eBay Courier Guide: a comprehensive review of the major postage couriers available UPDATED 12/1/18

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eBay Courier Guide: a comprehensive review of the major postage couriers available UPDATED 12/1/18

Postby spotify95 » 14 Sep 2017, 21:12

So, I have finally managed to get around to doing this. It was a long time coming. (UPDATED 12/1/2018)

I have made together a guide to the major couriers that are in use in the UK, that most buyers/sellers will use when posting their goods. It is ideal for new and experienced eBay sellers, as well as other people who need to send an item to a recipient and want to get the best price/service when posting their items.

My overall recommendations for each parcel size can be found at the bottom of this guide.

This guide summarizes all of the major couriers available on eBay's "Shutl" printing service, as well as the services available at Post Offices. This includes: Royal Mail (Post Office), Royal Mail (Customer Service Point), Collect+, MyHermes, UPS, Parcelforce, DPD and UKMail. Other couriers (such as Yodel, TNT, InPost etc) are not covered as they are not included in eBay's online postage printing service.

Please note that Collect+ Economy is no longer advertised on the Shutl website, due to being the only 3-5 day service available. This option is still available when printing a Shutl label, therefore Collect+ Economy (3-5 days) is still included in this guide.

Without further ado, here is my guide to each of the couriers.

Royal Mail (via Post Office):
Reasonably fast for 2nd class on the vast majority of items (mostly 2 days, sometimes 3 days). Very fast for 1st Class (1 day, sometimes 2 days). Small items below 1kg in weight (1st Class - or 2kg in weight for 2nd Class items) are reasonably priced. Items with a thickness of less than 2.5cm (e.g. some small items of clothing, and some thin items such as DVDs, CDs etc) are classed as a "large letter" and they are cheaper to send. Large letters are very good value on the 2nd Class service, and are also reasonably good value for lighter items on 1st Class.
For medium sized items under 2kg (or 1kg first class - maximum dimensions 61 x 46 x 46 cm), the price is average - there are cheaper alternatives that I would recommend instead.
Services for items above 2kg (or 1kg first class) are very poor value for money, as the price increases exponentially, to the point whereby Parcel Force is cheaper (more on that later).
Signed For services cost extra; the amount is dependent on service/weight. No tracking is provided, just a reference number which shows when the item was delivered.
Special Delivery is only useful for items with very high value.* It is the only fully tracked option, and is almighty expensive, with a huge jump in price between 1-2kg and 2-10kg items. Therefore, it is only recommended for urgent letters, of high importance, or on very high value items, whereby the recipient is out of the area that you can feasibly hand deliver to.
Reliability of the service is very good, from both receiving and delivering parcels. Loss or damage is rare and any damage is usually down to insufficient packaging.
Note: Will not take any items with batteries in it (or other dangerous goods) and most Post Offices will ask for contents of item. Even smaller items that contain very small batteries (such as watches) will be questioned by some Post Office staff, so make sure that your items do not contain batteries of any kind.

Royal Mail (via Shutl / Customer Service Point):
Speed of service is the same as that of the standard Royal Mail services from the Post Office, i.e. split into a 2-3 day service and a 1 day service. This is equivalent to 2nd Class and 1st Class.
Compensation values are slightly higher than that of the Post Office, but other alternatives (that are cheaper to use) offer similar compensation policies.
All services are tracked as standard, with signatures available on delivery for an extra 80p.
All services via the Customer Service Point are poor value for money compared to the Post Office counterparts. This is especially the case for all 1-day services and all items above 2kg in weight.
I would not recommend using the Customer Service Point option; if you want to send an item via Royal Mail then you should use the standard Post Office option mentioned above.
Reliability and conditions of use are assumed to be similar to that of the standard Royal Mail services via the Post Office (do not send any batteries via Royal Mail). I have not been in receipt of any items via this method (likely due to the increased postal prices compared to other methods of shipping).

