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A Guide to Commercial Mailbox Terms

When you’re trying to find the right mailboxes for your property, it can be a confusing experience when you’re searching online for what to do and which mailboxes to choose. After all, commercial mailboxes are different from the curbside or wall-mounted residential ones that most people are used to. During your search, you may have come across terms such as 4C and 4B, cluster mailboxes, horizontal mailboxes, private delivery, and so on.

The confusion is understandable, especially if you’ve never purchased or installed mailboxes for a property before or haven’t done so in many years. Mailboxes have evolved over time, and during recent years, they’ve become more secure with more features to protect tenant mail. Here are some common terms you will encounter while choosing the right mailboxes for your property, and what they mean.

Cluster, Freestanding, Horizontal, and Vertical Mailboxes. These are very common terms you’ll see while choosing commercial mailboxes.

These terms all refer to centralized mailboxes, where a metal cabinet holds multiple customer compartments. Centralized mailboxes work very well for commercial properties, don’t require much maintenance, and are more secure as customer compartments all lock. All are best used in a forward or central location.

There are a few main types of centralized mailboxes, although they all share this trait in common.

Cluster mailboxes refer to those mailboxes that stand on their own, typically in an outdoor setting. These mailboxes often have a cabinet and customer compartments mounted on a separate pedestal. These are common in apartment complexes and in central areas of a property. Cluster mailboxes stand on concrete slabs for support. They typically have a few to over a dozen customer compartments each, and often stand side by side to meet all customer needs. These mailboxes are often also called CBU’s, and sometimes called pedestal mailboxes.

Freestanding mailboxes are very similar to the cluster boxes above, except that they stand as a single cabinet, without a separate pedestal. They are becoming more popular in recent years and perform the same function as cluster mailboxes.

Horizontal mailboxes are also very popular. They’re called horizontal because the customer compartments are laid out horizontally—that is, their compartments are square or much wider than they are tall. Though cluster and freestanding mailboxes also have this customer compartment type, this term refers to those mailboxes that can recess into or mount onto a vertical surface.

It’s no surprise that recessed horizontal mailboxes and wall-mounted horizontal mailboxes are the two subtypes of horizontal mailboxes available. They do exactly what they say: recess into a wall or mount onto it. They’re common in lobbies, wide hallways, in kiosks, and in mail rooms. They’re good for indoor or outdoor use.

The last type, vertical mailboxes, are being phased out currently. Their compartments are taller than they are wide, and these mailboxes are typically found as recessed or wall-mount types. They were often used in apartment buildings and some other commercial properties and can still be found in some areas that haven’t yet upgraded to the newer types.

What About 4B and 4C Mailboxes? You will also see these two terms when searching for commercial mailboxes, and for good reason. They apply only when looking for mailboxes for USPS delivery, so if you’re searching for private delivery mailboxes (see below) you will not need to worry about these terms.

Gone are the days where you can construct or use any mailbox and expect the postal service to deliver to it. Standards have improved over the years for customer safety and mail security.

4B and 4C refer to centralized mailboxes that were, or are, approved for USPS use. When installed correctly, a postal service employee is allowed to deliver to them.

4C mailboxes are those approved by the USPS for new installations on commercial properties. Since 2006, all new centralized mailbox installations need to be of the 4C type, as they have improved construction over their older counterparts. Cluster, freestanding, and horizontal mailboxes can all have this designation.

Vertical mailboxes, and some older horizontal mailboxes, often have a 4B designation. They’re being phased out and often show their age when found on some properties. Today, the USPS won’t approve new 4B mailboxes unless they’re replacing mailboxes of the exact same type, and in the exact same location. However, you can still purchase these for private delivery, where a third party delivers mail within a property or organization.

USPS Versus Private Delivery. When shopping for your centralized mailboxes, you’ll see terms such as USPS approved or For Private Delivery. They mean exactly what they say. USPS approved refers to 4C centralized mailboxes. USPS approved for replacement is found on 4B mailboxes if you’re simply replacing your old mailboxes with the same type. You’ll want these if you want direct postal service delivery.

Private Delivery refers to mailboxes where the USPS won’t deliver directly. These mailboxes work well in college mailrooms, schools, or other settings where an employee distributes incoming mail rather than the USPS. Private Delivery mailboxes offer more design options than USPS mailboxes. You can also use 4B or 4C mailboxes for private delivery, so you may see both designations on the same mailbox cabinet.

Parcel Lockers. Most 4C mailboxes come with parcel lockers, as they’re needed if you’re going to purchase USPS-approved mailboxes. You’ll need one for every five customer compartments, as the USPS recently upgraded their requirements to accommodate increasing package delivery. 4B mailboxes did not have this requirement.

These lockers are oversize mail compartments designed to hold most packages. They’re locking, and customers get a key when a package is delivered.

Parcel lockers can also be purchased separately from other mailbox cabinets and can mount beside mailboxes. Different sizes are also available.

We’re Here to Clear Up Any Confusion. At National Mailboxes, we’re committed to making sure you choose the right mailboxes for your commercial property. If you have any questions, be sure to reach out to us today.