What is standard shipping?

Learn about standard shipping and how it compares to express, ground, and international shipping as well as delivery times in this 2023 guide.

You won’t find an option for standard shipping on a carrier’s website, but you will find at least one option, and possibly more, for ground shipping. That’s because the terms “standard shipping” and “ground shipping” are more or less interchangeable. You see, there was a time when the majority of domestic parcel shipping moved via truck or train. That changed with the invention of the airplane. As planes became larger and capable of carrying heavy loads, a new, faster shipping option was created, which changed customer expectations. Generally speaking, air shipments are now considered “express” and ground shipments are designated “standard.”

In this article, we’ll discuss how standard shipping works, and answer questions including:

How does standard shipping work?

First of all, we need to answer the question, “what is standard shipping?” In ecommerce, standard shipping is usually the default shipping option for customer orders. The reason? Ground shipping has many advantages. It is more affordable than express shipping, accommodates a wider range of package sizes, shapes and weights than flat rate shipping, and may be the only way to ship items that are considered hazardous. You can also use your own packaging with standard shipping, which provides the opportunity to give customers a more personalized, branded experience.

The steps for sending a parcel via standard shipping are as follows:

  1. Pick the item or items in the customer order.
  2. Select a package that the order will fit into.
  3. Pack the items in the box, adding cushioning if needed, and seal the box.
  4. Weigh and measure the package.
  5. Select a carrier and affix a shipping label. Certain items considered hazardous materials may also require a label on the package.
  6. Arrange for pickup or deliver to the post office or carrier location.

Although standard shipping is usually the most economical choice, it can also be the slowest—especially for packages traveling long distances. For that reason, it’s important to provide a clear shipping policy to ensure that customers know the full costs and delivery times.  Because some customers demand faster delivery, it also makes sense to offer them the choice of other shipping options when possible.

How long does standard shipping take?

Packages sent via standard shipping methods usually travel by ground transportation, so the standard shipping time can vary a great deal based on distance. Shipments to nearby zones may arrive in 1-2 days, while those to more distant zones may take several days. Here we’ll summarize the standard shipping options offered by each of the major carriers and provide estimates of how long standard shipping takes.


USPS Ground Advantage is a new ground shipment service introduced in 2023; it replaces the USPS Retail Ground, Parcel Select Ground, and First-Class Package services. Rates are based on distance and weight, with a maximum weight of 70 lbs. Packages are delivered to addresses throughout the U.S. in 2-5 business days, Monday – Saturday, and insured for up to $100 in value. Tracking is included free of charge.


Packages shipped via UPS Ground arrive in 1-5 business days, and Saturday delivery is standard to most residential addresses in the U.S. Packages can weigh up to 150 lbs. and may not exceed 108 inches in length. Rates include tracking and $100 declared value coverage.


FedEx Ground delivers to commercial addresses: FedEx Home Delivery delivers to residential addresses. Both services deliver in 1-5 business days in the lower 48 states, and within 3-7 business days in Alaska and Hawaii. Service to Canada is also available. Packages can be up to 150 lbs., 108" in length, and 165" in length plus girth.

Standard shipping vs. express shipping

There are many differences between standard shipping and express shipping, but the most important may be that standard shipping is generally used to deliver non-urgent items, while express shipping is used for more time-sensitive deliveries, such as perishables or emergency supplies. Express shipping is also often the choice of customers who want to receive their purchases as quickly as possible.

Standard shipping prices are significantly lower but the delivery window is longer, and carriers don’t guarantee delivery on a specific date or by a specific time. That said, there are many items that can only be shipped via ground services. For example, USPS will only allow shipment of items that contain alcohol, such as sanitizers, sanitizing wipes, perfumes and some nail polishes via USPS Ground Advantage.

