Costs & Methods of Shipping from China to USA in 2024

by Tim Howard

Navigating the complexities of international shipping can be daunting, especially when it comes to finding the most cost-effective and reliable methods for transporting goods from China to the USA.

With a myriad of options available, ranging from air freight to sea cargo, understanding the associated costs and logistics is crucial for businesses and individuals alike.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur importing goods for your business or an individual purchasing products from China, having a clear guide to the shipping process can save you time and money.

Here’s an in-depth look at the various shipping methods, their costs, and how to navigate the export and import procedures, ensuring your items arrive safely and economically.

Also Read: Shipping Companies in China to USA | Chinese Shipping Agents for USA Shipments

Costs & Methods of Shipping from China to USA

Express Shipping & Costs from China to USA

Express Shipping & Costs from China to USA

Express shipping from China to the USA offers unparalleled speed, making it ideal for time-sensitive shipments. Services like DHL, FedEx, and UPS promise delivery within 2 to 5 days, ensuring critical items reach their destination swiftly.

Whether it’s urgent medical supplies or high-fashion goods for seasonal launches, express shipping caters to scenarios where minutes matter.

However, this speed comes at a premium. While express shipping provides unmatched efficiency, it’s essential to understand its costs and nuances. Typically, expect to pay around $5 per kilogram, but various factors influence the final price. Weight and dimensions play a significant role, with heavier or bulkier packages incurring higher charges.

Moreover, routes and destinations affect costs, considering port congestion and specific shipping routes. Additional services like specialized handling or insurance further contribute to the overall bill.

Despite the higher costs, express shipping offers unparalleled convenience. With door-to-door delivery services, express companies handle the entire logistics process seamlessly. From pickup in China to direct delivery in the USA, there’s no need to coordinate multiple handoffs or intermediary warehouses.

Costs & Methods of Shipping from China to USA

Reliability is another hallmark of express shipping. Established companies like DHL, FedEx, and UPS boast extensive networks and robust infrastructure, ensuring smooth tracking and timely deliveries. This reliability offers peace of mind, knowing your shipment is in capable hands throughout its journey.

However, express shipping has its limitations. It can be significantly more expensive compared to alternatives like air or sea freight. Moreover, size and weight constraints may pose challenges, leading to surcharges or even shipment refusal. While customs clearance is expedited, it’s crucial to ensure accurate documentation to avoid delays.

Considering alternatives like air freight or postal services is prudent. Air freight provides faster transit times than sea freight at a lower cost than express, making it suitable for less urgent shipments. Postal services offer the most economical option but come with longer transit times.

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When does express shipping shine? Opt for it when time is critical, the value of the shipment justifies the cost, and the package falls within size and weight limits.

To navigate express shipping effectively, plan ahead, optimize packaging, ensure customs clarity, and consider comprehensive insurance coverage. By understanding the intricacies of express shipping and its alternatives, businesses can make informed decisions to meet their shipping needs effectively.

Cost of DHL Express Shipping from China to the USA

Weight (kg)DHL Express (USD)

Cost of FedEx Express Shipping from China to the USA

FedEx offers IP (International Priority) and IE (International Economy)  FedEx International Priority deliveries within two to three days of getting the packages. Whereas, FedEx International Economy takes four to six days.

FedEx IP (<21KG)

Weight (kg)FedEx IP (USD)


FedEx IE (<21KG)

Weight (kg)FedEx IE (USD)


As you see IE is more affordable than IP so planning for your shipment can save big on your wallet when shipping. 

This is one of the best methods of shipping out of China with minimal risk and hassle. 

Related : Aliexpress Customs – A complete guide

Air Freight Shipping & Costs from China to USA

Both express and air freight use planes as the means to ship the cargo, the main difference between these two methods of shipping is that express delivery is quite simple and straightforward but freight delivery is a bit more complex and its import and export procedures are similar to traditional sea freight shipping. 

Shipping using Air Freight is more convenient if you have a cargo of more than 500 kgs and are looking to bring it to the United States for a good lower price. 

The cargo first goes through the local logistics in China and export process once done it is air-shipped from China airport to USA airport where your cargo will be handed over to the local American logistics and then goes through the import process after which your cargo will be out for delivery. 

Airfreight costs per kg

More than 500kg and the all-included price by air freight is around $5.5/kg. This price doesn’t include the local logistics cost in China (From the China factory to China airport).

  • Shipping time for air freight = Time taken to book shipping space + confirming flight timing + checking local delivery time in the USA. it usually takes 4-7 days in total.
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So If you have a large product order to be delivered from your supplier in China which is over 500 kilos and you need the delivery in 4-6 days Air Freight should be your first option. 

  • Express (DHL, UPS, etc.): Fastest option, ideal for urgent or time-sensitive shipments. Costs around $5/kg. Transit time: 3-5 days.
  • Standard Air Freight: More affordable than express for heavier shipments (150-500kg). Costs around $3/kg. Transit time: 5-7 days.

