In the previous post, we shared how to choose trade terms suitable for your conditions and the things needed to notice when quoting the price.

There are still a lot of important things you need to confirm and agree with suppliers before you place an order such as how to ensure products can be delivered on time and after-sales questions and negotiate the best payment terms.

Documents

Proforma Invoice

The proforma invoice (PI) is a paper or digital document that sellers and buyers share when they’re thinking about doing business across countries. It shows what a possible sale would look like before it’s officially decided. Both sides can see the rules and details of the deal.

Purpose

A proforma invoice is a document that shows the buyer exactly what products or services the seller is offering. It’s like a quote or an estimate, so the buyer can check and approve the order before going ahead.

For customs: Proforma invoices are often needed by the people who control imports and exports. They show what’s in the shipment and how much it’s worth.

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Commercial Invoice

The commercial invoice is a super important paper for trading stuff between countries. It shows the official deal between the person sending (seller) and the person getting (buyer).

Purpose

This paper is different from a proforma invoice because it’s a real promise that both sides agreed to follow. It’s checked by customs, used for taxes, and to make sure everything follows the rules.

Proforma Invoice And Commercial Invoice
proforma invoice and Commercial Invoice

Delivery time

Delivery time is how long it takes from ordering to when the products are ready to ship. Before you agree to an order, check this timing with the supplier. Sometimes their schedule changes, and it’s not always written on the proforma invoice (PI). This can cause problems.

If you really need the products on time, just telling the supplier won’t be enough. Put the delivery date in the PI, and include rules for what happens if they’re late. This can make them work harder to meet the deadline.

If you’ve worked with a supplier before and they messed up, you can threaten to stop working with them if they’re late again. For new suppliers, it’s a good idea to hold back some money until you get the products on time, even if it’s hard to convince them.

After-sales question

It’s normal to have a few broken things, as long as not too many are bad. How many is okay depends on what kind of thing it is. Like, for cheap stuff, maybe 5% can be broken, but for expensive stuff, 0% can be broken.

So, talk to the seller and agree on how many can be broken before you buy. If you’re worried about the quality, this is extra important.

If more are broken than you agreed on, you can:

  • Make them redo the whole order and check again.
  • Have someone find the broken ones and ask the seller to fix them, and they pay for it.
  • Get money back for the broken things.

Make sure you and the seller agree on what to do if things are broken before you buy. Bad sellers might not want to talk about it later, so talking about it early can help everything go smoothly.

Payment terms

Telegraphic Transfer (TT):

Telegraphic Transfer (TT): Also called a wire transfer or bank transfer, TT is when money moves from the buyer’s bank account to the seller’s bank account using computers. It’s fast and safe, but there might be fees, and both sides must trust each other.

Letter of Credit (LC):

Letter of Credit (LC): An LC is a special paper from a bank that promises to pay the seller if they show the right papers and follow the rules. It’s the safest way to pay.

Documentary Collection:

This way, banks help with papers about shipping. The seller sends these papers to their bank, who sends them to the buyer’s bank with info on how to pay. The buyer gets the papers when they pay or agree to pay later.

Western Union:

Western Union works well for sending less than $5,000, especially if your bank can’t send money straight to China.

Wire transfers and Western Union don’t have protection if the seller doesn’t send the stuff or sends bad stuff. So, check the seller carefully before paying.

PayPal

PayPal ensures transaction security. But, it charges a fee of about 4%. The fee can be big for orders over $3,000. Not all Chinese suppliers accept PayPal. They worry about scams, like buyers seeking refunds.

For PayPal to verify delivery, tracking records are necessary. If shipping via sea or air freight lacks a tracking system, most Chinese suppliers will not accept PayPal. So, when buying from Alibaba suppliers, using trade assurance can reduce risks.

Moreover, if you prefer credit card payments, PayPal or Alibaba Trade Assurance are options. TT and Western Union do not support credit card payments.

But, some countries such as North Korea, Belarus, etc. do not support paypal payment.

