What is a Courier? Courier vs Postal Service

Dec 16, 2022

Courier and postal services are often interchangeably used. You’re not alone in being confused with their similarities.

Terms like courier address vs. mailing address, courier vs. delivery, how do these differ?

There are distinct contrasts between couriers and postal services.

Understanding these differences and how to combine both services could save you or your business thousands of dollars and precious hours spent in postal limbo wondering where your items are.

You choose the correct service or combination of services, and you could streamline productivity and maximize efficiency.

Let’s discuss a few common misconceptions in the courier industry.

What is a Courier?

From the old French language, Courier literally translates ‘to run’. 

The term has then evolved quite dramatically over the last 200 years. 

A courier service manages and facilitates deliveries by coordinating many forms of shipment by road, air and sea. 

There are many facets to the definition of a courier. This is why most courier companies tend to emphasize their specifications to a niche service.

courier delivering a package

Types of Courier Services

There are five types of courier services that companies target:

  1. Local Courier Services 

This type of courier service is also sometimes called Local Delivery Service. This refers to fulfilling orders domestically - same region, city or town.

Local Shipping can have different modes of delivery: by air, by sea, or by land.

  1. International Courier Services

This type of service is the process of importing and exporting goods between different countries through different modes of transport: air, ocean, land. 

Compared to local shipping, international shipping is a more complex process of moving freights across borders. 

This requires compliance with the specific laws and regulations from the different countries involved in the whole process.

  1. Express Courier Services 

This type of courier service is categorized under time-sensitive shipping. 

Express Courier Services focus on delivering items on a shorter time frame. Most of the time, this service is used for delivering high-value products to minimize risk of theft and damage while the products are in transit.

  1. Overnight Courier Services

As the name directly implies, overnight courier service is a type of courier service that takes place overnight. This is also referred to as ‘next day delivery.’ 

The courier collects packages during the day at their specified location and then the parcels travel overnight to a local delivery hub closest to the final drop-off point.

  1. Standard Courier Services

This type of courier service fits those shippers that have standard and non-urgent shipping needs. 

The standard shipping turnaround time usually takes 2-3 business days before it reaches the destination.

Typically, most e-commerce businesses avail of this service.

Benefits of Courier Services

Each courier service company has a different set of processes in running their delivery service. It usually depends on the contract, location, among many other factors. 

Some companies provide fulfillment to a local depot/hub and then couriers do the pick-up and deliver straight to the customers. It really depends on the established process of each courier company. 

One thing that all courier companies agree on is the benefits that they provide to their shippers and customers. 

Here are among the few benefits of courier services:

  • 24/7/365 Service: Courier companies provide services 24/7 in 365 days in a year.
  • Tracking: Courier companies have intricate tracking systems so there’s transparency in where your package is at any given point in time.
  • Global Shipping: Sending and receiving packages internationally has never been easier due to the influx of courier companies offering their services.
  • Reliability: This is one of the greatest benefits of using a courier service. A courier service provides a reliable way to send your documents and packages on time and in the same conditions upon pick-up.

What is a Postal Service?

In contrast to a courier service usually owned and operated by an independent company, postal services are typically run by national governments, for instance, Australia Post or USPS in America.

Postal service focuses on routine mail such as bank statements, fines, polls and surveys, public announcements. For larger shipments, and domestic parcels, postal services often team up with courier companies to manage all uncatered aspects.

Couriers vs. Postal Service: Benefits Comparison

There are many apparent differences between couriers and postal services as previously mentioned above. 

All comparisons are essential and could save your business significant savings that can benefit you in the long run. 

Service Quality

There is certainly nothing wrong with using government-run postal services. Still, with such a large service that is currently trying to refine budget and cut costs to keep taxpayers’ dollars down and coincide with COVID regulations, there are functions and perks that they don’t provide compared to a privately-owned service.

Compared to postal service, courier services can provide extra care when handling and sending items. While all attempts are made to handle packages with care, it is still wise to pack your items carefully especially if you’re shipping delicate items.

Expert Tip: We’ve come up with a guide to help you pack your packages properly. Check our step-by-step guide in packing before you ship.


Courier companies allow for intricate tracking systems, whereas in postal services, there is less delivery transparency in where your package may be at any given time. 


With the recent surge in E-commerce, Australia Post Executive General Manager Rod Barnes explains in regards to the reductions of staff due to COVID-19, “effectively we lose a lot of production." The Australia Post website went from 3 million visitors in 2018 to 7.5 million visitors per month in 2021. 

Delays are expected using postal services, whereas independently owned courier companies allocate budget to guarantee reduced wait times. 


This is where postal delivery services far exceed the comparison. Courier services often include surcharges and extra fees that aren’t found using postal services. This very reason can be reason enough for millions of the general public and businesses to use post.

When Should You Use A Courier?

If you want a complete service from pick up to delivery, your best bet is to use a courier. 

For those who need to send their items immediately and time is an important factor, best to use a courier. 

If you lack packaging materials for sending through the postal service and are uncomfortable lifting weights because your items are heavy, then a courier service is for you.

How Do You Choose A Courier?

Now that you have compared the similarities and differences between courier and postal service, how do you actually choose the right courier for your needs?

Here are a few tips:

Cost Efficiency: While being cost effective doesn’t always mean best value, it’s also good to analyze the price of the courier service.

Reliability: Check if your courier company offers regular pick up of your items. Most of the time, courier companies offer this service. This is a good indication that they have a strong network of distributors and regional fulfillment centers.

Order Tracking: This allows you to track order progress in real time. This is also a strong indicator that your courier company has a strong suit in using modern technology in running their business. Aside from this, it also gives you peace of mind knowing that your order can be tracked at any point in time.

Proven Track Record: Lastly, a good track record should be your primary consideration when choosing a courier company. Do your own research and check their company website. Read customer reviews so that you can anticipate what kind of service you’ll expect from them.

FAQs Related to Courier and Postal Services

What is the difference between your postal and courier address?

Your postal mail address will show a post box number and pin code, whereas courier mail will show your physical address and personal identification details. 

What does ‘Delivery to local courier’ mean?

‘Delivery to local courier’ means that your package has arrived at its second to last destination (your location being the last), which is the courier depot in your local area (or close to it). 

Does Australia Post have a courier service?

Yes, Australia Post uses StarTrack for all of its courier related services.

How long does it take for a courier to deliver?

Unfortunately, there is no one simple answer to this question. The wait time will vary according to the distance required for shipping, the size and weight of your package, and the courier service providers you’re using.

What is a local courier?

A local courier works strictly and exclusively in domestic delivery. The benefits of using local couriers dramatically reduce costs in double handling.  

Couriers and Freight works with a collection of local couriers around Australia to provide personalised postal care whilst maintaining low service and delivery fees. 

Couriers and Freight is an end-to-end freight solution that connects businesses with a number of first mile and last mile shipping services that cover both international and domestic routes. 

By using our cloud-based software, companies can track their goods at any point during the journey. Integrating a high level of customer service, execution, and an expanded network of small-scale and large-scale couriers and postal services, we find that our clients achieve faster and more affordable outcomes. 

Contact Couriers and Freight for a Quote.

robert lynch headshot

Robert Lynch

Founder of Australia’s largest outside hire company Couriers & Freight, Robert Lynch is a seasoned business leader in the shipping industry with over 20 years of experience. His expertise spans from outside hire, taxi truck, and last-mile services to freight management, freight forwarding and warehousing. 

Robert has also incorporated technology into his business through custom software to enhance growth and efficiency. Robert is a valuable resource for business owners looking to improve their logistics operations.

Connect with Robert Lynch on LinkedIn.

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