Collect Plus (Collect+):
Comparatively expensive for small items below 2kg, given the speed of service. This is due to Collect+ not having a dedicated small parcel rate, so all parcels are classified by weight only. For medium items below 2kg, the price is competitive on the Economy service (cheaper than Royal Mail). Items above 2kg (max. 10kg) are priced reasonably well with the Economy service, but there are cheaper alternatives. The Standard service is not cost effective for most items, as there are cheaper alternatives (including the Economy service). Item price increases linearly with regards to item weight.
Economy Service takes 3-5 working days. Standard Service takes 2-3 working days. No express option.
Both services come with full tracking, so you can always find the whereabouts of your parcel (and when it was delivered). Signed for options are available, costing an extra 80p for the added signature.
Reliability is good: all items that I have received from Collect+ have arrived in good condition, and within the timeframes specified. The deliveries that I sent have all been delivered without damage or complaint, with or without a signature upon delivery. Collect+ will accept batteries without any issues, so are good for battery related items, though MyHermes (the only other option guaranteed to take batteries) are cheaper, see below.

The cheapest of all couriers for small and medium sized items below 2kg, excluding large letters below 2.5cm thickness. Price is also competitive for items between 2kg-5kg. Above 5kg and there are cheaper (and likely better) options, though the price is still reasonably good (price increases linearly with weight).
There is only one type of service offered to most customers, the Economy service, which takes 2-3 working days. So although they are not the quickest in regards to speed of delivery, they are still perfectly acceptable for the cost and service provided. Comes with tracking so the whereabouts of the parcel can be checked quickly. Signed options are available, costing an extra 80p; however MyHermes' signed options are still cheaper than the equivalent service provided by Royal Mail.
MyHermes also offer a collection service, which is slightly more expensive, but still competitively priced, which is ideal for people who do not have a local ParcelShop.
Reliability can be variable and the service you will receive may depend on who your local courier is. Fragile items are not recommended via MyHermes, due to the increased risk of damage in transit. Outer packaging may be imperfect upon receipt of most items - ensure packaging materials are adequate before sending to avoid breakages.
Note(s): Lots of items are excluded from compensation so it is advisable to package the items thoroughly, to avoid any damage in transit. Ideal for cheaper, economy jobs, or for non-fragile small or medium parcels below 5kg, due to the price of the service. For items with high value or for fragile items, another courier may be better. Will accept batteries without a problem - my primary recommendation for sending batteries due to being substantially cheaper than Collect+.

One of the fastest delivery services of all couriers listed on the eBay / Shutl online printing service - all services are next day, which is very quick.
Not the cheapest for items below 2kg, but are competitively priced for 2-5kg items and are by far the cheapest for anything heavier. High initial cost but overall cost increases very slowly when item weight is increased (unlike other options mentioned). A collection option is available, at a slight price increase, which is ideal for senders who do not have a local Access Point that they can drop their parcels off at.
Compensation value is reasonably high as standard (up to £60) and can be increased further (at additional cost*) for higher value items.
All items are tracked and signed for as standard - great for piece of mind. Delivery is almost always attempted next working day, due to this service being an express service.
Reliability is very good - although not in receipt of items shipped via UPS, I have posted almost all of my >2kg items via UPS and the vast majority have all been delivered on time with no damage. Very good service considering the shipping speed and price.
Note(s): Have not tested UPS when shipping batteries - not all types of batteries are likely to be accepted, though battery lots usually go via other, more cost effective couriers anyway. Delivery will only be attempted once, then the item is taken to your local Access Point, where you have to collect it from (bring some ID).

Parcel Force:
Very expensive for all items, especially items below 2kg in weight. For items above 2kg in weight, the price is still expensive, though it is cheaper than Royal Mail. When taking items above 2kg to the Post Office, Parcelforce is usually selected as default instead of Royal Mail (due to the latter having exponential price increases), though there are much cheaper options available in this guide, including multiple next day services.
Compensation limit is reasonably high* compared to other options, making Parcelforce OK for higher value items (depending on the value of the item). Parcelforce is cheaper than RM Special Delivery in most cases.
The services offered are fast - the Standard Option, Parcelforce 48, is a 2 day service, whereas the Express Option, Parcelforce 24, is a 1 day service.
Items are tracked and signed for as standard, though this is to be expected with the high postage costs associated with Parcelforce.
Reliability is very good. All deliveries that I used Parcelforce for, were made on time with no damage or complaints. Parcelforce used to be my recommendation for heavy items (>2kg), before Collect+ and UPS were added via Shutl.
Note(s): Parcelforce use the same tight rules/regulations as Royal Mail, so no batteries or dangerous goods. Expect to be asked for parcel contents.
Only recommended for high value items* due to price considerations.


