The Best Alibaba Shipping Methods Explained

May 10, 2024 Chapter 5. Shipping

Alibaba offers a variety of shipping methods, depending on your needs.

Usually, you can save the Alibaba shipping cost in 3 ways:

  • The shipping method*
  • The product itself (Reasonable Packaging)
  • Looking for a shipping agent. 


Saving Alibaba shipping costs is your purpose, but it is not the only one. How to send the goods to your destination safely, quickly and efficiently is what we should pursue too.





Basic Shipping from Alibaba overview


How to Shipping Goods from Alibaba for the First Time?

How to save Alibaba shipping costs for the first time(less than 100kg)?

The best way to place a first-time order from Alibaba or China is to ask the supplier to arrange for the shipping and add the invoice cost. Goods that are shipped via air come with no surprises. All you need to do is inform your supplier about your address. 

Considering your first transaction isn’t huge, having the supplier ship the product for you can give you a quick overview of the shipping process. 



Why is Alibaba Shipping So Expensive? 

The reason why Alibaba delivery so expensive is below 3 reason:

  1. The Long Distance. The heavier your goods, the more Alibaba will charge for shipping.
  2. Buyer use air shipping with low order quantity. So, the shipping per unit is very high. is a large quantity dealer so if you do order around 500-1000 units the shipping per unit isn’t that expensive.
  3. Use the wrong Alibaba shipping method or the supplier can’t find the right shipping company may also increase the Alibaba shipping costs.
  4. Alibaba’s official online shipping template will be much more expensive than offline ones, and the percentage of the cost can be changed manually by each seller。




Dimensional Weight vs Actual Weight

As with most businesses, cost can’t be the only consideration but it is usually a primary and determining factor.

So let’s first start with how to calculate the shipping price. There are two different weight concepts here. One is the actual weight and the other one is the dimensional weight. As shown in this picture here,


shipping from China weight calculate

Actual Weight is exactly what the product weighs including packaging. Dimensional Weight takes into account the volume, including length, width & height of the package that you are shipping…


  • For sea freight, dimensional weight = package volume/6000,
  • while for air freight, dimensional weight = package volume/5000.


The Billable Weight is defined as the greater of the two weights (actual vs. dimensional) and this will be used to calculate the final shipping rate. 

Because of this rule, you can communicate with your supplier and try to package your goods in the best way that has the smallest package volume to save your Alibaba shipping costs.

If you are looking at ongoing shipments, discuss packaging options with your supplier. You might be able to seriously cut the Alibaba freight costs.





4 Common Alibaba Shipping Methods

Different logistics methods can make a vast difference both in transit time and freight charges. Therefore we always need to determine which method will be the most cost-effective one.

If your order is shipped by air, the Alibaba shipping time should be within 3-10 working days. If by sea, the Alibaba shipping time may take 30 to 45 days.

Next, I will talk about the most common 4 shipping methods. You can pick a proper way to save your Alibaba shipping costs.


1. Regular Post/Express

ship from China regular post mailThis means a normal, regular China Post (or Hong Kong Post) which can take up to 15~35 days to arrive. If you can wait, this is the cheapest option for small shipments, like samples and parcels. You may track and trace online, but the information can not be updated in time.

We don’t recommend this way at most times. Although it’s a very economical method, it’s unsafe and it’s hard to find lost packages. This method usually is a good option for drop shipping.


2.  Air Express

Transportation with a courier company will be the most suitable method for most people starting out. Courier company, widely used in China is DHL, UPS, and FedEx. With courier service, you get fast delivery times and an online tracking facility. Most courier shipments take just 3~5 business days to arrive anywhere around the globe.

The advantage of choosing an express courier is that you can get seamless delivery. All you have to do is sign for the package when it arrives. In most cases, delivery is quick and reliable. When there’s a problem, there is a tracking number that can help resolve the matter. But the disadvantage is that The price is much higher than the postal service.



3.  Airfreight

If the weight of sourced products is too large for couriers, for example, 100kg, air shipment might be the best bet. With air freight, costs will be significantly lower than with courier companies.

This way is suitable for cargo with medium weight, and there are tight deadlines or tighter control on the security. Transit time varies based on the schedule of airlines, but in general, it ranges between 8~10 days, which is not bad.