Sea Freight Shipping & Costs from China to USA

Sea freight is one of the most tedious and complex shipping methods for getting your goods delivered from China. But I will take you through the process to make it clear in easy for you to understand how this basically works.

If your product order exceeds 2CBM (2,000KG) It is your best option of Shipping to the states. Your goods will be put into a cargo container and depending on the CBM of your goods, it will get allocated to a container. 

There are two types of containers.

  • LCL (Less Than Container Load) – If the quantity of your goods is small and its volume is less than 16CBM, the freight forwarder will help you ship your goods by LCL. This, basically, means you will have to share container space with another importer because of the small size of your goods. 
    • Cost-effective for smaller shipments, sharing container space. Prices vary depending on weight and dimensions. Transit time similar to FCL.
  • FCL (Full Container Load) – FCL is provided when your cargo quantity is big enough to fill one whole container. Where you will be charged for the whole container rather than just CBM.
    • Ideal for large shipments (20ft or 40ft containers). Costs range from $4,900 – $6,080 for a 20ft container from Shanghai/Shenzhen to Long Beach (February 2024 estimates). Transit time: 4-6 weeks.

Generally, it will be cheaper than LCL freight.

When using Sea Freight what is included in the shipping cost

The fares for the sea freight shipping change in real-time and are determined by the shipping company. If you know the specific port you can directly ask the shipping company so they can offer you a real-time quotation. The below table will give you a small idea of the current costs of container shipping rates.

USA3-5CBM5-10CBM10 CBM+20”GP   40”HQ
US West ($)31024018037004200 ($)340290240__
US East ($)370320260_

Factors Affecting Cost while Shipping from China to USA in 2024

Shipping from China to the USA in 2024 requires careful consideration of various factors that impact costs. Understanding these factors is crucial for businesses looking to optimize their shipping expenses.

  • Firstly, the size and weight of the shipment play a significant role. Smaller, lightweight items may benefit from cost-effective express air freight, while larger shipments can capitalize on the economies of scale offered by sea freight. Optimizing packaging to reduce dead weight can lead to substantial cost savings across all shipping methods.
  • When selecting a shipping method, businesses should weigh the benefits and costs associated with air freight, sea freight, and postal services. While air freight offers speed and efficiency, it comes at a premium. On the other hand, sea freight is more cost-effective for large volumes but entails longer transit times. Postal services may be the most economical option for lightweight items, albeit with slower delivery times.
  • Container type also influences shipping costs. Full Container Load (FCL) is ideal for large shipments that can utilize an entire container, while Less-than-Container Load (LCL) is cost-effective for smaller shipments sharing container space. Understanding the cost implications of each container type is essential for businesses to make informed decisions.
  • The choice of origin and destination ports can also affect shipping costs. Factors such as demand, congestion levels, and competition vary between ports. Additionally, businesses should consider peak seasons, such as Chinese New Year and Golden Week, which can lead to increased demand and higher costs.
  • Fuel surcharges are another consideration, as fluctuations in fuel prices can result in additional costs imposed by shipping companies. Businesses should be aware of potential fuel surcharges and factor them into their budgeting.
  • Finally, businesses should account for additional costs such as customs duties, taxes, inland transportation, insurance, and brokerage fees. Planning shipments strategically and considering all relevant factors can help businesses optimize costs while shipping from China to the USA in 2024.

Shipping from China to USA FAQs

How do you calculate freight rates?

Imagine layers of costs:

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Base rate: This foundation depends on your chosen method (air, sea), container type (FCL, LCL), and route. Freight forwarders negotiate these with shipping lines.
Weight or volume charge: The greater of your shipment’s actual or volumetric weight is multiplied by a per-unit cost.
Surcharges: Fuel costs, peak seasons, special handling add extra layers.
Additional fees: Inland transport, customs, documentation are separate costs to consider.
Final rate: Sum all the layers for your total cost.

Example: Shipping a 10kg box from Shanghai to LA by air freight might have:
Base rate: $5/kg
Weight charge: 10kg * $5/kg = $50
Fuel surcharge: $2/kg = $20
Inland transport: $50

What are the different shipping methods from China to USA?

Air freight: Fastest (3-7 days), expensive.
Sea freight: Most economical (4-6 weeks), slower.
Express services (DHL, UPS): Convenient for small, urgent shipments, very expensive.
Postal services: Cheapest but slowest (7-15 days).

What documents do I need for shipping from China to USA?

Commercial invoice.
Bill of lading.
Packing list.
Customs clearance documentation.

How do I choose the right shipping method?

Consider cost, speed, and type of goods.
Consult a freight forwarder for expert advice.

How can I save money on shipping?

Plan ahead and avoid peak seasons.
Compare rates from different freight forwarders.
Choose LCL for smaller shipments.
Negotiate rates for large shipments.

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