Alibaba Shipping Cost From China to US: Complete Guide

Shipping is one of the most import step when you import from China. And shipping cost makes up a great portion in the total cost of importing. In this article, we will try to give you a complete guide on Alibaba shipping cost from China to US.

1. Why is shipping cost on Alibaba so expensive?

China is quite far away from US. And the long distance is a main reason for the high shipping cost from China to US on Alibaba. Even if you choose the shortest routes, Alibaba still charges you for the distance of 6000 miles and adds it to your shipping costs.

2. What’s the average shipping cost on Alibaba from China to US

Mostly, the shipping cost depends on the weight of your package and shipping methods you choose. But the main rate in between is almost the same. For package under 10 kg, the shipping cost is from $10 to $100. For package over 10 kg, the shipping cost will be from $100 to $200. If you have your package delivered with tracking feature, there will be around $40 to $50 extra charges.

3. What is the shipping costs made of?

Before we go deep into shipping methods, we need to have a better understanding about shipping cost at the very beginning. Basically, shipping cost consists of various factors. Let’s go through these factors and you will have a clear idea of the shipping costs.

a. Factory to departure port

After the mass production and product inspection is done, your products is ready to ship to your country. The very first transportation is to ship your products from factory to the departure port, which can be the nearby port or other port that you choose. And the cost for this part is about $50 to $480.

b. Export clearance

Before landing your cargo on ship, your products need to pass the custom inspection. If everything goes smoothly, they will clear it for export and your products is free to go onboard.

One thing you need to keep in mind is that there should be no arguable products in your package, like branded products without authorization. If so, once the authority finds it, your package will be prohibited from exporting. And you may face a legal issue for that.

This part of cost is around $100 to $300. Due to different trade terms, your suppliers can cover it for you or you will need to pay for it.

c. Freight cost

Freight cost makes up the main part of the whole shipping cost. It covers the shipping cost from departure port to destination port. Other than this shipping cost, you need to pay to local authorities. Mostly, this part of cost is rather high, more than $1000.

If you choose other shipping methods than freight, the cost can be rather low. However, you may need to pay higher to local authorities. There are two way to pay for freight costs.

  • Pay a freight forwarder and low local charges.
  • Pay low shipping costs and high local charges.

The former option is always recommended. Let the professional do the professional things. A freight forwarder is much more economic, considering the freight costs and local charges.

d. Insurance fee

Before the ship stuck in Suez Canal, shipping insurance is not an important thing for importers. Shipping insurance can help reduce your loss when unpredictable accident happens. And the general formula for insurance cost is 0.02% based on 110% of FOB cost.

If you want to cut your budget, don’t do it with insurance. You will never know what will happen during the international shipping. Therefore, paying an insurance to make it secure.

e. Charges on destination port

Another major cost of the total shipping cost is the charges on destination port. The local authorities charges a lot for importing containers. The costs usually goes from $500 to $1000 for every container. And for independent or smaller packages, the costs depends on cubic meters.

As we’ve talked about it on Freight cost, if you save your money on actual shipping, higher charges comes for local authorities. Therefore, leave this problems to freight forwarders and pay less.

f. Custom clearance

If to import anything from China to US, you need to pay a customs bond to move on to next process. The custom is obligatory for shipments over $2500. If your package exceeds the stated amount, you need to pay the customs bond to carry on.

If your package is under $2500, you can move on your importing with some minor paperwork. But you can only do this if your package is under the stated amount.

There are two types of bonds based on your business.

  • Single entry bond: (for one-time transport) $100-$200
  • Continuous bond: (for long-term business transport) $250-$450

You can get the paperwork through agent companies or custom brokerages. And these bonds are one of the main legal documents required for importing.

g. Final transportation from destination port to final destination

Here comes the final transportation part, which is to ship from destination port to your final destination. And the cost mainly depends on the distance from the port to your warehouse or where you want it ship to. And for different ways of transportation, the shipping cost can be $50 to $500.

4. Mainly used trade terms

Quotations on shipping cost will greatly decide what shipping methods you will choose and how much you will cost on shipping. Now, let’s briefly go through these trade terms.


EXW is more about the product’s price. It does not include any other cost, like the service fees, freight fees or others. Therefore, if you are going with EXW price, it means you need to afford all the other fees yourself.


FOB is short for Free on Board, which means the seller would cover the inland freight before the cargo goes on board, while buyers need to cover the rest, including the international freight and inland freight in destination country.


CFR means that sellers would cover every cost before the cargo arrives in the destination port. And the buyer only needs to pay the inland freight in destination country.


This kind of shipping cost means the seller covers all the shipping cost including the inland freight and international freight. These two are almost the same except that DDP covers the customs fee while DDU doesn’t.


CIF includes an extra insurance fee. As for insurance, we suggest that if you have concerns about any damage or loss to your cargo, insurance is a good choice.

