What is the biggest difficulty for overseas buyers to buy from China? Of course it is freight.

Basically every buyer who purchases from China will face this problem. The freight from China is too expensive.

Especially for buyers who purchase in small quantities, the transportation is indeed a big problem. Sometimes the freight is even higher than the value of the goods, so they have to abandon the small batch of products imported from China.

For example, recently our customer Kate wanted to purchase 100 ladies handbags from China. He wanted to purchase different styles to test, so he found 4 handbags on Alibaba, and these four handbags came from different sellers.

The price of handbags is very cheap, not more than ten dollars. If he purchase 25 of them separately, he will need a total of $860.

But when he asked the supplier to check the shipping cost to California, the supplier told him that the shipping cost was $500. This would increase the cost of each product by $5.

So SourcingArts summarized all the tips below to help more buyers save transportation costs when importing from China.

Decide who is responsible for transportation

When purchasing from Alibaba, buyers can consider the following 4 different ways to ship from Alibaba.

Let the supplier arrange transportation

Having suppliers manage transportation is common among inexperienced importers. It’s very simple, all you need to do is tell the supplier where you want them to transport the goods, and then they will do the rest.

The disadvantage of this approach is that you may paying more than you actually need.

Arrange transportation by yourself

Your time is the most precious. When you work directly with the carrier, you cannot save time unless your company has a professional department with a professional team.

This method is more suitable for large enterprises, but not a viable option for small and medium enterprises.

Work with freight forwarders in your country/region

For some importers, this may be the most convenient option.

So what happened is this: small and medium-sized companies try to cooperate with freight forwarders of the right size. But most freight forwarders do not always have their own offices in China. They usually work with China local agents and add their security deposit on top of the agent’s fees.

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

Cooperation with freight forwarders in China

This is the choice of many buyers. Freight forwarders are service providers who specialize in arranging warehousing and transportation on behalf of shippers.

It usually provides a full range of services, including: preparation of transportation and export documents, warehousing, booking, freight negotiation and cargo insurance.

Freight forwarders can keep in close contact with your suppliers, so that you can know everything at any time. When trouble occurs, your local partner will resolve it as soon as possible.

Compared to letting suppliers arrange transportation, directly cooperate with China’s freight forwarders can avoid additional fees.

However, not all freight forwarders are cheap, and some freight forwarders may deliberately raise prices for foreign buyers.

In summary, we recommend that small and medium-sized buyers choose to cooperate with freight forwarders in China.

Optimize product packaging

Alibaba’s shipping rates depend on 3 main factors:

  • Product weight
  • Product style (general products, sensitive products, dangerous goods)
  • Destination country

The product style and destination country cannot be changed, so you can only start with the product weight.

Express and air freight are usually calculated by weight.

Ocean freight is calculated by the volume of the cargo.

The “weight” here does not refer to the actual weight of the product, but the “charged weight” of the product. Comparing the actual weight with the calculated volume weight, the freight will be calculated according to whichever is greater (the principle of higher charges).

The actual weight is the actual weight of the product, and the volumetric weight is calculated based on the size of the product.

  • Express volume weight = length * width * height / 5000
  • Air transportation volume weight = length * width * height / 6000

So whether it is by sea, express, or air, the smaller the product size, the cheaper the freight.

If you are buying samples, you can suggest that the supplier reduce the product packaging to the minimum when sending the product, or even remove the huge packaging shell. (For products that will not be damaged)

If you are bulk purchasing, you should design the packaging cleverly when placing an order. Usually, color box is the most space-consuming packaging method, and polybag is the most space-saving packaging method.

You can choose the most space-saving packaging method according to your own market, sales channels, and product types.

For example, if you sell charging cables through a shopping website and you are facing a low-end market, you can use polybags.

C:运营Blog节约运费data cable with polybag package.jpgdata cable with polybag package

If you are retailing through stores and you are facing the low-end market, you can choose blister cardboard packaging.

C:运营Blog节约运费data cable blister card package.jpgdata cable blister card package
C:运营Blog节约运费USB cable with color box package.jpgUSB cable with color box package
C:运营Blog节约运费data cable.jpgdata cable

In short, when choosing a packaging method, you should take the savings in freight into consideration.

Choose the right mode of transportation

You must think that sea transportation is the cheapest way of transportation. But sea freight is not the cheapest in all cases.

For example, when your shipment exceeds 5CBM, you’d better choose sea transportation, and when your shipment is less than 150KGS, express may be the cheapest method of transportation.

You can refer to A complete guide to shipping from China (2021 Update) to learn about each shipping method.

You cannot know exactly which shipping method is the cheapest for you. You should discuss the specific shipping cost with your forwarder or carrier. Because regardless of the mode of transportation, the price is always changing. Especially when you are struggling between express and air freight.

Combine goods from different suppliers and ship them together.

This tip applies to all modes of transportation.

You can combine goods from different suppliers into a batch of goods and deliver them to your location, which saves a lot of transportation costs than paying for each item individually.

Then you need someone to help you integrate the goods in China, and then send them to your location.

For shipping, it makes more sense. If you import 5 different products from 5 suppliers, each 0.5CBM, you can consider combining them by LCL shipping. In this way, your shipping costs will be much less than express delivery. Otherwise, because there is no cheaper solution, you have to pay for 5 international couriers separately.

  • One solution is to find a reliable freight forwarder with its own warehouse, which can then be used to consolidate the goods (usually, the freight forwarder will consolidate the goods for free).

