What Does Pre-transit Mean? Is Your Package Stuck There?

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Waiting to receive a package can be horrible.

I recently ordered a jacket off of Poshmark and the Poshmark seller took a week to ship.

I’ve had similar experiences on Etsy, eBay, Mercari, and just about every other platform. The problem is that this always seems to happen when there’s a deadline (such as a birthday) and you need the item to be delivered ASAP!

So I’ll admit I wasn’t very pleased with my recent Etsy order. I checked tracking every single day in the hopes that tracking would update but it was stuck on “pre-transit” for almost 4 days.

Which left me with questions. First off, what does pre-transit mean? Does pre-transit mean shipped? Will my item be stuck there for long?

Well, I got my answers and I’m going to pass them on. If you have an order (from any platform) that has tracking reading “pre-transit” let’s get you some answers.

If an item is in Pre-Transit it means that the sender has printed off a label (creating a tracking number) but has not dropped the package off at the carrier to be scanned in. Typically, items are in Pre-Transit for less than 24 hours but because the item has not actually been shipped it can stay in Pre-Transit for up to a week until it is scanned in.

What Does Pre-Transit Mean?

First off, we need to understand exactly how the shipping process on a platform such as Etsy works.

When a person lists an item on Etsy they can either have the platform automatically provide them a label or they can ship it through the platform. The incentive to ship it through the platform is the volume discount the shipping companies provide.

As soon as the seller prints off a label, the tracking number is created and shows up in the system. For some carriers, it shows up as pre-transit. This does not mean that the package has been dropped off or has started moving.

Many sellers will print off a label (creating a tracking number) very quickly after receiving an order. This improves their “Shipping Time” on the selling statistics and gives the buyer the impression that they’re getting excellent customer service.

Once the label is printed, this buys them a day or two to package up the item and drop it off where it will get scanned in and start moving. If it’s done quickly no one is the wiser and it’s quite harmless.

However, some sellers will print out a label and then not drop the package off for a week or more. In theory, a package can stay in Pre-Transit indefinitely until it is dropped off and scanned in.

The reason it must read Pre-Transit is that the carrier is simply bookmarking the tracking number in their system. They have received information that it exists but nothing more.

Does Pre-Transit Mean Shipped?

Typically, no. The tracking for an item will typically read Pre-Transit for a small amount of time after it is dropped off with the carrier before they scan it in.

However, it is more likely that the shipper has just printed off a label and the item has not actually been shipped.

How Long Do Item Stay In Pre-Transit?

Almost every item you order on Etsy will have tracking that reads Pre-Transit for a period of time. It will be the (hopefully short) duration between the label being printed and the package being scanned in by the carrier.

This may be less than an hour or can stretch to a week or more if the seller is lax in packing up and dropping off your order.

What If Tracking Is Stuck On Pre-Transit?

If an item is in pre-transit you’ll need to contact the seller to find out when they’re actually going to be dropping off your order at USPS, FedEx, or whatever carrier you selected during your order.

Contacting the carrier will not garner you any additional information as they do not actually have the package and can not give you any information or estimates about when the seller will actually drop the package off.

What Comes After Pre-Transit?

Once an item is scanned in at its drop-off location you will likely receive some variation of “Package Accepted” and a location.

At this time (or soon after) the carrier will likely be able to provide a delivery estimate as they can compare it to other routes within their system.


Typically, having tracking for a package that reads “Pre-Transit” for more than a day is nothing more than an annoyance. Every package will be in pre-transit between the time the label is shipped and the carrier scans it in.

If it gets stuck there for more than 48 hours, however, it’s time to contact and seller and get a reason.

Good luck and may your packages come quickly!

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