Speed of service is very fast - DPD offer an express service as standard (1 day delivery), making them an ideal choice if you need your item being delivered quickly. They also have a good compensation limit (£60*) which makes them more suited to higher priced, more valuable items. DPD are similar to UPS, whereby the price is expensive to start off with, but does not change much as extra weight is added.
Therefore, DPD are recommended as an alternative to UPS for items above 5kg in weight.
Tracking and signatures are provided as standard, for increased peace of mind.
Reliability is good and all items that I have received from DPD have been in good condition with no damage. I have not used DPD for sending items but I expect that the reliability of sending parcels would also be good.
Notes: Only offer a drop off service. Availability of drop off areas depend on the area and may be more sparsely located in comparison to other options. It is recommended to try other options first unless you know you have a local drop off point in your area. Would be a 2nd recommendation due to UPS being cheaper.

UKMail (Collections):

UK Mail are different to the other couriers in this guide in that they do not offer a drop off service - they only offer a collections service. This service is therefore more suited to people that need the courier to collect their item from them, rather than dropping the item off at a suitable drop off point.
Their service is an express 1-day service, which is ideal for prompt deliveries. The service is also tracked and signed for as standard.
The standard compensation provided is up to £60, which is good for slightly more expensive items; additional compensation can be added if required (at an additional cost).
UK Mail are comparatively expensive for smaller parcels, however, like the other Express services in this guide, the price does not increase by much as additional weight is added. UK Mail are therefore more suited as an alternative to UPS' collection service, especially for items above 5kg in weight.
Quality of service is average, it depends on who your local delivery courier is and what they term as a "safe place" if no-one is available to sign for the item. (In my experience, 2 out of 2 items delivered have been left in a location that was not appropriate.) Items are unlikely to be damaged in transit.
Notes: Collection service only and are very similarly priced to UPS - therefore, are a 2nd recommendation for collections is UPS is not a viable option. Do not use if you are unavailable for courier collection. It is recommended that the recipient is available on the day of delivery, in order to avoid issues with where items are delivered to.

*The default compensation values for all Shutl Economy services is £25, and is £60 for all Shutl Express options. This can be increased (if required) by selecting "enhanced compensation" when selecting the label, at an increased cost. The amount varies and is dependent on the amount of compensation required for the item.
For more valuable items, Shutl Express options are recommended and can also be cheaper than more specialized services, such as Parcelforce or "Special Delivery" from Royal Mail.
For example, I had a relatively heavy item to send, which was outside of the area that could be hand delivered to. The value of the item was in the order of £350.
Royal Mail Special Delivery would have been the only option from the Post Office, and would have cost in excess of £25 due to the weight of the item.
Parcelforce would have charged approx. £13 for this item, but that would have only covered £100 compensation. For the full value of £350, the cost would have been substantially higher (in the order of £20).
UPS (the option selected in this case) delivered the item next day for approx. £10.50 with full £350 compensation - which is approx. 50% of the price of the equivalent Royal Mail or Parcelforce services. The shipping of this item would have cost approx. £6.50 with standard compensation, therefore the additional compensation only cost about £4, which was well worth it, for peace of mind.
Therefore, it is recommended to check the price of high value items via Shutl's delivery services, by selecting the "enhanced compensation" option and making note of the quoted price (in comparison to Royal Mail/Parcelforce).

Pricing for sending parcels through each courier (correct as of 12/1/18):

