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First Class Vs Priority Mail: 2022 Comparison


Whether you’re a business owner sending products to customers or just wanting to ship an item to a friend at the best rate possible, this is a question worth asking yourself.

Which is the fastest out of First Class or Priority Mail? Which is a better value? Does one include superior levels of insurance?

We will look at all of this and more today, in our definitive guide on USPS First Class Vs Priority Mail.

So if you are ready, let’s jump to it.

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SUMMARY: First Class Vs Priority Mail

  • First-Class mail is more affordable and is the best way to send lightweight packages 15.99 ounces or less. (You cannot send heavier items than that)
  • Priority Mail is best for heavier packages up to 70lbs
  • Priority mail is a good choice for sending international packages because of faster shipping times and included insurance.
  • Priority Mail includes $100 coverage for domestic shipping ($200 on international shipping). Insurance with First Class costs extra.

First Class Vs Priority Mail: The Differences 

First, let’s discuss the major differences between the two services.

Fundamentally, USPS First class and Priority Mail are different in terms of the weight, size, shape, and delivery speed of mail items.

On a basic level, First Class mail is better suited to small envelopes and parcels (under 15.99 ounces) being delivered within the U.S.

This means that if you are sending letters, envelopes of any size (including padded), and small lightweight packages, you should consider First Class.

Priority mail is a service designed to accommodate larger packages. If your item weighs up to 70lbs, you will get a better rate using Priority Mail than you would with First Class.

Priority mail is also a good choice for sending international packages. This is because of superior insurance options and faster shipping times to a foreign country.

First Class Vs Priority Mail: Maximum Dimensions

RestrictionFirst Class Mail Limits Priority Mail Limits
Max Dimensions108” in combined length and girth108” in combined length and girth
Max Weight 15.99 oz°70 lbs

So far we have discussed how you can decide which service to use based on package size. But what exactly are the maximum dimensions allowed with each service?

The USPS sizing guide states that the maximum dimensions of packages sent via first class mail can be 108” in combined length and girth (at the thickest point) of the package.

The maximum weight of a First Class item cannot exceed 15.99 oz. Because of these restrictions, the service is designed for small packages.

Priority mail on the other hand allows for much heavier packages to be sent.

Packages can again have a maximum dimension of 108” in combined length and girth, (which is the same maximum dimensions as First Class.

However, the maximum weight is a lot more. As already stated, packages up to 70 lbs can be sent using Priority Mail.

First Class Vs Priority Mail: Delivery Times

Domestic Shipments

Zone 1Zone 3Zone 5Zone 8
First Class Mail2 Days3 Days3 Days3-5 Days
Priority Mail1-2 Days2 Days2 Days3 Days

Regarding delivery times, both USPS First-Class and Priority Mail should arrive between one and three days when shipped to a U.S domestic address.

However, as you can see from the table above, Priority Mail is marginally faster on each of the zones covered. (For more on USPS Zones head here).

International Shipments

Estimated Delivery Speed
First Class MailNo Stated Time Frame
Priority Mail International6 – 10 Days (Location Dependant)

As mentioned, Priority Mail is a faster choice for international shipments due to superior delivery processing times for sending items abroad.

Another issue with international delivery times for items sent First Class is that the speed will vary depending on destination.

Another point to remember is that First Class and Priority Mail do not offer guarantees on delivery windows on international mail items. A factor that may be an issue for business owners sending packages to customers.

First Class Vs Priority Mail: Shipping Costs

First-Class-Vs-Priority Mail

Here comes a factor that will be a major priority for most people; how much does it cost to ship with either First Class or Priority Mail? Which is cheaper.

First of course you need to take package dimensions into account. In many scenarios, you will not even be able to use First Class mail if your package is too heavy.

However, beyond that pinning down which is best in terms of rates can be difficult.

Prices for First Class Mail are dependent on the size, weight, and delivery destination of the item. The box below provides details of the current pricing structure.

First Class Mail – Prices (Effective Jan 9th 2022)

Max WeightZone 1&2Zone 3Zone 4Zone 5Zone 6Zone 7Zone 8Zone 9
4 oz.$3.37$3.39$3.42$3.48$3.58$3.72$3.86$3.86
8 oz.$3.76$3.79$3.81$3.87$3.88$3.99$4.15$4.15
12 oz.$4.34$4.39$4.42$4.50$4.68$4.83$4.98$4.98
15.99 oz.$5.49$5.53$5.57$5.72$5.96$6.11$6.28$6.28

Priority Mail differs from this due to the addition of fixed rates on specified boxes and envelope sizes.

In other words, if you use a larger-sized box than you need, you could end up shipping a package inefficiently (from a cost perspective) when compared to using First Class.

All this aside, it is commonly stated that shipping via Priority Mail costs about $3 more per package on average.

A good way of determining how much your package will cost to send with either First Class or Priority Mail is to use the USPS shipping calculator.

Priority Mail – Prices (Effective Jan 9th 2022)

Max Weight (Lbs)Zone 1/2Zone 3Zone 4Zone 5Zone 6Zone 7Zone 8Zone 9

Priority Mail: Flat Rate Options 2022

Flat Rate Envelopes$8.95Small Flat Rate Box$9.45
Legal Flat Rate Envelope$9.25Medium Flat Rate Boxes$16.10
Padded Flat Rate Envelope$9.65Large Flat Rate Boxes$21.50
APO/FPO/DPO Flat Rate Box$20.00

First Class Vs Priority Mail: Shipping Features

There are also shipping features to consider when looking at USPS First Class Vs Priority Mail. What insurance and tracking options are available for instance?

Insurance Polices

On the subject of insurance, Priority Mail is the superior service.

An insurance policy is attached to each Priority Mail shipment by default. This provides $100 coverage on domestic packages and $200 for international deliveries.

Conversely, First Class mail has no automatic insurance policies attached. In basic terms, if your package is lost or damaged when sent via first class you will not be covered.

To mitigate this you can add insurance to a First Class shipment, however, this will increase the overall fee.

Tracking Options

Both first-class mail and priority mail provide similar tracking options throughout the journey of the package.

One would assume that the same tracking technology is used within USPS’ shipment infrastructure for each service. 

Using the tracking number provided you will be able to track delivery dates, times, and location of the item. You can also be informed of any attempted/missed deliveries.

These tracking features are available on each service without paying an additional fee.

First Class Vs Priority Mail: Choosing the Right USPS Service

So, which service do you choose between first-class or priority mail? By now you will understand that the weight of the package is an overriding factor.

If it weighs over 15.99oz you will not be able to use the First Class service anyway. Priority Mail is your only option of the two.

However, if it weighs less than this, you do have a choice.

For small, lighter items sent within the U.S, you will be better off using First Class mail. This is because you will get better rates with similar delivery times when compared to Priority Mail.

That being said, if you are sending a small package with a valuable item inside (that fits within first-class dimension limits), you could be better off using Priority mail due to the included insurance.

When deciding on which service to use, you should also consider factors such as weekend deliveries, signature services, special handling, and other potential options too. These could sway your decision, depending on your needs.

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