Shipping cost china


So you’ve set up your business, found a trustworthy supplier, and you’re ready to begin importing goods. There’s just one question that remains. What is the best way to ship goods from China to the UK? There are a dizzying array of options, all at different price points, and with different pros and cons.

This article will explain the different methods of shipping from China to the UK, the pros and cons of each, and how to decide which method is right for your business.

P.S If you’re not yet at the stage where you need a shipping agent and want to know more about Chinese manufacturers, click here.

Sea Freight

Sea freight is one of the most popular methods of shipping goods. China boasts plenty of premier-quality seaports such as Shanghai, Ningbo, and Shenzhen. A supplier, factory, or freight forwarder will advise you on the best choice of port for your business.

The advantage of sea freight is that for large orders (greater than 100kg or 1cbm) it is usually the cheapest option. Prices fluctuate, but sea freight is typically 4-6 times cheaper than air freight.

However, there are some disadvantages to sea freight. First, it is very slow compared to other shipping options. Goods delivered by sea freight can take 6-8 weeks to get from China to the UK.

Sea freight is also particularly vulnerable to weather conditions. Rain, tides and snow can mean that shipments get delayed or damaged. A well-chosen logistics company will help you plan around this.

Nonetheless, sea freight remains a popular shipping option due to its low costs. If you have a large order and don’t need to receive your goods quickly, sea freight is usually the best option.

sea freight

Sea Freight Fluctuations When Estimating Shipping Cost from China to UK

To get the best value out of sea freight, companies should be aware of the price difference between FCLs (full container loads) and LCLs (less than full container loads). When companies don’t order enough stock to fill a container, they have the option to share containers with other companies. This is called an LCL and they are less cost effective than FCLs.

In addition, with LCLs your goods are consolidated with other orders, and de-consolidated once they reach the UK. Because of this, you can expect to wait a few days longer for an LCL.

Rail Freight

Rail freight is a great middle-ground option between slow sea freight and expensive air freight (more on that later). China is connected to the UK via the Yiwu-London railway line. Goods travelling along this line get from China to the UK in around 18 days.

The biggest advantages of rail freight are that it is environmentally friendly, and that goods are rarely damaged in transit. It is a great option for goods that need to arrive quickly, but not urgently.

Road Freight

Road freight is similar to rail freight, with delivery from China to the UK typically taking 14-21 days. The biggest advantage of road freight compared to rail is that it allows for door to door delivery.

Air Freight

Air freight is one of the fastest shipping options, with goods typically arriving within 10 days. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most expensive.

Air freight is most cost-effective for shipments between 400 and 1200 lbs. Air freight is a great option for medium-sized shipments, as it’s faster and more flexible than sea freight. For larger-sized heavier products, sea freight is the better option.

If you’re thinking of using air freight, be aware that there are also prohibitive restrictions on some products, such as high-powered magnets and aerosols.

Shipping Cost from China to UK Via Air Freight

Air freight shipping cost from China to UK is less volatile than sea freight pricing, enabling some rule of thumb rate estimations.

Air Freight per Kilo Costs to the UK

  • 0 – 45 kg = $100
  • 45 – 100 kg = $45
  • 100 – 300 kg = $20
  • 300 – 500 kg = $15

Express Shipping

Express shipping is the fastest shipping method, but it comes at a price. Express is about 56% more expensive than standard air freight. The best-known express shippers are DHL, UPS, TNT, and FedEx. You can expect to receive express-shipped consignments in under five days. Express shipping also offers further higher-cost delivery options taking less than a day.

Express shipping is a great option when you’re running low on a product and need some stock to cover you. However, the increased cost means that you should only use this option if it’s essential.

Most companies find that sending larger-sized products via this method is too expensive; express shipping is better suited to smaller, lighter products.

Calculating Shipping Cost from China

Shipping costs from China are at a high point right now, owing to a combination of increased demand and Red Sea diversions. These increased rates are expected to last at least into the summer.

To navigate volatility and the resultant freight price fluctuations, readers should use an online service for freight pricing information, such as However, online freight calculators will give you guide-only pricing. Determine accurate quotations by contacting freight forwarders local to your business and make an informed choice on the quote and forwarder.

Shipping Cost from China to UK

A number of factors influence shipping cost from China to UK. These include the type of goods, transportation mode, cargo weight, and distance.

If you find the process of finding a freight company overwhelming, a China sourcing agent UK will be able to help with shipping and other appropriate processes.

Container Shipping Rates from China to UK

For a 40ft container load, expect to pay $3750-$5000 for China to UK shipping.