The problem is that most freight forwarders do not have their own warehouses. They just pick up the goods from the supplier, and then send them to the freight company for packing (this may be due to the particularity of the Chinese freight forwarding industry).

  • Another solution is that you can choose a reliable supplier, and then let other suppliers send all the goods to him, and then the forwarder can pick up the goods together in one place.

It is strongly recommended that you try to combine goods. The difference in weight and volume of different products will increase the individual transportation costs, and the processing costs will be much higher.

Why not try to merge them and ship them together? In the long run, combined transportation will help you save a lot of transportation costs and will be an important step in your business expansion!

Choose a cheap shipping company

This tip is suitable for arranging sea transportation by yourself.

Now the world’s major shipping companies have landed in China, and have offices in major ports. Of course, doing business with these shipowners has many advantages: strong strength, excellent service, and standard operation.

However, if you are not a large shipper and cannot get preferential shipping rates from them, it is best to find some medium-sized shipowners or freight forwarders.

Some freight forwarders have signed contracts with shipping companies, and the preferential freight rates they get are not available to ordinary cargo owners.

Do not choose a shipping company that is too famous. For small and medium-sized cargo owners, their prices are indeed too high.

We have a deep understanding of this. We rarely do business directly with those very well-known shipping companies, but first choose some medium-sized shipping companies, and then look for their designated agents.

Generally speaking, these designated agents get very cheap prices from ship owners.

After long-term cooperation with these agents, we can get more favorable shipping costs.

In addition, different shipping companies or freight forwarders have their own advantages in different shipping markets. Find a company that has an advantage in the operation of a certain route, not only is it more convenient to transport, but their freight is usually the cheapest on the market.

For this, you need to have a certain understanding of the shipping market.

Learn to bargain

Business personnel of shipping companies and freight forwarders only quote their highest freight rates in their cargo requests. The discounted shipping fee you can get depends on your bargaining power.

Generally speaking, you can consult several companies to understand the basic market conditions, and then accept the company’s freight.

The discount you can get from a freight forwarder is usually about $100.

Choose a good freight forwarder

Although there are thousands of freight forwarders, it is not easy to choose a reliable freight forwarder. As I mentioned above, you may encounter some freight forwarders who attract customers at low prices, but try to charge you extra fees under various excuses.

A good freight forwarder will save you time and trouble while providing reliable and cost-effective transportation.

How to find a freight forwarder?

There are basically two ways to find a freight forwarder.

You can find someone yourself, or you can ask the supplier to handle it on your behalf.

The easiest way to find a freight forwarder yourself is to search on Google. You only need to enter the “freight forwarder” of the country/region to get a list of forwarders.

In addition, you can invite friends with rich import experience to introduce reliable freight forwarders. If you decide to use your own freight forwarder, remember to ask the supplier to provide FOB prices.

The following are tips based on our experience to help you determine and choose a reliable freight forwarder.

Find an experienced freight forwarder.

An experienced freight forwarder means that it has handled various situations. The easiest way to confirm whether a freight forwarder is experienced is to check the age of the company.

Being able to survive so long in fierce competition shows that this is not a bad company.

Find a freight forwarder with an extensive network in your country/region.

You should choose an freight forwarder with a large network in the target country. Suppose you want to import from China to the United States, then you should choose a freight forwarder with strong connections in the United States.

Look for freight forwarders with good customer service.

How quickly can the freight forwarder respond to your questions? Does the freight forwarding company take care of your personal needs?

If you are new to international transportation, they should be able to take you step by step to understand what you need to know and do it patiently to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Ask the supplier to help you find a freight forwarder.

If you want to save the trouble of finding a freight forwarder, you can ask Alibaba suppliers to recommend you to arrange delivery.

The premise is to ensure that the freight they quoted is CIF. If the quotation is reasonable, this may be the ideal choice to help you deliver.

The above 7 methods to reduce shipping costs when buying from China are all verified by SourcingArts. These tips can help you reduce part of the shipping costs, but they can’t make shipping very cheap. Because it is very expensive to transport from China to other countries, this is a fact that cannot be changed.

These tips are not only for Alibaba sourcing, but also for 1688 sourcing and all China sourcing.


If you want to get advice on the transportation of the product, please email to support@sourcingarts.com, and we will provide you with professional assistance.

RFQ about Alibaba shipping

Does Alibaba price include shipping?

No, alibaba products are provided by 3-party sellers, they will only show the price of the product on Alibaba.

The specific shipping cost depends on your address, product quantity, so they cannot directly display the product unit price including shipping cost in Alibaba.

For some products that are directly ordered, if the buyer sets a shipping plan in the background, alibaba will display the shipping cost under the product amount according to your address and the selected quantity.

Does Alibaba have free shipping?

No, as I mentioned earlier, alibaba products are provided by 3-party sellers. As a B2B website, alibaba will not participate in transactions between buyers and sellers.

Alibaba does not have overseas warehouses, all products must be shipped from China, and shipping costs are usually not cheap.

Even if the seller tells you that the shipping is free, it is because they have included the shipping cost into the cost of the product.

Regardless, the freight is paid by the consumer.

Final thoughts

Sourcing from China is easy, but the difficulty is choosing reliable suppliers and shipping products. Therefore, before placing an order, you need to understand the supplier and transportation from many aspects.

If you want to find a China sourcing agent, you can contact us, With SourcingArts, You Don’t Have to Be an Sourcing Pro to Price Better And Genuine Manufacturer From China

Give me a shout in the comments below or on Facebook Group if you have any questions!

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