Which Courier should I choose?

Buying from China inevitably means using express air couriers. Factories get late, 100-piece orders aren’t shipped by sea or air cargo. The need exists for sending or receiving samples, commercial documents, small orders and delivering products for date-specific events. Express shipping can be as fast as next day delivery. Lower value shipments tend to sail through customs, pardon the (ocean-shipping) pun.

All major carriers deliver within one week, with only their rates differing. Our preference is FedEx because of their premier brokerage service, FedEx Trade Networks, but all major carriers get the job done. We compared their published rates directly on their sites.

DHL      : DHL Rate, Time Quote
FedEx   : FedEx Rates, Transit Times
UPS       : UPS, calculate time and cost

We crunched the numbers

We crunched the numbers, but please feel free to check our math. We compared shipping an envelope with documents (0.1Kg) and shipping a single 5Kg carton with a commercial value of USD400. The package origin was Shanghai 200001, the US destination was Los Angeles 90001. The service we chose was the least expensive from each carrier. Express economy shipping normally delivers within 5 business days. The published prices do not take into account any discounts but were all with 12% of each other.

The rates are similar and include brokerage. We suggest concentrating on one carrier and building up your discount rate through volume and loyalty.

Also, keep in mind that export and import shipping rates are different. Export (origin) shipping rate tables are lower than import shipping rate tables. 10kg on the China shipper’s account (without discount) can be USD325, whereas the same 10kg on your domestic US account can be USD420. If you and your shipper both have 25% discounts, the same shipment will cost you much less using an export base price list.

Top 4 Tips

  1. Use an exporter account. Export rates are always lower than import rates.
  2. Shipping to China, FedEx is a least-cost option.
  3. Show loyalty to one carrier for bigger discounts.
  4. Use quality reinforced shipping cartons. Make sure your vendor uses the smallest possible carton. Chargeable weight is based on the heavier of carton dimension or gross weight. Note that all the courier’s scan packages to calculate the chargeable weight.

Regarding chargeable weights, always use our dimensional weight calculator to know your costs!

A MAJOR Consideration

Given the highly competitive nature of Alibaba vs the World, many vendors and end-users are trying hard to cut out the importer – you! The only way to protect your business from predatory behaviour is to Blind Ship your orders duty-paid using a third-party logistics provider. Blind Shipping has the added advantage of hiding customer from vendors and vendors from customers!


Compare rates, stick to one carrier and consider blind shipping as a viable option to protect your supply chain. Trusting your vendor to ship for you is the least safe shipping method. Having your supplier ship prepaid is less expensive but you then must handle the package, create new shipping labels and reshipping to your end-user.

Questions about shipping or required docs?
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