Shipping from China to the US


Written by the team at Guided Imports, this guide is here to answer all your questions as it relates to shipping from China to the USA. It covers everything from common methods, timing, and costs.,


Table of Contents


How to Ship from China to the US

Importers who manufacture products in China for sale in the United States have various shipping options available to them, including express shipping, air freight and sea freight. 

For detailed guides on each of these shipping methods, check out the links below: 


Regardless of the method used, most importers will rely on a China Freight Forwarder to manage their shipment. This is because a reputable freight forwarding company like Guided Imports can help them navigate complex logistical requirements while also providing significant savings thanks to their high-volume shipping agreements with major airlines and freighters servicing China.

What is the Best Way to Ship from China to the United States?

While its a great question, there is no universal “best way” to ship from China. You should carefully consider the following variables:

  • Product and Load – what is being shipped and how big is it?
  • Destination – is it going to a small office or a warehouse? 
  • Timing Requirements – do you need it the same week, or can you wait?  This is a crucial consideration, especially during the Chinese holidays.

Product and Load: Some shipments, like aerosol cans and strong magnets, are very difficult to ship by air. Other products like lithium-ion batteries can be shipped via air, but the documentation required is often difficult for suppliers to provide, and can only ship via specialized aircraft. Because of this, it is often easier to ship batteries by China sea freight

Some products might be too heavy or too large to be shipped via air, and can only be shipped by sea or rail. 

There are some situations where it would be better to ship products by air. Products with dimensions less than 1 cubic meter are often ideal for air shipments. High-value cargo is sometimes both safer to be shipped via air and at times a requirement by China freight insurance companies. 

Destination: End to end shipping services that most reputable China third-party logistics companies offer are capable of delivering shipments to warehouses, small commercial buildings, and residential locations. But, there are times where it could prove to be difficult to ship a container to a location that is not equipped to unload the container. Because of this, the end destination should be considered and how the cargo will be unloaded, so the most ideal shipping plan can be defined. 

In some instances, buyers may find it easier to ship smaller sized shipments via China air freight, whereas others could benefit from deconsolidation services once the cargo arrives at the port in the United States. 

Timing Requirements: If cargo is needed urgently, there is no faster way than shipping by air. 

For some containerized shipments going by sea, the transport time could be reduced by shipping to the West Coast, as opposed to the East Coast, and then fulfilled from truck or rail once the cargo arrives in America. 

If timing is not a priority, shipping by ocean freight to a popular port close to the final destination, and trucking the final leg of the journey is most likely the least expensive option.  

Why Timing Requirements Primarily Dictate the Best Shipping Method from China

When timing is the top priority, businesses will look for all possible options to move their cargo the fastest possible way. 

If a business were to ship a 40-foot container filled with clothing to New York City, from Shenzhen, they would most likely ship by sea, but how much would it cost if they needed it faster? 

Below, we have created three shipping options the business could choose from, which would allow them to get their products in as little as 3 days and up to just over a month.

Route: Yantian (Shenzhen) Port to New York City Port, and trucked to the center of the city.

Time: 33-days

Cost: $3,600

Route: Yantian (Shenzhen) to Los Angeles Port, cargo unloaded at the port and trucked across the country to New York City.

Time: 25-days

Cost: $9,000

Route: Yantian (Shenzhen) to John F. Kennedy Airport via air freight, and trucked to the center of the city.

Time: 3-days

Cost: $55,000

This illustration identifies the exact reason why there is no single answer as to what is the best way to ship from China. 

If the clothing inside the container were medium-sized t-shirts, then the approximate number of shirts that would fit in a 40’ container would be 74,000 t-shirts. 

While $55,000 sounds like an enormous amount of money, shipping the cargo by air impacts the unit cost by an additional $0.74 per shirt.  And depending on the profit margin per product, this might be a viable shipping solution when the timing is paramount, for example for holiday sales.

