Complete Guide: 10 Ways to Save Alibaba Shipping Costs

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10 ways to save alibaba shipping cost

Some platforms offer convenient services in online shopping. Alibaba is one of them because of the reliable quality products. However, Alibaba shipping costs are high.

For example, for general shipping of goods that weigh from 0.5 kg to 10 kg, the shipping fee is around $20 to $100. So how can I save Alibaba shipping costs?

Tips for First Time Shipping from Alibaba

Considering that your first order is likely to be a few samples or small shipments, the best way to ship your first order from Alibaba or China is to ask your supplier to arrange the shipping and add the cost to your invoice.

Shipments via air are secure, so there is no need to worry about breakage. You need to ensure that the receiver’s address is correct and give it to the supplier.

Suppliers may use FedEx, UPS, or DHL to ship your products. If your shipment costs less than $800 and is sent to the United States, no duties will be charged because of the U.S. Minimis rule.

The Whole Alibaba Shipping Process

Step 1: Order goods from the right supplier

Note the distinction between trading companies and manufacturers.

Step 2: Perform quality control

Ensure product quality before delivery. Quality control is critical, especially for branded products with expensive shipping costs.

Step 3: Review reliable shipping options

Air, land, and sea freight each have their advantages and disadvantages. Choose a suitable shipping method.

Step 4: Select a freight forwarder company

The choice is based on the commercial route between the two countries.

Step 5: Select a customs broker

You can let them handle your customs clearance process and fees. Remember to get customs information for paperwork. You will need different information for import and export ports.

Step 6: Arrange the shipping from Alibaba

Arrange the shipment according to the quantity of the goods and the size. After confirming the details, you can hand your order to the shipping forwarder. They will arrange the shipment from Alibaba for you.

Step 7: Payment to the shipping forwarder

You can pay to their bank account by T/T transfer, Western Union, or other methods.

Step 8: Follow up with your buyers

Check that they received within the delivery time and look for improvement.

What are the Shipping Ways from Alibaba?

Different logistics methods can vary significantly in shipping time and shipping costs. Therefore, we must determine which way will be the most cost-effective.

If your order is shipped by air, Alibaba’s shipping time should be 3-10 business days. If shipped by sea, Alibaba’s shipping time may take 30 to 45 days.

Here’s a reference on Alibaba shipping time and costs.

  • Time: Air Express< Airfreight < Regular Post< Sea freight
  • Costs: Sea freight < Regular Post < Airfreight < Air Express
alibaba shipping time

1. Air Express

Shipping your goods through a courier company would be the most suitable for most people. Courier companies widely used in China are DHL, UPS, and FedEx.

You can get fast delivery times and online tracking facilities using courier services. Most express shipments take only 3 to 5 business days to reach globally.

The benefit of choosing air express is that you get seamless delivery. All you have to do is sign the package when it arrives.

In most cases, the delivery is fast and reliable. A tracking number can help resolve the issue when there is a problem. However, the downside is that the price is much higher than regular posts.

2. Airfreight

Airfreight may be the best option if the product’s weight is too large for the courier company, for example, 100 kgs. The cost will be significantly lower than that of a courier company by air freight.

This method is for medium-weight shipments and has strict deadlines or tight control over security.

Shipping time varies depending on the airline’s schedule, but generally, it is between 8 and 10 days, which is not bad.

It is worth mentioning that air freight usually has a minimum requirement for shipping weight.

The average air express cost is about 5~10 RMB/kg, and the shipping time is about 3~5 working days. While the average cost of air freight is 4~8 RMB/kg, and the shipping time is about 5~10 working days.

3. Regular Post

Shipping from China Post Office means a regular China Post (or Hong Kong Post), taking 15~35 days to arrive.

If you can wait, this is the cheapest option for smaller shipments, such as samples and parcels. You can track it online, but the information is not up to date.

