Which 'Shipping carrier provides the best overall

Now there's a question that ought to get some action. as important as it is to have a good one , or two, given the very nature of this venue in particular. For with but one exception, every deal I've personally done via Audiogon has been with the use of some carrier... and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

Is there truly a carrier out there that continually provides exemptlary service. Handles goods properly, facillitates providing informaiton quickly and accurately? ..or is it always a coin toss with shipping equipment, in terms of timeliness and handling?

Having gained some experience over the past few years, both here at audiogon, and in former businesses, I think it may well be just that, a coin toss.

My very first opportunity to transact business with another member was steeped in miscomunication and poor training on the part of several FED EX emplyees and took months to regain the difference in an overcharge.

Most recently FED EX again has shown to be lacking in attention to detail and training of it's individuals, as well as access to timely shipping info updates. Frustrating at the time, but now since all turned out well, a laughable, but most memorable event.

For those who have done this 'shipping' thing quite often, I ask what is yuoor assessment of carriers in general, and have you determined a prefferance?

I feel this is certainly an area in dire need of an assessment based upon some considerable experiences, both in shipping, and in claims.

Thanks a lot. This should be most benificial to all at Audiogon...
None of the major carriers. They simply handle too many packages to provide great care with any individual package. I've had the best experience with Federal Express but that is probably simple chance. UPS has really gone down hill in that
last few years. They've also clearly implemented a policy to deny all claims as "insufficient packaging" and you really have to fight to be reimbursed. I suspect the safest would be
overnight with one of the smaller carriers. They handle fewer packages and overnight gives them less time to cause damage. There really isn't a good answer. The networks have done stories on the the big three (UPS, USPS and Federal Express) and they all seem to be equally bad.
I have sent & rec'd several item via FedEx with no issues. Ground service transit time is 3 days from west coast or east coast to Texas. Pricing is a bit less than UPS and you can ship FedEx from any Kinkos. I have never rec'd any damaged boxes/items. I did have a seller go to a privately owned shipping center and I was charged about double standard FexEx rates due to the mark up of the store.

UPS has about the same transit times but is much more careless with packages in my experience.

USPS took over a month to deliver a piece of vinyl from L.A. once.

Good luck,

Let's break it down, because it really depends what it is you're shipping (and I don't use UPS....period!) Assume double-boxing in all cases with the exception of cables under 3m.

1.) Big, or heavy stuff that's not particularly fragile (amp stands, racks, even speakers as long as well packed or crated) use FedEx Ground. Now here's something interesting about FedEx Ground (as opposed to UPS Ground) that many people may not know: If it's a relatively short distance (say two or three states away) it will probably only take two or three days tops (UPS takes 5 days no matter) One caveat though, FedEx Ground only leaves origin points twice a week except in the largest cities. So find out when, so your item doesn't have to sit around for five days.

2.) More fragile components, etc. use FedEx Express Saver (3 days, air, up to 150#) It will arrive in most major cities in two days and represents a significant savings over their 2nd Business day service. (this service doesn't appear on their website for rate calculations, you have to call)

2a.) If it's small (under a pound) and expensive (cartridge) use FedEx next business afternoon. Flat rate and relatively cheap insurance. And always insure stuff for at least the transaction amount.

3.) Cables, software, small acessories, etc., I use USPS Priority Mail Insured. Quick and cheap, never had a problem.

A nice thing about FedEx (Air not Ground) if you want to use COD, is they will (for a couple bucks) collect a cashiers or certified check at the destination and overnight it back to you at no additional charge. If you have doubts about forged cashiers checks (a big problem today) ask the seller to fax a copy of the check beforehand so you can check with the issuing bank for authenticity.

Two little tips re FedEx: Always write "ARS" on the signature waiver line. It stands for "adult signature required" (they also have stickers available) That eliminates lazy drivers from just leaving the package without getting a signature. And time your shipment so it won't have to sit in some wearhouse over a weekend/holiday.

Hope this helps.

here's my 2 cents,whats really important is not who is the fastest or the cheapest or even who has the best track record for getting gear to its destination undamaged,whats most important is which shipping company gives you the least hassle & is going to pay off a claim after some boob on a hi lo stabs his forks straight thru your package on the loading docks.

without a doubt in my mind ups is the way to go,ive had 9 items damaged durring shipping with ups & each time they paid me in full even when the damage claim was questionable.

now with fedex ive only had 3 damage claims & im 3 for 3 with fedex,deny deny deny even when the package arrived with water running out of it from being left in the rain on the loading docks.

its pot luck when your shipping gear & most of the time we get lucky & the package arrives safe but when it arrives in peices im always glad when its ups,i know im getting reimbursed.


My experience has been the opposite. UPS claims have been long, drawn out, niggling torture sessions. I am 1 for 3 with UPS though the independent store that shipped UPS in one case paid up and said they would settle with UPS so overall 2 for 3.

