Date: May 31, 2011
Selling an item on eBay is relatively easy; shipping it out safely (and without costing an arm and a leg) can be much harder. In this article, Michael Miller, author of Teach Yourself eBay in 10 Minutes, shows you how to choose eBay shipping options — and make shipping a less painful experience.
What’s the best way to ship the items you sell on eBay?
eBay partners with three major carriersthe United States Postal Service, UPS, and FedExto offer shipping services integrated with the eBay site. Choose to ship via one of these carriers, and you easily add shipping costs and info to your eBay listings, as well as print prepaid shipping labels from your own computer.
But which of these three carriers is the best for your needs? It pays to know your shipping options upfront, before you create your item listing.
What Shipping Services Are Available Through eBay?
While you can ship your eBay orders via any service you like, three major carriers have integrated their services into the eBay marketplace. This makes these companies the shipping services of choiceat least partly because they’re so easy to use with your eBay listings.
What shipping services are available through eBay? It’s the big threeUnited States Postal Service (USPS), United Parcel Service (UPS), and FedEx. You can easily offer any of these three carriers as options when creating an eBay item listing, as well as print pre-paid shipping labels from within eBay when it’s time to ship those items you sell.
Let’s take a look at what each carrier offers.
The U.S. Postal Service does more than just deliver letters. The Postal Service is actually one of the biggest shipping services for retailers and eBay sellers, in part due to its convenience. (You always have a post office nearby!) The Postal Service also offers free boxes and other shipping supplies for several of its shipping services, as well as a Shipping Calculator on the eBay site for quickly determining shipping costs for the items you offer for sale.
There are several USPS services you can use to ship your eBay items. The following services are well-integrated into the eBay machine:
- First-Class Mail. This is the Postal Service’s best-known service, and a good option if your item fits into an envelope or small package. It also provides the benefit of shipping directly from your mailbox, without necessitating a trip to the post officeassuming that you can figure out the correct postage in advance, that is. Delivery is typically three days or less.
- Priority Mail. This is the preferred shipping method for many experienced auction sellers, as it offers a good trade-off between delivery speed (2-3 days) and cost. There’s also the advantage of getting a flat rate on small packages shipped in one of their flat-rate boxes or envelopes; this makes it easier to calculate shipping charges upfrontit doesn’t matter where the buyer lives, the price is the same. (Those boxes and envelopes are also free, which can save you lots of money.)
- Parcel Post. This used to be known as the “slow” USPS service for larger packages, but it has gotten faster of lateand it’s priced lower than Priority Mail. Still, shipping something Parcel Post from coast to coast might take seven to nine days, as opposed to Priority Mail’s two or three days.
- Media Mail. This is what USPS used to call “book rate;” it can be used to ship books, DVDs, videotapes, compact discs, and other printed and prerecorded media. The rates are much cheaper than those for Priority Mail, although delivery is typically in the Parcel Post rangeseven to nine days. Still, this is a good, low-cost way to ship many popular items; the cost for shipping a typical hardcover across the country is less than half what you’ll pay for Priority Mail.
- Express Mail. This is the USPS’s fastest service, offering guaranteed next-day delivery 365 days a year, including weekends and holidays. Merchandise is automatically insured up to $100. Express Mail is considerably more expensive than other USPS services.
The USPS also offers two options for international shipping:
- Priority Mail International. The international version of Priority Mail, with various flat-rate shipping options, free shipping boxes, and relatively quick shipping to most countries.
- Express Mail International. The Postal Service’s fastest international shipping service, but a bit pricey for most eBay sellers.
UPS is a good option for shipping larger or heavier packages but can be a little costly for smaller items. UPS offers various shipping options through eBay, including the following:
- UPS Ground. The lowest-cost option, and a good choice for medium- to large-sized packages. Delivers within five business days.
- UPS 3-Day Select. Costs more than UPS Ground, but delivers within three business days.
- UPS 2nd Day Air. An even more costly option that delivers within two business days.
- UPS Next Day Air Saver. Too expensive for most eBay sellers, unless the buyer pays expedited shipping costs. Gets your package there the next day.
- UPS Next Day Air. UPS’ most costly option, too expensive for most eBay sellers. Delivers most packages by 10 a.m. the next day.
UPS also offers several international shipping options through eBay, including the following:
- UPS Worldwide Express Plus. The most expensive option that delivers by 9 a.m. within one to three business days.
- UPS Worldwide Express. Delivers by noon within one to three business days.
- UPS Worldwide Saver. Delivers by the end of day within one to three business days.
- UPS Worldwide Expedited. A lower-cost option that delivers within two to five business days.
- UPS Standard to Canada. A low-cost option for shipping to Canada only.
When considering UPS for your eBay items, know that the company offers substantial discounts for eBay sellers. The UPS Special Pricing Program for eBay Sellers (imaginative title, isn’t it?) offers discounts up to 23 percent for UPS Ground, 25 percent for international shipments, and 32 percent for Air shipments. (Discounts are even higher for eBay PowerSellers.)
FedEx is the newest shipping supplier for eBay, having just been integrated in February. It’s a good choice for various types of packagesnot only for the expedited service for which it’s well known.
FedEx offers several different shipping services to eBay sellers:
- FedEx Ground/FedEx Home Delivery. This is a terrific choice when you’re shipping larger items. It’s designed for bigger and/or heavier packages, and its rates are well below similar services offered by the Postal Service and UPS. For example, I use FedEx Ground to ship DVD players and various audio equipment, and it’s extremely cost-effectiveseveral dollars cheaper than USPS Priority Mail. Most packages get there within five days. Use the Home Delivery option when delivering to a buyer’s home address.
