How to Choose the Best Courier For Your Business: Royal Mail vs. DHL

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No matter how good your product is, if your courier partner isn’t up to snuff, your business will suffer. 

Choosing the right courier for your business is critical, as it helps ensure that orders arrive on time and remain undamaged in transit, and that shipping costs still leave room for profit margins.

This is why vetting your courier options before committing is very important, no matter where you’re shipping to or from. 

For ecommerce businesses based in the United Kingdom, Royal Mail and DHL are two popular courier options. Before settling on one of the other, merchants should carefully compare and contrast the two to find the best fit for their unique business. 

In this article, we’ll dive deep into the pros, cons, and service offerings of both Royal Mail and DHL to help simplify your business’s selection process.

Royal Mail vs. DHL: simplified

Here is a comparison of the key features and characteristics of Royal Mail vs DHL.

Royal MailDHL
What it isThe UK’s national postal serviceMajor courier with a global network
Best For:More cost-effective for smaller, lighter parcels shipped within the UKInternational shipments, and businesses comfortable with spending more for a premium shipping experience
DeliveryOffers more delivery time windows and UK delivery optionsOffers faster expedited international delivery, and higher shipping insurance coverage

A breakdown of Royal Mail services

Royal Mail is the main mail courier in the UK. Online retailers love and trust Royal Mail for its value-for-money delivery prices and wide range of shipping options.

Here is some basic information about Royal Mail’s shipping services, offerings, and policies.

International coverage

While Royal Mail has limited international shipping coverage, it offers multiple different signing and tracking options. 

ServiceDescriptionShipping Timeline
International TrackedTracked to delivery point for peace of mind5-7 business days
International SignedTracking within the UK, and a signature on delivery5-7 business days
International Tracked and SignedAdded peace of mind for sending important or valuable items

Offers end-to-end tracking and signature upon arrival

Most expensive of the international options
5-7 business days
International StandardAn affordable service for everyday international mail6-7 business days
International EconomyFor heavier parcels that don’t need to arrive in a hurryDelivery by the end of 6 to 12 weeks

European coverage

Royal Mail’s Europe options are very similar to its international delivery services, with the exception of shorter shipping times.

ServiceDescriptionDelivery Time
Royal Mail SamedaySame-day delivery for urgent itemsSame day
Royal Mail Tracked 24®Tracking to delivery point and next-day deliveryNext day
Royal Mail Tracked 48®Tracked to delivery point and delivered within 48 hours2 days
Royal Mail Special Delivery Guaranteed by 9am®Delivery by 9am next dayNext day
Royal Mail Special Delivery Guaranteed by 1pm®Delivery by 1pm next dayNext day
Royal Mail Signed For® 1st ClassSignature on delivery and next day delivery aimNext day
Royal Mail Signed For® 2nd ClassSignature on delivery and delivered within 2-3 days2-3 days
Royal Mail 1st ClassNext-day delivery aim for letters and parcelsNext day
Royal Mail 2nd ClassDelivery in 2-3 business days for less urgent mail2-3 days

Cost per shipment

As with DPD, Royal Mail’s cost per shipment varies based on the type of parcel you’re shipping, its size, its destination, and your desired delivery time. 

TYPE OF PACKAGE

LetterParcel
Length: 24cm-35.3cm
Width: 16.5cm-25
Weight limit: 100-750 gms
Length: 45cm-1.5m 
Width: 35cm-46cm
Weight limit: 2-30 kg

DESTINATION

LetterParcel
International– International Standard from £1.85
– International Tracked from £6.90
– International Tracked & Signed from £7.00
– International Standard from £4.64
– International Tracked from £7.88
– International Tracked & Signed from £9.09
UK– 1st Class from 95p
– 1st Class Signed For from £2.35
– 2nd Class from 68p
– 2nd Class Signed For from £2.08
– 1st Class from £3.95
– Tracked 24® from £4.45
– 2nd Class from £2.85
– Tracked 48® from £3.35

*These details have been sourced from Royal Mail’s website. All prices are in pounds.

UK-based retailers can enjoy special rates and gain access to tailored reports, by signing up for a Royal Mail Online Business Account (OBA). 

Insurance options

Royal Mail includes a certain amount of insurance coverage for each shipment, depending on the delivery plan you select.

