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How to choose the best shipping carrier

Choosing the best shipping carrier can be one of the most important business decisions for a goods-based company or online service provider. From on-time deliveries and insurance, to tracking and more, the carrier’s performance will directly affect the company’s reputation. 

While the major players in this market are rather popular, we’ve got tips to find the right carrier for every shipment and every company. Keep reading to learn more about choosing the best shipping carrier! 

What is a shipping carrier?

A shipping carrier delivers goods from companies to customers. Most shipping carriers allow package drop-offs, scheduling, and pick-ups at warehouses or fulfillment centers. On-time delivery, tracking, and insurance are three other basic features that top shipping carriers offer. 

What is the difference between the shipper and the carrier?

The shipper is the original owner of the goods that are going to be delivered to the customers. This could be any company offering goods. On the other hand, the carrier delivers the packages or goods. 

The carrier is responsible for any losses that occur during the transportation process. Even though the carrier is not the owner, the two businesses are intertwined. The success of the carrier delivery and the shipper’s business can equally lead to the success of the other. 

Who are the major shipping carriers?

DHL, FedEx, and UPS are three major shipping carriers. In terms of international freight shippers via boat, major international shipping carriers include the following: 

  • Maersk 
  • Mediterranean Shipping Company
  • COSCO Shipping Lines
  • CMA CGM Group 
  • Hapag-Lloyd
  • Ocean Network Express 

The various types of carriers can include shipping carriers that specialize in one type of transport or comprehensive delivery solutions. 

Which shipping carrier is the most reliable?

FedEx has built their reputation around reliable, on-time deliveries. Arguably, FedEx is the most reliable carrier for shipping. However, UPS, USPS, and DHL all rank highly for reliability as well. 

Criteria for selecting the best shipping carrier for your business

When selecting the best shipping carrier for your company, location, supply chain technology, transit times, reputation, and safety all can make a huge difference. Here’s what else to look out for along the way. 


Carriers offer different services and rates depending on location-based needs. The best fit for domestic shipping may not be the same carrier as the best international carrier. 

Selecting a carrier that works for the company or warehouse locations in the area you need is the first consideration when choosing a carrier. Keep in mind that for local deliveries, a local carrier may be a strong contender even though they are not competitive in domestic or international markets.  

Supply chain technology

For companies of all sizes, working with a carrier that uses the latest supply chain technology for seamless integration can improve company efficiency, secure delivery times, and reduce customer complaints. 


Working with a carrier that has a solid reputation and that you know your customers will be able to trust can significantly improve your brand reputation. Remember that customers will rate your company based on their overall experience. 

Delayed or lost deliveries don’t just frustrate customers. They can hurt your company’s reputation as well. Avoid these problems by working with a reliable carrier that also has a strong reputation.

Transit times

Transit times and consistent performance can improve the overall customer experience. Plus, they are essential to consider when choosing a carrier for shipping. 

Speed matters in the shipping industry. Choose to work with a carrier that offers fast shipping, two-day shipping, next-day shipping, and premium shipping options. 

Distributed warehouses

Having distribution warehouses all over the country will reduce delivery times and increase on-time deliveries. Shipping carriers with distribution warehouses can also solve storage problems for smaller companies. Additionally, distribution warehouses increase flexibility, optimize costs, and lead to faster deliveries in general. 

Guaranteed delivery 

While you may not be offered guaranteed delivery times, an estimated time of arrival is essential at the very least. This is especially true if you are sending high-value items that you can’t easily replace. So, guaranteed delivery is a premium service worth looking for in a carrier for shipping.

Cost of shipping

Realistically, to remain competitive companies need to charge competitive shipping costs. That means choosing a carrier with low or competitive total shipping costs. 

The cost of shipping should be a major deciding factor in shopping for a carrier for shipping. Companies will need to absorb higher shipping costs or pass them on to customers. 


While cost savings are important, safety is even more important. Lost, delayed, or destroyed shipments can cost more in the long run in terms of your reputation and your time than slightly higher shipping costs.

With that line of thinking in mind, don’t pick a carrier for delivery just because they’re cheaper if they don’t also offer high-quality service. Instead, work with a company that is known for safely shipping items. 

Package weights and dimensions

Package weights and dimensions affect total shipping costs. Select a shipping carrier that can meet the needs of common shipping weights and dimensions for your company. Companies can also consider optimizing package sizing for better rates. Sometimes, a box that is even an inch smaller can reduce total shipping costs and lead to significant savings.

Additional shipping insurance

Shipping insurance is a major consideration when selecting a shipping carrier, especially when shipping high-value goods. For high value or luxury goods, or large shipments, shippers may need to purchase additional shipping insurance. The total value of insurance offered can affect your choice of carrier. 

Special services

Depending on the product, some companies may need special services. Research carriers to that offer white glove delivery, hazardous material shipping, or any other special services you may need based on your typical shipping requirements.  

International vs regional shipping carriers

Many of the largest international shipping carriers are also regional leaders. However, there are other regional carriers with exceptional service within a smaller area. Here are the benefits of each: 

What are international carriers?

International carriers for shipping transport packages and goods of all sizes by land, air, sea, and rail. International carriers include DHL, FedEx, and USPS. They also include shipping companies by boat, like Mediterranean Shipping Company, COSCO Shipping Lines, and CMA CGM Group. 

What are regional carriers?

Regional carriers for shipping provide the same services as international carriers within a localized region, like the Eastern Seaboard, Southeast, Northwest, or various other parts of the U.S.

Here are a few examples:

  • Lone Star Overnight (LSO) operates in Texas
  • Spee-Dee delivery service operates throughout the Midwest
  • PITT OHIO operates in the eastern states
  • United Delivery Service (UDS) operates in Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana

When major international carriers are overburdened with supply chain issues, regional carriers may provide more reliable delivery options. 

Choose the right shipping carrier for success

For online or goods-based companies, a shipping carrier is a key partner in company success. Building relationships with one or more shipping carriers can lead to greater cost savings, increased on-time deliveries, and fewer problems with lost or damaged shipments. 

Working with a reliable shipping carrier can be mutually beneficial. Especially with small or regional carriers, the additional business from one company can benefit their business, while exceptional service will benefit the shipper’s business. With the right shipper-carrier partnership, everyone wins! 

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