Trade terms

Incoterms are very important words that show who does what when buying and selling things. They say who’s in charge of getting the stuff to where it needs to go. When you talk about prices with sellers, you have to pick an Incoterm like DAP or CPT. If you don’t, you might have to pay more money you didn’t plan on.

more detailed information about trade terms you can read our previous post: How to Choose Trade Terms and Quote Price

Shipment ways

4 shipping role

When you ship things internationally, four main groups are involved:

  1. Shipper – This is the person or company selling you the products.
  2. Consignee – This is you, the person or company receiving the products.
  3. Shipping companies – have trucks, boats, or planes. They move products from one place to another. Usually, different shipping companies work together to get your stuff from the shipper to you. All shipping solutions, except for couriers, need collaboration. They need many shipping companies to ensure the final delivery from the warehouse to your doorstep. , you won’t need to directly engage with each shipping company.
  4. A freight forwarder is a helper. They organize things with the shipping companies. They ensure the products get picked up from the suppliers’ warehouses and delivered to you. They also help with the paperwork needed for importing and exporting.

Finding a good freight forwarder can be tough, as some might give you a low price at first, but then add extra charges later. If you’re unsure how to choose, you can ask your Chinese supplier for help. They might charge a bit extra. But, they can ensure everything goes well and take blame if anything goes wrong during shipping.

You can find a freight forwarder on your own. You can ask friends or colleagues for tips. Or, you can search online. You can also use websites like Freightos or Flexport. Remember, there are many freight forwarders out there, so take your time to find one you can trust.

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Freightos - Freight Forwarder
Freightos – freight forwarder

Freightos is very easy to use. You just type in information about your shipment, like how big it is and where you want it picked up and dropped off. Then, you’ll get different price options from different freight forwarders. It’s kind of like buying plane tickets online, except you can only talk to the forwarders that are listed.

After you pick a forwarder and pay online, remember that the price you see isn’t the final cost. It only covers getting your stuff to a certain city, not your exact address. You’ll need to talk to the forwarder you chose to find out the full price.

We think Freightos is best for sending normal things like seafood or other goods to places like the western parts of America, the UK, Western Europe, and Australia.

Express shipping

For most e-commerce sellers and new importers, courier services, often called express shipping, are widely utilized due to their ease, speed, and higher costs. This service is predominantly offered by major companies such as FedEx, DHL, UPS, and TNT, which boast extensive worldwide delivery networks.

Express Shipping
Express shipping

The same company makes all the processes with courier services, from picking up the cargo to delivering it to your home. They can also make the import and export procedures and may charge the import duty to you or the supplier.

In essence, courier services are fast, typically delivering goods within 3 to 5 days to most countries. Although it is expensive, but the fast speed makes it a good choice.

Courier services provide the easiest way to make import customs clearance with fewer compliance certifications required. The shipping quote is easy, typically charged at a fixed price per kilogram. Notably, this unit price remains the same of the address within the same country.

Shipping free

The cost of courier services varies depending on the destination country and fluctuates based on market demand. Generally, shipping from China to countries in North America and Western Europe costs approximately 6 to 7 dollars per kilogram. It tends to be cheaper for shipments to Asian countries and more expensive for other regions. However, during peak seasons such as the month leading up to Chinese New Year and Christmas, prices are at their highest.

Additionally, small parcels weighing less than 20 kilograms incur higher costs due to a minimum charge of about 20 dollars, regardless of the actual weight. This minimum charge can result in seemingly disproportionate fees. However, when shipping in larger quantities, the average cost per item decreases significantly.

The cost of courier service depends on where it’s going and how market demand. Sending something from China to North America or Western Europe usually costs about $6 to $7 for each kilogram. Sending to Asian countries is cheaper, and sending to other places is more expensive.

During busy times like the month before Chinese New Year or Christmas, prices go up a lot.

Sending small packages that weigh less than 20 kilograms can be expensive because there’s a minimum charge of about $20. But, if you’re sending a lot of stuff at once, the cost per thing goes down.

How to ship

We don’t directly contact courier companies like FedEx due to their high official prices.

In most cases, Chinese suppliers will help you find a courier company to ship products. They do this because they ship many items daily and can negotiate big discounts, sometimes over 40%, from firms like FedEx.

When choosing courier services, it’s important to understand dimensional weight. Shipping fees are not only based on the package’s actual weight. The weight matters. Also, include the package’s size. The shipping fee is based on the higher of the two. So, it’s essential to consider both factors when estimating shipping costs.

Products with lithium batteries, liquids, or powders cannot be shipped by courier. There are special air rules for them. Some couriers in China might have special ways to send, but it will usually cost a lot more – often at least 50% more.

Think about the size and weight of the inside package. This is important for big or restricted items.

Sea freight

Sea freight is a common choice for traditional trading for cheap costs. It does not handle the entire shipping and customs process as courier services.

