Overnight Shipping: Comparing Services, Speeds, and Expenses
Review our comparison of the top shipping services offering overnight shipping to help you pick the best delivery option for your business.
Efficiently manage your drivers and next-day deliveries with Circuit for Teams.
As more consumers purchase goods online, the race to get deliveries out the door and into their hands is intensifying. Keep up with the future of eCommerce by offering expedited delivery methods.
With this guide, I’ll tell you all you need to know about overnight shipping. Read on to learn why it’s important to offer this service to your customers, the meaning of different overnight shipping terms, and which types the top shipping services offer.
- Major carriers offering overnight shipping services include FedEx, UPS, USPS, and DHL.
- Some offer international overnight shipping and next-day delivery to certain countries.
- Offering next-day delivery can be costly but can also greatly impact the customer experience in a beneficial way.
- Circuit for Teams can give your business a leg up over others offering overnight shipping with additional ways to satisfy customers.
Why offer overnight shipping?
Next-day delivery is critical for making your customers happy.
Customers want their time-sensitive packages fast — in many cases, either on the same day or the next day.
According to Business Wire, three-quarters of online shoppers expect companies to offer free two-day shipping, and 61% expect free same-day shipping.
Not only is offering overnight shipping one of the best ways to keep customers happy, but it’s an important part of today’s customer experience.
Keeping customers happy is key to thriving in the digital age of eCommerce, and one of the best ways to do that is to get packages into their hands as quickly as possible.
Types of overnight shipping
So, how exactly do next-day delivery, one-day shipping, and overnight shipping work? Believe it or not, they can mean different things.
One-day shipping is the logistical process of getting a package to a fulfillment hub or distribution center within the same day, even during off hours.
It doesn’t necessarily involve overnight shipping since it only refers to when a package ships (not when it arrives).
Next-day delivery, on the other hand, means delivering a package to its recipient by the end of the next business day. This typically needs overnight shipping.
All of these processes involve a lot of moving parts, which we’ll dive into now.
How overnight shipping works
First, you need to schedule the shipment before the carrier’s overnight cutoff time. Then, the package gets picked up and loaded onto a vehicle headed to a shipping hub nearest to the delivery location. There, it gets scanned and sorted for delivery to its final destination by a delivery driver.
All of this needs to happen either by the end of the following business day or calendar day, depending on the carrier. Not all carriers do this the same way, nor do they offer the same experience for you and your customers.
That’s where Circuit for Teams can help. This software uses technology to optimize your overnight shipping process, making it as smooth and easy as possible to satisfy your customers.
Now, let’s break down which carriers offer overnight shipping and the differences between their services.
FedEx, considered the originator of overnight shipping in the US, offers a few of these options to their customers today.
It’s one of the fastest next-day shipping services available, offering package and freight next-business-day delivery service the following business day after drop off.
Let’s break down what next-day delivery options FedEx offers and how much it’ll cost you to use them.
Each FedEx overnight shipping option guarantees delivery of your packages by a specific time the following business day. They offer three next-day delivery options for shipments within the US:
- FedEx First Overnight: The fastest option they offer, this early morning delivery can get a package into the hands of your customer as early as 9:30 am the following business day in most areas.
- FedEx Priority Overnight: This second-tier next-day delivery option can get a package to its destination by as early as 10:30 am to businesses and 12 pm to residences in most areas. Rural areas are guaranteed delivery by 4:30 pm.
- FedEx Standard Overnight: The basic next-day delivery option, this guarantees delivery by 4:30 pm to businesses and 8 pm to residences.
Of course, there are some limitations and restrictions to these offerings.
- Business day delivery: FedEx overnight only delivers packages Monday through Friday. While they do offer Saturday delivery for an additional fee, this service is not available in all areas.
- Package limitations: FedEx overnight only delivers packages that weigh less than 150 pounds each. They also can be no longer than 119 inches or 165 inches in length plus girth (specifically: L+2W+2H).
- Drop-off deadlines: FedEx overnight shipments must be dropped off by their overnight outgoing deadline, which varies by location. If a package is not processed before this cutoff time, the item will ship the following business day.
- Geographical limitations: FedEx overnight cannot guarantee next-business-day delivery in certain US locations, including Alaska and Hawaii. This can include other locations due to inclement weather.
FedEx’s next-day delivery options each have different overnight shipping cost ranges, which vary based on a few different factors.
FedEx calculates shipping rates based on where the package is going. The longer the delivery distance, the more it’ll cost you to get it there.