It’s worthy to mention here, air freight usually has a minimum requirement of the shipping weight. The average cost for air express is about $5 to $10/kg and the shipping time is about 3 to 5 business days, while the average cost for air freight is $4 to 8/kg and the shipping time is about 5 to 10 business days.

The figure below is a detailed comparison of the shipping cost of air freight and air express when shipping from China to the United Kingdom.

Alibaba shipping cost


4. Sea freight/Ocean freight

Transport by the ocean can take a very long time but can carry a massive amount of goods, which drives down the costs. The diversity of cargo that can be shipped is also a major benefit to this model. That’s why it’s a popular and widely used mode in logistics.

Despite the lengthy delivery time, if you plan ahead, and have enough time to wait, sea freight will be your top choice. Depending on where you’re located, it will be in the vicinity of 30~60 days.

There are two types of ocean shipping, FCL, and LCL, both of which have to do with the costs of shipping and the size of the container used.

shipping from China CLC FCL

FCL = Full Container Load

LCL = Less (than) Container Load

Typically, there are different size options when it comes to shipping containers. You can choose the different sizes based on your needs.


shipping from China container sizeDepending on the amount you are purchasing from your Chinese supplier, you may fill an entire shipping container or only part of one.

When you are using an entire container yourself, you are shipping FCL (full container load). See, that makes sense, right? More items equal a full container.

Typically, shipping FCL is cheaper by volumetric unit and weight unit.

But, many importers aren’t purchasing enough goods to ship FCL. You could try air freight but the cost is often too high. In this case, LCL (less than container load) is the ideal solution.

When shipping LCL, your items share containers with other people’s items. In other words, cargo from multiple buyers ends up in the same container.


What is LCL vs FCL?

It is easier to track FCL directly through the shipping company’s website. That way, you can predict its arrival with accuracy.

Under FCL, your items will be safer. FCL means that your items will not be mixed with other shipments. There will be less risk of your cargo being damaged or getting lost since fewer people will be handling it.

FCL can be processed faster because your shipment will be the only one that will be loaded into a container. Under LCL, the shipment will be consolidated with others first.

As mentioned earlier, FCL is cheaper when the cost is broken down per unit. Ultimately, your choice of FCL or LCL will hinge upon how much you’re shipping.

You can choose FCL or LCL as you wish. But there’s a basic rule you should follow when you want to save on Alibaba shipping costs.


  • If your cargo size is 1cbm~8cbm, choose LCL;
  • If 8cbm~15cbm, choose FCL or LCL based on the practical situation;
  • If over 15cbm, choose FCL without any hesitation.






What is the Cheapest Alibaba Shipping Methods?


Sea freight – sea freight is by far the cheapest option for shipping from Alibaba, so if you’re looking for low costs sea freight will be the one for you!

It is more appropriate to use air or sea freight if you are shipping products that weigh hundreds of pounds. Here is complete guide from shipping from Alibaba.



Compare Alibaba Shipping Methods:

Shipping Method Pros Cons Port to Port Door to Door Price


  • Fastest 
  • Safety
  • Door to door service


  • High cost
  • Limitation on product category and cbm
2-5 days $5-$15

Air Freight

  • Fast delivery
  • 20% cheaper than courier
  • Extensive global reach
  • Increased goods safety
  • High cost
  • Limitation on size and weight
  • Weather cause delays
1-5 days 4-11 days $4-$8

Sea Freight(LCL)

  • Cheap cost
  • No limit on the size and weight
  • Eco-friendly
  • Time consuming
  • Server delay during peak season
14-42 days 19-47 days $2-$2.5

Sea Freight(FCL)

14-42 days 22-50 days $3,000-5,000

Rail Shipping

  • Fast than sea shipping
  • Large transport capacity
  • Cost 10-30% higher than sea freight
  • Limited operating lines
  • Less flexibility
15-18 days 20-30 days





How to Choose Alibaba’s Best Shipping Method?


After confirming the order, you need to prepare the goods and choose the best Alibaba shipping methods for delivery.

There are two delivery methods for shipping from Alibaba:

  • online delivery

The advantage of Alibaba online delivery lies in its convenience. It can order directly on the platform, and its operation is simple.


  • the other is offline delivery

The advantage of offline delivery lies in its low price, abundant channels, and ability to deliver various sensitive/dangerous items at low prices.


