How To Ship Products From China To Amazon’s FBA Warehouse

Your order is complete and everything is inspected. After months of waiting there’s only one more step before you can start making that money on Amazon FBA.

But you’re stuck. Where do you go from here?

You’re bombarded with confusing shipping terms, you feel like you may be getting ripped off, and you don’t know even know if you should ship by air or sea.

Sound familiar?

Don’t worry, because I was in this situation once too.

I had to figure it out on my own but I would have loved to find a blog like this that laid it all out in simple steps for me.

That’s what I’m here to do for you.

In this article I am going to break it down, in the simplest way I can, how to ship your products from China to Amazon’s warehouses.

Shipping Quotes

First things first.

Before you even place the final order for your product, you should be getting multiple shipping quotes so that you can evaluate what your LANDED cost will be.

Just because your supplier charges you $5 per unit doesn’t mean that’s what it will cost. You’re landed cost could easily jump up to $10 per unit if it’s a heavy bulky item. Say goodbye to your cushy margins!

But, let’s jump back a bit. Generally when you are getting your product quotes the factory will ask if you want FOB or EXW pricing terms. These terms have to do with will prepare the goods for shipment after production is complete.

Let’s describe a bit more below.

Freight on Board (FOB)

Also sometimes called “free on board”, this is a shipping term that means the seller has agreed to get the buyers (your) goods to the nearest port. This shipping cost is usually just added to the cost of the product. If you’ve ever been asked by your supplier, “which terms, FOB or EXW?”, this is what they’re referring to.

Since FOB includes the preparation of goods to be sent to the port then FOB will be more expensive.

A quote might look something like this:

$4.30 EXW (supplier is finished with goods and they will remain at factory)

$4.50 FOB (supplier is obligated to get the finished goods to nearest port)

Keep in mind, after speaking with many freight forwarders and asking lots of questions, FOB pricing is generally only used if you plan to ship by sea. Generally, when I get my product quotes I always ask for Ex Works, which we’ll discuss now.

Ex Works (EXW)

Ex Works is the opposite of FOB and means that the seller will only prepare and package goods until they are complete at their warehouse. The burden of getting the goods to port or shipped to whatever destination is on the buyer. Because of this, EXW pricing is generally cheaper.

Ex works is usually always used if you plan to ship by air.

Why?

Because the carriers often make stops at the warehouses several times per day so once a carrier has been arranged, they can just come and pick it right up.

Ok, I know that was an earful and I hope you’re still reading. I just have to explain these terms upfront because you will often hear them in the VERY beginning of negotiation so it’s important to know what they mean.

Air vs Sea

The question of air vs sea depends on many factors, such as weight, size, and volume of order. If you are shipping a small order that is relatively lightweight and doesn’t take up a lot of space, then air shipping is the way to go.

On the other hand, if you’re shipping higher volumes that take up significant space, then sea shipping is the way to go. Although it will take you longer, it will be much cheaper.

Another option is to ship by both air and sea.

Sometimes you have a large order but you need to get units into Amazon’s warehouse immediately. In this case it makes sense to break it up and send a small batch via Air Express and the remaining order via sea. This is quite common and I have done this before personally.

So how do we find these forwarders and how do they handle this for me?

Where Do I Get Quotes?

I’m going to share what I have done and what has worked for me. Just starting out, I was a noob like most and didn’t have a clue so I just asked my supplier. She came back very quick with a quote and that was that.

Your Supplier’s Forwarder

Here are two reasons why getting a quote from your supplier is beneficial:

  1. They have special relationships with forwarders that they work with on a regular basis, therefore they get better rates.
  2. They have already shipped out hundreds of orders just like yours so you can feel a little more secure knowing they won’t mess something up.
  3. Since they are already producing and packaging your goods they already know the carton dimensions, weight, volume, etc., so you don’t have to even bother with it.

Above is the noobie option if you’re really nervous and don’t know what to do. If they’re a good factory they’ve likely done this before and know exactly how to send to Amazon warehouses.

Now here are a few reasons why it’s maybe NOT a good idea to use your supplier’s forwarder:

  1. They will know exactly where your products are going. This could allow them to potentially sell your exact product under a different listing on Amazon or hijack your listing. Yes, this really happens.
  2. They may take advantage of you and tack on more costs than what you would pay through a third party forwarder.
  3. They may lie and say they have experience when, in fact, they really don’t know what they’re doing (just happened to me).

