Shipping from China to the US
This guide was written to answer all your questions as it relates to shipping from China to the US.
Table of Contents
Important Considerations for Shipping from China to the US
- Importers shipping from China to the US can use express, air freight or sea freight
- Which method you use will depend on the type of cargo and load, your timing requirements and budget
- With dozens of airports and ports with service from China, US importers have great flexibility. Make sure you contact a freight forwarder to understand all your options and to maximize your savings
- A freight forwarder based in China like Guided Imports have negotiated rates unavailable to US or international forwarders, and we pass those savings on to you
- It’s important you understand your incoterms with your supplier, as this will affect both the final cost and any logistics you may be responsible for. If you’re unsure, get a quote and we can help you figure it out.
- Don’t forget to protect your investment with freight insurance and work with a customs broker to ensure your goods leave China and enter the US without issue. Guided Imports offers these services if you need them.
- Many freight forwarders took advantage of the supply chain crisis and were caught price-gouging their customers.
- When shipping rates cooled down in 2022, and space became readily available, the freight forwarders who were taking advantage of their customers began to experience a mass customer exodus. This caused some freight forwarders to go bankrupt which left their customer’s shipments stranded.
- It is vital to understand how your freight forwarders business is doing. For example, despite the economic downturn, Guided Import’s volume has grown by 300% during the second half of 2022 and we’re consistently growing our team. While some of the world’s largest freight forwarders have been going through a series of mass layoffs.
- As the economy remains questionable, it is important to recognize, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If one freight forwarder offers a rate that is substantially lower than the competition, and they can’t provide a legitimate reason as to why, there is a greater chance that they may be trying to take advantage of you.
- As ocean rates maintain an all-time low, steamship lines will consistently cancel sailings with little to no warning, in an effort to match demand. This will increase the chance of delays.
What is the Best Way to Ship from China to the United States?
While that’s a great question, there is no universal “best way” to ship from China to the US.
When planning a shipment, you’ll carefully want to consider the following variables:
- Product and Load – what is being shipped, what are its dimensions, and how much does it weigh?
- Destination – which country am I shipping to, and what routes are available?
- Timing Requirements – do you need your items yesterday, in a few days, or can you wait several weeks?
Depending on your answers to these questions, one or more of the following shipping methods should be considered, including
- Air Express
- Air Freight
- Sea Freight
Regardless of which method you ultimately choose, the best way to ship from China to the US will always be by contacting a China freight forwarder, and there are several reasons for that.
First and foremost, a freight forwarder based in China, like Guided Imports, will have rates far lower than what a US or international freight forwarder can typically offer. And that’s because our rates have been negotiated for the Chinese market, and not the United States.
Likewise, due to the high volume of shipments the leading freight forwarders book with their respective carriers, they also have better rates than if you tried to contact a carrier directly to manage your one shipment. All of these savings are then passed on to you.
At least that’s what we do at Guided Imports, which is why we’ve rapidly become one of the best freight forwarders for shipping from China for retail, Amazon FBA, and high-growth e-commerce brands.
How Long Does it Take to Ship from China to the US?
Typically, shipping to the United States from China will take anywhere from 1-45 days, depending upon the mode of transport chosen and the final destination of the goods within the United States. Air Express can take anywhere from 1-5 days, air freight from 2-15 days, and sea freight from 15-35+ days..
These numbers are estimates, and the exact transit times will depend on a number of factors, including what types of goods you’re shipping and their load, where in the United States you’re shipping to, the season, current demand, and especially Chinese Holidays which can also have an impact on shipping depending upon the time of year.
Not to worry, we’ll cover transit times in more detail in the sections related to each shipping method.
How Much Does it Cost to Ship from China to the US?
Shipping costs from China to the USA are typically made up of freight costs and landed costs.
Freight Costs from China to the US
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 shipped, and the speed at which goods are shipped.
Average freight costs for the various shipping methods can range from
- Air Express to the USA: $7.54 to $9.54 per kilogram
- Air Freight to the USA: $3.40 to $15.50 per kilogram
- Sea Freight to the USA: $1,200-$1,850 per container
Landed Costs from China to the US
Additionally, many shipments include “landed costs”, such as transportation from the factory to the shipping agent, warehousing, or customs clearance. This is especially true when you use sea freight and air freight, depending upon your shipping incoterms.