5. Main shipping methods from China to US

The shipping methods we’re talking about here is about international freight. Basically, there are 3 main shipping methods, which are sea freight, air freight, and express. Now, let’s dive into each of the shipping methods.

5.1 Sea freight

Sea freight is the most common shipping methods that importers tend to choose when importing from China. The first thing that need to know about is the criteria for Sea Freight. If your package is over 2 cubic meter, then you should consider using Sea Freight.

a. LCL & FCL

Normally, there are two ways of loading containers when it comes to sea freight: LCL (short for Less Than Container Load) and FCL (short for Full Container Load). And the way you load your goods will be greatly related to your cost on shipping.

LCL means your goods are not enough for a full container. In other words, you will be sharing a container with other buyers. And the cost for LCL is calculated by cubic meters.

FCL means your goods are enough for a full container. In this way, your shipping cost is calculated by the number of containers.

There are mainly 4 types of containers and here is the cubic meters that each size of container contains.

Container’s Size20GP40GP40HC45HC
Cubic Meter contained28586878
b. All-Included Sea Freight Shipping Cost

All-Included Cost means the total cost from start to finish. And Sea Freight requires more legal procedures.

But the All-Included Cost is quite simple. The formula goes like:
Freight cost=Number of products * Dimensions of the product

There are more than 100 ports in US, with each ports charges different. But in major port, the cost ranges from $310 to $4200 for containers measuring from 3-40 CBM respectively.

c. Cost of Sea Freight

Based on different trade terms, the shipping cost varies. As for FOB, you are the one to cover all the costs, including the local chargers and custom clearances in US. While, you suppliers will help you through the whole process.

As for EXW, you will need to cover more, including the export costs and local charges in China. We will show you how to calculate your cost in the following Air Freight part.

5.2 Air freight

Air freight is a time-saving but high cost shipping methods, which is usually applied when the customer wants their goods to ship urgently or the value of goods is high, as the air transportation can be faster and safer.

Normally, air freight only includes fees from airport in China to airport in the destination country. Therefore, you may have to pay another express fees to make your goods deliver to the place you want them to, or you can pick up your goods in the airport at your convenience.

a. Calculate the cost for Air Freight

Shipping cost of air freight is calculated by its weight and bulk. The weight of your goods is divided into bulk weight and real weight. By comparing these two weight, the airline will choose a higher one for pricing.

How to calculate the bulk weight? (Note the difference of unit used in the following two calculating methods!)

Bulk weight = Length * Width * Height (m³) * 167

Or Bulk weight = Length * Width * Height (cm³) / 6000

For example, one of our customer ordered 5760 sets of sewing needles. The packing quantity is 1440 sets per box and the box gauge is 48*40*26 cm, with each box weighing 11.4 kg. How much does it cost for 4 boxes?

Do the math:
Bulk = 0.48*0.40*4 ≈ 0.20 m³
Bulk weight=0.20*167=33.4 kg
Real weight=11.4*4=45.6 kg ≈ 50 kg

And the airline quotes $4.3/kg + 60 customer clearance fee from Shenzhen.

Then the total cost is: $4.3*50+60=$275

After you do the math, you can compare the costs of different shipping methods and decide to choose which shipping methods for shipping.

5.3 Express

Express is also shipped by air. While express means your goods are to delivered to your front door. As express is shipped by air, it is also fast and convenient. Normally, it takes 3 to 5 days for delivery. Due to the COVID-19, it may take 5 to 10 more days for delivery.

a. Calculate the cost for Express

Express’s weight is calculated almost the same as air freight, with a slight difference. Here is how you calculate the weight.

Bulk weight = Length * Width * Height (m³) * 200

Or Bulk weight = Length * Width * Height (cm³) / 5000

Unlike air freight, express cost is calculated by the price of per kg. If it is more than 21 kg, they will quote you the price per kg. If the weight is less than 21 kg, 0.5 kg is usually used as the pricing unit, like the first weight is $20/0.5 kg and the additional weight is $3.3/0.5 kg.

b. Compare express companies

Generally, we will choose DHL, FedEx and UPS for express. And they almost provide similar services.

DHL is more safe, secure and stable, compared to the other two. Generally, if to ship documents, DHL is a better choice.Compared with DHL, FedEx is cheaper under the same weight.UPS is a little bit inferior to DHL and FedEx. And for some countries, UPS is more likely to get inspected at the customs.

Sum Up

Shipping is a rather important and complex procedure when importing from China. Here we hope you have a better understanding about the shipping cost on Alibaba from China to US. There is still more to know about Alibaba Shipping. And we will cover more in our further articles.

Hope you find this article helpful. If you have any question and want to know more, leave your suggestion down on comments. And we are ready to become better. Thanks for supporting.

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