The distance is determined by what FedEx calls ‘Zones’, which are delivery regions. For domestic shipments, there are eight zones. Zone 1 is the package’s point of origin, while Zones 2 through 8 are numbered according to the destination’s distance from the origin.
You can use FedEx’s Zone Locator tool to determine how much an overnight shipment will cost you based on the delivery zone. FedEx also publishes their current shipping rates in a handy list, which shows you how much it’ll cost you to ship items via standard shipping versus one of their overnight delivery options.
But the shipping cost also depends on the type of package and its size (either by its dimensional weight or actual weight — whichever is greater).
With FedEx, if you need a two-pound package delivered to an address that is 150 miles away or less, it’ll cost you about $27 to ship via FedEx Standard Overnight and around $60 via FedEx First Overnight. But businesses with a FedEx account may pay less.
FedEx customer experience is a mixed bag, with both good and bad reviews. Some customers claim that their drivers are accountable and reliable, and that their customer service is easy to deal with.
But one reported a driver accidentally damaging their property. Fortunately, the driver gave the customer a $100 gift card and reported the incident to a supervisor.
Other customers claimed that their packages arrived damaged, or they didn’t get them at all — even though the driver had marked it as delivered.
Who it’s best for
Due to FedEx’s higher rates, they may best serve delivery services and businesses that move high-priced items.
Still, FedEx may be a solid choice for any business that needs reliable overnight delivery. They offer detailed tracking for both you and your customers, and with an on-time delivery rate of around 88%, they’re very reliable.
They also have an American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI) score of 76 out of 100, showing a high rate of customer satisfaction.
The oldest of the carrier services and originator of the postal service, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has been in service since the 1700’s.
They offer overnight delivery, including some of the more affordable next-day delivery options on this list.
Let’s take a look at what USPS has to offer, and how much their overnight services will cost you.
USPS offers a single service for next-day and two-day delivery: USPS Priority Mail Express. They guarantee express shipping and delivery within two business days by 6 pm at the latest.
While delivery can take up to 48 hours, USPS overnight shipping has its perks:
- Money-back guarantee: USPS guarantees that if a package does not make it by 6 pm on the second business day, the shipper can file a claim and get a full refund of the shipping costs within 30 days of the mailing date.
- Flat-rate shipping: USPS offers multiple flat-rate shipping methods, including envelopes and mailing boxes, that ship to any location for the same rate (as long as the items fit within the packaging).
It does, however, have some limitations to consider:
- Delivery six days a week: USPS delivers packages Monday through Saturday, but offers Sunday and holiday delivery for an additional charge if needed.
- Two-day delivery guarantee: USPS does not guarantee next-day delivery. Instead, they offer a two-day guarantee. This means that if a package is shipped out on Monday, there is a chance it won’t arrive until Wednesday.
- Flat-rate package limitations: USPS flat-rate envelopes and mailing boxes are limited to smaller items, and their flat-rate boxes may incur additional charges depending on the package weight.
For Priority Mail Express Flat Rate shipping options, USPS uses specific envelopes that vary by size. They’re ideal for shipping documents and smaller goods such as manuscripts, clothing, or jewelry.
But anything larger than that, and you’ll need to either use one of their Priority Mail Express mailing boxes or your own packaging materials. For either of these options, USPS determines shipping costs based on package weight and destination.
However, all of USPS’ overnight deliveries include free package pickup, tracking, and up to $100 of insurance, depending on the package.
Shipping costs will vary depending on how and what you ship with USPS Priority Mail Express. The flat-rate shipping costs are determined by the type of envelope or box you use.
For Priority Mail Express Flat Rate envelopes, all packages weighing up to 70 pounds will ship for these prices below:
- Flat Rate Envelope (12 ½” x 9 ½”)
- Legal Flat Rate Envelope (15” x 9 ½”)
- Padded Flat Rate Envelope (12 ½” x 9 ½”)
*Available through a USPS sales agent for annual shipping volumes of more than 50,000 units per year.
USPS calculates Priority Mail Express pricing based on package weight and size. But all packages have a 70-pound weight limit for Priority Mail Express, whether they ship standard or via one of USPS’s overnight delivery options.
USPS also uses zones to determine shipping charges based on where an item is being delivered to. They calculate shipping costs using a combination of the package’s weight and zone, but additional fees can apply in some cases.
For example, if you pay a shipping rate based on incorrect package information (such as weight), you could end up paying an additional $25 per package.
Luckily, USPS has a shipping rate calculator you can use to find out how much it will cost to get your package delivered to its destination.
USPS continues to be one of the cheapest overnight shipping options out there, but that doesn’t always add up to great customer service.
