Complete Guide: 7 Ways to Save Alibaba Shipping Costs

Aug 10, 2023 Chapter 5. Shipping

You may had imported different products from China, and noticed that many Alibaba sellers charge high shipping prices.

For example, you 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 you save Alibaba shipping costs?

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

shipping from China steps


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 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。


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.



How Long Does Alibaba Shipping Take?


Alibaba shipping time

If you shipped via air express, then it should arrive in anywhere from 3-10 business days.

If via air freight, the Alibaba shipping times will take 20-45 days. If via sea, this will be more like 30 to 60 days.





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 Alibaba 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.





Details about 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 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 Shipping Method in Alibaba?




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 definitely that the most expensive shipping from Alibaba way is to ship by express. When you buy from Alibaba, you can ask your suppliers on Alibaba whether they have a special shipping method for you first.

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 method for delivery. There are two delivery methods for shipping from 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.


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.

Note: 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. This is just a pure comparison of the Alibaba shipping costs assuming you didn’t consider the shipping time.


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.


save alibaba shipping costs





How to Save Alibaba Shipping Costs?

how to save alibaba shipping costs flow chart


Generally, You can follow the next 7 steps to save Alibaba shipping costs.

Optimize Your 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.



Consolidate 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

Name brand global freight forwarders have the ability to secure preferential freight rates and preferential treatment from large air and ocean carriers, as well as a broader global physical footprint. This means they will attract larger customers who will naturally receive preferential treatment. 

Take the latest annual mystery shopping survey. All of the top 20 freight forwarders were asked for quotes, but only seven were willing to quote to small businesses. You should probably avoid using any of the larger freight forwarders if your total shipping costs around $1-$800.

In contrast, smaller freight forwarders typically have more time to spend on smaller shipments and are more willing to work with smaller customers, but they may have less attractive pricing.



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 methods to save your money and time.

It is worth noting that the freight forwarder is not to know every different products and different countries’ shipping way. . . so try to find out the best one.



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

Making decisions based on price alone can be a flawed strategy, especially if you are trying to save $200 on a shipment worth $200,000. For example, some freight forwarders discount the first shipment to win the sale, but give it back in subsequent shipments.

In addition, some freight forwarders hide fees in their terms and conditions to make their offers seem more attractive than those from more honest competitors.


The Reason for the Cheapest Alibaba Shipping Price?

As far as we know, 70% of low-cost shipping quotes are hidden secrets.

Price leading freight forwarders almost certainly do so at the expense of service. This may not be a problem, for example, if those services you don’t need. So, if one offer is much cheaper than the others, be very careful and see if you can figure out why. 


Otherwise, you will face this kind of issue from a bad shipping agent from China to US:

  • They overestimate volume or weight
  • Follow-up service that drives you crazy
  • Can’t give you better compensation in the event of a shipping problem
  • Hard to refund
  • Lost




Negotiate with the Alibaba Shipping

That’s a pretty common situation, buying overseas is usually way cheaper, but depending on your product, shipping charges could be a bit prohibitive. You can always try to negotiate with supplier, but it his decision if he’s willing to negotiate or not.

You can also compare available shipping options, there might be a cheaper option than the one you calculated. And if none of that works, you can always look for more suppliers, most Alibaba products are made/offered by several agents and manufacturers…

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





How to Quote for Alibaba Shipment?

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 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.



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.


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.




Final Checklist for Shipping from Alibaba

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

After determining the final cooperative China freight forwarder, we need to do the final check list to avoid missing some points.



Make sure goods are tightly and carefully packed. This saves on cost and prevents cargo getting destroyed along the way. Smaller packaging also means lower freight costs.


They regulate where you assume shipping responsibility from the seller, as per the sales contract. For example, FOB means you take control after loading on the ship or plane while EXW means you coordinate shipping directly from their warehouse.

Cargo Insurance

Insist on comprehensive cargo insurance. Most carrier liability only covers a small percent of your cargo’s value … and ship does happen.


Have you supplier send you a copy of the Commercial Invoice and Packing List. These documents contain some of the information you will need when requesting quotes.


Come prepared with the origin, destination, import mode, size of goods, value, and other core details to both make requesting the quote easier, and confine communications.


Decide which forwarders to request quotes from, based on referrals or past experience


Request quotes (or use Alibaba Freight to instantly compare quotes).


Make sure they got it right on the quote. For example, some forwarders have a tendency to forget trucking on either side, or might forget customs.


Accepting a quote is almost as simple as it sounds but don’t choose solely on price!


Congratulations. Time to send documentation (SLI, etc) to your new forwarder.

Next Steps

Your shipment is now booked … but your shipment is just starting.






How Can You Review Your Alibaba Shipment to Avoid Problems in the Future?

When you receive your shipment from China, 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.




Save Alibaba Costs Conclusion

The BEST way to save Alibaba shipping costs is to arrange the shipping by yourself, and find a good shipping agent.

A good early indicator of a good freight forwarder’s level of customer service is how long it takes them to respond to your request for a quote. If it takes a week or more, then regular and transparent communication during the shipment process doesn’t bode well.

The Supplyia is responsible for managing some 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, China consolidation service, shipments, and express cargo. We guarantee you the quickest and most trustworthy procedures to save your Alibaba shipping costs.

In order to help you save Alibaba shipping costs better, we would like to give you a reference price for shipping from China. So, you can make a comparison with your supplier. Just submit the form, and we will reply in one day.




Shipping from Alibaba FAQ

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. 

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 may be a little bit higher so you may want to try a dropshipping fulfillment company like us.
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2 years ago

Great information thank you

chris pierce
chris pierce
2 years ago

Great article. Thanks!

1 year ago


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Umeanor joy Adachukwu
Umeanor joy Adachukwu
1 year ago

How much is shipment for clothing

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