Shipping from China to USA: Everything You Should Know

When you’re running an eCommerce business, it’s quite common for most of your suppliers to be located in China. As you’ll need to ship from China to the US, you must know the ins and outs of the process or find someone who does.

Lately, companies have struggled to send goods from one port to another due to various supply chain constraints. That’s why it’s more important now than ever to understand logistics so you can predict and overcome these issues. Imagine what kind of edge you could gain over your competition if you could plan for supply chain contingencies ahead of time.

Keep reading to find out all the ways you can start shipping from China to the US. Don’t forget that you can mix and match some of these strategies depending on your business’s unique needs.

Table of Contents

ways to ship from China to US

Part 1: Ways for Shipping from China to the US

First, you should know the three main shipping methods for delivering goods from China to the US. Importers use all three to receive products manufactured in China. Ranked by their speed, the three options are:

  1. Express Shipping
  2. Air Freight
  3. Sea Freight

As you can tell from its name, express shipping is the fastest option. Meanwhile, air freight and sea freight can take quite a bit longer. That said, each of these shipping methods can benefit your eCommerce business in specific scenarios. Let’s review each one.

1. Express Shipping

Since express shipping is the fastest option, it is also the most expensive one. And the best express shipping carriers are Ups, FedEx, TNT and DHL. Now, with express shipping, you can receive your packages in less than five days. Typically, importers use this option when they need to receive a shipment especially quickly. For instance, during the holiday season, you might be close to running out of your best-selling product. Therefore, you need to fly in more of that product as quickly as possible to capitalize on the high demand.

Consequently, you should only use express shipping when you really need it. When deciding whether to use this option. You want to calculate your extra cost per unit shipped. If you stand to make more money by getting the product in faster, go ahead and use this option.

Typically, reputable companies like DHL, UPS, and FedEx offer express shipping options. They have the most experience with such matters, and they can even fly goods in on a day’s notice. Although, the faster you need the product the more expensive your shipping will be. After all, a lot of preparation goes into getting these goods through the airports. You’ll need to expedite all the relevant customs documents and monitoring procedures in China.

Get the best rate for Express Shipping now.

Get Custom Solutions


  1. This is the preferred option during high-demand periods like the holiday season.
  2. If you sell smaller, high-priced goods, the express option will barely affect your profit margin.


  1. Express shipping has many of the limitations of air freight, meaning you can only ship smaller items using this option.
  2. You must pay extra for shipping on such short notice.

2. Air Freight

The difference between air freight and express shipping is simply that air freight is not expedited. Shipping companies will still use the same methods. Fortunately, you won’t have to pay extra to receive these services because you won’t be in a rush. Air freight is the most economical option for shipments that weigh between 400 lbs and  1200 lbs. And that price is 30% to 40% cheaper than express. You get the best of both worlds fast shipping and lower pricing

That said, you still need to understand the nature of what you are shipping so that you can complete your orders appropriately. You need to be aware of which regulations apply to your shipment

Air Freight


  1. Air freight is a good compromise in terms of speed and cost for medium sized shipments.
  2. You will have much more flexibility and access compared to sea freight.
  3. Air freight is a lot quicker if you’re on the east coast.


  1. You can’t ship extremely heavy or large goods using this method.
  2. You likely need to hire a customs agent and you also need to arrange for last mile transport from the airport to your warehouse.
  3. Air shipment regulations state that you cannot ship products such as aerosols and extremely powerful magnets.
  4. Certain products require you to pay for expensive shipping, for instance, lithium-ion batteries.

3. Sea Freight

Given that China has numerous world-class seaports along its coast, shipping goods from China by sea is an excellent option. Especially if you are shipping to locations on the Pacific coast of the US. Note that sea freight is also known as ocean freight. Pick this option when you need to ship extremely heavy loads.