Feature comparison: Standard vs express shipping

Standard Shipping

Express Shipping





Not time-definite

Date and time definite



Yes (for most options)




Primary transport mode




Hazardous materials allowed (label required)

Some hazardous materials restricted or prohibited

Standard shipping vs. ground shipping

Standard shipping and ground shipping are largely equivalent. However, when shipping to Hawaii, Puerto Rico or international locations, standard shipment will involve air transport.

Standard shipping vs. international shipping

When shipping internationally, you also have the choice between express and standard shipping services. Unlike domestic shipping, most international shipments travel by air.

When considering standard shipping vs. international shipping, it’s important to know that standard international shipping usually delivers within 2-10 days, while express international shipments are usually delivered in 1-2 days.

Comparison of standard international shipping services


Delivery Commitment

Maximum size/weight


Delivery Area


Priority Mail International

6-10 business days

Up to 70 lbs

Flat rates from $30.35

By weight, prices vary by destination country price group, starting at $42.10

More than 180 countries worldwide


UPS Standard

Guaranteed delivery to all Canadian provinces within 2-7 business days.

Guaranteed delivery to all of Mexico within 4-8 business days.

Up to 150lbs.

Minimum for heavier packages $147.06 (Canada)

$334.07 (Mexico)

To Canada: from $23.07

To Mexico: from $62.72

Canada and Mexico

UPS Worldwide Saver

Guaranteed delivery to

Canada – next business day

Mexico – next business day (documents only)

Europe & Latin America – 2 days

Asia – 2-3 days

Up to 150lbs.

Minimum for heavier packages $1,030.75

From $94.71 for a 1lb. package

More than 220 countries and territories worldwide


FedEx International Ground

Time-definite delivery in 2-7 international business days

Up to 150 lbs.

Up to 108" in length, <130" in length plus girth

From $24.03


FedEx International Economy

Time-definite delivery typically in 2-5 business days

Up to 150 lbs.

Up to 108" in length, <130" in length plus girth

Varies with weight, size and distance.

Cost to ship a 1lb. package from NYC to Mexico City: $121.61

More than 215 countries and territories worldwide

UPS standard shipping rates and times

Although its cost to ship a 5 lb. package across the country is slightly higher than the competition, UPS standard shipping time is fast. The company states that most UPS Ground packages are delivered in three days or less.


Delivery Commitment


Delivery Area

UPS Ground

1-5 days

$23.38 to ship a 5 lb. package from NY to LA

All 50 states and Puerto Rico

USPS standard shipping rates and times

USPS standard shipping offers the lowest rates, Saturday delivery at no extra charge, and the broadest delivery area of the three major carriers. However, USPS standard shipping time may be slightly slower than competitive services.


Delivery Commitment


Delivery Area

USPS Ground Advantage

2-5 days

$20.50 to ship a 5 lb. package from NY to LA

All 50 states, PO boxes, U.S. military bases, territories, possessions, and Freely Associated States

FedEx standard shipping rates and times

FedEx standard shipping rates and times are both competitive. Unlike the other carriers, FedEx has separate ground shipping services for business and residential addresses. FedEx Ground delivers to residences every day of the week, and to business Monday through Friday, with Saturday delivery available for an additional charge.


Delivery Commitment


Delivery Area

FedEx Ground

1-5 days

$22.46 to ship a 5 lb. package from NY to LA

Commercial addresses in all 50 states

FedEx Home Delivery

1-5 days

$22.46 to ship a 5 lb. package from NY to LA

Residential addresses in all 50 states

How can you prepare to save on shipping and mailing in 2023?

Whether you choose express or standard shipping, you want to know the total cost up front, so there are no surprises for you or your customer. This is especially true when shipping across borders. Pitney Bowes shipping software makes it easy to see all available options from multiple carriers; it also tells you about any surcharges and fees so you can make smart shipping decisions every time. For example, you’ll be able to see the times when an economical ground shipment will arrive as soon as a much more expensive express shipment. And that’s not all. With Pitney Bowes shipping software the benefits keep on coming— including access to the deepest discounts available anywhere, unmatched visibility into your shipping spend and the ability to set rules and add users and locations with ease.