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What Is the Best Way to Ship Products from China to the USA

shipping from china to usa

Shipping goods from one country to another is always a million-dollar question. For the e-commerce or outsourcing industries, it is important to understand which is the best option for shipping from China to the USA can ensure efficient delivery of your goods. With China being a major manufacturing center and the United States being a major consumer market, there are many shipping options and logistics providers available to facilitate the movement of goods between the two countries.

This blog details three of the most common logistics methods used in the supply chain, including their merits and demerits, transit time, price and more.

Method 1. Air Freight

The first type of shipping method to transit the products from China to the United States is Air Freight, the shipment through aircraft. In overseas transportation, it is known for its speed and efficiency, making it a popular choice for time-sensitive shipments. While ensuring speed, the packages have lower broken rates and are more secure thanks to the strict regulations for moving cargo.

However, the cost of shipping from China to USA is expensive if you need to carry heavy products. It has weight and size limitations for cargo, which can impact the cost and feasibility of shipping certain goods.

air shipping from china to us

• Pros

Speedy Transportation: Air freight is one of the fastest methods of shipping cargo.

Safer Shipments: Air transportation is more demanding in terms of cargo management and operation, and the shipping process is subject to stringent security controls, which reduces the rate of cargo loss and breakage.

High Level of Punctuality: The schedule of air shipment of goods is typically fixed, because it is necessary to declare the routes flown in advance, which makes the transportation time more punctual and highly reliable.

• Cons

High Shipping Cost: Its freight charges are much more costly compared to other types of shipping methods due to the high cost of aircraft production and fuel.

Weak Carrying Capacity: There are certain limitations on the weight and volume of goods to be transported since aeroplanes have limited space.

Uncertainty Affected by Weather: Flight routes are susceptible to delays arising from unfavourable weather conditions.

High Safety Risk: A reliable safety level is accompanied by higher risk, as once an accident occurs, it can cause irreversible damage.

• Delivery Time

It takes about 3 – 10 days to ship goods from China to America (airport to airport).

• Costs

Pricing per kg of air goods is determined by the distance between the place of dispatch and the place of receipt, the current market and so on. For goods shipped from China to the United States, the pricing provided by various companies or freight forwarders varies, while the average price ranges from around $4 to $6 per kg (Reference only, please consult the freight company for details). The weight and volume of the package are the most influential factors contributing to the basic cost of airfreight.

Airlines generally have certain restrictions on the weight and volume of cargo due to the amount of space and load capacity of the aircraft, yet the limitations may vary from different companies and freight forwarders.

The maximum weight for standard airfreight ranges from 100 to 500 kilograms (220 to 1102 pounds) per piece of cargo, while the total weight of the cargo will be restricted to thousands to tens of thousands of kilograms.

The maximum dimension of a standard airfreight shipment is required to be no larger than 2.44 x 3.15 m. If the volumetric weight exceeds the actual weight of the package or if it is larger than the specified length and width, the airline may need to impose an additional charge or refuse to transport the cargo.

Method 2. Ocean Freight (FCL, LCL)

In shipping from China to USA, ocean freight, utilising standard container cargo ships, is a widely used method of transporting products. It is applicable to the transportation of large or small volumes of goods, because ocean freight will provide different sizes of containers to facilitate the shipping requirements, the standard containers are 20ft, 40ft and 40ft high cube containers, while large-scale equipment or other special goods can use special types of containers, such as flat rack, open-top, and refrigerated containers, etc., to fulfill various needs.

ocean freight to ship from china

Among them, there are two common transportation modes in international cargo sea freight: Full Container Load and Less Than Container Load.

What are Full Container Load (FCL) and Less than Container Load (LCL)? What are their effects? Below is a detailed description of them.

Full Container Load (FCL): When the quantity of cargo is considerable, the shipper can rent the whole container without having to share it with other cargoes to fill up with all the cargo. And the whole container transportation is more efficient since after arriving at the port, it can be delivered quickly without waiting for devanning.

Less than Container Load (LCL): The LCL shipment refers to the cargo in the same container, which consists of goods from different carriers. LCL is a more economical and beneficial option when shipping fewer loads. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that LCL sea freight takes a longer time to load and unload the container.

• Pros

High Weight Carrying Capacity: Ocean transportation is one of the most popular ways to receive heavy loads in international transportation. Because of the large space of the vessel, it is possible to transport large quantities of cargo from China to the United States, including large equipment like cars and automobiles.

Affordable: In long-distance transportation, ocean freight is less costly than other shipping methods due to the large volume of cargo and the low operating expenses of the vessels.

Quicker Freight Handling: Cargo reconditioning in containers, makes the handling of cargoes easier during transportation.

Environmental Footprint: Ships emit much less carbon dioxide than air freight, which has a minimal impact on the global environment.

• Cons

Slow Shipping Speed: The gigantic size of the shipping vessel with the high flow resistance causes the shipping speed to be slow, and it may take several weeks or even a month to transport the product from China to the U.S.

Vulnerable to Weather: Shipping may be affected by weather conditions at sea, which may result in delayed arrival time and cargo loss. But such incidents are rare.

No Door-to-Door Service: Only port-to-port service and cannot be delivered directly to factories or companies.

• Delivery Time

How long does shipping from China take? The shipping time from China to US will depend on the distance between the departure port and the destination port, usually 20 to 35 days.

The distance between the US West Coast ports and the East Coast ports is different.

For a FCL shipment, it takes about 15 to 25 days from China to U.S. West Coast ports and about 25 to 35 days to East Coast; For LCL shipments, it takes even longer, about 30 to 45 days.

