Complete Guide: 6 Ways to Save Alibaba Shipping Costs

Feb 10, 2021 Chapter 5. Shipping

I have been imported different products from China, and I noticed that many Alibaba sellers charge high shipping prices. For example, I live in a large city in Australia, and samples of iPhone charging cables cost a total of US$6, and airfreight to me costs US$80. So How do I save Alibaba shipping costs?


How to Shipping Goods from Alibaba for the First Time?

How to save Alibaba shipping costs for the first time? 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.

shipping from China steps


The supplier will likely use methods such as FedEx, UPS, or DHL to ship your products. If your goods’ cost is below $800 and they are being shipped to America, no duty will be charged. That is because of the Minimis rules in America. 



What is the Cheapest Shipping Method in Alibaba?

You can save the Alibaba shipping cost in two ways: the shipping method and the product itself.


Shipping time and price from Alibaba:

  • By express> By air freight >By sea (price)
  • By express< By air freight <By sea (time)


It is definitely that the most expensive shipping from Alibaba way is to ship by express like DHL/FedEx/TNT/UPS. Meanwhile, the cheapest way to ship from Alibaba is by sea freight. When you buy from Alibaba, you can ask your suppliers on Alibaba whether they have a special shipping method for you.

Best way to ship samples from Alibaba?

As a general rule, the items that weigh less than or equal to 200 lbs should be shipped via air. For that, the average Alibaba shipping costs can be somewhere between $6-$15 per pound. The items that weigh more than this can be shipped using air or sea freight. This method is cost-effective, but it can also become complicated. Read below to find out.

Alibaba shipping time

Average Alibaba Shipping Times?

If you’ve had your order shipped via air express, then it should arrive in anywhere from 3-10 business days. If via air freight, the Alibaba shipping times will be 20-45 days. If via sea, this will be more like 30 to 60 days.


Why is Alibaba Shipping So Expensive? 

China or Alibaba shipping costs more money because of the long distance. If a good weigh less than 5 to 10 lbs, it can be shipped using a slower shipping method called ePacket. Although this method is slow, it is way more affordable. 

save-alibaba-shipping-costsIf your item is heavier than the average weight of goods, you would likely pay about 10 to 20 dollars per pound with a minimum of $75. 

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


Does Alibaba ship to the USA?

Yes! Visit and take advantage of the professional services of these famous courier companies to provide you with a wide range of shipping to US options to meet your budget. Shipping methods can depend on specific your choices and different routes of business.


What are the average Alibaba shipping costs from China to the U.S?

It is hard to say the average Alibaba shipping costs from China to the U.S because the weight of the goods is different. You need to have this idea that the Alibaba shipping costs are related to the goods’ weight or volume weight, delivery time. The faster the delivery time, the more Alibaba shipping costs. 


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. 

save alibaba shipping costs packingBecause 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 freight costs.




Who Can Help You Manage to Ship from Alibaba, by Yourself, or by an Agent?


There are four different ways that you can consider shipping from Alibaba.

1. Letting the supplier manage the shipping

Letting the supplier manage the shipping is common among inexperienced importers. It’s very simple and all you need to do is to tell the supplier that you want them to ship the cargo as CIF “Port of destination” or DAP “Your facility address” and they’ll do the rest.

The downside of this way is that you’ll probably end up paying a bit more than really needed. 


2. Do it all internally, for full control

Your time is the most valuable. When you work directly with a carrier, you cannot save that time, unless there’s a specialized department with professional crews in your company.

We don’t think this is a viable option for small and medium enterprises.


3. Work with a freight forwarder in your country.

This is perhaps the most convenient option for some of the importers.

So what happens is this: small and medium companies try to work with a freight forwarder of the right size. But most of the forwarders don’t always have their own office in China. They usually work with local agents and add their margin on top of that agent’s fee.

Though it may be the most convenient way, this is not a cheap option, and not so efficient.


4. Work with a freight forwarder based in China

More and more importers have chosen this option.

The advantage is speed. The forwarder can keep close touch with your supplier, and keep you informed of everything. When trouble happens, your local partner will solve that asap.



Common 4 Shipping from Alibaba Ways

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

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 its a very economical method, its unsafe and its hard to find lost packages. This method usually is a good option for dropshipping.


