting facility for delivery to the customer. Because a USPS letter carrier drives to every house in a residential area anyway, he doesn’t have to modify his route to deliver the extra packages. These efficiencies get passed along as cost savings to you, the merchant.

At a high level, SmartPost and SurePost are basically the same. Some of the benefits of both SmartPost and SurePost include:

  • Overall cost savings: SurePost and SmartPost are cheaper than UPS and FedEx Ground.
  • Saturday delivery: USPS handles Saturday delivery, so there’s no extra cost to deliver a package on Saturday with SurePost or SmartPost. UPS and FedEx add a hefty surcharge onto Saturday deliveries that go through their normal delivery.
  • No residential surcharge.
  • Delivery to P.O. boxes; normal UPS and FedEx will not.
  • You can mix SurePost and SmartPost boxes with your normal daily pickup; no special trips to the post office necessary.
  • Tracking is available with all packages delivered via SurePost or SmartPost. With a tracking number, customers can see the progress of their order, whether it’s in the hands of the ground carrier or USPS.

Clearly, UPS SurePost and FedEx SmartPost have benefits; however, these services have some drawbacks as well. The biggest complaints from companies using UPS SurePost or FedEx SmartPost—or both—is that time in transit tends to be longer than standard UPS or FedEx. Transit times can also vary quite a bit. The slower, less predictable delivery time seems to be the trade-off for the savings in cost. Also, both SurePost and SmartPost only deliver packages weighing between one and nine pounds, and deliveries are limited to the lower 48 states.

There are also some noteworthy difference between UPS SurePost and FedEx SmartPost, which may or may not affect the end result. These include the following:

When USPS gets involved:

With SurePost, UPS drops the package off at the USPS facility closest to the package’s final destination. FedEx SmartPost, on the other hand, takes it to the nearest USPS regional hub, where USPS then redistributes it to the nearest post office. According to UPS, this makes SurePost faster.

Whether USPS gets involved:

While part of the agreement with SmartPost and SurePost is that USPS will deliver the package in its final leg, it turns out this isn’t always the case. In response to demands from the UPS Teamsters, UPS created technology to determine if UPS will already be in a given delivery area. If so, the package is reserved for delivery by UPS. As such, up to 60 percent of UPS SurePost deliveries are still delivered by UPS, not USPS.

The way shipping fees are charged:

Both UPS SurePost and FedEx SmartPost tout “no residential surcharge,” which does make delivery cheaper. However, the way they reallocate these costs differs between the two shippers. Here’s how:

  • FedEx SmartPost charges the same basic rate as FedEx Ground but no residential surcharge.
  • UPS charges about 3 percent more for SurePost than standard UPS, but again, no residential surcharge.

If you are thinking of using UPS SurePost or FedEx Smartpost—or you already are—keep in mind that SurePost and SmartPost are good alternatives to traditional UPS and FedEx shipping methods if saving money is more important than speedy delivery. Make sure to communicate with your customers about what’s happening with their packages in transit and you’re sure to have the best possible end result—a safely delivered order and a satisfied shopper!

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