Consider expedited shipping the cheetah of the transport world. In more exact terms, expedited shipping is a delivery method that ensures goods will arrive at a destination faster than standard shipping options. For this added service, either the shipper or the customer usually has to pay a much higher shipping fee. Expedited shipping used to be seen almost exclusively as the main resort to fall back on if you were in a desperate situation — for instance, if a key piece of equipment has a severely damaged part, you must have a replacement delivered as soon as possible to avoid bringing production to a halt for a prolonged period.


But that has changed since the boom of e-commerce. Same-day delivery, next-day delivery, and guaranteed delivery within a certain short amount of days are now regular occurrences in the shipping business. The products being shipped post haste often fall into the nonessential category. These shipments are based on the customer’s desire to have the product as soon as possible. While the speed and the guarantee of the product arriving before a certain time or day are very appealing benefits, they may be quite costly for some businesses.     

Understanding Expedited Shipping

For comparison, let’s take a moment to understand standard shipping. While still used for many forms of shipping, standard shipping takes anywhere from 3 to 10 business days. It is the least expensive form of shipping. Now, let’s look at the types of expedited shipping that are out there and then compare the costs of each type:

Express Shipping

This can get tricky because some shippers, carriers, and retail outlets see “express” and “expedited” as interchangeable. To others, “express” means the fastest form of shipping — often meaning next-day or two-day shipping — and “expedited” means faster than standard. Domestic express shipping is expected to be to the customer within a business day or two. International express shipping usually means within three to five business days.

Next-Day Shipping

This delivery type,  also often referred to as one-day or overnight shipping, refers to expedited shipping that takes a maximum of one day. With next-day shipping, packages must be dropped off/picked up by the logistic companies’ cut-off time, usually around 6 p.m. This allows employees enough time to sort and load the packages before transporting them overnight to get to their destination the next day. 

Two-Day Shipping

Standard shipping is the usual method for most businesses, and then they will offer quicker versions. But some will offer two-day delivery on all of their orders. In this case, most retailers count shipping time based on when the order is shipped, not when it is placed. Offering two-day shipping often helps businesses stay ahead of the competition and garner better customer reviews.

Costs of Expedited Shipping

The costs of expedited shipping depend on a number of variables, but one thing is for sure, the price will be higher depending on the speed of the delivery guarantee. Among the factors figured into the cost are: 

  • The carrier or service used
  • The distance the shipment must travel (from one region to another)  
  • The type of product
  • The weight
  • The dimensions
  • The date and time you are shipping
  • The period you are shipping in (peak period will add cost)


Depending on those variables and the type of expedited shipping, prices can range from around $20 to over $200 or more. Some online stores will have a form of expedited shipping included as part of their membership programs.

Tips for Choosing the Right Expedited Shipping Service 

As you can imagine, there are quite a few ways to go when it comes to expedited shipping services. Your choice might be somewhat reduced if you have just one factor that is way more important than the others, but, in general, you will need to take into consideration other factors.

Delivery Time

This is probably the most important reason you are choosing expedited shipping. You need to not only make sure it is the right type (next-day, 2-day, etc.) but that you know exactly what the terms for each type are being offered by each company. For instance, what time does the product need to be ready for delivery, and what timeframe will it reach its final destination? Each company will have its own delivery time deadlines, especially if they are a time zone or two away from you. 

Research Different Companies

When time is just one of your concerns, it can be quite beneficial to take a very close look at each of the different companies and compare their costs, delivery times, and other services. Here are a few of the companies that offer expedited shopping:


  • U.S. Postal Service: Priority Mail Express is the most popular USPS option. Commercial packages under 70 pounds ship overnight through Priority Mail Express starting at $23.75. For an additional charge, there is also an option that assures delivery by 10:30 a.m. the next day.
  • UPS: This company offers same-, next-, two-, and three-day shipping guarantees. The standard UPS ground option can take up to five business days to deliver. UPS is usually more expensive than USPS for smaller packages but can be a better option for larger, heavier packages. For international shipping of small packages, UPS offers fast, guaranteed deliveries to more than 220 countries.
  • FedEx: There are several ways to ship expedited orders with FedEx, depending on package size, destination, and urgency. Among the options are FedEx Express Same Day and FedEx Express Saver (a three-day shipping option). There are also freight-specific services. The FedEx service prices, which recently went up, start at $21.03.

