Cheapest Shipping From China to the USA

Cheapest Shipping From China to the USA

China is undoubtedly the top supplier of goods in the world. Of all the goods that the USA imports, 18% are from China. The two countries have had great trade relations for quite a long time. With the high number of people and companies shipping goods from China to the US, every importer strives to get the cheapest shipping rates.

As an importer, it is important to note there is no specific cheapest shipping method from China to the US, as it all depends on what you are shipping.

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Factors Affecting Shipping Costs from China to the USA

Shipping Method

Air Express, Air Freight, and Sea Freight are the three Twill | Understanding ocean freight – and what it means for your businessshipping options available from China to the US. Air Express has the highest shipping rates whereas Sea Freight has the lowest shipping rates. Does this mean that Sea Freight is the cheapest shipping method from China to the US? Well, the fact that Sea Freight has the lowest shipping rates does not mean that it is the ideal shipping method for all goods. It is the cheapest if you are shipping heavy and bulky goods. On the other hand, Air Freight and Air Express are suitable for shipping light goods.

For a shipment that weighs less than 150 kilograms, Air Freight is the most suitable shipping method. Air Freight is the most appropriate for consignments weighing less than 500 kilograms. Sea freight has the best shipping rates from China to the US for goods that weigh more than 500 kilograms.

If importers decide to ship by sea, they have two more alternatives; Less Container Load (LCL) and Full Container Load (FCL). Goods are shipped as FLC when the shipper has a large shipment that can fill a 20ft or 40ft container. If the shipment is not large enough, it will be shipped as LCL, where the goods will be merged with other shippers' goods in one container. In FCL, a shipper pays for the whole container while in LCL, a shipper only pays for the space their goods occupy.

Weight and volume of the cargo

The weight of the cargo has to be measured to determine the shipping rates. The heavier the shipment, the higher the shipping rates. At times, a shipper can have a large but light cargo. In such cases, the volume determines the shipping rates.

When determining Air Freight shipping prices from China to the US, the actual weight of the cargo is compared with the volumetric weight. The procedure for calculating the volumetric weight is as follows:

Volumetric Weight = (L*W*H)/6000

If the volumetric weight is higher than the actual weight, the shipping rates will be calculated based on the volumetric weight. If the actual weight is higher than the volumetric weight, the actual weight will be the chargeable weight.

DocShipper Advice : Find all the information you need about sea freight, FCL and LCL. In case you need further advice, don't hesitate to contact our experts and get your free quote.

Transit time

Shipping time from China to the US is one of the top factors affecting shipping prices. Do you need to ship your goods in the fastest way possible? If this is the case, you should brace yourself for some high shipping prices. This explains why Air Express is the most expensive shipping method while Sea Freight is the cheapest. With Air Express, transit time from China to the USA ranges from 1 to 4 days. It is even possible to deliver goods online but this will be very costly.

Air Freight is not as fast as Air Express, but it is faster than Sea Freight. For this reason, air freight shipping prices from China to the USA are lower than the rates for air express and higher than the rates for Sea Freight. The transit time can be around 7 to 10 days.

Sea Freight shipping time from China to the USA ranges from 30 to 40 days. It is much slower than other shipping methods, but it reflects the shipping rates. Sea Freight can be five times cheaper than Air Freight. Depending on the urgency of the goods, you can make an estimate on the shipping rates. Due to the high shipping prices in air express, you should consider using this method only for emergencies.


Shipping prices from China to the US vary depending on the distance between the point of cargo loading and the point of cargo delivery. Container shipping prices from China to the West Coast of the US range from $15000. Shipping the same container to the East Coast will cost around $17000. The distance covered from China to the East Coast is more than the distance covered from China to the West Coast, hence the dissimilarity in the shipping rates.

Type of Delivery Service

There are four types of delivery services, including:

  • Port-to-port
  • Door-to-door
  • Door-to-port
  • Port-to-door

Air Express is a courier service, so the type of delivery service is already pre-determined (door-to-door). With Air Freight, the delivery service is port-to-port, unless you make a requisition for the shipping prices to be 'all-included.' With 'all-included', the shipping costs will include the transportation charges from the factory to the airport of loading and transportation charges from the airport of delivery to the final destination.

Season of shipping

There are times when the shipping rates are at their peak (high seasons) and times when the rates are down (low seasons). For an importer, it is essential to know these seasons to schedule your shipment.

The peak seasons are usually during the Chinese holidays. These holidays include the Chinese New year (1 February), Dragon Boat Festival (3 - 5 June), Qing Ming Festival (5 April), the Golden Week (1-7 October), and the Mid-Autumn Festival (10 - 12 September), etc.

What are the Current Shipping Prices from China to the US?

The current shipping rates for Air Express and Air Freight are $3 per kilogram and $5 per kilogram, respectively.

There are several companies that offer courier services, such as FedEx, UPS, TNT, and DHL. UPS is the cheapest courier service from China to the USA.