Fedex I am 2 for 2 with each claim paid in 2 weeks or less.

I have had UPS damage more goods that I have shipped and that have been shipped to me so I ship FedEx Ground almost exclusively for anything of size. Generally cheaper than UPS and arrives quicker.

I will give a plug for "Craters and Freighters" that got a pair of Silverline Sonatas with no boxes packed and shipped from Virgina to Nebraska unscathed.
FedEx Ground at Kinkos gets all my business' business (around 3 boxes a week) because they have a counter nearby. Same prices as the FedEx counter that recently closed. The Kinkos staff seem alot friendlier than the FedEx staff. Twice over three years they've lost a box in a 20-box shipment - simply vanished. Every now and then one gets smashed. Two got smashed this week, but it really is the exception. Both boxes were light too, only six pounds each. The customer says one was pierced. Regardless, they've paid every claim though all of them have been under $100. With claims, respect their procedures, give them exactly what they ask for and they'll come thru.

Ole reliable USPS always delivers but not always on time. One Prioriity mail package took 45 days and arrived in a crumpled ball inside a preprinted USPS apology bag. In another instance, a seller tried to parcel post me a box of old Stereophiles. Some were still in their 15 year old mailers. Sure enough, the box cracked open and the PO delivered the unopened ones back to the seller. The rest never reappeared.

I never use UPS because their only service around here is through those Mark Up, Etc. outlets.

So yeah, it's always a crap shoot. Fortunately the odds are mostly in your favor. Pack well and always ship on Mondays!

Any recommendation for packages over 150 lbs?

I haven't been able to find anyone beside UPS Freight to take them. Most carriers take only packages below 150 lbs. Above 150 lbs, they take only business shipments, not residential ones.

And UPS charges an arm and a leg for packages above 150 lbs, which is the case for most big amps in their crates. For example, a 145 lb package would cost me about $80 with insurance. The same package at 165 lbs would cost about $150 with insurance!
Justin time,FedEx does stuff over 150lbs FedEx ground! I shipped my Krell monoblocks to my home using them. Two days from Santa Fe.
Good stuff! Given the limited # of responses so far things are neck & neck... A couple thoughts further... Over 150lbs? Clearly, Global Bax, Yellow, in my neck of the woods "Gator" seem likely choices... matter of fact, I just opened an account with Global Bax. But the caveat there is they are entirely a 'heavy frieght" shipper.

There is also a provider for insurance due to loss for FED EX shippments, independant of FED EX. Some criteria must be met, and they only cover missing items. (TRANS GLOBAL INSURANCE 18002454852 (insurance for items sent via FED EX) Thee cost of insurance is $1, per hundred. Must be shipped via FED EX. No labeling of any kind other than FED EX shipping label. maybe if it's worth it, huh?

My most recent deal involved FED EX. A pair of speakers from Grand Rapids, Mi. to me in Fla...via ground. P/u fine. ..and delivered the next day! ...but to another address in Grand Rapids! Super ..from that day forward no info online... done. kaput!... gotta call for info... half the time the agents didn't know anymore than did I. although late Saturday eve I did get one that did know more... she said the items were now in toledo, oh. great! When are they to be delivered? I said. She goes, "Tomorrow.".. (Sunday?), and figuring she meant Monday, I added to what address? She says "to Grand Rapids Mi." ...you're not serious? Well there you go. Now that's service! Ultimately I did get a supervisor and she kept me informed afterwards including telling me of the morning of delivery, by callin me that they were now on the truck out for del. that last part was really good. Her calling me and all. Although when they arrived it was evident careful handling was not a priority. thank God for the superior containers and packing they were in. Although the paking had some rips on the cardboard outer covering... the plywood crates were entirely in tact... and upon unpacking, everything was in great shape... but always if any abberations, rips, water soaking, holes, or what have you, NOTE EVERYTHING IN THE 'EXCEPTIONS' to the driver. it's far easier to make a claim of undiscovered damage once those notes are on record... it's much harder later on.... also take a pic or two as the carton is biening opend... and if damage is found right off... call the carrier before completely unpakcing it... trust me here... it'll help...

My experiemce says "pack it well', and pray. ..and sometimes even still that seems to no avail... given forklifts,carelessness, or labels indicating handling proceedures... but the latter will help with a claim... provided it ain't ripped off during transit... Take pics - take pics of it packed. and the box open showing the packing... CYA.

as to time frames for shiping vai FED EX, it depends on the city (to and from) , not necessarily the distances. UPS keeps to the time regardless, maybe later, but no sooner. Fed Ex is maybe less than the five days ground... depends of the volume of business in the local areas... one last thing... there is a thing FED EX has called "Home Delivery"... sort of like ground but they come by on Saturdays too and it's abgout the same as ground... pricewise.