• Costs

The basic freight rate for sea transportation is determined mainly by the volume and weight of the cargo, which is calculated based on weight if the cargo is heavier, or based on volume if the volume of the cargo is larger than the actual weight. The price of shipping Chinese goods to the United States ranges from approximately $1.5 to $5 per kg (Reference only, please consult the freight company for details).

Standard shipping containers are 20 ft (internal L*W*H: 5.9m x 2.35m x 2.39m; Volume: 33.2m2) and 40 ft (internal L*W*H: 12.03m x 2.35m x 2.39m; Volume: 67.7m2), the size of the goods to be transported shouldn't be more than the scale, and if there are large ones, you can use specific types of containers like flat rack containers, open top containers and so on.

And note that the overall weight of the items should not exceed the weight of a single container can withstand: a 20 ft container can handle about 28 tons, and a 40 ft about 26 tons.

Method 3. Courier Service

International courier services also play an integral role in cross-border deliveries, with the service focusing on convenient, fast and on-time delivery. They provide door-to-door service and can deliver goods directly to you. The process of transporting goods: pick-up, shipping, customs clearance, delivery, etc. are all taken care of by the courier staff, saving time and effort.

Courier services companies offer parcel and heavy cargo transportation services, but usually, it's suitable for small goods, documents, samples or high-value goods.

courier service

Well-known courier companies such as UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc. provide express delivery services worldwide and can deliver your packages quickly with their extensive networks, and advanced tracking systems.

FedEx: FedEx is a large courier company with a strong global presence. It offers a range of services, including overnight, express, international shipments, and supply chain management solutions.

UPS: UPS is one of the world's largest and most recognized courier companies. It offers a full range of transportation and logistics services, and has a vast network of delivery trucks, aircraft, and distribution centers for domestic and international shipments.

DHL: DHL is a global logistics company that is part of the Deutsche Post DHL Group, a German logistics group. DHL serves a variety of services including package delivery, freight forwarding and supply chain solutions. It specializes in cross-border e-commerce logistics.

• Pros

Time-efficient and On-time: Courier services offer expedited transportation, with shorter transit times compared to other international transportation. This is very advantageous for time-sensitive or valuable items.

Convenience: Providing door-to-door services, in which they pick up packages directly from the sender's location and deliver them to the recipient's address.

Speedy Customs Clearance: For parcels that are not bulk goods, providing the relevant customs clearance documents will enable companies to clear customs quickly.

• Cons

Expensive Shipping Costs: Courier services are mainly for transporting small quantities of goods and the shipping time from China to the US is fast, resulting in a much more costly service compared to the other two types of shipping methods, especially for large and heavy cargo (generally over 70 kg of a single piece is considered a heavy item in courier service, which varies from one company to another).

• Delivery Time

Courier service provides international express delivery service and economy service.

Express delivery is usually delivered within 1 to 3 days;

Economy and standard service is able to transport cargo from China to the U.S. within 2 to 5 days.

• Costs

In addition to fuel surcharge, additional service charge and customs clearance-related costs, the basic freight cost of packages is mainly determined by the weight and volume of the parcel, the distance between the shipping and receiving place, the selected services, etc. The price offered by each service company is not the same, so for details, you can go to the official website to consult with the staff.

Which Is the Best Shipping Method from China to the USA

1. What Is the Cheapest Shipping Method from China to the US?

With the methods mentioned above, ocean freight is the cheapest method to ship a package from China to the United States. Compared to airfreight, ocean transportation is slower but more cost-effective usually, especially for large and heavy loads, and if time is not a critical factor for the shipment, sea freight is the most popular choice.

2. What Is the Fastest Shipping Method from China to the US?

For shipping small items, high-value items and samples that have time requirements, courier services are the fastest shipping approach to reach the destination within 2 - 5 days, but the pricing is expensive.

For shipping small and medium-sized goods with a large volume, if the goods need to reach the destination quickly, air freight is the first choice for international shipping from China, which has a much shorter transit time (2 -10 days) compared to ocean freight. And it is less costly than courier services.

3. Tips to Ensure On-time Delivery

Any shipping method cannot avoid the possibility of delays. How to enhance on-time delivery when you ship from China? Here are the proactive tips to increase the likelihood of a smooth and timely delivery process.

ü  Prepare in advance to allow sufficient time for the shipping process and ensure that the documentation required for shipping is correct, minimizing the risk of delays or customs problems.

ü  Select a reliable carrier that has a reputation for on-time delivery.

ü  Keep open and clear communication with the shipping company and be prompt in responding to any message requests.

ü  Use tracking tools provided by the carrier to monitor the progress of your shipment and stay up-to-date on any changes or delays.

ü  Consider having transportation insurance to protect against loss or damage to the shipment while in transit.

ü  Create contingency plans for unforeseen situations to deal with the unexpected that may affect the delivery time.

For more information, check out the post: Cracking the Code: Solving Your Toughest Delivery Schedule Dilemmas.


The most popular types of shipping methods from China to the United States are air freight, ocean freight, and courier services. Each way is designed to meet the needs of specific customers, with air transportation being the best choice for medium-volume shipments that need to reach the country quickly, and sea transportation being the most economical choice for bulk shipments or large objects. Before deciding which mode of delivery for cargo shipping from China to USA, it is essential to evaluate a number of factors, such as type of cargo, volume, size, pricing, transit speed, risks, etc., to ensure a successful and timely international delivery.

The right shipping mode, trusted carriers, proper documents, decent packaging, clear communication and knowledge of customs regulations all play a vital part in improving on-time deliveries. In the field of supply chain, working with SVI Global, we choose the optimal method of transportation for the customers' shipment volume and obtain competitive container rates. Prior to shipment, we make advance plans and consolidate the cargo into containers to ensure the safety and intactness of the goods. Every decision is made in good faith and open to our customers and tailored solutions are developed for individual needs.