Need help managing your shipping costs from China?

Shipping Cost from China to USA

As with the UK, shipping cost from China to USA varies according to goods, transport, consignment weight, and distance. Additional factors include seasonality and current world events.

Sea Freight Shipping Cost from China to USA

Prices can vary significantly depending on destination. For FCL sea freight, as a guide, we’ll use Houston, Los Angeles, and New York as shipping destinations. There is significant fluctuation in these costs, with Los Angeles being significantly cheaper than New York, and New York being significantly cheaper than Houston.

Air Freight per Kilo Costs to the USA

At time of writing, costs for standard air freight are around $5.43 per kilo. However, prices per kilo go down as the size of an order goes up. With this in mind, here is a rough idea of what you can expect to pay for air freight right now.

Air Freight per Kilo Costs to the USA

  • 100 kg = $1970
  • 300 kg = $3500
  • 500 kg = $4840

Sea Freight Transit Times to the USA

Transit times to the USA vary according to world events, market conditions, and other factors, resulting in possible delays. Expect to wait 5 – 7 days longer for LCLs, in contrast to FCLs.

Container Shipping Rates from China to the USA

Rates vary according to shipping destinations. For example, a 20-foot container shipping to San Diego, California starts from $3200 whereas delivery to New York, New York start from $4300.

There are additional variations dependent on port-to-port or door-to-door costs. Door-to-door is more expensive, but you don’t have to organize further transport once the goods get to the US, so it’s more convenient for you.

How to Save On Freight Costs from China

Here are some simple methods that will help you to save money on shipping from China.

Plan in Advance

Get off to a head start on the cheapest shipping from China by pre-planning. Leaving everything until the last minute will always mean increased costs. Freight forwarders reward early bookings with discounts; it makes their job more straightforward. It will also give you more time to shop around for the best offer.

Allow for a two-week delay when determining the final delivery date for your consignment, as delays often occur. Also, be aware of the Chinese New Year holidays, which last about three weeks. Check with your importer in advance if shipping at this time, and check online to find out the dates when the Chinese New Year occurs.

Choose the Appropriate Shipping Method

Air freight is best reserved for light, emergency shipments. Sea freight is most suitable for large shipments that aren’t needed urgently. Road and rail freight are a good middle ground option for when price and transit time are both important.

Order in bulk

It is always cheaper to make one large order than several small ones. By placing a large order, you benefit from a lower price per kilogram. In addition, placing large orders means that you can order FCLs rather than LCLs. This is preferable as there are hidden fees in LCLs that can make them prohibitively expensive.

Organize Local Transport

Get freight on board (FOB) pricing and find a freight forwarder local to the port you are shipping from in China. While a freight forwarder local to you may seem like the easiest option, lower exchange rates, labour costs, and fewer expenses mean that a freight forwarder in China is a far better option.

Most Chinese freight forwarders will use a logistics company local to them, further decreasing your fees.

Ensure Good Packing and Shipment Insurance

Space-efficient, secure packing will lessen the risk of shipment damage. Pack your goods efficiently internally and externally. Negotiate the best deal on cargo insurance with your freight forwarder unless you choose to get insurance in your home country.

If you want the shipping process handled by a company, choose a freight forwarder to help you.

freight costs


The most common ways of shipping from China to the UK are air freight, sea freight, road freight, rail freight and express shipping. Of these, sea freight is usually the cheapest while express shipping is the most expensive. Which method is best for you will depend on the specific needs of your business.

Here at Easy Imex, we’ll be pleased to help you with shipping and all other processes associated with ordering products from China. We’re here to help with sourcing and quality management too. Are you ready to talk to the top sourcing company in China?

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    1. Peter October 27, 2022 at 12:05 pm - Reply

      In terms of air freight shipping cost from China, what is cheaper, USA or the UK?

      • Alberto November 2, 2022 at 9:44 am - Reply

        Costs will vary depending on the weight to be shipped. The more you ship, the cheaper each kilo will be.
        The cost per kilo in the USA will go from 5 $ (300 kg) to 65 $ (10 kg).
        The cost in the UK will go from 15$ (300-500 kg) to 100 $ (0-45 kg).

    2. Lucy October 28, 2022 at 7:26 am - Reply

      Best ways to save money when shipping from China?

      • Alberto November 2, 2022 at 9:45 am - Reply

        When shipping from China it is important to take into account several aspects that may help you to save on costs:
        Prepare the local transport
        Prepare the correct packaging and a trusted shipping insurance
        Carry out a plan to be able to react if something fails

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