We’ll cover exact shipping costs in more detail later in the sections related to the three different shipment methods, which follow.
Let’s start with express shipping first, since it’s the fastest method available to importers.
Express Shipping from China to the US
What is Express Shipping from China?
China Express Shipping involves using a major international courier, like UPS, DHL, or FEDEX who handles all:
- Shipping arrangements
- and Customs Clearance
Unlike sea and air freight, express shipping is always both “all-included” and “door-to-door”.
This simply means that when you book express shipping, the fee quoted includes all logistics, transport, preparation of documents, and customs clearance. It also means the goods will be shipped from your supplier all the way through to the final destination you designate. This is not always true of sea and air freight, making express shipping incredibly convenient.
That being said, the convenience of express shipping does come at an added cost, which will cover in more detail below.
How Long Does Express Shipping Take from China to the US?
In general, express shipping from China to the US can take between 1-5 days, depending upon the courier, selected shipping speed, and even the types of products you are sending.
China Express Carrier Options to the United States
Now let’s look in a bit more detail at the various options when choosing to ship your goods via China Express to the USA.
FedEx International Priority & International Economy
FedEx offers two primary services when shipping internationally, the priority service focuses on speed, and its economy services focus on savings.
With International Priority, nicknamed IP, FedEx can ship customers’ products from China to the US in 1-3 business days. If you are shipping over a weekend, there is a chance the days will not be counted, as FedEx only ships during Saturdays in some regions of the US, and not all. IP is the highest-priced product FedEx offers.
For a slightly lower cost service, FedEx also offers its International Economy or IE service. Customers shipping via IE can have their cargo arrive in as little as three days, but at times up to 10 days, as this type of shipment is not prioritized.
It is worth noting that FedEx does not ship lithium-ion batteries, so any cargo containing batteries must be shipped using alternative services, such as DHL and UPS.
UPS Worldwide Expedited
UPS offers an international courier service called UPS Worldwide Expedited, which can ship from China to 220 countries worldwide.
This service takes approximately 2-5 business days and includes door-to-door service.
UPS handles all customs clearance, and in our opinion, does a better job fulfilling larger cargo shipments than both FedEx and DHL, which we’ll detail next.
DHL Express Worldwide, DHL Express 12:00, & DHL Express 10:30
DHL offers three products to customers shipping from China to the US.
DHL Express Worldwide is its standard express shipping service and the service that most forwarders will quote when customers request DHL to ship their cargo via express mail. This method is ideal for smaller shipments, and DHL tries to deliver this cargo by the next business day. When shipping from China to the USA, this usually means that it takes two days for cargo to arrive, however, results vary by 2-4 days on average.
DHL Express 12:00 is a service that allows for time-sensitive shipments to arrive the next day, before 12:00 noon, whenever possible. These shipments are usually prioritized the same way DHL Express Worldwide is prioritized, however, once the shipment arrives in the US, it is expedited to arrive at the destination before noon.
DHL Express 10:30 is a service for the most urgent shipments. This service is set up to allow for shipments to arrive by the next day, before 10:30 AM. This cargo is often prioritized immediately, once it arrives at any of the DHL’s warehouses in China.
Bear in mind, Coronovirus continues to impact shipments from China. We recommend contacting us for an updated quote anytime you are shipping products from China.
How Much Does Express Shipping Cost from China to the US?
Below, you can consult rates as of the time of writing (April 2023).
|Less than 10 kg (↓LOW↓)||Less than 10 kg (↑HIGH↑)||Less than 100 kg (↓LOW↓)||Less than 100 kg (↑HIGH↑)||Less than 200 kg (↓LOW↓)||Less than 200 kg (↑HIGH↑)||300-500 kg (↓LOW↓)||300-500 kg (↑HIGH↑)|
What are the Best Express Shipping Companies in China?
With over 20 reliable courier companies serving customers wishing to ship goods quickly from China to the US, the best carrier is honestly the one who can meet your timeline and budget, while still getting goods to you safely.