Now that I’ve done this more than 10 times, I’ve developed relationships with different forwarders and have been able to sift through the bullshit.

What I do now is get quotes from both our supplier and 3rd party forwarders.

I ask my supplier for a quote and I ask about 2 or 3 other forwarding companies for quotes so I can compare. Often times you will get one company who is way above the rest and other times they’ll all be relatively the same. In that case, you decide who communicates the best with you.

3rd Party Forwarder

So, let’s say that you want get a separate quote so you can compare. There are some key metrics you need to give them so that you can get an accurate quote.

They will ask you:

  1. Origin (Factory Address)
  2. Destination (Address of Amazon fulfillment center)
  3. What is the total gross weight (kgs)?
  4. What is the cubic meter or CBM?

Regarding the last two (#3, #4), often times you won’t know these right off the bat so you’ll need to calculate them yourself. To get this information you need to get the carton details from your supplier.

Ask your supplier to give you:

  • carton dimensions
  • carton weight

Once you have that go to https://www.cbmcalculator.com/ and enter in the relevant info which will give you your numbers.

And voila! You have your total CBM and gross weight and now you can get your quotes from anywhere.

But where do I find these third party forwarders?

I’m glad you asked.

Try Fleet

Before my first sea shipment I was just using my suppliers as they had the best deals but once I placed a larger order, I needed to ship by sea and I felt lost.

I found www.tryfleet.com and had a great experience. With this website, you enter in all of the relevant details like I mentioned above and within 24 hours you will have a number of third party forwarders bidding on your shipment.

You can select Air, Sea, or both and you’ll get a number of quotes with specific details on each of their offers.

Facebook Groups

If you’re not already in one of the hundreds of Amazon FBA Facebook Groups then go search and join them now. There are dozens of Chinese freight forwarders who are constantly posting their services in the groups.

I’ve reached out to more than 3 just from the groups for different quotes. Interacting with them is just a good way to start to understand the lingo, how it works, and what all the necessary parts are to make a shipment successful.

Complete the Sale

Once you have chosen a forwarder you need to send the correct FBA labels to either the forwarder or supplier and ensure that each label is correctly attached to each carton (if this step is not obvious and I receive enough interest, I’ll make an entire post on how to do this).

The forwarder is pretty good with making sure that everything is in place so if something is off, they will usually ask you. Once shipped, they should send you a tracking number and you can expect your goods to be received in 10-15 days by air or 30-40 days by sea.

And that’s pretty much it folks. I remember this being some big scary, complex thing to deal with and now it’s just another part of the checklist.

Once you go through it a few times it gets easier and easier. You will get better at understanding how to negotiate and catch things that seem unusual.

To summarize:

  1. Get your product quotes in EXW or FOB—use EXW if shipping by air and FOB if you know you will ship by sea.
  2. Ask supplier if they have experience shipping to Amazon warehouse, if yes, ask for a quote. If no or you don’t want them to know where you’re shipping to, go to step #3.
  3. Get all relevant carton information: length, width, height, weight, number of cartons. Use https://www.cbmcalculator.com/ and find your total gross weight and CBM.
  4. Go to www.tryfleet.com, enter in your info and watch the quotes come in.
  5. Select a forwarder based on your price or other preferences.
  6. Sit back and relax as they work with your supplier to get your goods to Amazon’s warehouse.
  7. $$$$$$$$$$

I hope you guys enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you did, I’d love it if you could give it a share or comment below and let me know what you think.

If there are any other articles you might find helpful, send me a message and I’d love to write something up.

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18 Comments

  1. Nicole

    Hi Harrison,

    I am in the process of placing my first order and shipping it directly to an FBA warehouse in Canada. I’d like to have the order shipped via air express so the courier company covers everything and I don’t have to worry about finding a freight forwarder for my first order. I know you say the shipping terms should be either EXW or FOB, but wouldn’t the terms need to be DDP for an air express shipment to make sure no charges are billed to Amazon when they receive the order?

    Thank you,
    Nicole

    • hbevins

      Hi Nicole,

      You are correct. Air express, door-to-door shipping will be DDP terms. Make sure that this is clear that you want your goods shipped directly to Amazon when placing the order. Hope that helps.

      Best,
      Harrison

  2. Nicole

    Hi Harrison,

    Thanks for getting back to me. It’s so great to be able to bounce things off FBA sellers that have experience with the whole process, it’s so helpful.