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 express courier is that you can Get seamless delivery. All you have to do is a 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 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. When your weight is small, the cost for air express might be lower, however, when your weight gets larger, the air freight starts to show its advantage in cost. But this is just a pure comparison of the cost, when you make your decision, you need to consider other factors too, especially the shipping time.

Alibaba shipping cost


4. Sea 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.




How to Choose Alibaba’s Best Shipping Method?

After confirming the order, you need to prepare the goods and choose the best Alibaba shipping method for delivery. There are two delivery methods for Alibaba: online delivery and the other is offline delivery.

The advantage of Alibaba online delivery lies in its convenience. It can order directly on the platform, and its operation is simple. The advantage of offline delivery lies in its low price, abundant channels, and ability to deliver various sensitive/dangerous items at low prices.

Before shipping, sellers on Alibaba need to understand the destination country’s Customs policy: documents, certificates… 

Also, the issue of customs clearance is essential. Generally speaking, it is easier to clear customs for countries in Europe or the United States.

In Indonesia, Russia, Brazil, and other countries, customs clearance is more complicated. It is best to choose international EMS to reduce freight risks.

According to the rule of customs clearance in different regions and countries, you can find a suitable Alibaba method to avoid the customs clearance process’s accidental impact. If you can’t do this job by yourself, you should ask a freight forwarder to help you figure out the best way. 


For all the four different shipping modes we talked about above, each of them has its own combination of base and variable costs. Modes with a lower base cost are cheaper for smaller shipments while modes with lower variable weight costs are the cheaper options for larger shipments, even if they start out with a high base cost.

To better help you choose the most appropriate shipping method, here is a table that lists the comparison of the shipping cost for different weights for your reference. This table is for illustrative purposes only. And the Figures are roughly correlated with current China freight cost.

shipping from China to the us cost

The green squares show which mode is the cheapest for each shipment. As you can see, if you have a larger shipping weight, like over 100kg, sea freight LCL can save you some money, and FCL is the most economical way for a really large shipping weight.


Of course, here, you didn’t consider the time cost. This is just a pure comparison of the Alibaba shipping costs assuming you didn’t consider the shipping time. But time is always money, so you need to find your own balance between time and price, especially when your goods just have a medium weight.


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 Can You Review Your Alibaba Shipment to Avoid Problems?

Shipment via air takes at least 3 to 10 business days to deliver your products. If you are using the sea freight method, it will take approximately 30-45 days. When you receive your shipment, you should check for a few things that can help you while ordering in the future:

  • Quality:

You should check if the quality of the product is as expected. Use the product for some time and see how long it holds up. If it does not last as long as expected, you should know that it is the best that they have delivered, and in the future, either the quality will stay the same or decrease.

  • Packaging:

This is another thing that you need to check. The packaging should be enough to also ship further to your customers. If everything is lumped into only one box and you will need to buy more boxes, the items should be properly boxed in future orders.

  • Instructions:

You also need to check that there are any instructions present in the box. If there are no instructions mentioned, you should create some or borrow them to include them with your items.

  • Made in China logo:

The box should have a “made in china” mark anywhere on the box. If it is not marked, request it next time.

Once you receive the order, email your supplier and inform them that you have received the products but have not gotten the chance to review them yet. Let them know that you will hopefully place a new order. It’s best not to rush and play with a good strategy.




6 ways to Save Alibaba Shipping Costs

how to save alibaba shipping costs flow chart

You can follow the next 6 steps to lower Alibaba shipping costs.

Optimize Packaging

Do you notice that there is extra space on your package and you need to pay for it? If you don’t pay attention, your supply chain will bleed.

You should know that Alibaba shipping costs charges based on the weight or volume of the goods. You can save money by optimizing the packaging to reduce the package volume.


Shipment Consolidation

Another way to reduce Alibaba shipping costs is to combine smaller quantities of goods to produce a more considerable amount by consolidating shipping, leading to lower prices. Everyone can consolidate international orders through the Supplyia China warehouse.

To send goods to our Chinese address warehousing, you can avoid receiving consignments over and over again. We can store your shipments and consolidate them, especially when you buy from different suppliers.


Find The Right Shipping Provider

You can hire freight agents like Supplyia to manage the shipping, customs clearance during import from China.