We do not recommend this method most of the time. Although it is a very economical method, it is insecure and difficult to find lost packages. This method is usually an excellent alternative to dropshipping.

4. Sea freight

Sea freight may take a long time, but it can carry a large amount of cargo, which brings down the cost.

The variety of goods that can be shipped is also a major benefit. That is why it is the most popular and widely used mode in logistics.

Despite the long delivery time, sea freight will be your first choice if you plan and have enough time to wait. Depending on your location, it will be around 30 to 60 days.

There are two types of sea freight, FCL, and LCL, related to the shipping cost and the size of the container used.

  • FCL = Full Container Load
  • LCL = Less than Container Load

The size of the container you ship from China depends on the quantity you buy from your Chinese suppliers, and you may fill the whole container or only a portion of it.

When you use a whole container yourself, you are shipping FCL (Full Container Load). Usually, it is cheaper to ship FCL by volume and weight units.

However, many importers do not buy enough to ship a full container. You can 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 the container with other people’s items. In other words, the goods from multiple buyers end up in the same container.

If you are a beginner, I suggest you read and learn about our article:
LCL vs. FCL: Which Shipping Method is better?

Alibaba Shipping Costs Overview

alibaba shipping stages

Your products usually need to be shipped through several stages, and each of these stages imposes a specific price on the final shipping costs.

1. Factory to port shipping

When the production is finished, the factory will ask for confirmation from the buyer. Once the buyer confirms the bulk goods’ shipment samples, the factory will arrange for the shipping.

The factory transports the goods to a nearby port, and the freight should be added to the shipping costs total. It ranges from $50-$480.

2. China Export Customs Clearance

China Customs will verify all goods in the port. If everything goes well, these goods will be allowed to clear for export.

However, they may prohibit the shipment of the goods due to a disputed error that may also lead to legal problems.

3. Sea freight

Sea freight is the cost by sea for the distance from the port of departure to the destination port.

The price usually exceeds $1000 and varies depending on distance, size, and quantity. It includes the charges levied by the local government.

Here are two ways to pay for shipping costs:

  • Pay high freight forwarder fee and low local fee
  • Pay low freight forwarder fee and high local fee

Option one looks more attractive. However, option two will give you a better result.

4. Shipping Insurance

We always recommend buying insurance. In unprecedented accidents, ignoring shipping risks will cost you a lot of money.

Insurance companies provide compensation for your shipping problems. They do so for a small fee. The general formula for the cost of insurance is 0.02% x 110% of FOB cost. 

5. Document Delivery (DHL or FedEx)

This fee usually refers to the miscellaneous costs of the shipping process. It includes specific certificates, authorizations, records, and invoices.

The fee is not a large expense and is usually between $40-$50. Companies such as FedEx and DHL charge these fees.

6. Port charges (port of destination)

Local charges at the port of destination are usually very high. Local customs charges are numerous and can be as high as $500-$1000 per container.

Prices depend on the cubic volume.

Some new importers choose not to pay to save money. However, they face large fees when they receive the goods. Experienced importers maintain these costs to get good output.

7. Customs Bond (U.S.)

A Customs bond must bring anything over $2,500 to the United States. While under $2,500 can be imported without a customs bond through simple paperwork.

There are two types of customs bonds. You can get them through a bonding company or a customs broker.

Single-entry bond

Single-entry bond is a one-time shipment for $100-200 USD.

Continuous bond

A continuous bond is for regular importers and costs $250-$450.

8. Domestic transportation (destination port to final consignee’s address)

Domestic transportation is the final shipping stage in the whole import process. A heavy truck transports your goods from the destination port to your warehouse. The cost is usually low, between 50-500 USD. 

Several factors determine it, like the distance and the mode of transportation, such as trucks and trains. The fragility, quantity of goods, and cargo size also affect it.

9. Shipping quotation sample

Some Alibaba suppliers deliberately create complicated invoices to cheat their customers. Therefore, you should always pay attention to the invoices. Try to know the cost to avoid losses.