Based on customer reviews, some users claim that USPS is reliable and affordable, even surpassing other carriers in terms of price and quality. According to one review, USPS has gone “above and beyond” delivery expectations. But many customers also complain of bad package handling, and losing up to $250 due to lost packages.
Who it’s best for
Since USPS offers flat rates on smaller items and gives out free standardized mailing boxes, it’s great for any business that ships a specific set of goods that are within a limited size and weight range.
If you’ve got items like small parts, clothing, or anything that can fit into one of their flat-rate envelopes, you’ll be paying the same price every time a package goes out the door. This makes it a bit easier to determine consistent shipping costs for your business and ensures you won’t have to constantly estimate varying costs.
And it’ll usually cost less to ship overnight packages compared to other carriers. However, one big caveat is that you can’t guarantee next-day shipping with USPS.
Since they can only guarantee delivery within two business days, you should only use them if your customers are fine waiting up to 48 hours. High-priority items that customers need right away, like important documents, medications, or perishable items, may not make it to them on time.
UPS started offering their Next Day Air overnight shipping service back in 1985, becoming the first air service to reach all 48 contiguous US states, plus Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
Offering fast shipping and delivery both in the US and internationally, UPS offers quite a few overnight shipping services.
Let’s break down each of these fast delivery options and give you an idea of how much each will cost you.
- UPS Next Day Air Early: Delivers to and from the 48 contiguous states in the US, but can also deliver to Alaska. Guarantees delivery by 8 am to major cities and 9 am for most others. Extended delivery locations are guaranteed by 2 pm.
- UPS Next Day Air: Delivers to and from all 50 states and Puerto Rico, and guarantees delivery by 10:30 am the following business day.
- UPS Next Day Air Saver: Delivers from all 50 states in the US but only to the 48 contiguous states, and guarantees delivery by 4:30 pm to commercial destinations, and by 7 pm to residences.
- UPS Worldwide Express Plus: Shipments from the US have guaranteed next-day delivery to Canada by 8:30 am. They arrive within two business days in Europe and within three business days in Asia, all by 9 am.
- UPS Worldwide Express: Shipments from the US are guaranteed next-day delivery to Canada, as are documents shipped to Mexico. They’re also guaranteed to arrive within two business days in Europe and Latin America and within three business days in Asia. All shipments arrive by 12 pm.
- UPS Worldwide Saver: Same as UPS Worldwide Express, with delivery time extended to end-of-day (7 pm).
Shipments to domestic residential locations include Saturday delivery — a major perk for businesses that need to get products to their customers ASAP. However, as with most carriers, UPS Next Day Air services do have some limitations and guidelines.
If you’re shipping to another business, Saturday delivery will cost you an additional $4 in most cases. UPS Next Day Air Saver packages can only be delivered to a commercial destination Monday through Friday.
That means if you ship a package out on Friday using Next Day Air Saver, it may not arrive until Monday.
Also, all UPS packages have to be under 150 pounds and can’t be longer than 108 inches. But that’s pretty generous, all things considered. These size and weight restrictions apply to UPS Worldwide overnight delivery options as well.
UPS has one of the more complicated pricing structures for next-day delivery.
With shipping costs estimated based on package specifications, what zone the package is being delivered to, and the zip code of the delivery address, there’s a lot to take into account.
UPS publishes their daily shipping rates for their next-day air services, giving you a general estimate of how much it’ll cost you to ship using any of them. They also have a shipping cost and time calculator so you can estimate how much your shipment will cost and when it will arrive at its destination.
Like the other carriers, UPS uses zones that each feature a different baseline cost when you ship to them. Based on UPS’ standard shipping rates, if you were to have a two-pound package delivered to an address that is within 150 miles away, you’ll be paying at least $37 to ship it through UPS Next Day Air to locations across the US.
For international overnight deliveries, you can expect to pay anywhere from $50.00 to over $150.00 per package using UPS Worldwide Express, depending on the destination.
However, a major bonus with UPS is that they offer free shipping supplies, including shipping labels and forms, boxes and envelopes, and even hazmat shipping supplies. You can order all of these directly from UPS as long as you have a UPS account.
While UPS does have high customer satisfaction ratings, many of its customer reviews are less than stellar.
One customer notes that UPS is both “prompt” and “friendly,” adding that they’re not only reliable, but in many cases, downright pleasant to interact with. But other UPS customers weren’t so lucky, expressing frustration over lost valuables — namely, a 401K check.
Who it’s best for
UPS can be a great option for just about any company or business looking to get packages to their customers in a timely manner. They offer some of the most reliable service of all when it comes to customer satisfaction, rocking an ACSI score of 78 out of 100.
