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Crikey! USPS International Shipping Costs


Running a mail-order business gives me many opportunities to think about the cost of shipping. I’ve just made a change to the BMOW store that enables small, lightweight packages sent within the USA to be shipped by USPS First Class Mail rather than Priority Mail, cutting the shipping cost in half. Woohoo! But that’s about all the help I’m going to get from the US Postal Service, and I’m slowly realizing that USPS has some of the least competitive postage rates in the world.

A typical BMOW package weighs about 10 ounces, or 283 grams. To mail that package to the UK, Australia, Germany, or other countries where customers may live costs me $22.75 in postage via “First-Class Package International Service”, which is the cheapest option available. That’s a significant amount of money. If my store sells a 10 ounce item that costs about $20, it’s unlikely anyone outside the USA will be buying it, unless they relish paying more for postage than for the item itself.

I decided to compare the cost of international shipping for a comparable 10 ounce / 283 gram package, sent from a few other major countries:

County Cost for shipping 283g
International Package
Cost in US Dollars
USA USD $22.75 $22.75
Canada CAD $19.39 $14.90
UK £14.90 $21.20
Australia AUD $14.10 $10.83
Germany     €3.70 $4.22

The US has the most expensive international postage rates of any of these countries. (But at least this gave me a chance to learn how to type £ and € on a US keyboard, where those symbols don’t appear.)

The real anomaly in international shipping is China. Sending a package from the USA to China costs me the same as to any other country. But sending a package from China to the USA appears to be nearly free. Take one look at any of the many “free shipping” deals available from Chinese sellers on Aliexpress, eBay, or similar sites, and you’ll wonder if reality has been suspended. And it’s not that they’re absorbing the cost of shipping into the item price. Take this LED voltage meter for example: it costs $0.78, is available in single quantities, and ships free to the USA. Granted the delivery time stinks (up to 40 days), but at that price few people are complaining. How are postage prices like that possible? I can’t even ship within the USA for that price, let alone internationally.

I’m always looking for the most economical way to get BMOW packages to customers. I only wish USPS could be more help!

Read 17 comments and join the conversation 

17 Comments so far

  1. Eric - April 3rd, 2016 5:45 am
  2. Steve - April 3rd, 2016 6:51 am

    If the BMOW international shipping volume were higher, it might make sense to have a trusted person in Germany act as a distributor for Europe. I could mail that person a big box of parts for a one-time cost of maybe $50, then he/she would fulfill orders for Germany, France, UK, and other countries in Europe for $4.22 plus the cost of time and hassle. All combined that should still be less than $22.75. But I’d probably then have to charge VAT and comply with other EU rules I’m unfamiliar with.

  3. Pete Prodoehl - April 3rd, 2016 1:17 pm

    I add $25 for shipping outside the US and people pay that. I think they’re used to paying more for shipping. (Inside the US I charge $10, which is a good average. Sometimes it costs me $8 and sometimes it costs be $13. I figure it evens out.)

    I do have people who want rush shipping, and will gladly pay as much or more than the cost of the item.

  4. Adrian - April 3rd, 2016 6:14 pm

    Thank our supposedly small-business-supporting congress men/women for strangulating USPS.

  5. Mike - April 3rd, 2016 9:08 pm

    Please don’t just use UPS to ship to Canada; they (and FedEx) have a very profitable bait-and-switch game going where the cheapest rates do not include customs brokerage.

    When the UPS man shows up at your door, he expects to get paid for the brokerage plus $10-15 extra for no reason.

    So many shops I’ve purchased from have been unaware of this when I asked.

  6. Steve - April 3rd, 2016 9:17 pm

    Thanks Mike. I’m not sure if you read USPS as UPS, or were making a separate comment. USPS = United States Postal Service, UPS = United Parcel Service. I’ve never shipped anything by UPS because it would cost $70 to $100 for international delivery… ouch.

  7. rasz_pl - April 4th, 2016 12:53 am

    Find a suitable Dropshipping company outside US, might even turn out to be cheaper for US deliveries.

