The year is 2020, and we have more choices than ever for shipping our goods to our customers. With so many to choose from, I decided it was high time to sit down with six of the most popular services e-commerce businesses use and put them up against each other.
What’s covered in this review
Update: Shippo extended their free period through January 19th, 2021. I’ve updated the article to reflect that.
Before we go any further, it’s important to take note of a few things. First, not every shipping service or partner will meet everyone’s needs equally. My goal with this review isn’t so much as to say: “this is the de facto service, use this always” but rather “if you do this, use this.”
We will cover the services offered by each of these companies, their pricing, their carrier selection, and any additional features and unique qualities they bring to the table. At the end of each section, I’ll summarize a set of pros and cons for each. At the end of the review, I’ll make a couple of picks based on everything we’ve discussed.
First up on the list is one of my favorites. I’ve talked about why I like them before, so I don’t feel like I need to re-hash the same content again. I recommend reading everything I’ve had to say thus far first, then come back and continue.
Sendle’s claim to fame is a noble one. Started in Australia, this lean shipping service aims to make each package you send a carbon-neutral one. They do that by offsetting the carbon emissions indirectly through the funding of natural-resource- and other “green” projects.
The Sendle-branded compostable mailer is an addition to their noble cause. It’s not free but rivals high-quality poly mailers in strength and capability, and it smells yummy, too.
The interface is clean and easy to manage. It integrates well with Shopify and eBay, allowing sellers to create shipments using orders collected on either platform.
As the end-user, you’re given a tracking link that points to the Sendle Web site, because unlike the other services here, the carrier Sendle chooses to use might vary depending on the origin, destination, size, and time. Though I haven’t been able to get Sendle to tell me which other carriers they use, they did say some United States regions have unique carrier options. Out of the slew of packages I’ve sent, I’ve only ever ended up with USPS.
With that said, the tracking capability is still pretty slick. If you’re the recipient of a package, and the business ensures your email is plugged in when creating the shipment, you’ll get a link to track the package on Sendle’s site.
Because Sendle is taking an extra step in the service they’re offering (the carbon offset position), rates are going to fluctuate a bit compared to what you may be used to seeing.
Sendle’s pricing tier allegedly factors in all the potential carriers you may end up using, plus being carbon-neutral, to create a matrix of flat rates.
If you’re just starting, expect to pay the highest amount. Small packages start at $3.89 and climb from there. Depending on where you’re sending to, the price differences could be negligible.
For example: on the Standard plan, if I sent an 8oz package locally, I’d pay $3.89 with Sendle, whereas with the Postal Service, I’d pay $3.21All the rates here on out are based on USPS’ commercial rate tables, not retail. . If I shipped more regularly, the local price would actually end up a break-even. Shipping that same package across the country, the USPS would charge $3.67. Again, nominal price differences.
The same goes for most of these tiers, too. First-Class packages at 15 ounces are at most $5.70 from the USPS. A 5lb Priority Mail package in a 7x7x3″ box would cost me as much as $8.42 with USPS. With Sendle, they could potentially be cheaper, and I’d be supporting ecological projects.
The kicker with these rates comes down to how strictly you adhere to the dimension requirements for these tiers. If you’re like me and up to end up always getting USPS as your carrier, it becomes easier to fudge. A 10x8x4 box weighing 2 lbs would typically fall under the Medium tier but would cost at most $9.56 to put through the mail.
Putting it another way, if you strictly adhere to not just the weight requirements but the size requirements as well for each tier, you’ll be paying significantly more than just about every other option here.
- Easy to use interface
- The compostable mailer smells real nice
- Integrates with eBay and Shopify
- Creating shipments takes little time
- Rates aren’t very competitive in some cases
- Limit of 20 lbs
- No way to determine which carrier you’ll get
- Cannot choose to which project(s) your money will go
Let’s get this out of the way: Pirate Ship was my first. When I needed to ship packages, this was the first service I used, and to this day, I still pull them up when the time is right.
Pirate Ship is good at one thing: being an interface for USPS commercial rate pricing and always giving you the cheapest possible options.
The interface doesn’t have a lot to it, but it ties in well with eBay and Shopify, which is a huge plus for sellers. Bulk-create labels or do them one at a time by typing or pasting in an address. Pirate Ship will do its best to parse it out.
Enter in what kind of packaging you’re using and its size, and presto-chango: pricing. Click another button, and boom, your label is ready to go.
Pirate Ship only provides one shipping carrier: The United States Postal Service. Unlike some of the other shippers on this list, they do not charge any extra fees, so all you pay is the price for the shipping itself. This is the epitome of “free shipping service.” It’s as simple as that.
- No surcharges for shipping, ever
- The best USPS rates, all the time, with no caveats
- Integrations with Shopify and eBay
- Supports international mailing
- Only uses USPS
- Address pasting can be a little wonky if it’s capitalized strangely
- It might not be a good solution for faster shipping offerings
If you’ve been in the e-commerce game for any length of time, Shippo will immediately come to mind, and for a good reason. They’re the ones you think of when looking to use a specific carrier and want to get the best rate for it.