They’re also one of the most reliable services throughout the year, with nearly a 98% on-time delivery rate. So, if you’re looking to maximize the customer experience for your business, UPS is likely a safe bet.
Founded in 1969, DHL was one of the first delivery companies to offer international overnight shipping. Specializing in next-day delivery across the globe, DHL offers both domestic and international overnight shipping options.
Let’s take a look at what each service offers and how much you’ll spend for each one.
DHL offers six overnight delivery services: Express 9:00, Express 10:30, Express 12:00, Express Worldwide, Express Envelope, and Express Domestic.
One of the main differences between DHL and other carriers is that they offer next-day delivery for almost all shipments, even international ones.
They offer separate international and continental US next-day delivery services, and pricing varies depending on where you intend to ship to.
Each overnight delivery option allows you to get packages to their destination by a specific time the following business day.
Here’s what each next-day delivery option guarantees:
- DHL Express 9:00 - This applies for international shipments, and delivery will arrive at its destination by 9 am the following business day.
- DHL Express 10:30: This applies for domestic US shipments, and delivery will arrive at its destination by 10:30 am the following business day in most major cities.
- DHL Express 12:00 - For all shipments, delivery will arrive at its destination by 12 pm the following business day in most major cities.
- DHL Express Worldwide - For all shipments, delivery will arrive at its destination by the end of the following business day in most major cities.
- DHL Express Envelope - For documents, delivery will arrive at its destination by the end of the following business day.
- DHL Express Domestic - For shipments within the US, delivery will arrive at its destination by the end of the following business day.
However, certain limitations can impact if a package arrives on time.
- Service Availability: While DHL can ship to over 220 countries and territories, not all of them offer next-day delivery. You’ll need to make sure the location you’re delivering to offers this service before guaranteeing it.
- Package Restrictions: Each overnight delivery service that DHL offers comes with its own set of package limitations.
- Express 9:00 / Express 10:30: When using these next-day delivery options, packages cannot weigh more than 66 pounds each, and the entire shipment cannot weigh more than a total of 660 pounds. Each package cannot be larger than 47 by 31 inches. They also won’t ship more than 10 packages per shipment.
- Express 12:00: This option increases the weight limit of packages to 154 pounds each and a total weight of 661 pounds for the entire shipment. However, there is still a limit of 10 packages per shipment in total, and each package cannot be larger than 47 by 31 inches.
- Express Worldwide: This service keeps the weight limit at 154 pounds per package, but it can be used to ship pallets of goods to locations across the globe. The weight of the pallet can’t exceed 2,204 pounds, but the size restriction is the same as those above: 47 by 31 inches.
- Express Envelope: DHL’s Express Envelope option only works for smaller items and documents that fit in their specified envelopes, with a maximum weight of 0.66 pounds per package.
- Express Domestic: DHL Express Domestic is their overnight delivery option for shipments within the US. These packages can’t be heavier than 150 pounds, nor can they be larger than 47.2 by 31.5 inches.
Since DHL offers both domestic and international overnight delivery, the pricing structure can be complicated.
If you plan to ship items within the US only, pricing isn’t as extreme in comparison.
DHL’s US services and rates guide (found on their services page) offers detailed pricing, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $28 to $55 on average for overnight delivery of a one-pound package within the US. The heavier the package, the higher the shipping cost.
But this doesn’t factor in the size of the package, so you may also need to pay more for packages that exceed their shipping limitations.
If you plan to ship internationally, get ready to pay much higher shipping costs. Along with baseline rates for each delivery, there can also be additional charges for packages, such as custom fees and fuel surcharges.
DHL also has ‘zones’ they use to identify delivery regions around the world, which also have a baseline shipping cost to start.
DHL’s International services and rates guide (also found on their services page) lists all of these baseline costs, along with any additional charges.
Shipping internationally with DHL, you can expect to pay a minimum of $80 for overnight delivery of a one-pound package. But this can reach upwards of $190, depending on the destination.
On the bright side, all DHL Express deliveries include door-to-door courier delivery, tracking, delivery notifications, and a money-back guarantee if the item doesn’t make it by the delivery time.
DHL customers have had their share of good and bad experiences, but many factors affect how your delivery will go.
Plenty of customers recommend DHL due to their “fast and reliable” service. Some also had great success with shipping documents and small parcels internationally, including those shipped to the Philippines and Southeast Asia.
However, late and no-show couriers have also been a problem with DHL. Some users claim that their customer support team can be a bit difficult to deal with — even “infuriating.”
