P.O. Boxes have been around a long time. For many, they are a trusted way of receiving mail to an address that you know will be safe and secure.
From small businesses to travelers, RV owners, and more, the P.O box has been a very helpful service to use.
However, how much does a P.O Box cost in 2022? Are they still convenient in a world with virtual mailboxes and other ways of receiving your mail?
Are changing policies with certain carriers causing the P.O Box to be obsolete?
Today we will answer all of the above so that you have a better understanding of whether the P.O Box is still worth using in 2022?
What is a P.O Box?
A P.O Box (post office box) is a lockable mailbox located in a post office station, (in the lobby so that customers have access) where a user can receive mail at a location other than their home or business address.
The main aim is to give you flexibility if you are not near your home address, as well as have the reassurance that your mail is safe from theft.
They are also helpful for home-based businesses that want to keep their home address private.
You can rent a P.O Box for a set amount of time (3, 6, or 12 months), and can have access to the box 24hrs a day, 7 days a week from its location at the post office.
You are provided with a P.O. Box number and a key that is related to your individual box.
How much does a P.O. Box cost?
So, how much does a P.O Box cost in 2022?
The answer is, it varies. Location, size and the length of term you are renting are overriding factors.
For example a 3 month rental in a small town in Idaho, you might pay as little as $20. This is because demand is low, and the address is not in a prestigious location.
Replace that for a 3 month rental in downtown New York and you could pay as much as $360.
The reasons are obvious, a New York-based P.O Box gives a business a presence in one of the most famous cities in the world. For that, you pay a premium.
One way of finding out the latest prices of a P.O Box is to visit the pricing page on the US Postal Service website. Here you will find up-to-date details of costs throughout the U.S.
If you have a post box location in mind you could also contact the post office directly to see if they have boxes available, and what the latest prices are.
P.O Box Pricing – Determining Factors
As mentioned above, prices vary due to three main factors: rental term, size, and location.
Let’s take a closer look at them now.
Length of rental time
As with most subscriptions/rental services you will find the best value prices and discounts the longer term that you choose.
A 3 month rental on a box will cost you more (per day when you do the calculations) than a 6 month or yearly rental.
However, there is no point in going for a year-long term because it represents better value for money if you do not know how long you will need the box for.
This makes the duration of rental an important question to ask yourself. How long do you need the P.O Box for?
It is not cost-effective to keep renewing the P.O. box for shorter rental periods. Conversely, an annual rental will often give you a month free.
Essentially, to get the best price on a P.O Box, you need to choose the maximum rental term that suits your needs.
The size of the P.O Box
Generally speaking, post offices offer five sizes of P.O. Box. However, not all locations will have the full range of sizes available.
This is either due to demand, (certain sizes are already taken) or they have not been installed.
The table below sets out the available sizes. As with any service where space means money, the smaller the P.O Box, the cheaper the rent.
P. O Box size, Dimensions, and Capacity, (Universal depth is 14.75”)
- Extra small (3” x 5.5”, 2 rolled-up magazines or 10-15 letters)
- Small (5” x 5,5”, 5 rolled-up magazines or up to 15 letters)
- Medium ( 5.5” x 11”, Many magazines and large envelopes stacked flat)
- Large (11” x 11”, 2 shoe boxes, and 10-15 letters)
- Extra Large(12” x 22.5”, Multiple Flat Rate Boxes and parcels)
NOTE: When your mailbox reaches capacity and becomes full it is classed as an overflow condition. You might stop receiving mail, or will be charged for it being stored elsewhere inside the post office.
P.O Box Location
I have already given the extreme example of two P.O boxes at different locations above. This shows you the price disparity that is possible.
The post office ranks locations in categories such as “competitive” and “market-dominant.”
Competitive locations are the ones that charge higher fees. Quite simply, the larger the city and the more prestigious the location, the higher the cost of the P.O Box.
The post office normally sets prices for the year, however, there is some dynamism to the pricing structure.
Where the post office controls enough of the market they will set prices in the absence of the competition.
While your year-long rental will not change price over the duration of your contract, the renewal of a term could see a price shift if the post office has set new tariffs.
P.O Boxes – Other Fees
There are not many extraneous fees involved with a P.O Box rental. You will often be charged a deposit for the key, which is refunded at the end of the rental, (normally around $4 each for the first 2 keys, $8 for additional keys). Fines for late payment or lock replacement are currently set at $23.
Is a P.O. Box still worth it in 2022?
Is it worth renting a P.O Box in 2022? Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons before we answer that directly.
Firstly, prices remain competitive when compared to other services such as a mailbox.
A low-budget P.O Box in a non-descript location will cost similar to a budget mailbox (around $10 a month).
Also, P.O. Boxes are very secure. A post office has 24/7 video security and the boxes are actually housed inside. They can only be accessed with a key or combination code.
P.O. Boxes also hide your home address, providing far greater privacy. If you run a small business from home, this is extremely valuable.
Some P.O boxes will also offer faster delivery speeds. Items arrive at the box quicker than they would at your home address.
And let’s not forget the benefits for anyone on the move. If you are an RV owner, or of no fixed abode, or just travel frequently, (in a pre-covid world), a P.O Box is a useful way of knowing that your mail is safe, and can be collected when you need it.
A big issue for businesses looking to use a P.O Box is the fact most U.S. states, will not allow you to use a P.O. box to register a business. They require a real street address (or mailbox virtual address) instead.
You could still use a P.O Box after formation, however, in recent years due to scams using P.O Boxes, this might not be the image you want for your business.
Also, you need to provide a permanent, physical U.S address to be eligible for a P.O Box. If you are an expat, traveler, or digital nomad, (or even live in an RV full time), providing a permanent address could prove difficult.
When you combine all the above negatives to the fact that a virtual mailbox doesn’t have any of the above issues, while also providing you added benefits such as accessible mail management anywhere with an internet connection, you start to realize the problems with a P.O Box in 2022.
VERDICT: Is a P.O Box worth it?
In our opinion, P.O Boxes are fast becoming superfluous in 2022.
Modern mailbox services are a much better way of managing your mail from an address that is different from your home or business.
If all you need is the occasional pick-up from a local box because your home address cannot be reached, then okay, there still may be a reason to use one.
For any demands more than this, a modern virtual mailbox is definitely the better choice.
I’m a 25 year veteran of USPS. I’m retired now, but as the editor of Mailbox Master, I can’t quite remove myself from the carrier industry just yet. 🙂