Shippo hooks up to all the big platforms, including Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, eBay, Amazon, Squarespace, Etsy, and Square.
The user interface is clean and easy to navigate. Getting a quote for a shipment is a bit more difficult than I would expect. I found it easier to use their calculator on their home page versus going through all the motions of creating a manual order.
Shippo also comes with neat additional functionality like custom-branded packing slips and tracking pages.
For those starting, you’ll be pleased to find a pay-as-you-go plan at a mere $0.05/label. Depending on the shipment cost, this could very well be but a fraction of a percent per month.
Find yourself shipping larger quantities of packages or need those extra features I mentioned? The professional plan starts at $10/month for 60 labels ($0.16/each)
Because of the impacts of COVID-19, through January 19, 2021, Shippo isn’t charging a dime for any of its features. All Professional plans are $0.00/month regardless of which you choose.
How about the carrier selection? If you haven’t noticed yet, I slung the carrier list down along the side of this post. Needless to say, Shippo’s carrier support is extensive.
- A massive selection of carriers
- Good discounts for UPS, USPS, FedEx, DHL
- Entirely free through July 7th
- Custom packing slips and tracking pages on the Professional plan
- Carrier choice can be overwhelming
- Sometimes suggests carrier options with incredibly long delivery times
- It's harder than I would expect to get a price quote, but the website calculator is available
Easyship another powerhouse shipping platform that’ll tie well into just about anything you have. WooCommerce, Amazon, Shopify, you name it, it’ll probably hook up.
Here’s a neat trick that I think puts Easyship at the top of the stack for consideration: the fulfillment network. Easyship offers fulfillment services and warehouse locations around the world, and all the relevant taxes and duties are factored in automatically. No surprises.
I’m always a fan of super slick and clean UIs. Creating a shipment is similar to the other platforms in that it’s a multi-step process. Like the other platforms, I imagine most shipments will be generated through the originating e-commerce platform rather than by hand, so this may not really matter.
Easyship comes with all the carriers you could ever imagine. All the rates are pre-negotiated, and pricing is nice, too. If there’s a particular carrier you’re interested in, Easyship has a handy search tool here.
EasyShip is free to start and comes with 100 shipments per month out of the box (no pun intended). Move up to the paid plan starting at $29/month and get your hands on 500 shipments a month and a branded tracking page for your customers, along with additional users and courier account integrations. The free plan also lets you tie in one carrier account of your choosing.
- Massive carrier coverage
- Pricing is competitive with the other paid multi-carrier options
- A 30-day trial of all paid plans to help businesses transition online
- The shipping cost estimator on the Web site is only good for USPS and some super slow DHL rates.
- Can only tie in 1 carrier on the free plan and 3 on the $29 paid plan
When we start talking about big players, ShipStation is the first to come to mind. It’s as powerful as powerful can get, and the automatic UPS carrier discount is nice, too! (More on that in a bit) If you’re an e-commerce operator that has real volume, this is where I’d put my money and effort.
ShipStation integrates with all the carriers and makes getting quotes from them incredibly easy. This is probably my favorite interface out of all the quoting tools each of these providers offers.
ShipStation starts at $9 a month, with no free plan, which is a little disappointing. With that said, though, $9 is not a lot in the grand scheme of things. I would have liked to see perhaps a more generous promotion to bet more businesses onto the platform.
- Compelling interface
- Creating a shipment and getting a quote is fast and efficient
- Ties well into all the e-commerce platforms and shipping services one could have
- No free plan
- Could have done more to bring businesses in from the shift to online shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic
The Seller Journal Picks
I thought about this for a while and realized that I don’t think it’s possible to pick a single shipping service. What we have here are a few different categories and offering levels that cater to different crowds and business sizes, so I’ll break down my picks.
For personal shipments and low-volume eBay, my vote is for Pirate Ship. There’s literally zero cost to use the platform–pay for shipping–and USPS’ rates are good enough that you’ll find a lot of room to grow and still have your shipping needs met.
For new-to-online businesses, go with Shippo. Their zero-cost promotion through July 7th makes this a no-brainer. You’re just getting into e-commerce and not sure how everything’s going to work out yet. There’s no sense in nitpicking the details. Shippo is good enough to get you started and make things happen.
For already established e-commerce businesses, I vote for ShipStation. It’s insanely powerful and will meet your needs now and five years from now as your business grows.
If the environment is your business's top priority, go with Sendle. It’s not the cheapest, but it’s the feel-good-est.
At the end of the day, any of these services could very well fit a large cross-section of businesses and users. What matters most is the features you need for your business right now and as your business grows. The last thing you’ll want to do is change shipping platforms every 6 months because you’ve outgrown it or need different carrier support. Once you’ve found the platform that ticks all the boxes that matter most, settle in and grow your business. You’ll start to forget that they’re even there, and that’s a good thing.