A broad variable that relies solely on the product, importing, and exporting country is customs duties. You can use tools such as to figure out the customs. There are a lot of suppliers from Alibaba that have warehouses across the globe. When you choose a manufacturer like them, goods will send to you directly, and you will not have to worry about import duties and customs clearance.


Route Planning And Optimization

Logistics is the process of analyzing the most efficient route and mode of transportation. There may be multiple routes to transport the delivery of your goods to their final destination. You have to figure out the most economical Alibaba shipping costs to save your money and time.


Use The Online Shipping Calculator

Typically, it is easy for you to find a shipping calculator online. Depending on your needs and shipment requirements, these tools can evaluate Alibaba shipping costs. Or, you can get a freight shipping quote from us.


Compare Shipping Costs

The usual way to save Alibaba shipping costs is to compare different freight forwarders. Here is a suggestion, don’t choose a freight forwarder with a particularly low price. Their shipping may have some illegal operations, which will bring you many hidden dangers. After the comparison, you should choose a suitable price shipping company.

OK, next, after you find a freight forwarder, how to contact them to get a quote for the Alibaba shipping costs?     




How to Ship from Alibaba Using Freight Forwards?

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.

Incoterm-Alibaba Incoterm


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 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.


Shipping From Alibaba Documents you may need

After you get the quotation and you make a decision on a freight forwarder that you want to work with,  now what you have to do will be only focused on preparing all the shipping documents needed at your country’s border. These may include

  • Commercial Invoice,
  • Packing List,
  • certification
  • and other optional documents for the Customs(POA…)
  • Bill of Lading for the carrier/ Airway bill


What is the Bill of Lading vs Airway bill?

Among these, I want to talk a little bit more about the bill of lading and airway bill. Let’s say you successfully contacted your freight forwarder and they completed all the processes needed for air or sea freight and get your shipments on board, you will get a bill of lading for the carrier or airway bill.

The bill of lading is issued by an ocean carrier to acknowledge the receipt of cargo for shipment and the airway bill is the receipt issued by the airline. I want to mention this here is because if you haven’t made a full payment to your supplier, they could hold this bill of lading until you paid in full, in this case, you can not clear your goods since your freight forwarder needs this bill of lading to do the clearance.


Do you Need Shipping Insurance when Shipping from Alibaba?

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

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. The rate for such insurance is usually calculated from the value of the goods, the kind of cargo, and from the transport route. Again, talk to your freight forwarder to confirm all the details.


Dropshipping from Alibaba Shipping Costs

Although it’s a little more tricky to find and partner with dropshipping suppliers on Alibaba than on AliExpress, more and more sellers start to do Alibaba dropshipping to differentiate themselves from the competition. But they found Alibaba dropshipping shipping costs are definitely higher than AliExpress.

Why Alibaba dropshipping cost is high?

First, this is because most suppliers on Alibaba are set up to sell large quantities of goods to wholesalers and retailers — and many aren’t able or interested in selling and shipping individual items to consumers abroad.

Second, they are also unable to classify the parcels shipped to each country and use different transportation methods: such as some special line logistics for dropshipping.

How to save Alibaba dropshipping shipping costs?

Usually, to save Alibaba dropshipping, you have 2 choices.

  1. Don’t go buy the price you see listed on the product page description. Always contact the supplier’s and you’ll get better prices than Aliexpress as long as you are doing some decent volume (20+ orders daily).
  2. If you are doing under 20 orders a day then the shipping maybe a little bit higher so you may want to try a dropshipping fulfillment company like us.



Shipping from Alibaba Conclusion

The BEST way to save Alibaba shipping costs is to arrange the shipping by yourself, and you will be able to negotiate a fair sales quantity without making your inventory too expensive at your time. It is expensive to start shipping on Alibaba by the suppliers.

The Supplyia is responsible for managing all steps of the import process. We are experts in global transportation. Our vast experience makes us capable of delivering goods via air and sea freight, Amazon FBA, DDP shipments, and express cargo. We guarantee you the quickest and most trustworthy procedures to save your Alibaba shipping costs.

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3 months ago

Great information thank you

chris pierce
chris pierce
3 months ago

Great article. Thanks!

30 days ago


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