You can measure your bill based on distance, amount, and quantity. It would help if you always asked for Delivery at Place (DAP) or Delivery Duty Unpaid (DDU) prices.

Alibaba Shipping Tracking Tool

The Alibaba shipping tracking tool allows integration to your online store. You need to enter your tracking number on the tracking tool. It will enable most suppliers and buyers to know the delivery status of their orders.

Learn More about Alibaba Shipping Tracking Tool

Alibaba Shipping Calculator

If you are not sure how much you will pay for Alibaba shipping costs, use an online calculator and use a tool run by a third-party agency, not a shipping company or freight forwarder.

Learn More about Alibaba Shipping Calculator

10 Ways to Save Alibaba Shipping Costs

You can follow the following 10 steps to reduce Alibaba shipping costs:

1. Purchase better types of products

It all starts with the type of products you sell.

If you stay cautious when sourcing products and avoid types that may violate the rules and regulations of certain countries, this will save you a lot of money. Otherwise, the cost and risk of shipping these products will go up.

Always keep in mind that compliance comes first. If you are unsure, please check with professionals such as Yansourcing customer service.

2. Optimized packaging

Some packaging is not optimized and takes up extra weight or volume.

You should know that Alibaba’s shipping cost is charged according to the weight or volume of the goods. You can save money by optimizing the packaging to reduce the volume of the package.

3. Purchase the right amount

As an experienced buyer, you may consider the number of your purchases before confirming your order with Alibaba suppliers and make the purchases flexible for shipping.

If you are not very familiar with the packaging and volume of goods, you can try to get advice from your supplier.

4. Shipment consolidation

Sometimes, your customers order small quantities, and you may consider combining several such orders and consolidating shipments to save you money on storage, shipping, and consignment costs.

You can consolidate international orders through Yansourcing’s China warehouse. Send your goods to our warehouse, and we can store them and consolidate them, especially if you are buying from different suppliers.

5. Find the right shipping forwarder

It would help if you chose a professional shipping forwarder who has experience managing shipping and customs. With their help, you can avoid unnecessary costs and quality problems.

You can hire a freight forwarder like Yansourcing to manage shipping and customs clearance during imports from China.

6. Choose a good shipping route

Alibaba shipping costs can vary depending on the shipping route, not only by sea or air.

For example, if you ship from China to the East Coast of the United States, one way is through the Pacific Ocean and the Panama Canal, or to the West Coast and switch to overland shipping. The shipping costs are different.

Again, if you are reluctant or inexperienced, it is never too late to ask for help from professionals like Yansourcing.

7. Use an online shipping calculator

Generally, you can easily find a shipping cost calculator online. Depending on your needs and shipment requirements, these tools can evaluate Alibaba shipping costs. Or, you can get a shipping quote from us.

8. Shipping cost comparison

The usual way to save Alibaba shipping costs is to compare different shipping forwarders.

After getting a reference quote from the online calculator, you can check with other forwarders and compare their shipping costs.

Always check the same shipping conditions and don’t look for unreasonably low prices as it may be a scam or illegal.

9. Work with suppliers who have overseas warehouses

Suppose your supplier is a big enough brand company.

In that case, they may have warehouses in your country, which can save you a lot of Alibaba shipping costs because you can get the products directly from their local warehouses and only pay for domestic shipping costs.

10. Find a one-stop sourcing agent company

After learning so much about Alibaba shipping costs, if you are still confused and find it too difficult for you as a small business owner, why not work with a professional sourcing agent and leave all these cost-saving tasks to them?

Yansourcing provides you with all the transparent pricing and listings from Alibaba suppliers directly to your store. We will handle all the shipping for you, and all you need to do is list your information and leave it to us.

Alibaba Shipping Terms You Should Know

Alibaba suppliers use more than ten shipping terms, such as CIF (Cost, Insurance, and Freight), EXW (Ex Works), and FOB (Free On Board).

