We’ve gone over the basics of selling alcohol online. And in that post we reference the specific law in each state that applies to the sale and delivery of alcohol directly to that state’s consumers.
But you may not be a retailer. Maybe you’re just a regular person who wants to know how to ship alcohol to a friend. Maybe you’re a private aged wine collector who’s read about how to sell wine legally and now you’re at the shipping stage.
Regardless, you’ll need the skinny on what shipping services can help you out. Here’s everything you need to know about the legality and procedure of shipping alcohol through UPS, FedEx, and USPS.
Can I Ship Alcohol?
If you’re an individual with no liquor license and no association with a commercial entity, then no, you likely cannot ship alcohol.
Whether or not you can ship alcohol depends on a variety of state and local laws, both in the state the shipper is located and in the state the recipient is located.
Is It Illegal To Ship Alcohol?
No, it’s not illegal to ship alcohol if you identify and comply with any relevant laws around the transfer or sale and shipment of alcohol.
The factors that impact this vary by state and are represented well by questions like:
- Are you a business with a retail or wholesale alcohol license? Maybe you’re making good on some eCommerce business ideas. Some states will only allow organizations with such licenses to ship alcohol.
- To where and whom are you shipping alcohol? Different locations allow or prohibit the shipment of alcohol.
- What type of alcohol are you shipping? The majority of states allow for the delivery of wine. Beer is also somewhat common, liquor less so.
- How much alcohol are you shipping? To use wine as an example, many states limit the number of cases of wine that can be shipped over a given period.
What to Say When Shipping Alcohol
Here’s an answer you’re very likely not looking for: the truth. Do not attempt to hide or otherwise obscure the contents of your shipment from the shipper. The purpose of this article is to help you not lie to businesses with the power to pursue punitive action against you.
Can I Ship Alcohol to a Friend?
The best way to ship alcohol to a friend is to note any alcohol-related shipping restrictions for the state of origin and the state of delivery.
Then, at that point, you can look for which shipper—UPS, FedEx, or USPS—will do the heavy lifting for you.
Shipping Alcohol UPS
UPS allows for the shipping of alcohol under certain conditions. But if you’re an individual or non-commercial entity, you cannot ship alcohol via UPS.
Can You Ship Alcohol via UPS?
You can, if you’re a licensed alcohol retailer in your state. Here’s how it breaks down by alcohol type:
Shipping Wine via UPS
UPS only ships wine from licensed wine retailers, manufacturers, or distributors who have signed a specific wine shipment contract with UPS. And, if applicable, have obtained a wine shipper’s license from the destination state.
Depending on the delivery state’s laws, the shipment may be from a licensed wine retailer or manufacturer to another licensed wine retailer or manufacturer. Or it may be from a licensed wine retailer or manufacturer, or other licensed DTC food business, directly to a consumer.
Can I Ship Alcohol via UPS?
Similar to wine, UPS only accepts shipments of spirits from licensed alcohol retailers, distributors, or manufacturers. Depending on the delivery state’s laws, these shipments may be:
- Licensed to licensed. UPS will deliver spirits from one licensed organization to another. These shipments cannot be made to consumers.
- Direct to consumer. The delivery of spirits directly to consumers from an organization licensed to sell, distribute, or manufacture spirits. The purchaser is listed as the consignee.
- Interstate distillery shipments. Shipments from out-of-state distilleries directly to consumers.
- Intrastate distillery shipments. Shipments from in-state distilleries directly to consumers.
Some states allow for all or none of the above options. You must check with local laws before attempting any alcohol shipments. And you must obtain any applicable shipper’s license from the destination state.
Shipping Beer via UPS
UPS will only ship beer from shippers that possess a valid retailer or brewery license in their home states. And, where applicable, have a license or shipper’s permit in the destination state.
Penalty For Shipping Alcohol UPS
If you attempt to skirt UPS regulations by shipping alcohol via UPS clandestinely, you can be penalized.
UPS is a licensed shipper of alcohol. That means shipping alcohol isn’t illegal through UPS. If you’re not licensed to sell and ship alcohol, you may be fined by UPS and your package certainly confiscated. But it’s unlikely there will be any legal ramifications.
FedEx Shipping Alcohol
FedEx ships from only FedEx-approved licensed alcohol shippers. Individual consumers without a FedEx Alcohol Shipping Agreement cannot ship any type of alcohol via FedEx.
Can I Ship Alcohol via FedEx?
You can, if you have a FedEx Alcohol Shipping Agreement. To be party to that agreement, you must be a business entity with the proper alcohol licenses in your home state. If you’re an individual with no licensure, you cannot ship alcohol via FedEx.
If you are a business entity with your state’s alcohol license, there are four primary methods FedEx ships alcohol:
- Licensee-to-licensee within the U.S.
- Licensee-to-consumer within the U.S.
- Licensee-to-licensee internationally
- Licensee-to-consumer internationally
Do you sense the theme? They all start with licensee. No state liquor license, no shipping through FedEx.
Note that all international alcohol shipments can only be made Express. International Ground is not an option. At least your pipeline inventory won’t be outstanding long.
Penalty for Shipping Alcohol Fedex
Like UPS, FedEx is legally authorized to ship alcohol. There’s nothing inherently illegal about attempting to ship alcohol through FedEx. It’s FedEx’s own internal policy that they’ll only ship with licensed entities. That means you’ll only be breaking FedEx’s terms of service, not federal or state law.
As such, you may incur a fine and you’ll certainly have your shipment confiscated.
Shipping Alcohol USPS
Attempting to ship alcohol with USPS is a completely different animal than with UPS and FedEx.
Can I Ship Alcohol via USPS?
No, full stop. There is no shipping alcohol via USPS for anyone. It’s illegal. It doesn’t matter if you have a liquor license. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fully-operationally liquor wholesaler. There is absolutely no shipping alcohol via USPS.
Penalty for Shipping Alcohol USPS
When you attempt to skirt USPS regulations, you’re attempting to skirt U.S. law. That’s the primary difference between penalties for USPS and UPS/FedEx. USPS is not a licensed alcohol shipper.
If you attempt to send alcohol via USPS and are caught, you’re eligible for costly legal action. In fact, the USPS is so anti-alcohol, they’ll even pull shipments of non-alcoholic items shipped in boxes or packaging with liquor branding.
How to Ship Alcohol Via Ups and Fedex
The only way to ship alcohol via UPS and FedEx is to:
- Get the appropriate liquor license from your state (this is much more strict than getting a bartender license)
- Abide by the alcohol shipping laws of any destination state you’ll ship to
- Become an approved alcohol shipper with UPS or FedEx
That’s pretty much it. Not great news for individuals who want to ship alcohol to their friends. But them’s the breaks, kid.