Courier services: your questions answered

Courier services are a popular logistics option used by businesses and consumers throughout the UK for delivering parcels. Yet there are many questions people ask us about courier services, what’s involved and how it works. We’ve answered some of your top questions here!

Preparing parcels

A woman preparing parcels ready for shipping

How to send a parcel?

Sending a parcel using a courier service is quick and easy. If you are unsure of how to prepare and send a parcel, follow these steps:

  • Make sure your item can be shipped as some items are prohibited.
  • Choose a box or packaging that is big enough to send your item(s).
  • Safely and securely package your item(s), using bubble wrap or polystyrene to prevent items from moving about during transit.
  • Find the weight and size of your parcel to determine the price of delivery.
  • Book the delivery on the courier’s website and provide all the necessary details for delivery.
  • Affix any labels and documents to the outside of the parcel, avoiding covering any barcodes.
  • Arrange a time and date for collection or take the parcel to a chosen drop-off point.

Once the item is in the courier services network, you will be able to monitor delivery progress (providing a tracking option is included with your delivery option). Tracking will also let you know once the item is delivered, including the date, time, and proof of delivery (if required).

Is it reliable to send cash by courier services?

Many courier services will not allow for money to be sent through their network. Items with a monetary value are typically forbidden, including:

  • Coins and notes, regardless of currency or age.
  • Cheques or dividend warrants.
  • Lottery tickets or coupons.
  • Documents that can be exchanged for money.

What are the most common uses of courier services?

Courier services can be used for a range of different uses, including:

  • Delivering documents, including contracts, legal papers, or financial documents.
  • Fulfilling eCommerce shipments for items purchased online.
  • Delivering stock and supplies to businesses.
  • Delivering time-sensitive items.
  • The delivery of medical supplies and specimens.
  • Delivery of hazardous materials (certain courier services will specialise in this).

How can I send a parcel internationally?

To send a parcel internationally, you must provide details about your parcel and the destination country. When booking a delivery, you will need to provide:

  • Sender’s details, including name and address.
  • Recipient details, including name, address, and country.
  • Details of the parcel contents.
  • Item weight and value.
  • VAT codes (for businesses only).

It is mandatory for the sender to fill in a customs form when sending items to another country, including the European Union. The information you need to provide on a customs form depends on the value of the parcel. Imported goods may be subject to import tax.

Choosing a courier service

A courier holding a parcel in front of his van full of parcels

What are the benefits of courier services?

Using a courier service for sending your parcels can provide several benefits, including:

  • A speedy delivery service.
  • Security for loss or theft.
  • A door-to-door service.
  • The adaptability of parcel weights and sizes.
  • Avoidance of damage.
  • More cost-effective delivery options.

What are the best parcel services in the UK?

There are many different parcel and courier services in the UK. Choosing the best courier service can be difficult with so many companies offering the same or similar services.

Some services will prioritise sending within the UK, while others may specialise in international delivery. Other courier services may specialise specifically in business or consumer deliveries.

Checking the reputation and reviews of delivery companies can give you an idea when choosing the best parcel service for your needs.

What courier service is the fastest?

Courier services provide a range of different shipping options depending on your delivery needs. Options such as next-day and same-day delivery provide fast options for delivery.

Check the availability of such service options when shopping around. Faster delivery options, such as same-day and next-day delivery cost more than standard delivery services.

Tracked and guaranteed delivery services will also cost more, but provide insurance of delivery in case of damage or loss.

What is the difference between a parcel and a courier?

Both terms are used commonly within the logistics industry. However, both have different meanings. A parcel is usually a small individual lightweight package that is sent using a parcel service. A parcel service will have weight and size restrictions.

A courier is a private company that offers a wider range of services, including sending a range of items, such as documentation, parcels, or bulk items, alongside the speedy and efficient collection and delivery of parcels. Some couriers specialise in the delivery of certain items.

How do you get the best from courier services?

To get the best from your chosen courier service, consider:

  • Packaging your items efficiently as weight and dimensions impact price.
  • Providing accurate measures for weight and dimensions as shipments are based on such measurements.
  • Use a pick-up service as this eliminates the cost and time of taking a parcel at a chosen drop-off point.
  • Make use of insurance and coverage.
  • Schedule the collection of parcels to achieve timely delivery.
  • Be aware of additional costs that may occur, such as taxes that are outside of the courier’s control.