Consider Your Shipping Volume 

Like with regular shipping, carriers often offer expedited bulk discounts to companies with high shipment volumes. When negotiating with a company, make sure you know your average shipping volume. If the expected volume you are shipping reaches a certain limit, you can use that as leverage in looking for lower rates.

Packaging Tips for Expedited Shipping

Certain packaging characteristics can affect the rates of an expedited item. That is why it is crucial to use packaging that doesn’t affect weight or dimensions to too great of an extent. Let’s take a look at some tips that can help with lowering the cost of expedited shipping:

Choose the Right Box

With weight and dimensions being two of the most significant factors in the cost of expedited shipping, finding the box that fits your product the best can provide a twofold way to cut costs. Too large of a box and you are not only paying for the weight of the box but also the weight of the extra packaging materials that will help keep the product safe. Furthermore, the bigger box can mean its dimensions exceed classification limits and will cost more money. That is the fine line you want to walk: Find the smallest possible box that will hold the product while trying to ensure there is just enough room to secure the product with packing materials. An added bonus is that you are helping save the planet a little bit because you are not wasting the extra resources of a too-large box and conserving on the packaging as well.

Use Adequate Padding

While reducing your packaging has its benefits, it is important to remember to use enough to ensure the shipped goods will arrive safely and in good condition. There are plenty of types of filler padding you can use: 

  • Paper: This is the simplest resource to use in packaging. Old newspapers, crinkle-cut paper, or tissue paper make excellent fillers. Not only is paper affordable and easy to use, but employing it is also a good way to reuse a valuable resource.
  • Bubble wrap: While bubble wrap used to be one of the most popular forms of packaging material, it has lost some of its popularity to more sustainable options. It is ideal for safeguarding fragile items and can easily be used in many different types of packaging. 
  • Poly bags: Looking like clear plastic bags, poly bags are ideal for wrapping clothing apparel that needs a thin level of protection but is not too fragile when being transported.  
  • Packing peanuts: They have been around quite a while, but packing peanuts have changed. The newer packing peanuts are often made from recycled materials or corn starch. However, these peanuts tend to weigh more—which can be a concern with expedited shipping.
  • Foam: Foam is best for protecting delicate items, such as glassware, plates, and artwork. Foam can come in many sizes and shapes, from sheets to inserts to expanding foam that can better hold a product in place. 
  • Air pillows: Used to brace products while in the box, air pillows have become very popular. They require a machine to inflate them, but they can be custom sized.


Use the Right Labels

If done correctly, labels are another way to make it easier on the handlers and the package is more likely to suffer less stress. With all the correct information on the label, it’s more difficult for a package to wind up in the wrong place. A product delivered to the wrong address likely means the expedited shipping deadline will have passed before it reaches the correct address, resulting in an unhappy customer on the other end.

Make Expedited Shipping a Breeze With the Help of Zengistics

Expedited shipping is certainly going through some prosperous times in these days of “wanting something shipped faster.” No longer is it just the domain of those who “need it here tomorrow to hold off a catastrophe.” It can be a complicated world with so many types of shipping and companies that do the shipping that it can make the head spin. So having a logistics partner that specializes in expedited shipping can be your way out.


Zengistics provides data-driven solutions, first-class communication, and maximum efficiency to help you quickly chop your way through the expedited shipping jungle. Ready to have one of the best in the 3PL business help you find your way? Visit our website to get a freight quote or take a free virtual demo test drive.