DHL vs UPS: Which is Better?

Author: Matt Bohn
November 30, 2023

In today's fast-paced world, the need for efficient and reliable shipping services is a constant, regardless of the season. Whether you're a business owner managing regular shipments, an individual sending gifts, or simply needing to transport goods, selecting the right courier service is essential for both time and cost efficiency.

It's crucial to understand the various options available to you. DHL and UPS, two of the most prominent global shipping giants, each offer unique advantages and potential limitations. By thoroughly understanding what each service provides, you can make an informed decision that best meets your shipping needs. For a broader perspective, you might also find our comparisons of DHL vs FedExFedEx vs UPS and UPS vs USPS insightful.

An Overview of DHL and UPS

Both DHL and UPS are shipping companies that offer a wide array of services to both personal and business clients. From their histories alone, you can start seeing some of the differences that set them apart.

DHL

Founded in 1969, DHL started in San Francisco but currently exists as part of Deutsche Post in Germany. Though it doesn’t have as strong of a domestic presence in America as other shipping companies, it’s one of the global powerhouses for international mail.

Generally speaking, you might lean toward DHL shipping if:

  • You need to deliver a package internationally
  • You’re looking for the most cost-effective international shipping rates
  • You value quick delivery times

However, you may want to consider another service if you:

  • Need packages delivered on the weekend
  • Are shipping mostly domestic
  • Need more domestic customer service support

DHL has a stronger foothold and more options available in the international market, and its services and advantages reflect that.

UPS

In 1907, UPS started in a Seattle basement under the name the American Messenger Company. It’s still based in America to this day, and it’s one of the heavy hitters in the shipping and mailing industry, boasting over 540,000 global employees.

UPS might be your best bet this holiday season if you:

  • Are shipping mostly domestic
  • Need something delivered on the weekends
  • Want more flexible shipping plans
  • Need to ship international volume with UPS to satisfy other contractual requirements like revenue bands

That isn’t to say you should completely avoid UPS for international mail, though. In fact, both companies have carved themselves a niche in the global market.

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Global Reach: DHL vs UPS

Some say that DHL has the market when it comes to global reach, although UPS also has a strong foothold that can’t be ignored. When shipping internationally, you’ll want to carefully examine the benefits each offers.

DHL offers:

  • A wider range of international delivery, including countries like Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Shorter delivery time for the Express option (up to 3 working days, compared to 4-7 for UPS Ground)
  • Both air and sea delivery

UPS offers:

  • Control over the entire shipping network, as DHL often partners with USPS during portions of the delivery
  • Numerous different international shipping options
  • Service in over 200 countries and territories

Take a look at the shipping rates for different services for your specific parcels before making a decision, as that can greatly vary between companies and even between shipping services within a company.

DHL vs. UPS Service Offerings: A Closer Look

When looking at the services of DHL vs UPS, you’ll find a mix of both domestic and international offerings that suit just about any shipping needs you may have.

A few primary DHL services include document and parcel shipping, as well as business-only shipping for retail, volume, and cargo. DHL offers a wide array of named services, too, each differing in price and primary use.

  • DHL Economy Select
  • DHL Express Easy
  • DHL Express Worldwide
  • DHL GlobalMail Business

Comparatively, UPS also offers both personal and business related shipping options, with a specific focus on eCommerce due to the boom of virtual businesses in recent years. Some of its unique services include:

  • UPS®Ground
  • UPS Express Critical®
  • UPS Worldwide Express®
  • UPS Worldwide Saver®

UPS boasts more domestic service shipping options than DHL. By comparison, while DHL has a broader global net, its services aren’t all available in every area, meaning you may not be able to deliver your package to where it needs to go under the service you want to use.

DHL vs UPS: Pricing Structures and Differences

In a highly competitive market, DHL and UPS offer fairly similar prices. However, all shipping prices depend on three primary factors:

  • Package dimensions
  • Package weight
  • Shipping destination

For both DHL and UPS, packages will always cost more if they’re heavy, large, or being shipped to far destinations. The lighter and smaller a package is, and the closer the delivery destination, the cheaper it’ll be.

However, DHL wins a slight edge over UPS in international shipping, with many of their international parcels coming in at a cheaper rate than UPS. On the other hand, the UPS saturation of the U.S. market means domestic packages are typically cheaper when shipped through UPS.

If you’re aiming for a weekend delivery, note that DHL also only delivers on Sundays with a surcharge, and only to certain locations. UPS, on the other hand, offers Saturday deliveries with no extra fees.

DHL vs UPS: Who Delivers Faster?

Again, several factors come into play when it comes to determining the speed of your delivery. This includes:

  • Where the package is coming from
  • Where it’s being delivered to
  • The shipping method
  • The type of courier service used

For example, the DHL eCommerce – Parcel Priority service is typically faster than UPS® Ground. On a whole, though, they offer similar delivery times with only one to two days of difference.

If your package needs to get to its destination in the shortest amount of time possible, be prepared to spend a little extra money no matter which service you go with. If the delivery date is flexible, take the time to research each different method of shipping for your specific parcels to find the best price.

