Cheap parcel delivery: how to send parcels for less

Parcel delivery

In the days of online shopping, people are sending more parcels. Yet, getting the best deal doesn’t always mean getting the cheapest deal, and that is especially true when it comes to cheap parcel delivery. This guide will help to decide which service provider to use, how to choose the best delivery service for your money, and discuss whether or not it is worth getting insurance.

Cheap parcel delivery

Parcel delivery in the UK is big business, and there are lots of UK-based and global companies that deliver our parcels and packages all over the country. 

So what do you need to think about? Most of us have sent a parcel, but have you always got the best deal? Again, not necessarily the cheapest but the highest value for money. Price is always going to play a part, but a cheap parcel delivery service might not have some of the benefits of a more expensive company. 

According to research, it’s always a good idea to send smaller parcels through Royal Mail, as they work out the cheapest for weight and size (under 1 kg for a small parcel size). After that, it might be better to compare the options. 

There are lots of choices — which company, where you drop it off, if the company picks it up, figuring out weights and dimensions, and so on. The easiest way of checking is via a comparison site.

delivery van
Source: Artem Podrez / Pexels.

How to send a parcel

When posting a parcel, there are quite a few factors involved when trying to lock down a decent price. You’ll need to check:

Free delivery from stores

When buying online you can choose a different delivery address to your billing address. So if you are sending a present, for example, you can have it gift-noted and sent directly from the store to whomever you wish. It is nearly always cheaper to send a gift directly (some stores do gift wrap for a price), than get it sent to your own address then forward it on. And it’s made even better if the delivery cost is nothing. 

Some stores do completely free delivery for smaller items, like Currys PC World, Zalando, Carphone Warehouse, and ao. Lots of stores do free shipping over a certain amount, say £20-£50 like Amazon, but also a selection of stores have free delivery for ‘members’. 

You can join a free membership programme to gain free delivery and other perks like points or bonuses, giving the stores vital information about you and your shopping habits — adidas, H&M, Nike, and Foot Locker are just a few.

Pack, weigh and measure

First things first, you need to pack your items properly. Wrap your items in bubble wrap or paper, pack them in a suitable box or bag, and fill the empty space too with old scrunched-up paper. This will keep the items secure inside the box. Badly packaged parcels are one of the main reasons things go wrong en route, as well as giving the wrong size and weight.

Measure your parcel with a tape measure if possible, and as it is unlikely you’ve got a package scale at home, just use a bathroom scale to weigh the package. Alternatively, have a look online for the weight of the item, most stores show the weight in the specifications. 

Another way of measuring the package is by using very handy apps — there are a few out there that act as a virtual tape measure using your smartphone’s camera. Check out CamToPlan on Google or Apple; there are others, but that one gets the best reviews.

Should you get insurance?

If you are sending a selection of second-hand t-shirts, worth next to nothing, then probably not. But if you happen to be posting a family heirloom to your brother’s wedding in France, then I’d say yes. You’ll definitely need some insurance.

You will find that most courier companies offer insurance up to a certain amount, included in the fee. A lot of companies will offer £100-£200 compensation for lost or damaged parcels, but anything over that will need to be insured in another way. 

There are companies specialising in package insurance, for example Secursus, which covers everything from lost or stolen goods to damaged parcels. Often, expensive or fragile items are excluded from being insured by the courier, and the exclusions lists can be very long. But these insurance companies will cover such items, such as high tech items or expensive jewellery, up to the amount you want to cover them for, for a price.

Note that it is very important to keep hold of the shipping receipt, and to have proof of the value of the item, in case of any claims being made.

Parcel comparison sites

Everything has a comparison site nowadays, and parcel delivery is no different. Parcel delivery comparison sites work with various big name courier companies and make your search quicker and easier by searching for the best price for your package. 

  • My Parcel Delivery

    Founded in 2009, during a dull moment stood in a post office queue according to the site. Made to make sending parcels easier all round, comparing prices of Collect+, DPD, Hermes, Menzies Parcels, MPD, Parcelforce, and UPS. 

