Banner matrix depicting parcels and couriers

What is the difference between a parcel and a courier?

The world of logistics has many unique terms. Getting to grips with these definitions will help you better understand the shipping process.

What is a parcel?

Parcel (or package) is a broad term used to describe an item or collection of items that have been packaged in order to be sent to a recipient. A parcel can either be in the form of a box (usually made of cardboard) or a reinforced envelope (typically constructed with a bubble wrap inner layer).

Parcels come in a range of sizes: from small boxes containing items such as jewellery or cosmetics, through to large boxes holding furniture or electrical utilities.

The front of a parcel will always have a label affixed to clearly identify the recipient’s address. The label will often display a unique barcode, used to provide shipping information or help track the parcel if it goes missing in transit.

Cardboard box containing styrofoam to protect items in transit

How should a parcel be wrapped?

The main thing to consider when wrapping your parcel is security. Although couriers will take the utmost care when handling parcels in transit, your goods may occasionally encounter a machine-operated device, such as a conveyor belt, while being processed. Even though a reputable courier will offer insurance, receiving a damaged parcel can still be upsetting.

To avoid damage, wrap individual items in a protective layer. Additional cushioning material should be used within the parcel to fill any gaps, as loose items are more prone to breakage. You should also ensure your parcel is securely wrapped; use a strong outer container/material, as well as specifically designed parcel tape.

What is a courier?

A courier is an individual or company that transports parcels commercially, on behalf of an individual or business.

Whilst some couriers only operate domestically, most offer international shipping services. If you frequently shop online, you will often find that your chosen e-commerce retailer utilises a courier to ensure your order arrives safely and quickly.

Couriers offer varying levels of service: from standard shipping, which may take several days, to guaranteed next-day delivery.

It was once the case that couriers were primarily engaged by organisations and distributors to ship goods to clients and customers. Nowadays, courier services are more accessible to individuals, allowing one-off personal and e-seller parcels to be sent rapidly to a destination.

Warehouse containing pallets with parcels ready to ship

Services offered by couriers

Unlike organisations responsible for mail delivery, couriers offer shipping services that go beyond standard transportation and delivery, e.g.

  • Overnight delivery for urgent shipments, guaranteeing delivery before a certain time the next day
  • Parcel collection, allowing the sender to choose a convenient pick-up location
  • Designated pick-up points, designed to prevent missed deliveries and help the recipient get their parcel quicker
  • Advanced tracking information, ensuring that both sender and recipient can check a parcel’s progress
  • Dangerous goods shipping: to help you send items restricted by standard postal companies
  • Overseas e-commerce shipping, allowing retailers to broaden their reach and customer base.

Courier or delivery driver?

Occasionally, the terms courier and delivery driver are used interchangeably. Whilst courier refers to the shipping company, a delivery driver is usually an employee who transports a parcel on the last leg of its journey, ending with the delivery to the recipient.

DHL van with driver stopping to make delivery

The difference between a parcel and a courier

Although both terms are used in the shipping and delivery industry, their meanings differ:

  • Parcel: the goods being sent,
  • Courier: the company handling the entire shipping process; from collection to delivery.

Courier services at Impact Express

At Impact Express, we are proud to be a DHL authorised service partner. Working with the world’s leading logistics company, we provide efficient and safe parcel collection and delivery services: from next-day overseas delivery through to shipping of dangerous goods.

For more information about our courier services, please do not hesitate to get in touch. If you need to send a parcel, visit our online quote page for a competitive estimate.

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