1st class mail vs 2nd class mail: what is the real difference?

1st class mail vs 2nd class mail: what is the real difference?

The jury is still out as to whether it is any more beneficial to send mail by first or second class post. Second class mail was introduced in the 60s and provided a discount for bulk mailings that could be handled with less urgency. The two classes were sorted separately at that time, but in recent years – other than the value of the postage – there has been no differentiation between the two mail classes.

However, direct mail still attracts discounted rates because mailing houses plan their campaigns in advance so there is not the urgency for them to reach the destination quickly and they are usually pre-sorted and “mailmarked” which makes it easier [and therefore, more cost effective] for the Royal Mail to handle.

For the average small business mailing moderate quantities of post will not see any difference in the level of service and speed of delivery between first and second class post. It is simply too expensive for the Royal Mail to distinguish between the two and your second class mail is just as likely to be delivered the next day as your first class post. Similarly, first class mail is just as likely to take a few days to be delivered as second class.

So the only difference is in cost. At 63 pence for a first class stamp, it is 9 pence more expensive to send a letter using first class post. This amount decreases if you are using a franking machine, where rates for first class mail are 52 pence and second class is 13 pence cheaper. If you are sending 50 letters a day, you could save £1100 by sending them using second class stamps and £3100 if you send them by second class franked post.

However, there is still a perception that first class post represents a premium service and if you are sending out items of importance to the recipient like a cheque, then it is wiser to use first class post.

If you are still not convinced, here is a pricing schedule so that you can do your own comparison; franked mail discounts are greater still.


Format and Max Measurement Max Weight 1st Class 2nd Class
Letter (24cm long x 16.5cm wide x 0.5cm thick) 100g 63p 54p
Large letters (35.3cm long x 25cm wide x 2.5cm thick) 100g250g500g






Small parcel (25cm long x 35cm wide x 16cm thick) 1kg2kg £3.30£5.45 £2.80£2.80
Medium parcel (61cm long x 46cm wide x 46cm thick) 1kg2kg5kg










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