Can You Trust Etsy’s Estimated Arrival Times? The Real Story.


When you place an order on Etsy it will tell you an estimated arrival time, but what is that based on, and are those times accurate?

The short answer is that Etsy’s estimated arrival times are only that, estimates. They’re based on information provided by the seller, plus the estimated postal service transit times, but the arrival time can be wrong if anything shifts on either side.

Etsy is a platform that doesn’t ship anything itself, too, so it really has no control over the arrival times of orders.

Are etsy's estimated arrival times accurate?

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How is Etsy estimating arrival times?

To estimate arrival times, Etsy adds the processing time that the seller provides to the estimated time that the post office says it will take to transport the order to the buyer. They then calculate a window that they think is pretty accurate for when the package will be delivered, and that’s what’s displayed on the listing.

BUT…And this is a big but, Etsy tends to overestimate how fast things will arrive because they want customers to think they’ll get their packages quickly.

Etsy wants shorter shipping times.

Etsy as a business has been trying to shorten the time that it takes for packages to arrive to customers, so they’ve been encouraging sellers to report the shortest accurate processing times, which is the time it takes to receive an order, make it, and get it in the mail.

Most sellers will put a range of days in our processing times to give us a cushion in case an order takes longer than we think it will.

Especially around the holidays, we can get a larger than usual number of orders, and it can take longer to get everything done.

Putting a range like 3-5 days will be safer than promising that the package will definitely be sent the next day if we’re not sure that’s true!

Etsy has also said that they want to shorten the shipping time by two days over the next year, but all that means is that they’ll be trying to get sellers to say they’ll ship things faster.

When you’re dealing with handmade items that could be a problem, because some things take a long time to make.

Etsy uses an estimated delivery window that’s not always realistic.

To drop the estimated shipping times that Etsy gives you, they’ll take the processing time and add it to the estimated delivery dates based on the postage choices in the seller’s shop.

But there’s a problem with this too, because unless the customer chooses the fastest shipping, which is usually the most expensive one, that low number won’t be realistic.

For example, let’s say that I have a 1-3 day processing time on a product, and I offer priority express shipping, which is 1-2 days, along with the normal ground rates that aren’t as expensive for 4-5 days transit time.

Etsy will give an estimated delivery date of 2-8 days for the delivery time. They’re adding the low numbers and the high numbers to get the delivery window, but telling someone that it might get to them in 2 days is pretty unrealistic.

If the customer chose priority express for 1-2 day shipping time, and the seller did ship the item in 1 day, the absolute fastest it could get there would be 2 days after the order was placed, if those are business days.

But if the seller took 3 days to ship the item (1-3 days processing time) and the shipping that the customer chose was regular ground rates (4-5 days,) it’s more likely that it would get there in a week. That would be the 3 days plus the 4-5 days for shipping.

So when Etsy shows people a low shipping estimate, that’s only if the customer pays for fast shipping, and only if the seller ships things the following day. Other than that, it’s going to take longer to get to you.

Order shipped notification
Order shipped notification

Are postal service delivery times accurate?

The postal services in different countries have different transit times, so it’s hard to say whether every system is going to be accurate or not. But the main thing that they all have in common is that all the delivery times they say are normal are only estimates. Nothing except for the most expensive options are guaranteed to arrive on specific days.

In the US, the only type of mail that’s guaranteed is Priority Express, which is the most expensive shipping tier.

If Priority Express mail doesn’t arrive in 1-2 days, the post office will SOMETIMES refund the cost of the shipping, but not the cost of the product. I recently had a package that they didn’t refund even though it took 4 days to get there, so it’s not 100% guaranteed even though it says it is.

Regular priority mail is NOT guaranteed to arrive in the time they say, which is usually 2-3 days, but can end up being 3-5 days during busy times of the year.

I recently had a priority package that took two weeks to go one state away, and there’s no refund for that, the post office doesn’t refund late deliveries on non-guaranteed mail.

If you need something fast and you’re located in the US, Priority Express is the only USPS shipping method that’s (mostly) guaranteed.

So…When Etsy is adding the seller’s processing time to the estimated post office delivery time, it’s not a guarantee.

99% of the time everything will be delivered correctly and within the shipping window, but there’s always that 1%.

What about international shipping arrival times?

When Etsy is estimating arrival times for international orders, it’s even more possible for things to go wrong.

Because international mail has to go through customs, there can be delays midway through the transit process when packages are sitting in a warehouse waiting to be processed. There’s no way for Etsy to know whether that’s going to happen or not when they’re setting the arrival time estimates.

Even if everything goes well, shipping anything between countries takes longer than shipping within the same country.

For an article that talks about how long it takes to ship packages on Etsy, click here, but the short version is that international shipping can sometimes take up to 6 weeks, depending on what country it’s coming from.

I’ve had packages that were returned to me after 6 months, not weeks, so there are complications other than just the longer transit times to deal with, too.

Sometimes there will be disruptions like heavier than usual mail volume, or postal strikes internationally, and Etsy can’t know for sure whether things like that will happen.

As I’m writing this there’s a postal strike in the UK, so that’s going to affect the time that it takes to move packages in and out of the country.

It’s also not unusual for the US postal service to get so backed up during the holidays that they just stop scanning things, or they scan them early to make it look like packages have been delivered even thought they won’t show up until the next day (or later.)

There are certain mail hubs that handle international mail for the US that have a reputation of being black holes for packages, and when they get too busy they’ll just let things stack up. This was really bad during the first year of the pandemic because they had so many people mailing things, but it happens every year around the holidays, to a certain extent.

So what does this mean for Etsy’s estimated arrival times?

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How long should you expect shipping on Etsy to take?

Basically, Etsy does its best to estimate arrival times, but mistakes can be made. Whether it’s the Etsy system miscalculating something or the post office experiencing delays, the arrival times are only estimates.

If you’re ordering something internationally, give it a couple of weeks at the low end, and if your package gets there sooner consider it a bonus.

Depending on the country’s mail system, you may or may not have tracking on your order, so patience is key.

Like I said, 99% of the time everything works fine and packages will arrive in the normal time. The seller might be able to tell you what they’ve seen as far as a normal time range for most deliveries, but remember that at different times of the year that can change, so delays can happen.

Don’t assume that the dates Etsy gives as an arrival estimate are going to be accurate. They might be, but some things aren’t predictable!


Kara Buntin

Kara Buntin has run a profitable home-based business since 1999, and has a background in art, theater design, and cake decorating. She's a top Etsy seller with over 51,000 sales on Etsy and her own website, and helps other home-based business owners with their business goals and SEO. She founded the Artisan Shopping Directory website to promote the artisans who are members of her EShop Success marketing program.

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