Updated November 2021
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Buying guide for best mailboxes

You may have heard the mail carriers' creed: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night …” can stop the mail from going through. But what if you don’t have a reliable mailbox?

Mail theft, damaged mail, and the loss of mail items are serious business. A mailbox that isn’t up to its task could cause you to miss vital correspondence, packages, or bills. If you are looking for a new mailbox, you’ll need to find the right one for your situation. There are regulations from the United States Postal Service (USPS) to consider, and there is the durability of the box itself to keep in mind. Some mailboxes simply aren’t durable enough to serve you well.

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Some neighborhoods and areas require you to have a post-mounted mailbox by the road. Check regulations in your area before you buy.

USPS regulations

First things first: there are USPS regulations for curbside and wall-mounted mailboxes that you need to know about. The regulations exist to help make sure your mail is delivered intact and that mail carriers can do their jobs safely.

Rules for curbside mailboxes

Curbside mailboxes should be placed for your mail carrier’s convenience on the right side of the street. That way, the carrier does not have to leave the vehicle to deliver mail. Mailbox posts must be sunk at least two feet deep and cannot be more than 4 x 4 inches square. If you use a newspaper receptacle, it can be on the same post, but it must not touch your mailbox. The size of a curbside mailbox can vary, but the height off the ground should be between 41 and 45 inches, and the distance from the curb should be six to eight inches.

Rules for wall-mounted mailboxes

Fewer federal regulations exist for wall-mounted mailboxes. The flap on your mailbox should lift easily, and the box should be placed in a spot that’s easy for the mail carrier to access. It must be large enough to hold your average daily delivery of mail. Although not a requirement, it’s wise to make sure your mail slot is wide enough to fit a magazine or flat-rate envelope without folding.

Mailbox material

Most mailboxes are made of some kind of metal, such as cast aluminum or galvanized steel, but you will find some made of plastic as well.

Cast aluminum is a beautiful option. This material comes in decorative styles to complement the look of your home, and it does not rust. These boxes are usually fairly pricey and do not hold up to vandalism as well as steel, but overall, durability is satisfactory.

Galvanized steel wins points for strength. These sturdy mailboxes are a good choice if you want a secure box with a lock. Thickness is rated by gauge: if you want a thicker metal, look for a lower gauge. Drawbacks for steel include the potential for rust over time as your mailbox endures the elements.

Plastic is a practical and economical choice. Some plastic mailboxes look decorative, but most are pretty basic. Plastic performs well in wet weather, but it will not withstand vandalism as well as aluminum and steel.

Mailbox size

Mailboxes have several size options, but there are standards to consider in order to make sure your mailbox is large enough for common items.

A good rule of thumb is to consider the size of a flat-rate envelope. The USPS standard flat-rate envelope measures 9 1/2 x 12 1/2 inches. Your mailbox should be large enough to accommodate this item and completely close without the need for a mail carrier to bend the envelope. If it cannot, look for something larger.

Wall-mounted mailbox sizes

Sufficiently sized wall-mounted mailboxes are four to five inches deep. Height and width vary but often adhere to the following norms:

  • A height of 12 to 15 inches frequently pairs with a width of 9 to 11 inches.
  • A height of 9 to 11 inches frequently pairs with a width of 12 to 18 inches.

Keep in mind that mailboxes with a height or width of just nine inches may be a little small for a flat-rate envelope.

Curbside mailbox sizes

A minimum standard rural-style curbside mailbox is 18 1/2 inches long, six inches wide, and eight inches high. However, this size cannot fit a flat-rate envelope without bending. You may want to consider a larger curbside mailbox instead.

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Did you know?
If you plan to get a locking box for packages, you should know ahead of time that a postal carrier is not allowed to carry your personal key.

Other mailbox features

Locking mechanism

A locking mailbox requires a key to open. These mailboxes come in wall-mounted and post-mounted styles; the mail carrier drops the mail through a slot. The slot should be large enough to accommodate a U.S. Priority Envelope, as well as the bulk of your regular mail.

Extra-large size

You may be replacing your mailbox because your current mailbox cannot hold your regular mail volume. If this is the case, there are many oversized mailboxes to consider.

  • Some package-ready mailboxes are large enough to hold small packages, such as a book of checks or an oversized delivery envelope.
  • The USPS-approved “Next Generation” mailbox is large enough to accommodate a medium-size flat-rate postal box or a smaller flat-rate postage envelope or box. It can also handle some (but not all) large flat-rate boxes.
  • Multiple-day mailboxes are large enough to hold your mail for several days while you are away from home. If you plan to use this option on a regular basis, it is wise to choose a locking box or one with a deep drop to make it difficult for anyone to access your mail after it is has been delivered.

Rear access

If you live on a busy street, a rear-access mailbox will give you an option to safely pick up your mail without having to reach around to the traffic area of the box.

Mailbox prices

Inexpensive: Between $10 and $20, you can purchase an entry-level mailbox that meets USPS requirements. It will likely be made of plastic or thin galvanized steel. Some mailboxes in this range have a notably small capacity.

Mid-range: For $20 to $50, you can choose from a wide variety of wall-mounted and curbside mailboxes. These mailboxes are more attractive, larger, and of better quality than most entry-level mailboxes. Some curbside mailboxes in this price range will ship with their post.

Expensive: The priciest mailboxes are highly secure boxes made of a quality material like pounded aluminum. Prices for these boxes can reach up to $100 or sometimes even $200. Many are decorative and look great from the street.

"The delivery slot on a locked mailbox must be at least 10 inches wide and 1 3/4 inches high. "


  • Are you thinking of moving your mailbox to a new location? Before you do so, contact the post office to make sure your chosen location is acceptable.
  • Your mailbox may be the first thing someone notices about your home. Adding flowers or other landscaping around the mailbox base can make your home look more inviting.
  • Creating an “unbreakable” base for your mailbox as a way to deter vandalism is a bad idea. It could open you up to liability if someone is injured in an accident.
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Regulations for mailboxes in Canada are similar to those in the U.S. However, U.S. rural mailboxes only must have address numbers posted on them. Canadian boxes could alternately have a person’s name posted on them.


Q. Can other delivery services deliver a package to my mailbox?
No. It is a federal crime for anyone other than a U.S. postal carrier to deliver an item to your mailbox. UPS and FedEx respect these regulations. In some areas of the country, UPS contracts with USPS to deliver packages. In most situations, unless a package requires a signature for delivery, the placement of the package is at the discretion of the driver. They will attempt to leave the package in an out-of-sight, dry location, or they will leave you a notice and attempt another delivery.

Q. What do I do if my mailbox is vandalized?
Mailbox vandalism is a federal crime. Violators can face up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If you find your mailbox has been vandalized, immediately report it to the United States Postal Inspection Service. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service can also provide stickers warning potential violators or vandals of these penalties.

Q. Can I move my mailbox?
Mailbox locations are decided locally. First, contact your local post office: let them know you would like to move it, where you would like to move it, and why. It is a good idea to have your mailbox in a shaded area, especially if you order medications or food items through the mail. Make sure the new location is convenient for a mail carrier to access and is highly visible. 

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