At Guided Imports, we typically recommend
- We find DHL to be the fastest solution and ideal for sending documents and very small parcels. While some assume DHL is always the most expensive, we find their service to be consistent and their price to be comparable.
- UPS is ideal when customers need to ship larger-sized cargo via air express. Their pricing for larger volumes is the lowest, and their end-to-end service is seamless.
- FedEx used to be a strong contender for shipments from China, however, their rates have increased over the years, and today we consider them to be the most expensive of the three. The benefit of FedEx is that they tend to have special rates at certain times of the year, which can make them the cheapest option, but these rates are inconsistent. At Guided Imports, when FedEx does not offer special rates, we always consider them to be our third option.
Get an Express Shipping Quote from China
Take advantage of our high-volume rates and get a best-rate guarantee. Click the blue link to get a shipping quote from China now.
Air Freight From China to the US
China air freight is a fast and reliable way to ship cargo from China to the US. It’s the ideal method when you need your goods in 20 days or less, or your shipping volume is between 150 and 500 kilograms.
It’s important to remember that unless your air freight quote is “door to door”, it will involve a bit more work and there will be added costs, including
- Arranging the loading and transport of your goods from your supplier to your destination airport in China
- Preparing all necessary documents to clear both Chinese and US Customs
- Payment of any duties, taxes, and warehousing costs upon the arrival of your goods to the United States
- And the transport of your goods from the arrival airport in the US to their final destination, as well as their unloading
How Much Does Air Freight Cost from China to the US?
Air freight costs are currently highly volatile due to the impact of coronavirus on international shipping, and vary depending upon the season, holidays, speed, and load. A sample of current rates as of April 2023 includes.
|45kg (↓LOW↓)||45kg (↑HIGH↑)||100kg (↓LOW↓)||100kg (↑HIGH↑)||200kg (↓LOW↓)||200kg (↑HIGH↑)||300kg (↓LOW↓)||300kg (↑HIGH↑)|
How Long Does Air Freight Take from China to the US?
Air freight traveling from China to the United States takes a little longer than Express Shipping…anywhere from 2 to 15 days.
Why does Air Freight timing from China to the US vary so much?
The reason shipment times can vary is dependent on the route and couriers. When shipments are urgent, freight forwarders will find routes that are direct and leave little room for delay between the legs of the journey.
The best way to understand how and why air freight can take as little as a couple of days to as long as three weeks is if you use the analogy of air freight being similar to planning a trip from one country to another.
When planning a trip, one needs to identify an airport they will fly out of, coordinate a way to get to the airport, and then purchase airline tickets from one destination to another. Oftentimes, direct flights to a destination are more expensive, and savvy travelers can find cheaper flights if they opt for a layover.
There are even some instances where it might be even cheaper to layover in a city and have to travel to a different nearby airport, before arriving at their destination airport. In these circumstances, transportation needs to be arranged to the different airports, and then again to the final destination.
This same process is done for you when using an air freight forwarder like Guided Imports. Layovers can allow for cost savings, even when accounting for short-term warehousing, similar to a traveler spending a night in a hotel before their next flight.
As a general rule of thumb, when air freight needs to arrive quickly, the cost is usually higher. When time allows, savvy freight forwarders who know all the potential routes from a country can find creative ways to save money when shipping by air.
- Under normal circumstances…
- Shipment to West Coast airports take 1 to 4 days
- Shipments to East Coast airports take 1 to 5 days
When Should You Use Air Freight from China?
Air freight is the preferred shipping method when any of the following conditions apply:
- Cargo needs to arrive between 2 and 20 days.
- The billable weight weighs anywhere from 150 kilograms to 500 kilograms.
- The cargo is sensitive or valuable, such as electronics, jewelry, or precision instruments.
- Cargo that is perishable, such as medicine and food.
- The cargo is needed in an emergency situation, such as personal protective equipment.
What are the Best Air Freight Companies for Shipping from China to the US?
Ultimately, the best airlines offering air freight services in China are the ones with routes and rates that are right for you. In general, most airlines can be considered to be reliable carriers, and worthy of consideration. However, we find that the best carriers are the ones with consistent routes and those who maintain stable shipping rates.