Sea freight primarily uses two types of containers. They are 20 feet with volumes of 2080 and 40 feet with 680 cubic meters. For larger shipments exceeding 20 cubic meters, it’s best to choose FCL (Full Container Load). You’ll book an entire container and smaller shipments are typically shipped via LCL (Less than Container Load) to reduce costs.

But, sea freight may not be cheap for very small shipments, there are fixed costs for each shipment. So, for shipments under 2 cubic meters, the cost per cubic meter is high. This makes sea freight less viable.

Sea Freight
Sea freight

Sea freight charges

The cost of sea freight, often referred to as ocean freight, from China to your country is more complex than simply calculating the shipping fee. It involves several components, including:

  1. Land shipping costs: Transporting the goods from the supplier’s location to a seaport in China.
  2. Exporting costs: Fees associated with preparing and processing the goods for export.
  3. Shipping costs: The actual cost of transporting the goods via sea freight.
  4. Importing costs: Fees incurred during the customs clearance and import process at the destination port.
  5. Destination port costs: Charges related to handling and processing the goods at the destination port.
  6. Land shipping costs (again): Transporting the goods from the destination port to your warehouse or final destination.

Typically, shipping a 40 feet container from a Chinese port to a port in the U.S. or Western Europe costs around $3,000 to $5,000 USD. However, during peak seasons like the last month before Chinese New Year, the cost can increase significantly, reaching up to $10,000 USD.

Provide a rough estimate of shipping costs per cubic meter to specific regions:

  • Areas near the West Coast of the United States: $100 to $200 USD per cubic meter.
  • Areas near the East Coast of the United States: $200 to $300 USD per cubic meter.
  • Inland areas of the United States: Over $300 USD per cubic meter.
  • Western European countries: About $200 to $300 USD per cubic meter.
  • South American countries: Over $400 USD per cubic meter.

Sea freight time

The shipping time from a seaport in China to delivery at your doorstep in your country varies depending on the destination. Here are some typical shipping durations for different regions:

  • Southeast Asia: 15 to 20 days
  • West part of the U.S.: 25 to 35 days
  • East part of the U.S.: 35 to 50 days
  • UK: Around 40 days
  • Countries in Europe: 40 to 50 days
  • Other distant countries and areas: At least 40 days

Air freight

Air freight is cheap. It can cut your costs by up to 20%, or even more, compared to using courier services. But, it’s best suited for shipments weighing over 500kg, as both air and sea freight involve fixed charges per consignment.

And is that it weighs your cargo about 20% lighter than air couriers do, for the same volume. This is because air freight applies a different dimensional weight formula, dividing the product of length, width, and height by 6,000, whereas air couriers use 5,000. If you’re shipping large but lightweight items, air freight could save you up to 34%.

Railway Freight 

Sending goods to European via sea freight takes 30 to 50 days. Air courier and air freight offer lightning-fast delivery within a week, but prices are expensive, roughly 5 to 8 times higher than sea freight.

Railway freight strikes a balance between transit time and cost. It’s a good choice for countries in Eastern Europe and Western Asia distant from ports. Although it is approximately twice the price of sea freight, it saves shipping time by 15 to 20 days.

Railway Freight 
Railway Freight 

However, the main drawback of railway freight is the limited number of countries accessible along the China to Europe railway routes. Most freight forwarders do not allow sharing containers with others, meaning you must ship products by full container load, which isn’t ideal for small importers.

Epackage

Dropshipping sellers find air courier services too costly for packages weighing less than 1kg. Even for a small item like a piece of paper, the minimum charge is about $20. That’s where Epackage comes in handy.

Among Chinese Epackage service providers, the most well-known are China Post and Yanwen. They transport numerous parcels from China to destination countries via air freight and use local postal services for the final delivery.

The most significant advantage of Epackage is its ability to handle shipments starting from just 20 grams, with shipping fees charged per gram. This makes it ideal for sending small gadgets and inexpensive fashion jewelry. Many dropshipping sellers on platforms like Wish and Aliexpress, use this shipping method.

Epackage is slower and less reliable compared to air courier services. It takes 10-20 days for delivery, and sometimes packages may get lost.


The above are the points you need to pay attention to before placing an order with a supplier.

Now through these 8 posts, you must have an idea of how to import from China, choose products and do product research, find online and offline suppliers, verify them, choose trade terms to this tips post. You can start your import journey now! If you have any questions about any steps, please contact us, we are glad to service you.

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