With sea freight, the shipping rates are calculated based on the mode (either LCL or FCL), the size of the container (20ft, 40ft, or 40HC), and the distance between the port of loading to the port of delivery. Shipping a 20ft container to Los Angeles costs $7500, $8500 to Miami, $8500 to Savannah, and $10500 to New Jersey. For a 40ft container, shipping costs $8500 from China to Oakland, $9500 to New York, $10500 to Boston, and $9500 to Baltimore.

Other than the freight costs, the importer also pays the following costs:

  • Cargo Insurance fees
  • Port Charges
  • A Customs Bond
  • Document Delivery charges
  • Fees for transporting goods from the factory to the port of loading
  • Fee for delivering goods to the final destination from the port of delivery
  • Customs Clearance fees

DocShipper info: International logistics is stressful and time-consuming, as all importers and exporters feel. This is why DocShipper's mission is to support companies with a service that covers the entire supply chain. Relax because our specialists will take care of everything. Call us now or fill out this form to receive a free quote.

Why is it So Expensive to Ship from China to the USA?

The shipping prices from China to the US are unpredictable due to the ever-changing nature of the market and the supply chain in general. Lately, importers have experienced swelling shipping prices. The covid-19 pandemic has had an enormous effect on the shipping market since 2020. Most countries were locked down thus making it hard to ship goods from one country to another. This increased freight rates.

Another factor that has resulted in high shipping rates from China to the US is the increased demand for goods. Many importers strive to ship goods from China, especially since they could not do so during the lockdown. There is also a shortage in shipping containers globally. High demand for cargo and limited containers has caused freight rates to soar.

Biden, Xi to speak as U.S. warns about China military aid for Ukraine war |  Reuters

The Russia-Ukraine war has also led to an increase in freight rates. The airspace above Ukraine has been blocked, meaning that airplanes using that route have to use different airspace. The war has also led to skyrocketing fuel prices. Shipping prices and fuel prices always go hand in hand. An increase in fuel prices increases shipping prices. Ships, airplanes, and trucks use oil.


When will the shipping prices from China to the US go down? It is not easy to tell when the prices will go down. The rates may go down when there will be enough shipping containers, a decrease in demand for goods, and a reduction in fuel prices.

Do Incoterms Determine Shipping Costs from China to the US?

Incoterms refer to rules that elucidate the roles of the importer and supplier during the shipping process. These are acknowledged globally, and yes, they determine shipping costs.

FOB (Freight on Board) is one of the most commonly used incoterms. It only applies to sea/ocean freight. FOB dictates that the supplier takes all the risk until the cargo is loaded onto the ship, where the buyer takes over responsibility.

DPP (Duty Paid Delivery) is also a popular incoterm. With DPP, the supplier takes all the risk until the goods arrive at the final destination.

EXW (Ex Works) means that the buyer of the goods names a location where the responsibility of the goods will shft from the supplier to the importer.

Another incoterm is CIF (Cost, Insurance, and Freight). Here, the supplier of the goods is in charge of the freight costs, providing insurance service to the cargo, and ensuring that the goods are successfully loaded and shipped to the buyer. Like FOB, CIF is used only with sea freight.

What are the Roles of a Freight Forwarder when Shipping from China to the US?

A freight forwarder is a must-have when shipping from China to the US. Without a freight forwarder, you might end up struggling with the shipping process. This is especially for newbies in the shipping industry and importers who do not have enough shipping skills yet.

Here are some of the roles of a freight forwarder.

  1. A freight forwarder will help you in making shipping decisions. With the numerous shipping options, it can be difficult to choose the method that suits your consignment best. With a freight forwarder, you can make the decisions quite easily. Apart from advice on the shipping method, you can also get guidance on the best seasons to ship your goods.
  2. A freight forwarder is responsible for making reservations on the shipping vessels. With the current shortages in shipping vessels, getting a freight forwarder can at least guarantee you shipping space. Otherwise, it may be hard to get the shipping space.
  3. Documentation and customs clearance are all handled by a freight forwarder. It is always important to have all the necessary documents in time. Since the freight forwarder is in charge of these, you can be assured of getting everything right before shipping. The documents required when shipping from China to the US include the Bill of Lading, Customs Invoice, Packing List, Shipper's Export Declaration, Commercial Invoice, etc.
  4. A freight forwarder deals with the packaging and warehousing of the cargo.
  5. Getting an insurance service for your goods is crucial. Goods can get tampered with or even get lost when being shipped. The good news is that with a freight forwarder, you don't have to run around pushing to get insurance for your shipment since this is one of their roles.
  6. A freight forwarder is also in charge of tracking your shipment. When the goods reach the USA, you will receive the information from your freight forwarder.

The fact that there are many freight forwarders in China can make it difficult for an importer to choose one. It is therefore important for the importer to choose a freight forwarder based on the services they offer, their reputation in the market, and their prices. The best freight forwarder from China to Canada is one the that is skilled, trusted, and reliable.

To get the cheapest shipping rates from China to the US, use the correct packaging materials that will not add the cargo's weight, merge small shipments into a single one, choose the ideal shipping method, and make early shipping arrangements.

The best way to ship goods from China to the US is simply by getting a freight forwarder and using the most suitable shipping method. Shipping does not have to be stressful. Applying the tips in this guide will guarantee you a hassle-free shipping experience.


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