What is Ground Shipping? Ultimate Guide

What is Ground Shipping

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Are you looking for the perfect shipping solution for your eCommerce business?

Shipping is always tricky, especially in an age where consumer demands are frequently increasing.

How do you balance meeting their expectations and keeping business costs at a minimum?

If you’re asking this question, you’re in the right place.

I’ll introduce you to ground shipping and everything about it, including delivery times, advantages, and disadvantages.

Are you ready to learn what is ground shipping?

Let’s begin.

What Is Ground Shipping?

what is ground shipping

Ground shipping uses rail or road networks for getting packages from one location to another. It is a reliable solution, and it’s often the most cost-effective option for domestic shipping.

However, it’s not the fastest.

Often, ground shipping is one of the slowest options because the packages use only land-based transportation.

Shipping times heavily rely on road conditions and travel distance. Freight trucks may also stop at several pick-up and drop-off points, such as rail yards and distribution centers.

What is Standard Ground Shipping?

You may have heard of ground shipping being referred to as standard delivery.

What is it, and is ground shipping faster than standard?

That’s a difficult question because they’re essentially the same shipping services.

Standard shipping is the default delivery method, particularly for free delivery offers. It’s often the cheapest and slowest option, but it’s still reliable for sending packages over varying distances.

It doesn’t have an expedited process, so the packages move at a normal pace. Standard delivery is a cost-effective delivery service that uses ground shipping methods to ship packages.

In fact, most couriers use the name Ground for their standard services. Examples:

This is why standard shipping is almost synonymous with ground shipping. However, there are still some subtle differences between the two.

For example, international standard delivery may use ships to transport packages overseas. The road system isn’t feasible in this case.

flight and trucks

On the other hand, ground shipping can become a part of express or international shipping. Last-mile delivery uses small or large trucks to transport goods to the customers’ doorsteps.

Ground Shipping vs. Air Freight Services

ground shipping vs air freight services

The difference between ground shipping and air freight is straightforward: air freight uses planes to transport goods over long distances.

In express delivery, couriers promise same-day to two-day deliveries. In this case, air transportation is the usual choice. It’s the fastest delivery option to get packages from one state to another within a day.

However, air transport still poses some risks that might lead to delays. Dangerous weather conditions, like blizzards and storms, can set back or even cancel a scheduled flight.

Nonetheless, air freight’s delay risks are relatively lower. With trucks and trains, chances are higher that ground shipments might encounter road closures, weather, mechanical failures, and other unforeseen events.

Air travel is the main reason why express shipping costs are higher than standard shipping. The fuel, logistics, airport staff, etc., all play into the pricing strategy.

How Long Does Ground Shipping Take?

How Long Does Ground Shipping Take

First, I’ll answer the question: how long does US ground shipping take?

The ground shipping time is anywhere from two to seven business days. It varies depending on the distance.

Moreover, the published estimated timeframes for domestic ground shipping aren’t always accurate. The actual delivery time may sometimes take up to two weeks.

Because the road is full of inconsistencies, your shipment might experience some delays. Some reasons are:

  • Weather conditions

  • Road closures

  • Road construction

  • Accidents

  • Malfunctions

  • Unexpected events

For example, a coast-to-coast delivery is more vulnerable to delays and may take more than the guaranteed delivery time.

But when delivering within the same place of pick-up, ground shipping can be as fast as express delivery.

delivery to international addresses

How about delivery to international addresses? How long is standard ground shipping in this case?

Couriers also use ground shipping to deliver to Canada and Mexico. Packages usually have transit times of two to 10 business days, taking into account the customs process.

Remember: the guaranteed delivery window starts when the courier picks up the package, not when your customer places an order. Make sure to highlight this fact when sending orders using ground shipping.

That said, this delivery method isn’t always slow. The total shipping time also depends on the reliability of your chosen courier.

Some companies experience more delays than others, so choose wisely. Here’s some information about the major couriers in the US.

How Long Does UPS Ground Shipping Take?

usp ground

What is UPS Ground Shipping?