One aspect of sea freight you should look out for is the difference between full-container loads (FCL) and less-than-full container loads (LCL). You ship an FCL when your container only includes your products. By contrast, you ship an LCL when you share a container with someone else’s goods. Furthermore, LCL might require you to wait on another shipping partner before the company can ship your goods, which can cause a long delay.

Because of the nature of the seas, sea freight exposes you to numerous weather risks. A good logistics company can help you plan for bad weather. Of course, nobody can change the weather entirely. Moreover, turbulent seas and unscrupulous storage conditions make your goods more prone to  damage.

Sea Freight


  1. This option works great if you need to ship a very large load or larger products.
  2. Shipping costs are a fraction of express options.


  1. Shipping by sea is much slower than other options.
  2. You run the risk of running into staffing issues and other backlogs at ports.
  3. You need to plan for bad weather.
  4. You need to hire a custom agent and arrange for last mile transport from the port to your warehouse

Part 2: How much is Shipping from China to the US?

The cost of shipping from China to the US depends mostly on the type of freight you use. As we discussed earlier, it’s common for your shipping prices to depend on speed. That means that the longer your order takes, the less you’ll have to pay. Although there are exceptions. Here’s how shipping prices work for each shipment method.


Get the Updated Pricing Now!

Get Custom Solutions

1. Express shipping

The pricing model for express shipping follows the same one as air freight, which we will discuss in the next section. However, you should note that express orders will incur additional surcharges that don’t apply to standard air freight. These include extra service fees to expedite your order. Because air freight involves a lot of controls such as customs and terminal handling, you will need to pay a hefty fee to bump your shipment up to the front of the line.

2. Air Freight

The prices for air freight vary quite a bit. Lucky for you, the more you ship the cheaper the price you pay per kilo. For example, in April ,2022, if you’re only shipping 10 kilos, then you can expect to pay around d $18-28 per kilo of product. However, at 100 kilos, prices drop to around $10-20/kg of product.

From this, you can tell that air freight involves a lot of fixed costs. The total price of your shipment won’t var

y by much based on how much you add.

Note that there are several other fees you can expect to pay. These include fuel surcharges, which are always increasing these days. Furthermore, since airports and airplanes require heavy security, you’ll need to pay for them to check your goods. Not to mention, there are several airport and terminal charges associated with your order.

3. Sea Freight

Since Sea Freight is best suited for larger loads, sea freight companies will charge you per container. In April ,2022, You can normally expect to pay $9,000-$10,000 for a 40ft standard container, shipping from China to US.  That might seem expensive, but if your load weighs more than 5,000kg, shipping by sea freight becomes the best option by far.

With sea freight, there are a variety of ways for you to reduce costs. For instance, you can choose the right container type, port, and insurance to save money. Not to mention, sea freight is cheaper during the off-season. Using a full-container load is usually cheaper and faster, so keep that in mind. If you don’t use a full container, you’ll need to pay extra to deload the container at the port.

Ship from China

Part 3: How long does Shipping from China to US take?

At this point, you’re likely wondering how long packages from China take to arrive in the US. In general, shipping by air is much faster than shipping by sea. With all the supply chain blockages due to COVID-19, it’s become increasingly common to see delays in shipping.

When you import goods from China, you must prepare for the Chinese New Year shutdown. However, you should also be aware of other Chinese holidays, here is the full calendar of holidays and observances in China.

Pring and Time Comparison

Get Custom Solutions

1. Express shipping

Express shipping usually takes 3 to 7 days. If your product has a high profit margin, you might want to use this option to get your product on the shelves as quickly as possible.Here the average shipping times for express shipping to the US. depending on the carrier. EMS takes 3 to 16 days, DHL takes 1 to 4 days, FedEx takes 1 to 5 days, and UPS takes 1 to 5 days as well.

2. Air Freight

Air Freight is quite like express freight. However, your regular air freight shipment won’t be a priority because you did not pay the extra fees. There is a wide range in shipping times with air freight. Anywhere between 7 and 15 days.

