Courier vs Postal Service - Which Is Best?

Posted on: November 1, 2020

Receiving and sending packages is now an essential part of our lives. But as we rely more and more on shipping for our businesses and day-to-day lives, it’s important to know the differences between sending via courier vs postal service.

Choosing between a courier or the postal service can be difficult. At a glance, both of them seem to do the same thing, so what are the differences between the services they offer?

courier delivering package to woman

What is a Courier Service?

A courier service is usually a private company that helps you ship parcels and/or documents. Courier services can specialize in specific types of shipping and cover certain destinations (for example, providing same-day light parcel shipping within a region) or they can provide a wide variety of shipping services and ship to worldwide destinations.

Examples of courier services: FedEx, UPS, DHL, Purolator, Canpar

Courier services often include:

  • Time-sensitive shipping - Many courier services strive to deliver your goods within short time frames (same-day shipping, overnight shipping, 1 - 3 business days, etc) and within certain hours during the day (8 - 10 AM, before 3 PM, etc)
  • Speedy local shipments - Courier services often deliver light parcels and documents during the same day within the limits of a certain region, such as a city or a metropolitan area.
  • International shipping - Most couriers service multiple countries, so they have the infrastructure to ship internationally. Their services may include real-time tracking, tax and duty handling, and package insurance.
postal worker delivering mail to home

What is a Postal Service?

Postal services are shipping companies that are usually operated by the state. They can be used to deliver parcels and important documents, but most people use them to send non-urgent packages or routine communications.

Postal services often include:

  • Time-sensitive shipping - Some postal services may offer time-sensitive shipping services. However, they may charge a tax to deliver your packages within 1 - 3 business days. Most postal services do not offer same-day or overnight shipping.
  • International shipping - Postal services ship internationally. They collaborate with postal services from other countries to deliver your packages to their destination.

What Are The Main Differences Between a Courier and a Postal Service?

Even though they might seem similar, couriers and postal services offer different services and often price their services differently.

Pick-up and Delivery

Couriers offer free pick-ups. Someone comes to the designated location and picks up the parcel or document you want to ship.

Most postal services do not offer free pick-ups. You have to go to the nearest post office to ship your parcel or documents. Some postal services offer pick-ups, but they charge an extra tax for them.

Delivery Speed

Most couriers deliver your parcels or documents faster than the post office. They also offer time-specific deliveries.

Postal services do not offer time-specific deliveries. Their delivery speeds can also vary wildly, depending on how busy they are. For example, during the COVID-19 outbreak in March, some parcels were backlogged for more than 10 days.

Local Coverage

Both courier services and the postal service ship across Canada. However, couriers may charge a residential delivery tax, whereas the postal service does not.

International Shipping

Most couriers use their own fleet to deliver your package to international destinations, so they can guarantee swift delivery times.

Postal services collaborate with other postal services available in the recipient’s country to deliver the packages. As a result, your international shipment may spend a lot of time in transit.

Volume Shipping

Most volume shippers use couriers to fulfill their shipping. Postal services may not offer options for volume shipping, or may offer only highly expensive options.

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