Several factors can determine the success of an e-commerce business, among them pricing, product quality, and reviews. But shipping time and costs can also influence a business’s bottom line. Thanks to the rapid shipping cadences of e-commerce giants like Amazon, modern customers want their product(s) stat. 

So the faster you can deliver, the happier the consumer—all the better for your business. 

But to master fulfillment and shipping logistics, you need to fully grasp the ins and outs of each carrier’s unique shipping zones. From determining your shipping cost to the delivery time and shipping method, the different zones can play a big role in your shipping. To that end, let’s take a look at UPS shipping zones and what they mean for your company’s shipping strategy. 

What Are Shipping Zones?

Shipping coast-to-coast is an incredibly complicated logistical juggling act. 

Carrier business models are based on their shipping network and infrastructure. For any customer, they need to be able to quickly calculate how much it will cost them to transport goods from the point of origin to the final destination. 

Shipping zones help UPS set a cost and time estimation. 

In the simplest terms, a shipping zone is a geographical region where carriers can deliver a package. Technically, each zone is a grouping of zip codes measured from where the package will be shipped to its ultimate delivery point. 

Sometimes, zones correspond to distance traveled. However, this isn’t always the case. A better explanation would be that the higher the zone, the more arduous the process to move the package from A to B. 

For a carrier like FedEx, shipping zones will roughly break down as follows:1 

  • Zone 1 – 50 mile radius
  • Zone 2 – 51 – 150 mile radius
  • Zone 3 – 151 – 300 mile radius
  • Zone 4 – 301 – 600 mile radius
  • Zone 5 – 601 – 1,000 mile radius
  • Zone 6 – 1,001 – 1,400 mile radius
  • Zone 7 – 1,401 – 1,800 mile radius
  • Zone 8 – 1,801+ mile radius

While this zone concept generally applies to UPS, the carrier uses a somewhat less straightforward approach to its zoning process. 

UPS Zones 

UPS doesn’t provide an easy mile radius zone breakdown. Instead, it views zones through a two-part lens:

  1. The shipping services required to take the package from point A to point B
  2. The distance the package will travel   

With UPS, you need to enter your zip code into their website. Once entered, you’ll receive a personalized UPS shipping zone chart that can be downloaded as an Excel sheet. It will present a different zone depending on whether the package is sent by:  

  • UPS Ground
  • UPS 3-Day Select
  • UPS 2 Day Air
  • UPS 2 Day Air AM
  • UPS Next Air Saver
  • UPS Next Day Air 

The first two digits of the zoning code are the type of UPS shipping service used and the last three digits reflect the distance the package will travel. 

How Does Understanding UPS Zones Benefit Your Business?

If you primarily ship with UPS, their shipping zones can have a significant effect on the way you do business. Specifically, there are several strategies you can deploy by leveraging shipping zone knowledge: 

  • Reduce the cost of shipping – Zones determine the cost of shipping. Generally speaking, the higher the zone, the more it will cost to ship a package. Also, if you have to go further, you may need to use one of UPS expedited services to transport the package to its final destination within a reasonable timeframe.
    If a business seeks to reduce its shipping zone costs, it can either spread its products across several fulfillment centers closer to the customer or place a single fulfillment center in a location closest to the most customers.  
  • Provide free shipping – If businesses want to keep customers satisfied, they can offer free shipping for deliveries that are in the same zone or zones in close proximity. 
  • Partner with a better carrier – If UPS isn’t providing optimal value, your business may benefit by switching to a carrier that has more favorable zoning policies and prices. 
  • Zone skip – If you want to avoid high zone shipping fees, the logical response would be to strategically move and store products closer to where consumers live. By consolidating parcel and freight loads and sending them via ground transport to a hub nearer to their final destination, you can effectively lower the per-package price for shipping.
  • Renegotiate contracts – To properly renegotiate a contract, you’ll need substantive data. Understanding shipping zones—specifically, how many packages on average are delivered to each zone and the cost of sending them there—provides guidance and leverage when asking for a discounted rate. 

Gain the Most From Your Shipping Contracts

If you partner with UPS, understanding their shipping zone categories is an essential aspect of controlling your shipping logistics and overhead. When you can get wise to every input of the shipping process—or work with a shipping service that can do your homework for you—you’ll be able to make the healthiest possible financial decisions to keep your business thriving.

Whether you’re trying to determine the UPS or FedEx shipping zones, it’s important to understand the impact they have on your shipping cost. Anyone knows that no matter the shipping service, the costs can quickly add up and disrupt your operation. Luckily, there are ways you can reduce your shipping rate for different carriers. 

With Shipware, you can reduce your parcel and LTL shipping costs with a UPS audit or consulting services with any other major carrier. To learn more about how you can reduce your shipping rate and find the best carrier, contact us today. 


  1. FedEx. Service Guide 2022.