I was hoping to hear about another carrier to use with lighter stuff.... or simply a better shipper overall... but do continue to offer ANY thoughts as to shipping, claimns or toherwise as it pertains to this thread as we all need some further insights about this area so often necessary to this 'hobby'. Everything we want, ain't usually everywhere we live...
Justin_time, my B&WN801s which are almost 240kgs shipped from US to Austrlia without a scratches by Bax Global. but with that weight you would know that how much I had to pay for the fee though. Vincent
time flies.... but the same stuff still occurs.

Finding recently that BAX Global doesn't want to insure 'electronics' for more than $500, and wants absolutely nothing to do with speakers, they're off the list in my book.
I've found Nsgarch above to be right on the money.

UPS Stores: UPS Stores charge a higher rate for shipping, especially insurance for high end items, compared to UPS online.

Packing: Heavy and expensive items, consider packing in two boxes with about 2 inches of foam peanuts between the inner and outer boxes - to absorb energy.

FedEx: I've had one claim when using Express Saver and they did not pay.
FedEX COD: I've used it three times and found it to be reliable so far.
Jj2468 thanks

Was the damage significantly expensive, or past the coverage?

I was told by UPS over the phone, the UPS Stores are like franchises... individually owned. The owner must seek out his own insurance provider. consequently the costs for coverage are far higher, but rates are the same. I know. I was in a spot and had to use one. rates were identical to those online, but the ins was about three times as much.

My curiosity persists as to what exactly was the reason for the carrier to not pay...??
Blindjim, a) the damage required that I replace the cd player transport, so it was not inexpensive and I thank Steve and GNSC for helping me, b) FedEx replied with a cursory form letter saying they would not pay, because there was no evidence it was their fault. It worked before I mailed it and it did not work after. However, there was no visible damage to the box, which appears to be the FedEx benchmark.

Regarding UPS: What upset me with UPS was that I telephoned them and was told they charge the same rate at the store as online. After shipping from the store with insurance, I went online to find that I could have saved about 30% or about $50 by shipping online. If they charge more for insurance at the store, I feel they should say so. If the UPS Store insurance product differs from the online one, then they should say so.

Recently, I sold an amp and the buyer asked me to put a couple of inches of foam peanuts between the inner and outer box. It was a pain to pack, but I think I may continue the practice for heavy items as I imagine it helps to have something to absorb the g-forces over miles of bouncing along in the back of a truck. Jeff

Jj2468 - thank you.

"... there was no visible damage to the box, which appears to be the FedEx benchmark."

sometimes yes, sometimes, no. Exceptions must always be noted upon receipt. Anything about the packaging that 'seems' out of the ordinary has to be notated on the drivers PDA. i DO IT AS FROM EXPERIENCE. Even if it amounts to nothing later at least the door is open.

Like others the person you get on the phone likely doesn't know... yet they think they know and offer the lesser of the two evils or just something... to placate a caller. Sad but I've found it true more often than not.

Always makes sense. Crushability is a good thing sometimes... well, minor amounts. when a tow motor shoves something along and drives it into something quite solid... even three boxes ain't gonna help... or if they knock it off a stack of stuff and it just happens to fall flat, showing no apparently crushed areas.

I'm real quick getting on board with the least ime they have it the better. But, that's no slam dunk either.

Pallet-tizing goods and strapping them down appears the only solution which should circumvent 90% of the issues in haulage. Man, it's pricey though... and they will stack pallets if possible.
Safe shipping tips and alternatibves to FE & UPS.

One independant carrier which I know for a fact was being used by VSA is PILOT AIR FREIGHT. the return leg of the shipping to me from vSA was done by Pilot.

PILOT contacted me well in advance of delivery to inform me of it... even asked what would be more convienent for me scheduling wise, which I thought was real nice. As they are an 'air freight' co. Their prices are depandant upon proximity to airports. The further the pickup or delivery is from one, or close to one, will affect the shipping bill at hand. A couple recent inquiries of PILOT for pick up and delivery of even quite large and heavier stuff than UPS or FE would handle, weren't ridiculously priced. Not bad in fact.

BTW I'm not affiliated with ANY carrier whatsoever.

Just to pass on some other important items required of the carriers in the event of some issue during shipping, that will aid immensely IF a problem during shipping arises are:

Above all upon delivery closely inspect the package and note ANY exceptions. Wet, holes, scrapes, dents, compressions etc. Taking a moment or two here will significantly further any claim effort, and it only takes a couple minutes to do. In fact, if possible, take a couple pics of the box too. Ensure the driver notes the exceptions as you point them out and documents them. it will require another signature from you if he/she did note them properly.

Prior to or during shipping:

1. While at the carrier or as you ship your next package, PICK UP A CLAIM FORM or two, associated with the shipping method. Some carriers have several forms for various means of shippement.

