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Choosing eBay Shipping Options

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Selling an item on eBay is relatively easy; shipping it out safely (and without costing an arm and a leg) can be much harder. In this article, Michael Miller, author of Teach Yourself eBay in 10 Minutes, shows you how to choose eBay shipping options — and make shipping a less painful experience.
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What’s the best way to ship the items you sell on eBay?

eBay partners with three major carriers—the United States Postal Service, UPS, and FedEx—to offer shipping services integrated with the eBay site. Choose to ship via one of these carriers, and you easily add shipping costs and info to your eBay listings, as well as print prepaid shipping labels from your own computer.

But which of these three carriers is the best for your needs? It pays to know your shipping options upfront, before you create your item listing.

What Shipping Services Are Available Through eBay?

While you can ship your eBay orders via any service you like, three major carriers have integrated their services into the eBay marketplace. This makes these companies the shipping services of choice—at least partly because they’re so easy to use with your eBay listings.

What shipping services are available through eBay? It’s the big three—United States Postal Service (USPS), United Parcel Service (UPS), and FedEx. You can easily offer any of these three carriers as options when creating an eBay item listing, as well as print pre-paid shipping labels from within eBay when it’s time to ship those items you sell.

Let’s take a look at what each carrier offers.


The U.S. Postal Service does more than just deliver letters. The Postal Service is actually one of the biggest shipping services for retailers and eBay sellers, in part due to its convenience. (You always have a post office nearby!) The Postal Service also offers free boxes and other shipping supplies for several of its shipping services, as well as a Shipping Calculator on the eBay site for quickly determining shipping costs for the items you offer for sale.

There are several USPS services you can use to ship your eBay items. The following services are well-integrated into the eBay machine:

  • First-Class Mail. This is the Postal Service’s best-known service, and a good option if your item fits into an envelope or small package. It also provides the benefit of shipping directly from your mailbox, without necessitating a trip to the post office—assuming that you can figure out the correct postage in advance, that is. Delivery is typically three days or less.
  • Priority Mail. This is the preferred shipping method for many experienced auction sellers, as it offers a good trade-off between delivery speed (2-3 days) and cost. There’s also the advantage of getting a flat rate on small packages shipped in one of their flat-rate boxes or envelopes; this makes it easier to calculate shipping charges upfront—it doesn’t matter where the buyer lives, the price is the same. (Those boxes and envelopes are also free, which can save you lots of money.)
  • Parcel Post. This used to be known as the “slow” USPS service for larger packages, but it has gotten faster of late—and it’s priced lower than Priority Mail. Still, shipping something Parcel Post from coast to coast might take seven to nine days, as opposed to Priority Mail’s two or three days.
  • Media Mail. This is what USPS used to call “book rate;” it can be used to ship books, DVDs, videotapes, compact discs, and other printed and prerecorded media. The rates are much cheaper than those for Priority Mail, although delivery is typically in the Parcel Post range—seven to nine days. Still, this is a good, low-cost way to ship many popular items; the cost for shipping a typical hardcover across the country is less than half what you’ll pay for Priority Mail.
  • Express Mail. This is the USPS’s fastest service, offering guaranteed next-day delivery 365 days a year, including weekends and holidays. Merchandise is automatically insured up to $100. Express Mail is considerably more expensive than other USPS services.

The USPS also offers two options for international shipping:

  • Priority Mail International. The international version of Priority Mail, with various flat-rate shipping options, free shipping boxes, and relatively quick shipping to most countries.
  • Express Mail International. The Postal Service’s fastest international shipping service, but a bit pricey for most eBay sellers.

You can find out more about USPS shipping at the USPS website, or at eBay’s USPS Shipping Zone.


UPS is a good option for shipping larger or heavier packages but can be a little costly for smaller items. UPS offers various shipping options through eBay, including the following:

  • UPS Ground. The lowest-cost option, and a good choice for medium- to large-sized packages. Delivers within five business days.
  • UPS 3-Day Select. Costs more than UPS Ground, but delivers within three business days.
  • UPS 2nd Day Air. An even more costly option that delivers within two business days.
  • UPS Next Day Air Saver. Too expensive for most eBay sellers, unless the buyer pays expedited shipping costs. Gets your package there the next day.
  • UPS Next Day Air. UPS’ most costly option, too expensive for most eBay sellers. Delivers most packages by 10 a.m. the next day.

UPS also offers several international shipping options through eBay, including the following:

  • UPS Worldwide Express Plus. The most expensive option that delivers by 9 a.m. within one to three business days.
  • UPS Worldwide Express. Delivers by noon within one to three business days.
  • UPS Worldwide Saver. Delivers by the end of day within one to three business days.
  • UPS Worldwide Expedited. A lower-cost option that delivers within two to five business days.
  • UPS Standard to Canada. A low-cost option for shipping to Canada only.

When considering UPS for your eBay items, know that the company offers substantial discounts for eBay sellers. The UPS Special Pricing Program for eBay Sellers (imaginative title, isn’t it?) offers discounts up to 23 percent for UPS Ground, 25 percent for international shipments, and 32 percent for Air shipments. (Discounts are even higher for eBay PowerSellers.)

You can find out more about UPS shipping at the UPS website, or at eBay’s UPS Shipping Zone.


FedEx is the newest shipping supplier for eBay, having just been integrated in February. It’s a good choice for various types of packages—not only for the expedited service for which it’s well known.

FedEx offers several different shipping services to eBay sellers:

  • FedEx Ground/FedEx Home Delivery. This is a terrific choice when you’re shipping larger items. It’s designed for bigger and/or heavier packages, and its rates are well below similar services offered by the Postal Service and UPS. For example, I use FedEx Ground to ship DVD players and various audio equipment, and it’s extremely cost-effective—several dollars cheaper than USPS Priority Mail. Most packages get there within five days. Use the Home Delivery option when delivering to a buyer’s home address.
  • FedEx Express Saver. Delivers most packages in one to three days. A good option for smaller items that need faster delivery.
  • FedEx 2Day. Delivers most packages in one to three days. A little pricy for most eBay sellers, unless the buyer pays for expedited shipping.
  • FedEx Standard Overnight. FedEx’s next-day shipping service, probably too expensive for most eBay sellers.
  • FedEx Priority Overnight. FedEx’s fastest (and priciest) domestic shipping services, gets packages to their recipients by 10:30 a.m. the next day. Probably too expensive for most eBay sellers.

FedEx also offers the following international shipping services to eBay sellers:

  • FedEx International Priority. FedEx’s fastest (and most expensive) international shipping option, with one to three day shipping. Probably too expensive for most eBay sellers.
  • FedEx International Economy. A lower-priced international shipping option, with most shipments arriving in five business days.
  • FedEx International Ground to Canada. For shipments to Canada only, with relatively fast shipping (two to seven business days) at a reasonable cost.

You can find out more about FedEx shipping at the FedEx website, or at eBay’s FedEx Shipping Zone.

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