Shipping mails with USPS is an easy task only when you understand the difference between all the major services. When it comes to Priority mail and First class mail, which happen to be two of the most popular mailing classes offered by USPS, it is difficult to come to a precise conclusion as to which one is best. As a customer, you need to understand which mailing class offers features that work in your favor. This is especially tedious for the new shippers who have just started USPS for delivering their mails. Even if you consistently switch between First class mail and Priority mail, you need to draw a line between the First Class Mail Vs Priority Mail to help you understand their distinct features. In this guide, we will list the difference between first class and priority mail and also decide which one works best in certain scenarios.
First Class Mail Vs Priority Mail
USPS is one of the most popular mailing carriers which provides shipping solutions to almost the entire world. This is the only shipping carrier that is responsible for delivering the mails to every address on the street. As USPS is a government-owned agency, it has a wider mail delivery network that is spread far across the globe. To ensure that the mails get dispatched to every location, this agency has implemented various shipping classes which are distinct in terms of features, pricing, postage fee and so much more. Among all the shipping classes, first class mails and priority mails are widely used.
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Before jumping into the major differences between First Class Mail Vs Priority Mail, you should know what these services are and what are they famous for. So here is a little background on what first class vs priority mails are and how are they used for mail delivery mechanisms.
What Is Priority Mail USPS?
Why is it called priority mail? What do you think this mailing class is referring to? As the name implies, priority mail is considered as the highest mailing class which has the highest priority. This mailing class is the quickest of all mailing classes and also has a high package weight limit. With this service, you will receive a quick service for a higher price.
With Priority mail USPS, you can get your mails within a day or overnight as well. The speed of USPS priority mail is similar to the overnight FedEx or ups delivery. However, the only difference between FedEx, ups, and USPS is that USPS offers a significantly less price for priority mail when compared to the other two. The primary reason why USPS offers an economical price is that USPS is a federal agency that is “supposed” to deliver to every street address.
Another reason why shipping with priority mail is because of the maximum package weight offered. Mailers can send items up to 70 lbs and this applies to every priority mail package. Moving towards the overall size of the package, it should be 108 inches in total, including the length and the thickness. You can send items such as large envelopes, small and large packages within the specified size and weight.
What Is USPS First Class Package?
First class mail comes right after priority mail in terms of speed and features. The first class mail can be referred to as the second-best service among all USPS shipping classes. With first class mail, you can send lightweight letters, standard letters, thick envelopes, and also some lightweight parcels. Although letters are popularly sent through first class mails, lightweight packages such as shirts are also shipped. The maximum weight for sending letters through first class mail is 15.99 ounces. For the first class packages, the maximum weight must be 13 ounces.
Now that you have a brief idea of what first class and priority mail USPS are, let’s take a look at the difference between first class and priority mail in terms of the certain features they provide.
Difference Between First Class and Priority Mail
Due to the vast number of similarities between both these services, it is common to get them confused. The major differences between First Class Mail Vs Priority Mail services are in terms of the speed, the time it takes to deliver items, pricing for postage, size and weight restriction, etc. these are the primary restrictions that decide if the mailing class is worth selecting. Now, let’s get down to the major differences.
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First Class Mail Vs Priority Mail: Speed
One of the most important factors that determine the selection of a mailing class needs to be the time taken to deliver the items. If you’re mailing items such as perishables, medications, or any legal documents, then they must reach the destination within an appropriate time. Initially, priority mail was considered the fastest service, but ever since the latest changes have been made, the speed offered by both first class mail and priority mail is pretty much similar, with priority mail slightly higher than first class mail. For instance., if priority mail takes 1 day to deliver mails, the first class takes 2 days for making the delivery.
Remember that the speed also depends on the delivery zone. While the time taken to deliver mails as per the zone does not change for priority mail express, this is not the case for first class mail. For international delivery, priority mail takes 6-10 days and the time for first class mails is rather unspecified, i.e., it depends on the location of the destination.
First Class Mail Vs Priority Mail: Weight and Size Restrictions
Be it domestic mail or international mail, you must always be cautious of the size and weight restrictions. Unlike priority mail, first class mail has a series of size and weight restrictions for all kinds of packages(letters, envelopes, small packages) that the sender must adhere to. USPS might affix extra postage (priority mail) on your package if the size and weight restrictions have not been adhered to. For the first class letters, the weight must be within 15.99 ounces. Priority mail on the other hand has a standard weight limit over all kinds of packages(large packages, flat rate boxes, etc) which is 70 lbs.
Moving towards the size restrictions, both first class mail and priority mail follow the same restrictions, which are 108 inches in total, including the measurement of the length and girth.
First Class Mail Vs Priority Mail: Pricing
USPS has a history of changing postage prices every year. The first class vs priority mail prices keep changing often and this depends on a variety of factors. As first class mail is a cost-effective solution when compared to priority mail, it is rather preferred in terms of price. The postage price for priority mail depends on the distance whereas weight, size, and destination determine the postage for first class mail.
If priority mail is sent using specific boxes or envelopes(flat rate boxes), then there wouldn’t be many variations in terms of the price as the price is fixed for flat rate boxes. To know more about the first class and priority mail shipping rates, make sure to take a look at our articles “USPS First Class Packages” and “USPS Priority Mail”.
If you have no idea how much money you will end up spending, then you need to take a look at the USPS shipping calculator which can help do the job for you. On this calculator, you can enter all the information related to your package such as the maximum weight, size, value of the package, etc. After this, the calculator will give you an estimate of the shipping charges.