At Guided Imports, we work with only the best China Air Freight companies, including
- China Southern, https://www.csair.com/en/
- Air China Cargo, https://www.airchinacargo.com/en/
- Asiana Airlines, https://www.asianacargo.com/
These companies are among the best because of their track record of
- Daily flights
- On-time shipment
- Logistical capabilities
- Low prices
- Good service
What are the Cheapest Air Freight Companies Shipping from China to the US?
If you’re looking for affordable air freight costs, it’s in your best interest to work with a freight forwarder based in China, like Guided Imports.
Freight forwarders have the distinct advantage of leveraging their high-volume rates while staying brand agnostic. This allows them to select the cheapest carriers, regardless of the airline.
It is known across the industry that China Southern, Air China, and China Eastern consistently have the lowest prices for air cargo shipments to the United States. However, other carriers such as Cathay Pacific, ANA, and Asiana routinely offer promotional rates sporadically throughout the year, which can at times be significantly less than the state-owned, Chinese carriers.
The answer to the question of which carriers are the cheapest in China always depends on the season and which carriers are offering special rates.
Sea Freight from China to the US
China sea freight is the movement of cargo from China to the US via container ship.
When opting to ship to the US via this method, the buyer has some flexibility to customize their shipment in order to meet their unique needs. The primary consideration is the container load size, and whether your shipment is “Less Than Container Load” (or LCL), or “Full Container Load” (or FCL).
LCL Shipping from China to the US
When cargo shipped by sea is not enough to fill an entire container, buyers often opt to share container space with other shippers. This type of shipment is called “less than container load”, or LCL for short.
Generally speaking, LCL is a good option when sending loads greater than 1 cubic meter and smaller than 15 cubic meters.
When a buyer opts to ship cargo via LCL, a freight forwarder will typically assist them by collecting their cargo and transporting it to a local warehouse. At the warehouse, the cargo is consolidated with the other buyers’ cargo that will be stuffed into the same container.
Once all cargo arrives at the warehouse it is loaded into the container. The logistics company is then responsible to truck the shipment to the port and begin the freighting process.
LCL has the benefit of allowing smaller-sized shipments that otherwise would not be able to be shipped via sea to take advantage of the low-cost options of sea freight. The disadvantages however are that LCL is always going to cost more per cubic meter than FCL.
FCL Shipping from China to the US
A “full container load” shipment is one that uses an entire container, and the cargo is not shared with other shippers.
FCL does not require that a container is filled to capacity, but rather, designates that the container space is not shared between multiple buyer’s shipments.
When the volume of a cargo load is around 15 cubic meters or more, FCL can be considered, and the cost can be compared to the costs of an LCL shipment.
Because FCL shipments only contain a single consignee’s cargo, there is greater flexibility as to how the products are loaded into the container.
In most instances, when buyers are purchasing products from Chinese suppliers, the container will be trucked to the supplier’s warehouse and the cargo will be loaded onsite.
In the event a buyer wishes to consolidate multiple products, they have the option to have all the products shipped to a centralized warehouse and then load the goods into the container, or they could request that a single supplier collect all cargo and load the container at their warehouse.
FCL can also be shipped directly to a buyer’s warehouse, once it arrives in the United States or shipped to a warehouse first before it is deconsolidated.
When using FCL, it’s best to work with a freight forwarder who has experience moving freight from Chinese factories to the United States.
Specialized forwarding companies, like Guided Imports, can provide the following benefits:
- Pass along high-volume rates
- Organize the collection of cargo and communicate directly with your supplier
- Identify any potentially missing documentation or compliance requirements needed to both import and export the cargo
- Customize the shipping process to meet each shipment’s needs. Additional services allow for quality inspections, repackaging, relabeling, consolidation, deconsolidation, and warehousing.
- Managing the customs brokerage process
- Deliver the cargo anywhere in the United States, regardless of whether it is a warehouse, Amazon fulfillment center, business address, or even residential address.
Container Options for Shipping from China to the US
Various container size options exist when shipping goods from China to the USA by sea. A standard ISO container is typically:
- 8 feet wide
- 8.5 feet high
- Comes in either 20 or 40-foot lengths
- Additionally, there are “High Cube containers” which are typically 9.5 feet high.