DHL vs UPS: Customer Support and Experience

Both companies are lauded for their excellent customer service experiences and their ability to provide customer support through even the most harrowing of shipping struggles.

DHL is particularly noted for:

  • Having 24/7 international customer support
  • Offering refunds for service failures
  • Live customer service for Express deliveries

Comparatively, UPS receives accolades for:

  • Making the shipping process easier with automated tracking tools
  • Offering strong insurance options
  • Having polite and prompt agents working the customer service channels

As with every customer service, some people have had stellar experiences while others have had terrible ones. It boils down to the particular people you work with. On a whole, you’ll be fine in the hands of either.

DHL vs UPS: Technology and Tracking Capabilities

Both UPS and DHL have tracking systems that let you keep an eye on your parcel as it travels to its destination. Other technology-based innovations utilized by both companies include:

  • Electronic proof of delivery (ePOD)
  • At-home generation of shipping labels and invoices
  • Automated pick-up bookings
  • Commercial invoices

DHL sometimes utilizes manual tracking in its DHL Active Tracing tool. This means your tracking number is manually input into the system at delivery checkpoints by workers, which can cause delays in tracking. UPS has a fully automated system, which sometimes gives it an edge in tracking reliability.

DHL vs UPS: Environmental and Sustainability Efforts

In this day and age, sustainability and eco-impact are important for every company and individual to consider. This is especially true for shipping companies, which leave a hefty carbon footprint. All major shipping carriers have discussed their plans for shipping sustainability moving forward.

DHL’s campaign states a commitment to:

  • Creating innovative package solutions to minimize waste
  • A carbon emission reduction plan, with the goal of having net-zero emissions by 2050
  • Using renewable energy resources in warehouses to reduce dependence on fossil fuel

UPS focuses on other aspects, such as:

  • Upgrades to facilities focusing on energy efficiency to reduce energy consumption
  • Incorporating electric vehicles (EVs) into delivery fleets to reduce carbon footprint
  • The regular publishing of sustainability reports to keep efforts transparent

Both are making big changes in the way they handle shipping, with an increased awareness of how their size can negatively impact the environment if they aren’t careful.

Choosing the Right Carrier For Your Needs: DHL vs UPS

On a whole, both UPS and DHL have different places in the shipping world, neither fully filling the other’s shoes. The primary difference lies in the domestic versus international services. If you’re aiming for international shipping, your best bet is DHL. For domestic shipments, UPS will likely serve your needs better.

However, both have comparable offerings when it comes to matters like shipping rates, delivery speeds, services, and sustainability efforts. They both offer a wide array of services at different price points targeted toward both personal and business shipments. Each company is experimenting with cutting edge technology to improve the speed and accuracy of their tracking systems. Each company has above-average customer service representation in general.

When it comes to DHL vs UPS, your packages are in good hands regardless of what you choose. Just make sure to take your own unique factors into consideration first, such as the size and weight of your package, how quickly you want it delivered, and your shipping destination. Combined, these factors will help you decide whether UPS or DHL is right for you.

Want to uncover more nuance from your business’ shipping data? Use Lojistic, an all-in-one shipping logistics platform that tracks your shipping cost data automatically. 

At Lojistic, we offer an extensive array of services tailored to optimize your shipping operations. This includes detailed parcel audits, streamlined parcel payment processes, and efficient parcel refund management. Our solutions are strategically developed to help you effectively manage and lower your shipping expenses, delivering significant advantages for your enterprise.

 

Sources: 

 DHL Group. The History of DHL Group. https://group.dhl.com/en/about-us/the-group/history/1969.html 

 UPS. Our History. https://about.ups.com/us/en/our-company/our-history.html 

UPS. Saturday UPS Delivery and Pickup Options. https://www.ups.com/us/en/business-solutions/pickup-dropoff-options/weekend-pickups-deliveries.page 

DHL. Online Shipping Tools. https://www.dhl.com/global-en/home/our-divisions/freight/customer-service/online-shipping-tools.html 

Daily Caller. Shipping Sustainability: A Look at DHL, USPS, and UPS’ Eco-Friendly Initiatives. https://dailycaller.com/2023/10/06/shipping-sustainability-a-look-at-dhl-usps-and-ups-eco-friendly-initiatives/

Author

Matt Bohn

Matt Bohn

Director of Parcel Rate Services

Matt is the Director of Parcel Rate Services for Lojistic, a technology-driven firm that leverages innovative software solutions to control and reduce shipping costs.

Prior to his role at Lojistic, Matt held significant positions in the industry, including his tenure as Senior Pricing Advisor at FedEx. Matt analyzed pricing programs and wrote pricing contracts for some of FedEx’s largest e-commerce and retail shippers. He also managed projects for the FedEx Global Pricing Approval Systems and Strategic Account Executive Inputs.

Matt earned a BS in Computer Engineering and an MBA in Finance from the Joseph M. Katz School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh.
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