First Class Mail Vs Priority Mail: Shipping Features
Both first class vs priority mail vary in terms of the shipping features provided. Here are some of the basic differences in terms of the shipping features provided by both these mailing classes:
The Insurance coverage is the biggest difference in terms of the shipping features that set both First Class Mail Vs Priority Mail services apart. With First class mail, you do not get any insurance coverage if the mail is damaged, missing, or lost. However, the customer has the option to get insurance coverage if they are willing to pay a little extra for it. Otherwise, first class mail does not give any insurance policy for customers.
Priority mail has an upper hand over first class mail as it has a default insurance policy that covers the cost of all the items shipped via this service. Unlike first class mail, priority mail offers insurance coverage for both domestic and international services. You get $100 for domestic shipping and $200 for international shipping. If the customers need higher insurance coverage, then they can pay an extra fee for it. You can also pay for additional coverage through any third party service provider.
There is also a difference in the tracking information provided by first class mail vs priority mail. First class retail and commercial package services have the option to track mails through the USPS tracking portal. For first class postcards, letters and flats, the tracking information is not available online. The postcards, letters, and flats are eligible for other services.
Priority mail offers a standard tracking service that helps determine the current location of the mail. This delivery information includes the date, time along with the sequential order of facilities the mails have been through. The tracking portal also records the missed deliveries.
First Class Mail Vs Priority Mail: When to Use Them?
First class mails are cost-effective when compared to priority mails. For sending first class mails, the weight of the packages must be within 1 lb. You can send letters, postcards, envelopes, flats, or even bills, brochures, lightweight shirts, and jewelry can be sent with first class mail. Any item that fits into the first class packages and is lightweight is eligible to be shipped with this service.
With priority mail, you can send both large envelopes and packages that are either small or large in shape. Heavyweight items can also be shipped with priority mail. Most people tend to use priority mail for shipping shoes, books, toys, jewelry, documents, etc. Just make sure that the items are more than 1 lb and less than 70 lbs. the items must also fit in properly if you are using flat rate boxes. An added feature with priority mail USPS shipping is the free tracking and insurance coverage. You can check out our previous articles on “USPS Flat Rate Boxes” to know more about priority mail flats.
Hope the differences between First Class Mail Vs Priority Mail are now clear!!..
USPS Shipping Restrictions
Whether you are working for USPS or sending a package via USPS, you must familiarize yourself with the shipping prohibitions and restrictions it imposes on every customer. By following these shipping restrictions, you claim to abide by the rules of the shipping company and also stand your ground as a responsible customer. These restrictions were implemented into just for the safety of the customers’ but for the safety of the USPS carriers as well. Any failure to adhere to these restrictions will have a tremendous impact on you, such as imposing a hefty fine or the destruction of your package.
When an item is said to be restricted, it means that it can only be shipped upon approval by the federal and government laws of both the origin and the destination country. Once all these requirements are met, only then will you be able to ship your item through restricted delivery. You must also have the necessary documents that support the restricted delivery.
USPS Domestic Restricted Items
Some of the domestic restricted items are:
- Any sharp instruments
- Intoxicating substances
- Construction material
For more information on domestic restricted items, check out the USPS website Domestic Restrictions.
USPS International Restricted Items
The following items are internationally restricted items:
- Any medical equipment
- Lithium batteries
- Any medications or drugs
For a complete list of restricted items, check out the USPS International Restrictions Page.
When an item is said to be prohibited, then it means that the item is not applicable for being shipped, regardless of how many supporting documents you provide. These items are strictly not allowed to be shipped across the country. If any shipment contains a prohibited item, then it is immediately destroyed, as USPS has the right to do so. In case the customer does not notify USPS services about the prohibited contents in their mails, then USPS not only destroys the shipment but might also impose a hefty fine and suspend your account permanently.
Domestic Prohibited Items
Some of the prohibited items are:
International Prohibited Items
- Dry ice
- Nail polish
- Fresh fruits and veggies
- Poison, etc
USPS Restricted Delivery Locations
Sometimes, USPS does have the capability to send mail to every location in a city. It is rather surprising as USPS is a federal service that is responsible for delivering to every street address. However, USPS cannot deliver mails to certain parts of a city due to multiple reasons. In most rural areas or smaller towns, USPS services are considered “Not Accessible”. If you belong to a smaller town, then no wonder you get a “No Access to Delivery Location” status when checking for mail availability.
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In places like Jackson Hole, WY, and Davidson, NC, the mail is not delivered to the home addresses. In Davidson town, the mail delivery route is accessible to disabled citizens. Other than that, the homeowners’ association gets mail delivered to the clustered mailboxes which are located on the borders of the town.
In other places such as Jackson Hole, mail delivery is not possible due to the heavy and frequent snowfall. The only possible method to deliver mails to such places is with the help of cluster mailboxes, which again are not easily accessible.
Now to wrap things up, both first class mail vs priority mail have their own good and bad sides. If one service offers exceptional delivery speed and shipping features, it has a higher postage price, which is the case for priority mail. And if the postage price is made cost-effective, you have to compromise on the delivery speed and shipping features.
As you can see, First class mail vs priority mail are better in their own ways. You do not necessarily have to pick one and ignore the other. You can have a good balance between both based on the items you need to ship and the urgency of having the mails shipped. Before selecting a mailing class, make sure to ask yourself some questions which help decide which service would work best and save you from any possible forthcoming trouble.
Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ’s)
US Mail Priority service offers insurance of $100 for domestic mail and a $200 insurance for international services. You can request extra insurance by paying an additional fee.
With first class mails, you can send lightweight packages such as jewelry, papers, envelopes, letters, and postcards, etc. any item that follows the weight and size restrictions can be sent with first class mail.