Royal Mail 2nd Class: Large Letter £0.79 - £2.22; Small Parcel £2.95 (£3.95 signed for); Medium Parcel <2kg £5.05 (£6.05 signed for); >2kg use an alternative option
Royal Mail 1st Class: Large Letter £1.01 - £2.60; Small Parcel £3.45 - £5.50 (£4.45 - £6.50 signed for); Medium Parcel £5.75 <1kg (£6.75 signed for), £8.95 1-2kg (£9.95 signed for); >2kg use an alternative service.
Collect+ Economy: £4.70 <2kg; £5.98 2-5kg; £8.08 5-10kg. Signature additional 80p.
Collect+ Standard: £5.35 <2kg; £7.06 2-5kg; £9.10 5-10kg. Signature extra 80p.
Hermes Economy (Drop Off): £2.78 small, £3.95 medium <2kg; £5.55 2-5kg; £7.39 5-10kg; £9.79 10-15kg. Signature extra 80p.
Hermes Economy (Collections): £3.15 small, £4.20 medium <2kg, £5.85 2-5kg, £7.68 5-10kg, £9.90 10-15kg. Signature additional 80p.
Royal Mail (Shutl / CSP Economy): £4.74 small; £7.26 medium <2kg; £10.55 2-5kg; £16.80 5-10kg; £30 10-15kg. Signature extra 80p. It is highly recommended to use Royal Mail services at the Post Office and NOT through this method.
Royal Mail (Shutl / CSP Express): £7.22 small; £11.07 medium <2kg; £18 2-5kg; £21.60 5-10kg; £33.60 10-15kg. Signature extra 80p. DO NOT USE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES - USE ANOTHER SHUTL 1 DAY SERVICE INSTEAD. Royal Mail options are available for much cheaper via the Post Office.
UPS Express (Drop Off): £6.39 small, £6.59 medium (<2kg); £6.69 2-5kg; £6.89 5-10kg; £7.39 10-15kg. Signature included.
UPS Express (Collection): £6.69 small, £6.89 medium <2kg; £7.09 2-5kg; £7.49 5-10kg; £8.29 10-15kg.
UK Mail (Collection): £6.77 small; £6.85 medium (<2kg); £7.05 2-5kg; £7.47 5-10kg; £8.15 10-15kg.
DPD (Drop Off): £7.19 <2kg; £7.29 2-5kg; £7.49 5-10kg; £7.79 10-15kg.
Parcelforce 48: £12.12 <2kg; £13.14 2-5kg; £16.62 5-10kg; expensive above 10kg (but will take up to 30kg; £44.22 for 25-30kg parcel).
Parcelforce 24: More expensive than Parcelforce 48; prices range from £16.68 (<2kg) to £48.78 (25-30kg). Use an alternative option instead.
Royal Mail Special Delivery: prices start from £10.80 (<100g) up to £52.44 (10-20kg). Includes £500 compensation (with greater compensation values available). Only use on very high value items if a Shutl service (with enhanced compensation) is not feasible.

Note: Prices above are taken from eBay's online postage service (Shutl), with the exception of Royal Mail (Post Office) and Parcelforce. Prices for Royal Mail (Post Office) and Parcelforce are the "over the counter" prices at a Post Office.
A printer is required to print off online postage labels, with the exception of certain MyHermes and Collect+ drop off points.

Hopefully this guide (which took about 30 minutes to compose, and another 20-30 minutes to edit in the details - and this was just for the first version) will be interesting and useful for eBay buyers and sellers alike.

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Re: For eBay sellers: a comprehensive guide to the major postage couriers available (and review)

Postby pinkteddyx64 » 14 Sep 2017, 21:19

@spotify95 You might be interested to know that Parcel Force is a subsidiary of Royal Mail.

Imageeriously, life's too short to be worried about retards on an internet forum. :eek2: :eek3:
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Re: For eBay sellers: a comprehensive guide to the major postage couriers available (and review)

Postby spotify95 » 14 Sep 2017, 21:29

pinkteddyx64 wrote: @spotify95 You might be interested to know that Parcel Force is a subsidiary of Royal Mail.

Thank you for the confirmation - that explains why the policies regarding items through Royal Mail and Parcelforce are very similar. It also explains why Parcelforce services are available at a Post Office, alongside Royal Mail services.

However, it doesn't explain Parcelforce's high charges for parcels under 2kg, nor does it explain why Royal Mail is so expensive for items above 2kg.
I'd have thought that, if they wanted Parcelforce as the premium brand, and Royal Mail as the more basic brand, they'd have priced Royal Mail more competitively?

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Re: For eBay sellers: a comprehensive guide to the major postage couriers available (and review) UPDATED 3/14/18

Postby spotify95 » 14 Mar 2018, 16:34

Update: this guide has been updated as of 3/14/18 to reflect any changes in courier choices/recommendations.