  8. Mike - April 4th, 2016 4:11 pm

    Meant as a separate comment, but I’ve seen a lot of American online shops go to UPS-only because of ease of integration with their shipping API. Wanted to head off any thought of that at the pass.

  9. rasz_pl - April 4th, 2016 6:14 pm

    just remembered eevblog made a video about dropshipping his ucurrent kickstarter, dont remember the title tho and cant find it

    also test

  10. Charles Phillips - April 12th, 2016 9:26 pm

    use paypal for all your shipping, i had to stop using USPS website they went full rape. you can use this link to ship to anyone.

  11. Steve - April 12th, 2016 9:52 pm

    It should be the same cost for postage, whether you get it at the PayPal site or USPS. But anyway, PayPal doesn’t offer First Class International Package as an option, which is what I use outside the USA. They only have First Class International Letter and Large Envelope for some reason.

  12. Steve - April 12th, 2016 10:29 pm

    Wait, you are right! WTF??? Since January, it seems USPS online click-n-ship service no longer offers commercial base pricing, but instead charges retail prices, which are 5% higher on the examples I checked. PayPal offers commercial base pricing, but *doesn’t* offer First Class International Package service. So I can save at least 5% on international shipping, but only if I sign up with another service like or endicia. Argh.

  13. Joel Dillon - April 14th, 2016 4:49 am

    I would assume if you’re shipping something from China it just gets chucked onto a giant container ship carrying all the other stuff that goes from China to the US every day.

    (This is also why the delivery time is so long – you’re comparing airmail for everything else to putting things on a ship, of course it’s cheaper 🙂

  14. Daniel - May 6th, 2016 6:39 am

    Hi Steve,

    I ordered stuff from the USA for years without having very expensive shipping. It was possible via USPS, but I think around 2003/2004 they dropped the low-cost/longer-shipping-time option (which was surface-mail via freighters?). After that decision it was mostly inacceptable for me to order something from the US to ship it to Germany. It’s not only the shipping costs, but if the shipping costs add US $25 to every order, the import customs are again higher for the customers leading to losing the opportunity for the shop owners to expand their business.

    For me, USPS forced all small/midsize shop owners in the USA to stay inside national destinations.

    China/HK is extremly cheap and even Japan is pretty okay based on the shipping options (EMS, SAL, AIR-Mail).

    Getting an external warehouse/shipper could help in this case. No wonder that so many sellers switch over to Amazon to host their products in the warehouses … Again Job-Opportunities gone to a big company.

    All the best,


  15. Steve - May 6th, 2016 7:10 am

    I didn’t think the shipping cost would affect the import duties in Germany or other EU countries. I don’t list the shipping cost on the customs form, but only the price of the actual items inside the box, so I don’t think the customs officials know what the shipping cost was.

  16. Daniel - May 6th, 2016 1:21 pm

    Hey Steve,

    Sounds weird, but I am living with that Shipping will be included in the import customs thing for nearly 20 years now (as I live in Germany and be pretty often at the customs office). You have to present your bill and receipts (Paypal, Bank-account transfers) to prove what you have paid for.



  17. Robert - March 21st, 2020 5:43 pm

    I know that this an OLD thread but the counterpoints to Steve’s post were all rather dumb. Yes you get a discount when using PayPal via Ebay etc. but international shipping options aren’t provided as Steve said. Although the USPS will give parameters for shipping a first class package you can’t get away with shipping something in the letter category EVEN when it falls in the letter category based on size. 12″ x 7″ x 3/4″ which is larger than the typical CD case that doesn’t fall into their letter category. I can use ALL of a 12″ x 7″ x 3/4″ envelope but it better not be a CD. As far as the chiming in about Congress and their relation to the USPS there isn’t one. The USPS is fully funded not by tax $$ but by selling postage and other items in their “stores”. The postal service provided ridiculously fine benefits and retirement packages which was good for their employees and the hierarchy but VERY bad for the rest of us. You want to hear about mismanagement?? The postal service embodies it.

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