US Post Office Speed
February 17, 2004 11:28 PM   Subscribe

In the U.S., is Priority Mail really faster than First Class?
posted by Nikolai to Law & Government (10 answers total)
Where are you shipping from and to? How much does the package weigh?
posted by gluechunk at 11:33 PM on February 17, 2004

It depends on how far the package has to go and then of course how much it weighs. If it's more than 13 oz. first class is not an option. In my experience, first class can take up to a week or sometimes a little bit longer. Priority is usually consistentally within 2-3 days.
posted by drezdn at 12:06 AM on February 18, 2004

I blogged about this a couple of years ago, when the Wall Street Journal reported that Priority Mail often is slower than First Class. I have an excerpt in my archives, or if you're a subscriber, you can read the full article.

The summary: Priority Mail was slower than it used to be. It may have rebounded since then. First Class mail is often faster, but a huge amount of First Class mail is local so it gets delivered faster anyway.
posted by mdeatherage at 12:41 AM on February 18, 2004

In the Domestic Mail Manual, the target for Priority Mail is 2-3 days while First Class is listed as 1-3 days.

Thing is, Priority mail isn't about being faster, it's about being more flexible. First Class can only accept mailpieces up to 13 oz, while Priority mail can handle up to 70 pounds.
posted by Jeff Howard at 5:05 AM on February 18, 2004

My rule of thumb:

If it's an envelope under 13 oz, it goes first class.

If it's an envelope that absolutely has to get somewhere by x date, it goes Priority or Express.

If it's a package under 10lbs it goes Priority.

If it's a package over 10lbs it goes UPS/FedEx Ground.
posted by answergrape at 6:53 AM on February 18, 2004

No. I've never had Priority Mail get there faster than regular mail. I might just have bad luck, but at any rate, I don't trust Priority.
posted by agregoli at 8:18 AM on February 18, 2004

A postal worker (still-gruntled) once told me "Essentially Priority Mail goes in the same bag as First Class. It goes on top inside the bag, but it's still in the same bag."
posted by Vidiot at 12:08 PM on February 18, 2004

Since there is no way to track the Priority Mail package, it goes just the same as First Class - like Vidiot said - same bag.
posted by thatothrgirl at 3:10 PM on February 18, 2004

I've never sent more than a letter first class. Does it cost more than a priority envelope at $3.70?
posted by zpousman at 4:21 PM on February 18, 2004

First Class is cheaper than Priority, always. Because you can only send First Class up to 13 oz., which is $3.13 IIRC.

If it's an envelope that absolutely has to get somewhere by x date, it goes Priority or Express.

In my experience, Priority is no faster and often not very fast at all. (I ship daily for my online retail business.) I can tell you stories -- the two weeks it took to send a one pound package to New York from Seattle, etc. My record of slow delivery was exactly 6 months -- Priority Mail to me from someone else, postmarked in March and received in September.

I think Priority is just the equivalent of First Class, but they make people think that if they pay extra to send lightweight things Priority they will get some bonus. Hence, extra cash for the USPS.
posted by litlnemo at 8:09 PM on February 19, 2004

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