Who it’s best for
If your business relies on international deliveries, DHL is an outstanding option.
While their domestic overnight delivery options are on par with other carriers in terms of price, the coverage that DHL offers in terms of delivery across the world is second to none.
DHL covers more international delivery locations than any other carrier on this list, with delivery available to over 220 countries and territories in total.
That opens up a lot more opportunities to get packages and products into the hands of customers across the globe for those willing to pay the shipping fees.
Circuit for Teams
Circuit for Teams offers some key features that can give you a leg up over the competition if you plan to offer overnight shipping and next-day delivery.
Regular feature updates and additions help you make the most out of your delivery options. For example, delivery route optimization, electronic proof of delivery (POD), and enhanced maps to track drivers make it a great tool for keeping your customers happy.
Let’s take a look at a few of Circuit for Teams’ other key features.
Proof of delivery
Ensure your packages make their way into your customers’ hands with optional electronic POD. It ensures the package makes it to its destination and helps you track down the cause of any missing packages.
You can turn this feature on or off for specific stops. This way, you or your drivers can skip POD if it’s not needed in order to save time.
Improved delivery experience for customers
Your customers’ experience is extremely important. Over 70% of customers would stop recommending your business after having a poor delivery experience with your company.
That’s why Circuit for Teams now lets dispatchers use customer contact details to reach out to them about their deliveries as needed. After all, an open line of communication with your customers is key to improving your delivery service.
Set delivery windows for customer notifications
Overnight shipping and next-day delivery need fast action to get an order out the door and on its way to your customer’s doorstep. But keeping them informed about when to expect their package is also critical in order to meet their expectations.
Now, Circuit for Teams allows you to set dynamic or fixed delivery windows so they always know when their package will arrive.
Circuit for Teams’ pricing plans are simple, accessible, and straightforward.
Whether you’re a small operation just getting started or you manage a full team of drivers, Circuit for Teams has a package to suit your needs and budget:
- Essentials: $100/month
The Essentials plan offers the basics, letting you optimize your routes, track drivers in real-time, and integrate with other software using Circuit for Teams’ API.
This package includes your first two drivers, but you can add drivers for an additional $40 each.
- Standard: $200/month
This is Circuit for Teams’ most popular plan, since it offers a bit more for those looking to improve their customer experience. It offers all the benefits of the Essentials plan above, with the added options of POD capture and customer notifications.
This package includes your first three drivers, but you can add drivers for an additional $60 each.
- Pro: $500/month
Get the most out of Circuit for Teams with the Pro plan. It offers everything that the Standard plan features, plus the ability to analyze your delivery data to track and improve your business operations.
This package includes your first six drivers, but you can add drivers for an additional $80 each.
According to customer reviews, there’s a lot to love about Circuit for Teams — especially its ease of use.
The Circuit for Teams app has a 4.6 out of 5 rating at the Apple Store, with over 130 ratings. Many of these users say it’s perfect for easy route optimization, and one also said it “saves a bunch of time when it comes to planning ahead.”
The app also has an equally impressive rating on the Google Play store: a 4.7 out of 5 according to over 1,900 reviews. One user shared that it’s “reliable and easy-to-use for beginners.”
Who it’s best for
Whether you offer floral arrangements, food prepping, or water delivery, you can make the most of your delivery service business with Circuit for Teams. It’s the perfect solution for companies looking for a simple, no-hassle way to manage and optimize their delivery services.
Even large companies dealing with long-distance shipments of any size, like furniture or auto parts, can take advantage of what Circuit for Teams has to offer. Features like optional POD and customer notifications can improve the customer experience for any business that needs their products delivered.
The best overnight shipping service
With overnight shipping and next-day delivery quickly becoming the norm, your business may fall behind the competition if you don’t offer these services. Doing so can open up your business to new customer bases and improve their experience.
Another way to offer overnight shipping to customers is to bring your last-mile delivery in-house with Circuit for Teams.
Detailed tracking information lets you keep customers informed just like the big guys, but with added features like dynamic delivery time adjustments and real-time status updates, you’ll have even more control of how you keep your customers informed.
Customized delivery messages let you keep your recipients informed in the way you want, and enhanced maps with satellite views help you pinpoint the best routes and locate hard-to-find delivery stops.
Optional services like proof of delivery and signature requests can also keep your team accountable, all while keeping your customers confident that they’ll get their packages on time.
From a cost perspective, this all saves you time and money. So, if you’re looking to offer your customers overnight or next-day delivery, you can be confident knowing your packages are even more likely to arrive on time when you use Circuit for Teams.