Why there’s no “best” postage meter for small business
There’s really no “best” postage meter for small business, despite what you may have read. Why not? Because the “best” postage meter is really relative to what your small business needs and desires. Maybe you’re focused on price, or maybe speed is more of a desperate need. Maybe you’re a small startup with big plans to grow, or -- maybe you really don’t need a postage meter at all (GASP)! That’s why we wrote this guide that will provide recommendations based on some common small business needs.
Before you shop… find out what you need (and want)
Before you begin the comparison shopping process, make a list that includes the following: your current mailing needs, your projected future mailing needs, current and projected postage volume and budget. And keep in mind that although some of the advanced functionalities associated with a postage meter may be costly, they also help to defray the human cost of producing the same result manually. Basically, if you forego an extra feature on your machine, you’ll pay for it with the time your mailperson takes to perform that task.
Postage meter companies typically offer long-term contracts (that’s now they make their money), but it’s the one-year contracts that end up being the most profitable for small businesses. So if you’re in the market for a postage meter for small business, know that there are deals to be had if you’re willing to search and negotiate, including free postage meter supplies, free maintenance for one year, and even a free 60-day trial.
Here’s what we recommend — based on what you asked for
Now that you’ve got your costs and budget out of the way, it’s time to start thinking about the actual postage meter. There are a number of options related to the quality of service and affordability provided by various small business postage meters.
“We’re looking for a cheap and basic postage meter for small business. We don’t mail very often.”
NeoPost is often considered at the lower end of the postage meter spectrum, not for a lack of service or performance but primarily due to users who’ve compared their equipment to some of the entry-level products (without bells and whistles) offered by postage meter juggernaut Pitney Bowes. Inexpensiveness is what typically makes NeoPost a great option for a postage meter for small business. What’s more is that NeoPost postage meters cover the same rate of production and are reportedly quite comparable and even superior to those products offered by Pitney Bowes.
“We mail frequently, and we’re willing to pay a bit more for speed.”
For high-volume output, there’s no better solution that Pitney Bowes. Though not recognized for their customer or technical service, their equipment is capable of producing anywhere from 18 letters per minute to 22,000 letters per hour. In addition, they dominate 90 percent of the U.S. market, making them the biggest name in mail metering in the world. Far from cost-effective for small businesses, their service is designed for large-scale operations that rely on a heavy distribution of materials through the USPS. Pitney Bowes may not be an ideal choice for a postage meter for small business, but in situations when speed is a must-have and the price tag isn’t important, a PB meter can be a good choice.
“We don’t mail often right now, but we’re growing. We expect to do more in the future.”
For small business postage needs that fall into the middle range, an automatic or semi-automatic postage meter, like those produced by Data-Pac, may provide a noticeable savings. Data-Pac has been around for about 35 years and focuses on the middle- to high-volume market, producing machines that are capable of around 160 letters per minute to 250 per minute. A Data-Pac machine makes a great postage meter for small business when the company has solid plans to expand and grow.
“We’re not ready to commit.”
If you don’t want the hassle of renting a postage meter for small business, the other option is purchasing a scale and signing up for one of two online services: Stamps.com or PB Smart Postage from Pitney Bowes. With stamps.com, costs range from about $16 to $35 per month and include features like address verification, discounts for Priority and Express mail as well as the handy functionality of being able to sync your addresses with many of the Microsoft Office solutions. In comparison, PB Smart Postage ranges from $15 per month to $17 per month (the latter of which includes a scale) and offers unlimited use for the set monthly fee. Most notably, PB Smart Post allows you to try the service free for 60 days (not including postage of course) where the trial from stamps.com caps out at four weeks.
How much does a postage meter for small business cost?
Aside from the monthly postage meter rental rate that you’ll pay, the following are some other costs your business should expect to pay. Some postage meter suppliers bill a fixed fee (monthly or annually), while others base charges on the amount of postage you use.
- Manual feeders typically cost less than semi-automatic feeders, which run about $700, and fully-automatic feeders are the most expensive, ranging around $1,200 on up
- High-speed stackers cost anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000
Spring scales cost $30 to $65 while digital postage meter scales can run $200 or more.