Everything You Should Know about Shipping from China to US 

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 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 send a shipment 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.

Part 1: Ways to ship 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. 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.


  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.

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


  1. This option is suited for products that are smaller in size.
  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. Air shipment regulations state that you cannot ship products such as aerosols and extremely powerful magnets.
  3. 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.


  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.

Part 2: How much does it cost to ship from China to the US?

The shipping cost 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.

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 vary 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.

Part 3: How long do packages from China 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.

1. Express shipping

Express shipping usually takes 4 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.

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, it can take 20-30 days for your sea shipment to arrive. Although, shipping to the west coast usually takes less time.

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.

  1. 17track.net

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.

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

With all these logistical concerns, you could easily exhaust yourself just trying to find the cheapest way to send a single shipment from China. Now imagine having to do that every week! That’s why we at ChinaDivision help you find the cheapest way to deliver goods from China to the US every single time. Meanwhile, you get to live stress-free.

When working with Chinese ports and suppliers, you should choose an experienced company that has taken the time to build good relationships with the important stakeholders. Moreover, we make it easy for you to track your products as they go from warehouse to warehouse.

Fill out a form and request custom pricing today. We’ll get back to you with a bespoke solution that fits your brand’s unique needs. Once you’re ready to take the plunge, we can get you up and running within a week. You can sync our software with several different eCommerce platforms to make your transition as seamless as possible.


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.

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