  • Parcel2Go

    Comparing Collect+, DHL, DPD, FedEx, Hermes, Parcelforce, TNT, USPS, and UPS, Parcel2Go has got quite the roster. One of the UK’s best parcel brokers, you can also send any size parcels using cheap international parcel delivery to the country of your choice.  

  • ParcelHero

    ParcelHero works with carriers  DHL, DPD, FedEx, Hermes and UPS to offer international couriers all over the world. It has one of the highest ratings out of all the biggest names, with an astonishing customer rating of 97% positive reviews. 

  • Parcel Monkey

    A fan favourite, Parcel Monkey works with DPD, DHL, Hermes, and ParcelForce to save you money on sending small and large parcels across the UK. With over 217,000 reviews online it is refreshing to see that it keeps the good and bad reviews available to view. 

  • Worldwide Parcel Services

    Working with AMI, APC, DHL, DPD, Interlink Express, and UPS (couriers love an acronym!) Worldwide Parcel Services (or WPS) is able to send parcels for less than you’d imagine all over the globe. Use the easy comparison tool to find out more.

Top ten parcel delivery providers

It is always worth knowing about the company you are sending your parcel with, so do a bit of research before sending. Questions like: do they deliver internationally? Are they reliable? Can you have your parcel delivered faster with a certain courier - next day instead of two days? Can it be delivered on the same day even? 

The table below is made up of the bigger names in the market, and all of them have good reputations, and the savings you make with an unknown brand might not be worth it in the long run. These providers have made their names for being the best and most reliable out there. 

NameCost*Next day?Compensation (included in price)Other services
Royal Mail / Parcelforce£13.90YesUp to £50International, collection or drop off, Saturday delivery
DHL UK£8.89YesUp to £25International, collection or drop off
UPS£13.19YesUp to £50International, collection or drop off
Hermes£6.90YesUp to £20Cheap international delivery, collection or drop off
DPD£6.47YesUp to £100International, collection or drop off
CitySprintDependent on mileageYesUp to £100Courier services, same day delivery, collection or drop off, GPS tracked
Yodel£5.49YesUp to £50Drop off, store to door, UK only
TNT£10.74YesUp to £50Same day, Collection only, international
Menzies£11.27YesUp to £50Collection, delivery address must be to Scottish Highlands and islands
Collect+£6.59YesUp to £20Drop off and collection at local shops, international

*Cost based on small parcel (Weight: 3kg, Size: 30 x 30 x 30cm) drop off to door next day delivery

When parcels go missing

Parcels go missing, it is a fact of life, either they can get lost in transit or some unscrupulous member of the public might take it from the doorstep. Considering how many parcels are sent each day it is quite uncommon, but it does happen. 

If an item being sent to you is lost in transit, your first thought might be to ask the courier for a refund, but actually it is the responsibility of the retailer to compensate you. Same goes if the item was left in a bin outside and is no longer there — you need to contact the store and tell them the item was missing, it can then compensate you accordingly. 

If you are the one sending the parcel, then choose a respected courier, and get insurance if it is an expensive item. If the item is never received by the recipient, then file a report and a lengthy search will be carried out by the courier, followed by a pay out by the insurance if not found. Although it must be said, most packages are delivered, 97% according to the couriers. 

It’s a good idea to always add a return address too, as then the courier can get it back to you if the addressee cannot receive the parcel, for whatever reason.

Which is the cheapest parcel delivery company in the UK?

If the parcel is small and under one kilogram, then using Royal Mail via the Post Office is normally the cheapest option. Above that, it is worth using one of the comparison websites to find the cheapest option available to you. You will quickly find out the price based on size and weight.

How much is parcel delivery insurance?

Which is the best parcel delivery company?

How do I arrange parcel delivery?

Which is the largest parcel delivery company in the world/UK?