3. Sea Freight

Lately, we’ve seen numerous port closures in China due to the coronavirus. This has had a domino effect on all aspects of shipping, but it has harmed sea freight the most. Nowadays, Sea freight to the west coast of US is 15+ days. Sea freight to the east coast is going to be about 30+ days.

In case you want to ship sea freight to the east coast, you might be better off receiving your goods from a port on the west coast and sending them to your destination by truck or by rail.

Part 4: How to track packages from China?

To track packages from China, you’ll need to get your custom alphanumeric tracking code from the order page. Usually, this code consists of 9 numbers and 2 letters. Here is a list of some of the main tracking websites:

  1. China Post

We like this tracking website because it includes a forum for you to ask questions.

  1. Parcel App

Simply enter your tracking number here and right away you’ll receive information about your order.


This tracking site is probably the easiest to use, simply copy-paste your tracking number.

  1. track-trace

This tool is friendly to track containers and air cargos.

NextSmartShip Fulfillment Center

Part 5: What is the cheapest way to ship from China to the US?

For large shipments, what is the cheapest way to Ship from China to the US.

For bulk shipments depends on the weight of your shipment and the speed that you require. For all shipments less than 200 – 400 lbs, you should opt for express shipping. At this weight, it doesn’t make sense to purchase a full container. And the extra hassle of air freight and hiring a custom agent is just not worth the money. For shipments between 400 to 1200 lbs, air freight is usually the cheapest option with fast shipping times. However, you should compare the sea shipping rates because sometimes LCL can be cheaper than air freight, and for all shipments over 1200 lbs, sea freight is almost always the cheapest method, but it’s slow. Now, if speed is your main criteria, express mail is almost always the fastest way to ship. You don’t need a customs agent, and your goods will arrive at your doorstep.

Now, how do you ship small parcels From China to the US?

And by small parcels, I mean less than 5 lbs. If you need to ship small parcels less than 5 lbs from China to the US. There are three main options for you to choose from regular post, express shipping, and ePacket. These shipping methods are ideal when buying from AliExpress or samples from your wholesale supplier. Now, let’s talk about regular posts. First, regular post is the most economical way to ship light parcels from China to the US. However, the delivery times can take up to 90 days, depending on the method that’s chosen. Now, there are several different options for regular posts with different prices and shipping times. There’s China Post small parcel air. There’s China Post small parcel surface. There’s China International EMS. However, the fastest regular post option is China International EMS, which takes between three and 15 days. But overall, regular posts is the cheapest way to ship small products. However, as your package size increases, the price of regular posts can become on par with express shipping. As a result, make sure you compare prices between express shipping carriers like FedEx, DHL and Ups before making your shipment if your package is on the heavier side, next method is express shipping.

Express shipping via an international carrier like FedEx, Ups, DHL, or TNT is the fastest and the most reliable way to ship from China to the US. If you need your products as quickly as possible, express shipping is by far your best option. However, it is also the most expensive method to ship small parcels from China to the US. And then finally, we have ePacket shipping. ePacket is a special shipping option that provides a fast and inexpensive rate when shipping small parcels from China to the US. If your package is less than 24 inches and the total length, height and thickness of your package is less than 36 inches, ePacket shipping is actually the cheapest way to ship a package from China to the US.

In addition, your package can not weigh more than 4.4 lbs, and the merchandise cannot exceed $400 in value. To give you an idea of how cheap ePacket is, sending a package from China to California with ePacket is actually cheaper than shipping from California to Nevada using USPS. As a result, ePacket is the preferred shipping method that AliExpress dropshippers use to send their products.


If you want to optimize your shipping procedures, you need to balance your cost and timing requirements. Pick air shipping if you need speed, and sea shipping if you sell a high volume of products at low prices. No matter where you want to ship to, you must also ensure that you’re well-equipped to receive and unload containers. Therefore, make sure to pick a logistics company that thinks things through.

Get Custom Solutions