ServiceCompensation cover up to
– Royal Mail 2nd Class
– Royal Mail 1st Class
– Royal Mail International Standard 
– Royal Mail International Economy
£20
– Royal Mail Signed For 1st Class
– Royal Mail Signed For 2nd Class
– Royal Mail Special Delivery Guaranteed by 9am
– Royal Mail International Tracked
– Royal Mail International Tracked & Signed
– Royal Mail International Signed
£50
– Royal Mail Tracked 48
– Royal Mail Tracked 24
£100
– Royal Mail Special Delivery Guaranteed by 1 PM£500

When sending valuable items such as money and jewelry, it is best to use Special Delivery Guaranteed, as you can seek out compensation up to £2500 by paying £9.35 to £21.45 (depending on the weight of the goods being shipped). 

Delivery policy

You can find Royal Mail’s standard terms and conditions as well as service-specific policies here.

A breakdown of DHL services

DHL is one of the world’s leading couriers, shipping over a billion packages each year to 220 countries. While DHL also offers some logistics services, their bread and butter remains personal and business shipping. 

Here’s a breakdown of some of DHL’s most important features and services.

International coverage

Whether you’re shipping from the UK to another country or vice versa, DHL has multiple different options for shipping your parcel — each with its own timeline and value-adds. 

ServiceDelivery TimeKey Features
DHL Same Day JetlineDelivery by the end of that business day via air– Proactive delivery notifications 
– Customs clearance facilitation
– Accompanied and/or dedicated transport upon request
DHL Same Day SprintlineDelivery by the end of that business day via ground– Proactive delivery notifications 
– Customs clearance facilitation
– Accompanied and/or dedicated transport upon request
DHL Express 9:00Delivery by 9:00 AM the next possible working day– End-to-end tracking
– Proactive delivery notifications
– Customs clearance facilitation
– Money-back guarantee 
DHL Express 10:30
(EXPORT ONLY)
Delivery by 10:30 AM the next possible working day– End-to-end tracking
– Proactive delivery notifications
– Customs clearance facilitation
– Money-back guarantee 
DHL Express 12:00Delivery by 12:00 PM the next possible working day– End-to-end tracking
– Proactive delivery notifications upon request
– Customs clearance facilitation
– Money-back guarantee 
DHL Express WorldwideDelivery by the end of the next possible working day– End-to-end tracking
– Proactive delivery notifications upon request
– Customs clearance facilitation
DHL Express Easy
(EXPORT ONLY)
Delivery by the end of the next possible working day– End-to-end tracking
– Customs clearance facilitation
DHL Economy SelectDelivery in 1-3 working days– End-to-end tracking
– Proactive delivery notifications upon request
– Customs clearance facilitation

Source: DHL

European coverage

When shipping within the UK, DHL offers 3 Next-Day delivery options, each for parcels of a different size. 

NameSizeMaximum Dimensions(L x W x H)
Next-Day Standard Up to 15kg60 x 60 x 60
Next-Day Large Up to 20 kg65 x 65 x 65
Next-Day Extra Large Up to 25 kg70 x 70 x 70

Source: DHL 

If you’re shipping to the UK from another European country, or vice versa, you can refer to the table detailing DHL’s  international shipping options in the previous section.  

Cost per shipment

Prices for DHL’s quickest deliveries (Same Day Jetline or Same Day Sprintline) can vary significantly depending on the price of air freight or an airline ticket (in the case of hand-carried items). 

DHL shipments within the UK will generally be cheaper (as these parcels don’t have to travel as far as others). Prices will vary based on which drop-off and delivery option you select. 

Home/
Business Collection
Depot to DepotDepot Drop OffDrop at Shop (Service Points)
Standard£10.89£2.79£7.09£7.89
Large £18.89£6.79£13.89
Extra Large£22.89£8.79£17.89

Source: DHL

For international shipments, shipping cost is based on the zone your parcel’s destination is in (with zones determined by DHL), the weight of the goods, and the speed of delivery desired.