Prices are slightly out of date for MyHermes and UPS (though changes are minor). All prices will be updated on 3/26/18 when Royal Mail and Parcelforce change their prices (and not for the better). Edit UPDATED 3/28/18

As of 3/26/18, MyHermes will be recommended for most parcels below 2kg that are not fragile in nature. Fragile parcels are better off via Royal Mail if small, or Collect+ if medium. Recommendations for parcels above 2kg remain as in the guide above (this will be fully updated on 3/26/18).

Update 3/24: If you wanted to beat the Royal Mail price hikes, you're too late... Prices go up Monday 3/26 and most Post Offices will now be closed until 3/26. Best start thinking about alternative couriers - or downgrading to 2nd class on large letters! (Prices updated are correct as of 3/28)

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Re: For eBay sellers: a comprehensive guide to the major postage couriers available (and review) UPDATED 3/28/18

Postby spotify95 » 28 Mar 2018, 21:59

Update: The Courier Guide has been updated today, 3/28/18, to reflect the recent Royal Mail and Parcelforce price hikes, as well as prior MyHermes and UPS price increases.
The prices for each service can be find in the opening post.

Recommendations for all parcels, as of 3/28/18, are as follows: (THESE ARE OUT OF DATE - SEE LATEST RECOMMENDATIONS)
Large Letters (<2.5cm thickness): Royal Mail 2nd Class. The upgrade to 1st Class is not worth the additional costs.
Small Parcels: MyHermes are recommended for all parcels that are not fragile in nature. Fragile parcels should be sent via Royal Mail 2nd Class (1st Class upgrade is not worth the additional costs).
Medium parcels 0-2kg: MyHermes recommended for all non-fragile parcels that are relatively low in value. Fragile items should be sent via CollectPlus (Collect+) and high value items should be sent via UPS Express.
All parcels 2-5kg: MyHermes and/or Collect+ can be used for lower value items; most items should be sent via UPS Express as the difference in cost is worth the upgrade to next day/signed delivery with a higher compensation limit.
All parcels above 5kg: UPS Express are the cheapest, and best, option for all items - use UPS Express for all items.

Parcelforce services are not cost efficient for most items and Royal Mail's "Special Delivery" service is incredibly poor value - use a different courier instead unless the item value is very high (though additional compensation can be purchased for MyHermes, Collect+ and UPS services, which may work out to be cheaper).

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Re: eBay Courier Guide: a comprehensive review of the major postage couriers available UPDATED 12/1/18

Postby spotify95 » 01 Dec 2018, 23:47

The Courier Guide has now been updated as of December 1st, 2018. This is to reflect the changes in price of some services, and the addition of new services via the online Shutl postage service. The prices of each service has been updated and is available at the bottom of the 1st post in this thread.

The recommendations are as follows, for drop off services (correct as of 12/1/18):
Large Letters: use Royal Mail 2nd Class (1st Class can be used if delivery is more urgent, on lighter items).
Small Parcels: MyHermes Economy if item is not fragile or on Royal Mail's excluded list (including batteries). Royal Mail 2nd Class, via the Post Office, is an alternative option, including for fragile items. Upgrading to 1st Class is not worth the additional costs.
Medium Parcels (below 2kg weight): MyHermes is recommended for non fragile items, Collect+ Economy is recommended for fragile items, and UPS Express is recommended for high value items. Royal Mail can be used as an alternative for fragile medium parcels (but is more expensive) and DPD can be used as an alternative to UPS, at a slightly higher cost.
All Parcels 2-5kg: MyHermes for low value items (less than £20) that are not fragile. Collect+ for low value items (less than £20) that are fragile. UPS Express or DPD Express for all other items. Do NOT use Royal Mail or Parcelforce under any circumstances.
All Parcels 5kg and above: use UPS Express or DPD Express as they are cost efficient, have next day delivery, and are overall the best option to choose, regardless of the item value. MyHermes could be used for low value items or items containing batteries, though UPS or DPD are better choices. Do NOT use Royal Mail or Parcelforce under any circumstances.

Royal Mail (Post Office) 1st/2nd Class services for items above 2kg, Parcelforce services and Royal Mail "Special Delivery" services are incredibly poor value for money and should be avoided at all costs.
Royal Mail services via Shutl Customer Service Point are all significantly more expensive than their Post Office counterparts and should be avoided at all costs.

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