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What’s the Shipping Cost from China to USA for 7 main shipping methods

I bet there are million people have thought about this business mode: import good products from China and sell to different market places in US.  

Although it’s easy to find product suppliers on Alibaba, still a lot of people give up this business plan, because they don’t know methods and cost for shipping products from China to US.

The truth is over 90% of product suppliers on Alibaba are not professional on all shipping methods, so they are more likely to overcharge on shipping cost.

Or many of them prefer you use own freight forwarder to pick up cargo at their warehouse or at the port of China.

That sounds quite discouraging for people who are new to import from China.

So, I wrote this article to help you understand the estimated cost for using 7 main shipping solutions from China to US. Thus you can do the math by yourself, to decide if a product is worthy to import, or which shipping solution is most cost-effective.

NOTE: The shipping cost for each shipping method is not fixed. The article only provides you with a reference range of shipping price based on my industry experience.
 It’s an in-depth article that takes 20 minutes to read.

Navigation, click to jump to the section you want to read,

Note: trade terms (Incoterms) are what define your shipping model, which is directly related to the shipping cost. If you have no clue about what Incoterms are, I suggest you watch the following video first.

Part 1 Express Shipping from China to US

There’s plenty of information on Google regarding the Express companies like FedEx, UPS and DHL.

Therefore, I am not going to waste your time listing the top Express courier’s here.

Instead, I’ll get straight to the point and answer the two more important questions:

  1. When is it more cost-effective to choose express? And;
  2. What type of goods can be transported via express?

1. Which Express Company is Better?

Express is a relatively easier mode of transportation when compared with sea or air freight.

And which is also the fastest shipping from China to the US.

Firstly, you won’t have to bother about custom clearances process.

Secondly, whether you are getting the goods delivered to the east of United States, or the west, delivery fees will likely be the same.

Therefore, all you have to do is find an express company that gives you a reasonable quote and wait for the goods to be delivered to your address.

Yes, it’s that simple!

In fact, 95% of the product samples and small amount of high-value goods are shipped by express.

Mostly, express delivery is highly suitable for online sellers who are in a hurry to restock, like Amazon sellers.

Moving on…

You’ve all heard of Fedex, UPS, DHL.

But which one is most reliable and cost-effective for shipping from China.

I definitely recommend FedEx and UPS.

In general, DHL’s customs clearance process is slower than that of FedEx and UPS.

Furthermore, sometimes DHL’s shipping cost from China to US is also relatively higher.

Comparison Between Fedex UPS DHL

As for the shipping cost of FedEx and UPS, you have to ask your Alibaba supplier or your freight forwarder to provide you with a real-time price, then choose a cheaper one.

Compared with sea freight, the shipping cost of express is quite unstable and may even change every week.

The shipping costs quickly escalate during the high season like a month before Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Christmas High Season Shipping Cost from Express Company

While at the same time, the costs may drop significantly during the low season.

2. Express Shipping Costs from China to the USA

Keep in mind, whether FedEx, UPS or DHL, the official price is generally higher.

Also, every express company offers different discounts based on the annual shipments of the shipper (your supplier, or freight forwarder), which further influences the prices.

If your Chinese supplier doesn’t often use Fedex to ship goods from China to the US, he can find an express agent with discount and ask him to ship the goods to the United States.

So, you’ll get a lower shipping cost.

Therefore, besides the impact of season, and the amount of empty space left in plane;

The difference in the agents’ discount also influences the cost of express delivery.

Moving on to the price estimate for Fedex delivery.

Although, the delivery charges often fluctuates but the price of Fedex still floats within a specific range.

Using the reference price I provide in this post and factoring in the other influencers discussed above, you can easily determine the cost of delivery to your address.

Fedex offers International Priority and International Economy delivery, also known as IP and IE. Transit time for IP is faster than IE.

Fedex International Priority vs Economic

In general, IP takes 2-3 working days, and IE takes 4-6 working days.

I call it small package below 20KG, and cargo above 21KG. Refer to the tables below to check out the price estimate.

Firstly, for the small package (<21KG):

Fedex IP (<21KG)

0.5-5.5KGCost $6-11KGCost $11.5-16.5KGCost $17-20.5KGCost $

Fedex IE (<21KG)

0.5-5.5KGCost $6-11KGCost $11.5-16.5KGCost $17-20.5KGCost $

Then, for the cargo (>21KG):

Fedex IP ( >21KG) Fedex IE ( >21KG) 

The tables above clearly shows that IP delivery is more expensive than IE.

So, generally, Fedex IP is the best choice for sending product samples.

However, if it is CARGO >21KG), I suggest you choose Fedex IE.

In addition, please note that the goods containing lithium batteries, powder and liquid are not allowed to be shipped by official Fedex.

Fedex Refuse to Ship Lithium Battery

And you’ll say,

“I really want to ship these products by express, you have a better solution? ”


Some express agents will help you ship the goods to Hong Kong first.

And then ship them to the United States by Fedex or DHL of Hong Kong.

Of course, the cost for shipping such sensitive goods is more expensive, usually around $10/kg or more.

3. Dimensional Weight VS Real Weight

For express and air freight, you should pay special attention to the problem of charged weight.

So, is charged weight calculated by the “kg” – its real weight or its real volume?

If the volume of the goods is larger than its actual weight, charges are applicable according to the volume.

For instance, if you ship a huge foam of 100cm x100cm x 100cm, which weighs 20kg.

Then the express company will definitely not charge you by its real weight (20kg).

Since the size will of the package will be large and will occupy significant space.

Interestingly, the charges are not calculated as per the volume as well. The costs are actually determined by dimensional weight.

Here’s the formula to calculate it,

Dimensional Weight = Length(cm) x Width(cm) x Height(cm)/5000.

Dimensional Weight Calculation

Let’s go back to foam example.

Suppose you need to ship 1 piece of a large 100cm x 100cm x 100cm foam weighing 20KG. What will be it’s dimensional weight?

Let’s calculate.

Dimensional weight=100cm x 100cm x 100cm/5000=200kg,

So,you see,

Its dimensional weight is far larger than its actual weight.

Hence the express will charge you by 200kg.

The charged weight for all the goods are calculated in this manner, and then the dimensional weight is compared with the real weight to determine the charged weight.

As for customs duties, if the value of goods is less than $800, it is duty-free by Fedex.

One last thing, If you ask your supplier to help you ship goods by Fedex, it’s better to pay the fee to your supplier in advance.

Even if you have a Fedex account in the United States, you should not pay the freight until you sign for it, because it will be very expensive.

Part 2 Air Freight from China to the USA

After covering the cost estimates for express delivery, let’s move on to air freight.

Essentially, both air freight and express use plane as a tool to ship the cargo.

Wondering what’s the differences between the two and when do you choose to express and when do you choose air freight?

Don’t worry, you’ll soon know the answer.

1. The Differences Between Air Freight and Express

Undeniably, express delivery is quite simple and straight-forward. But what about air freight?

Shipping via air freight is a bit more complex and its import and export procedures are similar to the traditional sea freight.

It includes the following three steps:

  • Local logistics in China and export process.
  • Air shipping from Chinese airport to American airport.
  • Local logistics in USA and import process.

Usually, if you have more than 500 KG of cargo, choosing air freight is cost-effective.