How to know if a delivery company is legit

If you are unsure whether a delivery company is legit, there are several checks you can make to check a company’s authenticity:

  1. Check for spelling and grammar on the website. Companies based outside the UK may have poor spelling and grammar on their website, which can be problematic for businesses claiming to be local.
  2. Verify the business address and telephone number. Try phoning the business and checking against Google Maps.
  3. Read over the company’s privacy policy. It is a legal requirement in the UK that any business handling personal data must provide a privacy policy. This will include the registered address of the business.
  4. Check the company number if the business is a limited company and compare it with Companies House.
  5. Conduct a test on their website to check the website domain registration.

Are private courier services reliable?

Yes. A private courier service will seek to provide a reliable and trustworthy service to help maintain its reputation. Private couriers may offer a range of services to improve the speed and efficiency of delivery, including warehouse storage.

Tracking and tracing

Scanning a parcel tracking barcode

What is a courier tracking number?

If you send items using a tracked service, you will be provided with a tracking number. This is a string of letters and/or numbers that uniquely identifies your parcel. A tracking number will allow you to follow updates on the progress of the delivery.

How do courier package tracking systems work?

Package tracking systems work by providing status updates on the progress of the delivery. A tracking number starts working once an item is collected and the barcode is scanned for the first time.

Throughout the delivery progress, this barcode is scanned at every depot to update the tracking system. Depending on the delivery progress will determine the delivery status. Upon delivery, the barcode is scanned to update and finalise the tracking system.

What does “arrived at a local courier facility” mean?

The term “arrived at a local courier facility” is a status update given during the distribution of a parcel through a delivery network.

It means your parcel has arrived at a processing hub or local delivery depot ready to be processed. It is at the facility where parcels are sorted ready for delivery.


Courier service delivering parcel to customer

Can the courier pick up from home?

Many courier services can pick up parcels directly from your home. When ordering your booking, you will be asked to provide a shipment address, alongside arranging a suitable date and time for collection.

What is a same-day courier service?

Same-day delivery ensures a customer receives their order the same day they have purchased from a retailer or supplier. Same-day delivery is subject to a cut-off time for when orders should be placed to qualify for same-day delivery.

How is next-day delivery possible?

Next-day and same-day delivery is made possible through advancements in both logistic and transport systems, alongside technology. Companies will have invested time and resources into creating an infrastructure and technology designed for quick delivery.

How many days does it take for parcels to reach an international country?

The length of international courier delivery depends on the courier, the chosen delivery options, and the destination option. Items sent via air will arrive much quicker and an item sent by sea. The more you pay for a delivery, the quicker it will arrive.

Do courier services check the contents of packages?

Yes, although this depends on the delivery destination and courier service. Items shipped abroad are much more likely to be checked over UK deliveries, depending on the country’s import regulations. Some courier services policies may include checking parcel contents.

Why do I have to pay for a parcel delivered to me?

There are two reasons why you may have to pay for a parcel before delivery: unpaid postage or customs charges.

These charges occur if the sender has not paid sufficient postage or import VAT and customs duty has been added to parcels entering the UK.

The amount you need to pay will depend on the contents of a parcel, the originating country, and who sent the parcel. You will need to pay any outstanding fees before delivery can be made.

What does POD stand for in courier services?

POD is an abbreviation for point of delivery. Proof of delivery is a document that provides evidence that a parcel has been delivered to the destination address. This is given to the person who received the package and can be physical or digital.

POD is not to be confused with proof of postage (POP) or proof of shipment (POS). This provides exact details of when a parcel was accepted into the courier’s network and the destination recipient and address.

What happens if a courier service loses our package?

If a parcel has not arrived within the expected timeframe, you will need to contact the courier service customer service.

You may be entitled to compensation if a parcel is lost or arrives late. This will depend on the length of delay, the delivery service, and the courier.

If you paid for additional cover or insurance, the courier service will have a claims process that you need to follow.

As courier services continue to be an invaluable part of today’s business world, more people will make use of these services. Whether you are new to using courier services or have some experience already, we hope to have answered your questions!