UPS Ground is the standard shipping service within the US. It includes a free tracking service you can provide your customers.

UPS covers all 50 states and Puerto Rico. The delivery time between these areas mainly varies according to the pick-up point and shipping destination. On average, UPS ground packages spend up to five business days in transit.

I’ll give you an example to give you a better idea:

Let’s say you’re in New York City, using UPS Ground shipment to send a package to a residential address in California.

UPS Ground shipping may take two days in this scenario, according to the UPS website.

How Long Does UPS Ground Shipping Take?

However, unlike the other UPS services, UPS Ground shipping doesn’t guarantee the two-day arrival mentioned above.

Here are the estimated delivery times for the UPS express services with guarantees.

estimated delivery times for the UPS express services


UPS Standard is what the carrier calls its economy shipping service in Canada. It’s basically the same as UPS Ground other than the country of operation.

What is the UPS ground shipping vs. standard shipping time?

The UPS Standard delivery speed is the same as UPS Ground shipping. It also guarantees a day-definite delivery within five business days with free tracking information.

How Long Does FedEx Ground Shipping Take?

How Long Does FedEx Ground Shipping Take

FedEx has three ground services:

  • FedEx Ground

  • FedEx Home Delivery

  • FedEx International Ground

FedEx Ground is the standard shipping option, a low-cost delivery service for business addresses.

FedEx Ground shipping has a delivery timeframe of one to five business days in most states. Destinations in Alaska and Hawaii require three to seven days.

The courier has a separate standard shipping service for residential addresses: FedEx Home Delivery, which includes Saturday delivery in specific locations.

With FedEx International Ground, they can deliver to Canadian businesses and residences from the US or within Canada. This service has transit times of two to seven business days.

How Long Does USPS Ground Shipping Take?

How Long Does USPS Ground Shipping Take?

USPS has two ground shipping services. Let’s talk about USPS Retail Ground first.

How fast is USPS ground shipping?

USPS guarantees two- to five-day delivery for its standard ground shipments. It’s the best choice when shipping larger packages that don’t qualify for Priority Mail.

Now, the other shipping service is Parcel Select.

What is Parcel Select ground shipping?

It’s essentially the same as USPS Retail Ground. The only major difference is where you can find these services.

If you go to any Post Office Location, you can buy a shipping label for Retail Ground. On the other hand, Parcel Select is only available for commercial shippers.

How Much Does Ground Shipping Cost?

How Much Does Ground Shipping Cost?

Couriers calculate an individual package’s delivery cost based on the following factors:

  • Package weight

  • Package dimensions

  • Shipping distance

As an individual package may cost differently each time, it’s challenging to determine the average cost of ground mailing. Furthermore, every shipping company has its own pricing strategy.

You can take your own measurements, weigh and measure the box, and try to estimate the distance.

Although, you may get discounted rates if you handle multiple shipments. Talk to your chosen carrier about their shipping services for businesses.

For example, the USPS Retail Ground and Parcel Select services have varying prices.

With Parcel Select, you can access discounted shipping rates for commercial shipments. It provides more cost-effective rates than Retail Ground, giving you even more savings.

Most ground shipping companies also offer a flat rate. This is easier to budget, but the costs can add up quickly.

Why Choose Ground Shipping Services?

Why Choose Ground Shipping Services?

Today, consumers are more aware of their delivery options, always looking for the best deals. Often, they want shipping to be both free and fast.

Research says that around 62% of online shoppers expect their shipments to arrive within three days, even with free delivery.

It also says that they will abandon their carts if you can’t provide what they’re looking for. As such, meeting their expectations can be challenging.

Again, how long does economy ground shipping take?

We’ve established earlier that it takes around two to five days, generally speaking. It can take more if you’re shipping across the country.

With that thought, is it still worth using road services to ship packages?

Of course. Here are some reasons why businesses continue to use ground shipping services today.

1. Safe and Reliable

Safe and Reliable

Ground delivery is still the safest option for order shipments. It’s not fast, but contrary to what others think, it’s not overly slow unless you’re shipping from coast to coast.

