What does “out for delivery mean”?

We’ve all been in that situation. We order something online and within a matter of hours, we get a message that says our purchase is “out for delivery”. We think to ourselves “Blimey, that was quick”, and then we get upset because it still takes a couple of weeks before it arrives.

 In this article today, we’ll be looking at what “out for delivery” actually means, compared to what you want it to mean. We’ll also be looking at the effects that deliveries have had on our minds and our society.

Here is the short answer: Whilst most of us would like to think that “out for delivery” means in the van, on the way to our house, it really means that it’s left the original warehouse or factory you’ve ordered it from.

The internet has changed the way we use a lot of our language. And because of social media, we now have a load of new words and old words that mean new things.

What we want it to mean

First of all though, we should take a look at what we want it to mean. When we hear that something is “out for delivery”, because we want what we’ve ordered asap, we like to think that it means it’s in the delivery van and is about to be taken to your house.

We think that it only takes the journey of one van before it gets into your hands, and you can have fun with whatever you’ve ordered.

What it really means 

In reality however, this is not the case.

“Out for delivery” simply means that it has left the factory. This is usually one of the first steps in the delivery process.

It has been processed, put through the system, and boxed up. But all it means is that it’s in the first van. It doesn’t even automatically mean that it’s in the country you live in. There’s a chance that it’s at a postal sorting house, or even on a boat or a plane.

So when you hear the phrase “out for delivery” don’t get too excited just yet.

How delivery works 

The delivery process is usually more complex than you might think. Unless it’s a small, local company, chances are it won’t go straight from where it’s made to your house. Please bear in mind that the explanation which is about to be given is for products that are made abroad, so just remove the non-relevant steps to understand products made and delivered in the same country.

Out of the factory or warehouse, it gets taken to a postal warehouse where it will be driven to the correct port.

This port could be a shipping port or an airport. Once at the port, it goes on the train or boat where it’s taken to a British postal warehouse.

From here it’s delivered to a smaller, and more local warehouse, where it’s finally put in the van to be delivered to your house.

When it’s worth it 

There could be certain situations where waiting for the delivery is worth it.

The most obvious example is when you’re buying something that isn’t available to buy from the shops. In this situation, you don’t have much choice.

Or you could find, that even with delivery charges, the cost of buying it online is cheaper than getting it from the shop. Whether the money you save is worth the wait is your call.

When it’s not worth it 

However, there might be circumstances where it’s better to buy it from the shops. Is it really worth waiting 2 weeks for something that you can buy from Tesco just because you save a couple of pennies?

You can also reduce the emissions by cutting out a lot of the middlemen of delivery. This can help to reduce your carbon footprint.

And you should also look at if getting deliveries is actually cheaper, but often, it’s not. But it will never hurt to check.

Why cheap delivery takes longer

Sometimes, you will find that you can decide how long your delivery is going to take. You can pay more to have it done faster. Or you can pay less, and wait for a bit longer.

This is for a variety of reasons. But a big one is flying vs shipping. Aeroplanes are much quicker but also much costlier than boats. For this reason, delivery by boat usually costs less but also takes more time.

Another reason why quicker delivery tends to cost more is that it’s given priority over the deliveries that have not paid for that priority.

Avoiding uncertainty 

One thing that humans hate is uncertainty. We would rather wait longer, knowing when it will come, than wait for less time, but not knowing when that time will come.

That’s why most train stations have a display board which says how long until the train arrives and informers travellers about any delays. This way instead of thinking “The train was due 5 minutes ago, this is bad”, people will instead think “Ah, that’s why the train the 10 minutes late. It’s annoying but it is what it is”.

The same applies for deliveries. Most of us would rather wait a month, knowing it will be a month than wait a week, or maybe 8 days, perhaps 9.

How the internet has changed delivery 

Before the internet, the only time people would get things delivered would be takeaways (which have only become as popular as they have in recent years), and when you require something large such as a fridge or washing machine.

There’s no denying that the internet has made delivery more popular. It shows that we don’t have an issue with waiting, as long as we can save money.

It also shows that we have less time for shopping, as ordering online won’t require leaving your seat. This could indicate laziness, but it could also be a sign that we’re busier than we’ve been in the past.


Whilst most of us would like to think that “out for delivery” means in the van, on the way to our house, it really means that it’s left the original warehouse or factory you’ve ordered it from.

It still needs to be taken to the port, taken to the big postal warehouse, taken to the smaller postal warehouse, and then taken to your house.

However, the new function of informing you how long it will take has helped massively.