- FedEx Express Saver. Delivers most packages in one to three days. A good option for smaller items that need faster delivery.
- FedEx 2Day. Delivers most packages in one to three days. A little pricy for most eBay sellers, unless the buyer pays for expedited shipping.
- FedEx Standard Overnight. FedEx’s next-day shipping service, probably too expensive for most eBay sellers.
- FedEx Priority Overnight. FedEx’s fastest (and priciest) domestic shipping services, gets packages to their recipients by 10:30 a.m. the next day. Probably too expensive for most eBay sellers.
FedEx also offers the following international shipping services to eBay sellers:
- FedEx International Priority. FedEx’s fastest (and most expensive) international shipping option, with one to three day shipping. Probably too expensive for most eBay sellers.
- FedEx International Economy. A lower-priced international shipping option, with most shipments arriving in five business days.
- FedEx International Ground to Canada. For shipments to Canada only, with relatively fast shipping (two to seven business days) at a reasonable cost.
What Shipping Service Should You Choose?
There’s no single best answer to the question of which shipping service to use. It all depends on the size of the item, where it’s going, how fast it needs to get there, and how much you (or your buyer) is willing to pay.
For simplicity’s sake, many sellers like USPS’ Priority Mail. When you use a flat-rate box or envelope, you not only get a free shipping container, you know the shipping costs upfrontbecause they’re the same no matter where you ship to. This lets you easily state your shipping fee to buyers, without fear of going over if you calculate wrong.
That said, Priority Mail sometimes costs more than competing services. If price is a factor, you may be better off with the less-expensive (but also slower) Parcel Post or Media Mail.
For larger or heavier items, UPS Ground or FedEx Ground may be better solutions. Compare the pricing of these two services against comparable USPS services for a sampling of ZIP codes; you may find that UPS or FedEx provide a little more bang for the buck.
Whichever of these services you choose, since they’re integrated into eBay, they’re going to be relatively easy to use. Just select the service(s) you want when creating your item listing, and eBay helps calculate the shipping fees. You also get to print pre-paid shipping labels at the end of the auction for any of these servicesa real time-saver.
How Do You Select a Shipping Service for Your Listing?
You select the shipping service you want when creating your eBay listing. If you’re using the simple Create Your Listing form, go to section 4, Set a Price and Shipping Details. Pull down the list and select a shipping service (see Figure 1). All the options listed in this article should be available.
Figure 1 Selecting a shipping service when creating an item listing.
You can offer more than one service in your listing and let your buyer select which he or she prefers. Just click the Add Other Shipping Destinations or Services link to expand the shipping section. Select additional shipping services from the pull-down lists. (This is also how you add international shipping options in addition to your standard domestic shipping.)
When it comes to determining the correct shipping fee for your item, use eBay’s Shipping Calculator, also on the Create Your Listing form. Click the Shipping Calculator link to open the Shipping Calculator window (see Figure 2). Enter the estimated weight of your item, select the type of packaging you’re using, and then click the Continue button. On the next screen, enter your ZIP code, how much you want to charge for additional handling, then select Sample Rates from the Domestic Rates list (see Figure 3). Click the Show Rates button and eBay displays a comparison of rates to three cities (Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles) for a variety of shipping services (see Figure 4). Use this chart to determine the shipping service you want to use, as well as to help estimate an average shipping cost.
Figure 2 Using eBay’s Shipping Calculator.
Figure 3 Entering shipping details into the Shipping Calculator.
Figure 4 Comparing costs between shipping services.
How Do You Print Shipping Labels?
At the end of your auction, or when someone purchases a fixed-price item, you can print a shipping label for this item from within eBay. Shipping costs for the label are charged to your PayPal account.
The easiest way to print a shipping label is to go to your My eBay All Selling page and navigate to the Sold section. Go to the item you want to ship and click the Print Shipping label option.
When the Print a Shipping Label page appears, confirm the selected Carrier (this should be the carrier you selected when creating the item listing) and pull down the Service list to select the appropriate shipping service (Figure 5). Select any Delivery Options, as desired, enter the total weight of the package (including the shipping container) into the Total Package Weight boxes, and then click the Calculate button. This calculates your actual shipping costs.
Figure 5 Printing a pre-paid shipping label.
Next, pull down the Mailing Date list and select the day you’re shipping the item. Pull down the first Printing list and select the desired label or printing option. Then pull down the second Printing list and select whether or not you want to print a receipt with the label.
If you want to display the shipping cost on the label, check the Show Postage Cost on Label option. (Most sellers don’t.) Confirm or edit the Ship From and Ship To addresses, as necessary, then click the Pay and Print button. When the next screen appears, make sure you have a blank label or appropriate paper in your printer and then click the Print Label (Figure 6).
Figure 6 Getting ready to print your label.
The labels you print from eBay print on half a normal 8 1/2x11-inch sheet of paper. A better alternative is to print on a two-per-page weatherproof self-adhesive mailing label, such as the Avery #5526 or any generic equivalent.
After you’ve affixed the label, your work is done. You can drop your package in the mail (if you’re shipping via USPS) or drop it off at the nearest office for your selected carrier. You don’t have to wait in any long lines to pay for the shippingyou did that when you created your label.