However, when you consider the same product could be shipped by sea to New York for around $3,600, or 5-cents per shirt, China sea freight is a much more affordable option when the timing is not an issue.

The Impact of Chinese Holidays on Shipping from China

A situation a lot of importers find themselves in is the delays caused by Chinese holidays. 

Shipping delays are a common occurrence, especially during Chinese New Year.. All major ports in China are open 365 days out of the year, however, not all local carriers operate during major holidays.

Below is a list of major annual Chinese holidays during which delays are not uncommon. 

  • New Years Day – First of January – 1-day
  • Chinese New Year – End of January to mid-February – 6-days (often longer)
  • Qingming Festival – Early April – 1-day
  • Labor Day – Early May – 3-days
  • Dragon Boat Festival – End of June – 3-days
  • Mid-Autumn Festival – Early October – 1-day
  • Golden Week – Early October – 7-days
  • China’s National Day – Early October – 3-days

Another delay worth considering is the Christmas/winter holiday rush. 

Chinese factories begin fulfilling Christmas orders as early as June, and the congestion at some suppliers only increases with each day that gets closer to December. Usually, by the end of November, and early-December, businesses that did not allow enough time to prepare end up racing the clock to try to get their products shipped out before it is too late. 

This congestion leads to significant delays both in air and sea shipments. Shipping terminals and warehouses get so overwhelmed with parcels that cargo is frequently temporarily lost or delayed. 

In previous years, we’ve seen shipments delayed more than three weeks, as the entire world raced to get their final productions shipped from China to catch the end of the holiday buying season. 

Our team in China routinely witnesses the chaos businesses put themselves through each holiday season, all because buyers place orders with suppliers too late into the season. Our biggest offering of advice is to plan as far into advance as possible. 

How Long Does it Take to Ship from China to the USA?

Typically, shipping to the United States from China will take anywhere from 1-35 days, depending upon the mode of transport chosen and the final destination of the goods within the United States. Express shipping is the fastest option, taking 1-5 days. Air freight takes anwhere from 2-15 days, and sea freight takes anywhere from 15-25+ days.

As a general rule of thumb, below are the typical number of days it takes to ship cargo from China to the US by various forms of transportation.  

Shipping Time By Air

Shipping your goods from China to the US by air can take anywhere from 1-5 days with China Express Shipping, and up to two weeks with Air Freight. To learn more, check out our detailed articles on Express Shipping from China to the US and  Air Freight from China to the US

Shipping Time by Sea:

Typically, shipping your goods from China to the US by sea takes approximately 15 days to the west coast, and 25+ days to the East Coast. To learn more, check out our detailed article on Sea Freight from China to the US.

Beware: Coronavirus is Still Causing Shipment Delays

Unfortunately, due to the impact of Coronavirus on China shipping, shipping can take significantly longer than normal at this time. 

To understand if your shipment is at risk of facing delays, it is best to get a quote for your next shipment, so planning can start as early as possible. Our team will respond within 24 hours (weekends excluded), and best of all, we offer a best-rate guarantee.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship from China to the USA?

Shipping costs from China to the USA are typically made up of freight costs and landed costs. 

Freight Costs from China to the USA

The freight costs can usually be calculated based on the shipping method used by looking at the weight and/or volume of the goods being shipping, and the speed at which goods are shipped. 

Currently, average freight costs for the various shipping methods can be range from:

For more detailed information, visit the respective pages for each shipping method linked above.

Landed Costs from China to the USA

Air freight and sea freight shipments include additional “landed costs” such transportation from the factory to the shipping agent, warehousing, or customs clearance.

What is the Cheapest Way to Ship from China to the USA?

No matter which shipping method you use, the cheapest way to ship from China to the USA is with a reputable China Freight Forwarder like Guided Imports.

Not only are we able to pass along our high-volume shipping rates, at Guided Imports we also offer a best rate guarantee on all methods of transport. Get started and get a shipping quote from China now.

Useful Links

1. China Customs

2. US Customs

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