ServiceType of Items ShippedCost Range
DHL Express WorldwideDocuments only up to 2 kg
Documents 2.5 kg+ and parcels 0.5kg+
£46.01 — £97.83
£50.86 — £1448.96
DHL Economy SelectDocuments and parcels 1kg+£51.77 — £338.36
DHL Express 9:00 (10:30 to the USA)Shipments up to 3000 kg, or containing pieces up to 1000 kg or 300 cm in lengthDHL Express Worldwide Rate + £20
DHL Express 12:00Shipments up to 3000 kg, or containing pieces up to 1000 kg or 300 cm in lengthDHL Express Worldwide Rate + £5

Source: DHL’s Pricing Guide for 2023

For better high volumes or wholesale shipping rates, you may directly contact the DHL support representatives. 

Insurance options

For shipping insurance, DHL charges £12.00 for any shipment worth up to £800. Beyond that, shipping insurance is 1.5% of shipment value. If you wish to purchase Extended Liability Per shipment, you will need to pay an extra £3.

Delivery policy

  • Shipments cannot be delivered to postal codes, but only to the recipient’s/buyer’s address given by the seller/shipper. 
  • DHL has the right to open and inspect a shipment without notice for safety, security, customs, or other regulatory reasons. 
  • Liability, claims, and shipment value protection are other factors elabourated on within the DHL terms & conditions. This document also highlights the courier’s delivery expectation policy.

Royal Mail vs. DHL: who to choose

Each courier has its own unique strengths. So in the DHL vs Royal Mail battle, the winner tends to be the one that can meet the custom needs of your business. 

DHL is best suited for brands that need a courier with an extensive international network. Its services are not only fast , but also eco-friendly, and well-suited to businesses that are willing to spend a little extra for a better shipping experience.

DHL may also be the better choice for brands freight shipping to China, especially if you wish to have your customs and insurance completely handled by the courier. While Same Day Jetline is likely to be significantly more expensive, it may be worthwhile for high-value, urgent orders

Royal Mail, on the other hand, has a good network in the UK, making it ideal for domestic shipments within the UK. Its services are generally less expensive, offer a variety of tracking and signing options, and even include a certain amount of insurance coverage depending on the shipping option you select. 

ShipBob connects you with a powerful courier network

If evaluating your courier options is distracting you from your core business, ShipBob can help.

We work with major and regional delivery companies to negotiate bulk discounts and secure better shipping rates for its customers, so you can achieve fast delivery without sacrificing your profit margin. 

ShipBob also offers visibility into real-time courier rates, which your business can display at checkout to help manage delivery expectations and exceptions.

No matter which courier you choose, ShipBob’s fulfilment solutions enable you to get shipments into their hands faster.

Through optimising logistics and warehousing processes, ShipBob can help your business reduce lead times, cut costs, and delight more customers.  

To learn more about how ShipBob helps ecommerce merchants improve their shipping strategy, click the button below. 

Royal Mail vs. DHL FAQs

Below are answers to common questions when comparing Royal Mail and DHL.

Is Royal Mail more reliable than DHL?

Both Royal Mail and DHL are reliable couriers. Royal Mail is highly trusted to enable door-to-door delivery within the UK, while DHL has a lot of experience delivering goods to business customers across the globe. To avoid shipping mistakes, be sure to keep track of courier updates.

Are Royal Mail and DHL the same?

No. Royal Mail is a UK-based courier company, and DHL is an international courier and a subsidiary of Deutsche Post.

Should consumers use DHL or Royal Mail?

Whether merchants should use Royal Mail ro DHL depends on several factors, such as the value of the item you’re shipping, your desired delivery window from your ship date, the shipment’s destination and origin points, and more. 

In general, DHL is a good choice for more urgent and highly valuable international orders. Meanwhile, Royal Mail is best for smaller parcels that are sent and delivered within the UK.

Is DHL cheaper than Royal Mail?

DHL is generally more expensive than Royal Mail. However, rates for each courier will vary depending on the size of the parcel you wish to ship, how far it is travelling, and whether you wish to add value-added services or insurance.

How can I ship internationally and quickly from the UK?

DHL’s Same Day Jetline or Sprintline is ideal for quick international delivery from the US to the UK, even during the peak shipping season. However, if you want same-day or next-day delivery, be sure to check the coronavirus updates to be aware of any region-specific delays before shipping your orders. 

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Written By:

Rachel is a Content Marketing Specialist at ShipBob, where she writes blog articles, eGuides, and other resources to help small business owners master their logistics.

Read all posts written by Rachel Hand