2. Take pics of everyting being shipped including the container (s).

3. Locate any previous bills of sale, cashiers check and have photo copies on hand. Like on a disc or your HD. The Declared value is not insurance. It'll needs be justified in the event of a claim.

4. If no previously acquired and appropriate claim form was obtained opt for the pursuit of a claim online. NEVER OPT FOR A 'MAILED TO YOU CLAIM FORM'... Opting for the online activity is quickest and overall best path. Asking for a 'mailed claim form' can, and with some carriers, does eliminate the online option completely.

5. Stay on the carrier. The squeaky wheel aspect here will help. so will being pleasant but persistent.

6. Take notes. Who did you speak with? When? What was supposed to happen? Where and by whom? Relying on the carriers notes and follow up is not the best choice in the event of a claim.

7. Make copies of the receipt for shipment. The bill of lading too. the carrier will request these from you for sure.

Having some of if not all of these items in place prior to sending a package is more than a prudent thought. Not needing them later is a relief for sure.

98% of this hobby involves using a carrier. giving some greater thought to protecting yourself in such events will serve you well if you're prepared in advance.
For large items, I've had great success with Team Air.


No nonsense, (very) organized air carrier. My shipment was delivered super fast and in perfect order. Plus, they were about 30% less than the next nearest bid.
In an "Oh, BTW" addendum... Sending items by air these days requires being recognized as a frequent air shipper, if one decides to use resources other than UPS or FE. Pilot, Team Air, etc. require minimal amounts of shipping occurances, say 3 or 4 shippments using their services via air cargo (which is higher than air shipping using passenger planes), or an affidavit provided by the FAA indicating you as not being a threat.

Getting in touch with the FAA agency rep at the local airport and getting the form filled out and turned in is the best way to that end. The FAA app includes a background check too which is also a super idea.

Team Air didn't follow up at all on my requests but Pilot did allow me the alternative. BTW #2 Pilot doesn't have planes... they merely broker the air transportation requirements as to time sensitivity which means land vehicles could be employed depending on the distance being traversed. They use flyers like "Kitty Hawk" etc.

Be advised that some issue may be realized as translation of the post 911 security measures aren't always devined the same way by different airports. That exact thing happend during my last episode of shippnig via Air. One area airport saw things one way, and the other end saw them differently, posing some delays to the timelyness of the contracted delivery. Pilot took care of all of that, informing me along the way what was happening, and what they were doing about it as part of their service I suppose. I never requested them to do that.

IMO it's worth the steps needed to become a 'known air shipper', for cost savings on the transportation end and the greater variety of 'brokers/shippers' then available, as passenger planes can then be used, again, saving time and money.

Lastly, one noteworthy item is a pretty obscure one... I experienced some residual re-breakin time with even well run in components, after using "air shipping'.

Paul Marks of Thor Audio had mentioned that to me on one ocasion referring to his available "upgrades" or "re-warrantied items" on his equipment which included return air freight. He said to expect some residual re-run in time due primarily to the components being exsposed to the pressure diffs encountered during ascents and descents to and from high altitudes as cargo is not usually enclosed in a stable, and pressurized compartment. Regardless if an upgrade or simple inspection for warranty were done.

This was apparently the case with a pair of amps (not Thor Audio) which I recently had flown across country overnight. Nearly two weeks of limited or imtermittant use and several re-biasing events were necessary for them to perform well.

they are now fine and holding bias pretty darn well with no drifts greater than one point from normal. The sound has also become far more natural and involving.

Paul might just be onto something there.

So parting the clouds to get an item out of "perhaps" harms way from those encountered by trucking or trains, has it's own hurdles, advantages, and shhort comings as well.

For my money, I'll look to the airways first for my shipping and receiving efforts. Past that I'll crate the expensive and delicate things... and pray. No method, container, or carrier is exempt from adverse events or failure. Though less handling, and shortened time frames for transport seem to indicate some added assurances. IMO
UPS is known as OOPS! Just received a McIntosh tuner via UPS from Oregon to Wisconsin. It was packed by a professional packager, double boxed, bubble wrapped, styrofoam, extra cardboard, etc. It arrived completely smashed. The glass McIntosh faceplate was literally in shards. The tuner knob was pushed into the front of the tuner completely destroying the tuner pod module. Internal and external damage I estimate at around 800.00. This package had to have been dropped from a good height. The packaging was of the highest order. A friend of mine worked for UPS at night loading trucks. He told me that he knew employees that would see how far they could throw packages just to pass the boredom of working all night. My friend had no reason to make this up. I will never use UPS (OOPS) again.
While in college, I worked loading UPS trucks in a major hub terminal in the summer. Let's just use an analogy : if you ever knew what's inside of those hotdogs, you'd never eat them, or even touch them.