Each shipping term indicates different responsibilities for sellers and buyers. It is critical to understand and choose the right shipping term for you.

Learn More about Alibaba Shipping Terms

Documents You May Need When Shipping from Alibaba

After you get a quote and decide to work with a shipping forwarder, all you have to do is to focus on preparing all the shipping documents needed at your country’s border.

List of Shipping Documents:

  • Commercial invoice
  • Packing list
  • Certificates
  • and other optional customs documents (POA…)
  • Carrier’s Bill of Lading / Air Waybill

What is a bill of lading Vs. air waybill?

Among other things, I would like to return to the issue of bills of lading and air waybills.

Assuming you have successfully contacted your freight forwarder and they have completed all the procedures required to ship your cargo by air or sea and get your cargo on board, you will be issued a bill of lading or air waybill.

The ocean carrier issues a bill of lading to acknowledge receipt of the goods, while an airway bill is a receipt issued by the airline.

I want to mention that if you do not pay your supplier in full, they may hold this bill of lading until you pay in full. In this case, you will not be able to clear customs because your shipping forwarder needs this bill of lading to clear customs.

Do I Need Shipping Insurance to Ship from Alibaba?


When importing goods from China, it is highly recommended that all importers have the proper insurance. Shipping insurance is cost-effective compared to the shipping risks it covers, as it generally only costs about $50-$100 per order.

Here’s a formula for your reference to quickly check your insurance costs.

Value of goods * 0.11 – 0.33% = Cost of shipping insurance

Please note that this formula is only for your reference when calculating the total cost, and the final cost is determined by the shipping method, route, type of cargo, and other factors.

How to Find the Best Alibaba Shipping Forwarder?

You can make international shipping easier by hiring a shipping forwarder who has the experience and expertise to deliver on time and safely. You can also get warehousing and contract logistics solutions from them.

Finding the right type of shipping forwarder is crucial. These steps can help you find the right Alibaba shipping forwarder for your business.

1. Know the type of shipping forwarder you need

The first thing to do is assess what type of shipping forwarder you need. Shipping forwarders play different roles in different areas, such as refrigerated cargo, bulk materials, fresh products, hazardous materials, etc.

When choosing a shipping forwarder in China, you should refer to the following criteria:

  • Type of cargo
  • Transportation requirements
  • Handling requirements (if the cargo is fragile)
  • Storage requirements

2. Evaluate your shipping forwarder

While considering the type of shipping forwarder you need, it’s time to evaluate before deciding.

You should make sure that the shipping forwarder you choose is efficient because you will be forming a long-term relationship with these shipping forwarders. An ineffective choice may result in changing shipping forwarders.

3. Set a selection criteria

The process of choosing a shipping forwarder is crucial.

You need to set criteria to evaluate shipping forwarders in China that will narrow down the choice of shipping forwarders to fewer and also helps to make a good choice for Alibaba’s international shipping services.

4. Know the trade channel your goods will be shipped on

It means the type of shipping service you want your China shipping forwarder to undertake, such as customs clearance, and the kind of transportation, air or sea freight.

5. Know the type of storage and handling you need for your cargo

You will find that many China shipping forwarders will cover these requirements. You can also narrow down your choice of shipping companies by doing so. Decisive factors include experience, compatibility rates, market reputation, etc.

Shipping from Alibaba Conclusion

The best way to save on Alibaba shipping costs is to arrange the shipping by yourself, and you will be able to negotiate a fair price without delaying your shipment because time is money.

Finding a supplier on Alibaba to start shipping would be more expensive and take time. Yansourcing takes care of everything until the product arrives at your doorstep.

Our team is made up of professionals in international trade and shipping. We guarantee you the fastest and most trustworthy process to save your Alibaba shipping costs, don’t hesitate to contact us!

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Hi, I'm the author of this post, and I have been in the sourcing field for more than 10 years. If you are interested in importing from China, feel free to ask me any questions.

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