How Long Does Sea Freight Take from China to the US?
Sea freight transit times from China to the US vary depending upon the respective ports and shipping lanes used. Typical transit times are from 15-25 days, but can take longer if the ship is sailing to the East Coast. Below we’ve listed typical transit times from the most popular ports in China and the US.
|Shipping from Shanghai (CNSHA Port)||Shipping from Ningbo (CNNGB Port)||Shipping from Shenzhen (CNSZX Port)|
|Shipping to Long Beach & Los Angeles||15-25 days||15-25 days||15-25 days|
|Shipping to Seattle||20-25 days||20-25 days||20-25 days|
|Shipping to Houston||30-40 days||30-40 days||30-40 days|
|Shipping to Chicago||35-45 days||35-45 days||35-45 days|
|Shipping to Newark (New York + New Jersey)||30-40 days||30-40 days||30-40 days|
|Shipping to Savannah||30-40 days||30-40 days||30-40 days|
With over 100 ports of entry in the US, importers have many more options available when shipping from China to the US. To find the most cost-efficient route, simply request a shipping quote from China and we’ll be happy to help you better explore your options.
How Much Does a Container from China to the US Cost?
Container shipping costs from China to the US will depend upon the route, and whether the quote is port-to-port or door-to-door. The average rates from the highest-trafficked ports as of the time of writing (April 2023) are:
|Shipping from Shanghai (LOW)||Shipping from Shanghai (HIGH)||Shipping from Ningbo (LOW)||Shipping from Ningbo (HIGH)||Shipping from Shenzhen (LOW)||Shipping from Shenzhen (HIGH)|
|Shipping to Long Beach & Los Angeles||$1,200.00||$1,450.00||$1,200.00||$1,450||$1,100||$1,400|
|Shipping to Seattle||$1,200||$1,450||$1,200||$1,450||$1,100||$1,400|
|Shipping to Houston||$1,800||$2,500||$1,800||$2,500||$2,000||$2,800|
|Shipping to Chicago||$2,900||$3,800||$2,900||$3,800||$2,900||$3,800|
|Shipping to Newark (New York + New Jersey)||$1,600||$2,300||$1,600||$2,300||$1,600||$2,300|
|Shipping to Savannah||$1,600||$2,300||$1,600||$2,300||$1,600||$2,300|
The quotes on this table are port-to-port FCL shipping average rates.
How Much Does LCL from China to the US Cost?
Below are the current rates (April 2023) for LCL Shipments from China to the US for the most highly trafficked ports.
|Shipping from Shanghai (LOW)||Shipping from Shanghai (HIGH)||Shipping from Ningbo (LOW)||Shipping from Ningbo (HIGH)||Shipping from Shenzhen (LOW)||Shipping from Shenzhen (HIGH)|
|Shipping to Long Beach & Los Angeles||$15.00||$30.00||$15.00||$30||$5||$20|
|Shipping to Seattle||$20||$35||$20||$35||$10||$30|
|Shipping to Houston||$35||$60||$35||$60||$35||$60|
|Shipping to Chicago||$25||$40||$25||$40||$20||$40|
|Shipping to Newark (New York + New Jersey)||$20||$40||$20||$40||$25||$40|
These rates are port-to-port shipping averages for 1 cbm or ton, whichever is greater.
What are the Best Sea Freight Companies in China?
The best China sea freight company for your shipment will depend on the volume, place of origin, and final destination in the US.
Three of the ocean carriers we recommend the most include:
- Cosco (https://lines.coscoshipping.com)
- Evergreen (https://www.evergreen-line.com/)
- OOCL (https://www.oocl.com)
How to Ship from China to the US
Step 1: Get a Shipping Quote from a Freight Forwarder Based in China
Companies like Guided Imports have high-volume rates negotiated for the Chinese market, unavailable to US or International freight forwarders. We pass these savings directly on to you, and you get the logistical expertise of a team with boots on the ground in China.
Step 2: Get Freight Insurance
Accidents happen and freight insurance is an easy and cost-effective way to protect your investment.
Step 3: Contact a Customs Broker
A customs broker will help you arrange all necessary documentation and fees to get your goods out of China and into the United States safely. At Guided Imports, we’re available to help.