What are USPS zones? If you have sent a package in recent years via USPS you will have come across the zone-based fee structure.
Basically, the higher the zone the more expensive your package will be to send.
However, how is this calculated? What exactly are USPS zones? And how can you send items more efficiently once you know how the system works?
We will answer all that and more in this 2022 guide to USPS postal zones.
Let’s jump to it…
What are USPS Zones?
So, the main question first… What are USPS postal zones?
Essentially, USPS has nine shipping Zones altogether. Eight are based within the Continental United States with one accounting for the outlying territories.
The move to zone-based payment was so that USPS could begin charging shipments based on both weight and distance.
This means that the USPS postal zones are dynamic. They are based on the distance from a shipper’s ZIP code, i.e, the location that the package starts from.
The further distance a package is sent, the higher the zone number the destination will have.
Still confused? Let’s take a look at how they work.
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How do USPS zones work?
So, we’ve established that USPS Postal Zones are the method USPS determines the distance from the origin of a package, to its destination.
Therefore the zone will change in relation to your location and where you are sending a package to.
A parcel sent from New York to California would be classed as a zone 8 shipment, (it is being sent across the entire country).
Taking a look at the map above you can see the various zones if the origin of the package is New York. As explained, California is Zone 8.
However, New York to Richmond is Zone 3. New York to Denver Zone 7. The zoning of this map is very different from a map that shows Dallas as the origin of the shipment.
Here we have calculated the zone of a shipment if it is sent from Dallas to Kansas City. As you can see from the map, the result is Zone 4.
On this map, the blue areas are closer to Dallas (the origin), with the zone number increasing the further the package has to travel.
In other words, the USPS zones work based on the distance from the original shipper. The further the package has to travel from the origin, the higher the zone of the final destination.
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USPS Zones & How They Are Calculated in Terms of Distance from Package Origin
- Zone 1: 1-50 miles
- Zone 2: 51-150 miles
- Zone 3: 151-300 miles
- Zone 4: 301-600 miles
- Zone 5: 601-1000 miles
- Zone 6: 1001-1400 miles
- Zone 7: 1401-1800 miles
- Zone 8: 1801 miles or greater
- Zone 9: Freely Associated States – Guam, Palau and other US Territories
A Common Misunderstanding: Which Zone am I in?
A common misunderstanding with USPS postal zones is that a person thinks that they are in a particular zone and this determines both the price of their shipment, plus the cost of having items sent to them.
As we have hopefully covered, this is the wrong question. If you are receiving a package, your zone will change depending on how far you are away from the sender’s location.
If you are the one sending the package, your zone will always be 1. If you are sending to a neighboring town, the USPS postal zone for your shipment will also be 1.
If you are sending further afield, the zone will increase according to the distance.
So the question is not, “Which zone am I in?” The question is, “How far is the package being sent?”
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So how do I work out the USPS zone for my shipment?
Fortunately, there is not much to do on your end when it comes to shipping a parcel and working out the zone.
If you head to a post office, the zone will be worked out at the counter based on your location and package destination.
However, what if you would like to work out the zone before going to the post office? Or, do you plan on printing out the labels at home?
For this, you can use one of the many USPS Postal Zone Calculators that exist online.
Using a USPS Postal Zone Calculator
My particular favorite online USPS Postal Calculator is provided by Fitshipper.com.
That’s how I created the maps above. It is definitely simpler to use than the convoluted offering from USPS.
Using the Fitshipper Label USPS zone calculator, you only have to enter the origin ZIP code into the box, followed by the destination ZIP code.
The site then creates a lovely-looking map where you can see all the zones branching out from the origin, including a definite result of the zone where the package is being sent to.
In this example, I typed in the ZIP code origin as Atlanta (30301) and the destination as Addison, Texas (75001). The result was the map and Zone calculation below.
Nice and easy, with no confusion.
USPS zones are simple enough to understand, once you realize how they work. The fact that the zones are dynamic and are relevant to the distance from the shipper to the recipient should clear up most of the potential confusion.
Add that to the number of zone calculators available for free online, and you will be able to calculate the zone of your next shipment in no time.
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. 🙂