Here’s what it means when Amazon says your order is arriving today, but the order is not out for delivery yet:
When your package is expected to arrive today, that is a shipping estimate based on your location, the item you ordered, and its starting point.
When the package is out for delivery, it means that your package is currently loaded onto the vehicle that will bring it directly to you. Out for delivery is more reliable.
So if you want to learn all about the meaning of Amazon saying your order is arriving today, but it’s not out for delivery, then you’re in the right place.
Let’s jump right in!
What Does It Mean When Amazon Says Your Order Is Arriving Today, but the Order Is Not Out for Delivery Yet?
Amazon is the largest shipper in the world. They handle more goods than anyone else by a huge stretch, and they have worked out complicated logistics to try to meet the two-day delivery promise that helped them get so popular in the first place.
The totality of logistics involved in shipping a package from Amazon to you is massive. There are tons of steps and processes and potential for variation.
This summary does not cover every possibility. Instead, we’re going over the main points in the standard shipping practices to give you an idea.
When your item is out for delivery, it can mean a few different things, and it all makes more sense when you understand how your package gets from a warehouse to your home. It all begins with an Amazon fulfillment center.
Fulfillment centers are where it all begins. These are the massive warehouses where your item (or items) is stored. Workers at the fulfillment center will locate your item, box it, tag it, and get it started on its journey to your home (or other destination).
Amazon has over 100 fulfillment centers in the United States alone. The distance you are from one of these centers will determine how long it takes for your item to reach you.
The majority of people in the U.S. can receive two-day shipping on any item located in a fulfillment center. If one is in your city, times can be even lower.
Once your package is identified, it is sent to a sortation center. Many of these are adjacent to fulfillment centers, but that isn’t always the case. Regardless, sortation centers are a major part of the journey.
This is where tagged boxes are organized according to their destination and priority. This is the sorting that is necessary to keep the logistics of Amazon shipping clean and organized. It serves as basically the brain of the whole operation.
When your package is appropriately sorted, it will be marked for transportation. When the box leaves this center, it is still not marked as “out for delivery.” That happens later in the process.
Major shipping happens after items are sorted. If the final destination is close, they will be trucked to the appropriate town or neighborhood. When boxes have farther to travel, they are loaded onto Amazon aircraft (or contracted aircraft). The planes can hold thousands of items, and they ship Amazon goods all over the world.
It’s important to understand that at this point, contracted couriers are not really part of the equation. Amazon is still handling the entire process, so they have control over your updates.
Pickup centers are nearly the final step in the process. These are the local centers where packages are gathered in order to be delivered to your house directly.
The journey from the pickup center to you is often called the “last mile.” It might not be literally within a mile of you, but pickup centers are numerous and in every small city in the country. Unless you live in a rural area, your pickup center is likely within 10 miles of where you live. There are that many.
Once an item is at a pickup center, there are a few ways it might be delivered to your house. An Amazon truck or van might handle the last mile. Plenty of times, third-party couriers are contracted for this portion.
Amazon also uses independent contract drivers to cover the last mile. They basically built their own Uber for packages, and there are thousands of drivers who do this gig. What matters is that the person who picks up your package at the pickup center is the person who delivers it directly to you.
Now, we can get into the delivery tags that you see on your updates.
When your package is selected to arrive “today,” that means that the expectation is there. Amazon is estimating that they can get your package to you today, but the company does not guarantee delivery times. Too many things can go wrong along the way, and they know it.
Ultimately, it is the expected delivery date that tells you that you should receive your package today. Unless a delay was logged or tracked, that estimate doesn’t change until the very last minute, assuming your package ends up being late.
Typically, the “today” tag applies to packages that are at pickup centers. The expectation is that it is only a matter of hours before you receive it. Again, there are no guarantees.
When a package is “out for delivery,” it’s already on a vehicle in your area. You are merely waiting for the delivery vehicle to make it to your stop on their list. So, you can have a package that is expected to arrive today even though it is not yet out for delivery.
Despite that, you still might get your package today. Once you see “out for delivery,'” you should expect that your package will arrive that same day.
Exceptions can happen, but this is how things normally go.
How Do Amazon’s 3rd Party Providers Deliver, and How Does That Affect Your Order Status?
Up until now, we’ve talked about the Amazon process. You saw that third parties can pick up packages along the way, but when any other courier gets involved, things get a lot more complicated pretty quickly.
Couriers handle their own logistics, and those logistics are not guaranteed to match or coincide with the Amazon process. It’s entirely possible to get conflicting reports on the delivery progress. It’s also possible for the introduction of a second logistical process to create unexpected delays.
Here’s the ultimate thing to remember as you consider third-party delivery. When Amazon hands a package off to a courier, it creates a ticket, and the standard process is to email you the means of tracking your package via the courier. With that in mind, this is the process of how Amazon uses couriers to deliver packages.
For the most part, Amazon contracts major couriers to deliver their packages once those packages are at pickup centers. It’s cheaper for Amazon. They handle long-distance transportation. They’re trying to only pay third parties to handle the last mile.
There are definitely exceptions to this, and we’ll be talking about the most common of them in a minute. But, this is the general expectation.
So, for now, we’ll assume that the courier is picking up your package at a pickup center. That means it’s already fairly close to where you live, and you can reasonably expect that the courier can get your package to your house the same day they receive it.
So, here’s how this part works. Once the package is handed off to the courier (from a pickup center), Amazon will mark the package as out for delivery. Despite that, Amazon is no longer in control of the delivery. It’s now under the control of FedEx, UPS, or whoever else. Typically, Amazon will hand off tracking to those services.
You might see that your Amazon estimated delivery and the actual tracking from the courier don’t agree. The courier is the more accurate source in this case.
Because couriers don’t necessarily take packages directly from the pickup center to your house, there are opportunities for delay. This is often when you will see that your package is out for delivery and then not receive it that same day.
If you go with the tracking from the courier, you’re likely to be properly informed.
Direct From Store
There’s a different way this whole story can play out. Amazon is actually a hub for lots and lots of individual stores. Ultimately, those stores have freedom in how they fulfill orders.
Plenty of them utilize the Amazon fulfillment process, but there are a lot of local stores around the country (and world) that are only on Amazon to boost their visibility.
It’s entirely possible, and fairly common, that when you order from such a store, they will ship you an item from their own on-hands. When this happens, they can’t use an Amazon fulfillment center. Instead, they’ll simply hire a courier service to handle the entire shipping process.
When this is the case, you will receive a tracking email from the seller as soon as they relinquish the package to the courier. You can track via the courier process.
Keep in mind that this method circumvents the Amazon two-day promise. In fact, when stores handle shipping on their own, you will often have to choose the shipping option you prefer during checkout.
There may be upcharges for speedy delivery, and Prime shipping is not an option. That’s how you know the store is handling their own shipping, and it’s how you know the process is completely different.