If your customers are within the same shipping zones, they can receive their orders in as fast as two days.

Furthermore, there are several ways to leverage ground shipping to still meet consumer demands. It all depends on how you can incorporate it into your fulfillment strategy.

Most ground shipping services have free tracking services, as well. Your customers can rest easy knowing where their packages are.

2. Cost-Effective


Ground shipping rates are the lowest among your other shipping options. This method allows you to save money, so you can offer greater deals to your customers.

You can offer a free delivery promotion, for example. It’s something that online shoppers always look for, and the lack of it is often a dealbreaker.

But customers may ask, how long does free ground shipping take?

As we’ve learned above, the ground shipping time is still reasonable. Many customers are willing to wait if it means not paying for delivery.

3. Higher Size and Weight Limitations

Higher Size and Weight Limitations

If you’re sending out a large package, you might also be limited to ground shipping services.

Air freight services have lower maximum weight and size limits. But even if your shipment falls below the limits, shipping large packages via air is inefficient.

You can ship almost anything through USPS, DHL, FedEx, and UPS ground shipments. You can send any bulky and irregular object as long as it isn’t illegal.

Out of all these, though, UPS has the highest size and weight limits.

When Not To Use Ground Shipping

When Not To Use Ground Shipping

Although using ground mailing can help your business cut costs, it might come at the expense of customer experience.

Ground shipping times are slower than express services, frustrating some customers. Remember that many are willing to pay for fast delivery at an extra cost.

If you or your customer has an urgent need, you should find other shipping options from USPS, FedEx, and UPS.

USPS has Priority Mail, a domestic air service that can deliver in one to three business days. For same-day deliveries, UPS has Express Critical service.

These are only a few examples. You’ll find several same- or next-day delivery services, especially within low shipping zones.

Within higher shipping zones, carriers may deliver the package in one business day via air freight. This is unlikely even with premium ground shipping.

Who Should Use Ground Shipping?

Who Should Use Ground Shipping?

Ground shipping is generally a great option for eCommerce sites that deliver across the country. Low ground shipping rates can help your business save money, especially if you don’t have urgent deliveries.

You can also choose this method for your business’s supply chain deliveries. As long as your shipments don’t contain perishables or any time-sensitive packages, it makes the most sense to use ground shipping.

Who Should Use Ground Shipping?

However, it doesn’t hurt to offer your customers other options. You can give them a choice between free standard delivery or express shipping for an additional cost.

Don’t create too many choices, though. Too many options might lead to confusion, causing your customers to abandon their carts instead.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Is a Shipping Zone?

Couriers use ground shipping zones to calculate the delivery time and rate. It refers to the distance from the point of origin to the final destination.

Shipping zones range from Zone 1 to Zone 8; the higher the zone, the higher the distance covered by the package.

For example, Zone 1 refers to a 50-mile radius from the origin, while Zone 4 refers to a 301-600 mile radius.

Can Ground Shipping Couriers Work With a 3PL?

Ground shipping services work flawlessly with a third-party logistics company.

3PLs take care of the eCommerce logistics process. They manage the inventory, sort orders, and ship them out. They also negotiate and work with a courier, which will pick up the packages from a 3PL warehouse.

How To Choose the Best Ground Shipping Courier?

Determining which service provider is best depends on your business’s unique needs.

Some prefer UPS because of its flexibility, even if the UPS Ground shipping cost is relatively similar to its competitors. Others might use USPS more because of its lower rates via Parcel Select.

You must assess your market before choosing the best provider for your business and customers.

The Bottom Line

Ground shipping is a solid delivery option for businesses and customers alike. It’s the most economical choice to ship packages without sacrificing reliability.

It’s always a good idea to save on costs whenever you can, as you can pass on your savings to your customers. This will help you position yourself better in an ever-competitive industry.

Review your options, and learn more about the cheapest way to ship a package.

Written by: Omar Deryan

Founder of OJ Digital Solutions

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