    Thank you,
    Nicole

  3. Phil

    Hi Harrison,

    I have a question but before that I would like to say thanks for sharing your experience and providing step by step instructions regarding shiping to fba. Very helpful, clear and straight to the point.

    With independent forwarders do they conduct the quality check of the products as well or do I have to hire someone else?

    Regards,
    Phil

    • hbevins

      Hi Phil,

      Thanks for reading and I’m glad you’re finding the info helpful.

      To answer your question, some forwarders do a quality check on your behalf while others are strictly forwarders. In my experience, it is best to use a 3rd party inspection company separate from your forwarder.

      Best,
      Harrison

      • Phil

        Hi Harrison,

        Thanks for the quick reply and advice. We might go with a 3rd party to cover everything. Thanks again.

        Regards,
        Phil

    • hbevins

      Hi Dion,

      Thanks for reading! Is there anything else about Amazon FBA that you would find useful?

      Best,
      Harrison

  4. Steph

    Hi Harrison,

    Thanks for the article! I have a question. For your very first ever order through FBA program.. Say you wanted a shipping quote before committing to a supplier to start the manufacturing. How would you be able to get a quote without knowing the destination address that Amazon must assign to you? Would you have to go through the entire process of listing your product and setting up a shipping plan first? Is there any way to just get a shipping estimate beforehand? Thanks!

    • hbevins

      Hi Steph. You would need to get the carton information so you could create a “dummy” shipping plan in seller central. The labels it spits out will give you the Amazon Warehouse that they want you to send the goods. You can’t get an accurate quote without the carton and weight information anyway. Most suppliers will have this info for you if you ask. Hope that explains it!

  5. Kel

    HI Harrison You’re a great help. Lifesaver! Can you expand on half air half sea shipping? How would you go about doing that? Get base FOB quote to the port for 1/2 the goods and the EXW for the other half?
    And yes, I’m trying to keep this concealed from my supplier so I’ve made no mention of AMZ at all.

    • hbevins

      Hi Kel,

      Thanks for reading!

      Yeah I’m actually doing a half air/half sea shipment now. I got all my quotes EXW from the supplier and near the end of production I asked for all the carton and weight info and then gave this to my forwarder. I then explained how many cartons I want by sea and how many I want by air express.

      If you originally got an EXW quote, you can either have your forwarder pick it up from the factory OR you can pay the supplier to ship it to the forwarder’s warehouse (which is what I’m doing in my situation).

      I personally don’t like to get FOB quotes because I want to see my product cost before any shipping is included. That way I can keep them separate.

      If you do get FOB quotes then you just need to arrange with your supplier to ship to your forwarders address, which they should provide you. It’ll likely be a warehouse somewhere close to a port, either Shenzhen or Shanghai, etc. Then your forwarder can take over from there and separate your shipment into air and sea according to your requirements.

      I hope that makes sense! Let me know if you have other questions about it.

  6. Kate Wang

    Hi Harrison,

    Thank you for posing these very useful articles! Like Kel mentioned above, would you please wrote more details about “half air half sea shipping” method?
    Also, I am interested to know “FBA labels” – hope you will expand this knowledge to us.

    Thank you so much!

    • hbevins

      Hi Kate,

      Please see my response to Kel and see if that helps. I am soon going to be posting lots of Youtube Videos about how to do these things on my Youtube Channel so if you haven’t already go check it out and Subscribe!

  7. Marco

    Hi Harrison.

    I´m really frustrated cause there seems to be a step I can´t find anywhere. What happens with customs in both China and US? Does my freight forwarder take care of that? Do I need to fill the forms and find a customs broker or do freight forwarders literally put it on Amazon´s doorstep without needing anything else? Thank you for your time, I really hope you can answer this. I want to start my business but since Im outside the US, I want to cover every detail before jumping on it.

    • hbevins

      Hi Marco,

      The forwarder arranges all of the necessary paperwork both in China and the US. They will ask you the relevant questions regarding carton size, weight, etc, and you can get this from your supplier or have them contact your supplier directly.

      And yes, they can ship directly to Amazon’s warehouse but you just have to discuss with them and make sure they have experience doing FBA and delivering door-to-door. It all depends on your budget and what kind of service you want. Door-to-door will be the most expensive but it will be least stressful on your part.

      Hope that helps.

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