When choosing a shipping method, it is important to consider the following factors:

  • Cost: Shipping costs can vary significantly depending on the shipping method and the service provider. It is important to compare the costs of different shipping methods before you choose one.
  • Delivery time: If you need your shipment delivered quickly, you will need to choose a faster shipping method. However, if you are not time-sensitive, you can choose a slower and more economical shipping method.
  • Size and weight of your shipment: Some shipping methods have restrictions on the size and weight of shipments that can be shipped. It is important to make sure that the shipping method you choose can accommodate your shipment.
  • Shipping destination: Some shipping methods are not available to all destinations. It is important to make sure that the shipping method you choose is available to your destination.


Once you have chosen a shipping method, you will need to agree on the shipping terms with your supplier. The shipping terms will specify who is responsible for the cost of shipping and who is responsible for any customs duties or taxes.


Here are some tips for choosing the best Alibaba shipping method for your needs:

  • Compare the costs of different shipping methods and service providers.
  • Consider the delivery time you need.
  • Make sure that the shipping method you choose can accommodate the size and weight of your shipment.
  • Make sure that the shipping method you choose is available to your destination.
  • Agree on the shipping terms with your supplier.



A Strategy used by some merchants to save Alibaba shipping costs, especially start-up Amazon sellers is to have a small portion of their cargo, say 5% to 10% shipped via air freight, and the rest is shipped by sea.

That way, they can have a small volume available in their Amazon FBA stores for sale to make money even as the rest of the items are in transit.

save alibaba shipping costs





How to Quote for Alibaba Shipping Methods?

The first thing you need to do first at this stage is that you must familiarize yourself with shipping incoterms. Incoterms are trade terms that are used internationally for determining where and when the cargo will be transferred.

Always be sure to tell your supplier or freight forwarder what incoterm you want when getting a shipping quote like FOB Shanghai  Otherwise you may end up paying way more than you expected.

Some other commonly used incoterms are FOB, EXW, CIF, DDP and we have another video explaining all the different incoterms in detail, so we won’t talk about more here today.

The next thing you need to know is What do you need to provide to get an Alibaba shipping quotation?


Freight forwarders require the following information before they can provide a quotation.

  • Shipping method: Air or ocean
  • Total Cargo Volume (cbm)/Total Weight (kgs)
  • Each Carton of weight and Dim
  • Freight Term: EXW Factory or FOB
  • Pick address: factory address or port name
  • Delivery address
  • Insurance (Yes / No)

*Freight Quote normally does not include: Duty & Tax


So be sure to have this information prepared when you ask for an Alibaba shipping quote. As such, the final freight cost can only be ‘confirmed’ once the products are manufactured and packed. But you can still get an estimate by providing this information.




Do you Need Alibaba Shipping Insurance?



The purchase of appropriate insurance when importing goods from China is strongly recommended to all importers. Cargo insurance is one of the most popular.


Alibaba shipping damage protection

Shipping insurance is cheap, and a typical cost is around US$50 to US$100. Normally, shipping insurance only covers the value of the cargo, in case of transportation damage. It will not cover lost sales or product development costs.

Usually, you can ask your freight forwarder for the insurance option, but here is a rough equation that you can use to estimate the insurance cost by yourself.


Shipping Insurance ≅ Value of Goods * 1.1* 0.1% ~ 0.3%.  


This is not the exact equation used by every forwarder, it’s just something for a quick reference. Ask your freight forwarder for the final price.


Generally, insurance can only pay for lost items, but it is difficult to pay for damaged items. Therefore, it is your responsibility to work with the supplier to pack the product more firmly, especially for fragile items.




How to Track Alibaba Shipment?

Alibaba Express ships to many countries around the world and you can track all packages sent via this express on this website in just a few clicks.

When a package is shipped to you, the sender must provide you with a tracking number, which will then be used by this website to understand the status of your delivery and the location of your mail or package.


However, what you need to know is that if your shipments is delayed for a long time or the shipping experience is not good, it is possible that your supplier has chosen a cheaper shipping channel. Even for the same transportation method, the price may be high or low. Therefore, a reasonable price is a guarantee of transportation stability.






If you are unsure which shipping method to choose, you can always consult with a freight forwarder. A Alibaba agent freight forwarder can help you choose the best shipping method for your needs and can also negotiate shipping rates on your behalf.

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6 months ago

Is it possible to purchase an item from a wholesale supplier and then have the item sent to a logistic company that functions as a warehouse?In other words, if there was an order, would the company take action to fulfill the order and deliver it to the customer?