Last updated on September 19th, 2023 at 12:36 pm
A revamped and updated post on how to ship products from China to Amazon’s warehouse can be found here.
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.
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.
Table of Contents
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.
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:
- They have special relationships with forwarders that they work with on a regular basis, therefore they get better rates.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- They may take advantage of you and tack on more costs than what you would pay through a third party forwarder.
- 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:
- Origin (Factory Address)
- Destination (Address of Amazon fulfillment center)
- What is the total gross weight (kgs)?
- 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.
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.
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.
- Get your product quotes in EXW or FOB—use EXW if shipping by air and FOB if you know you will ship by sea.
- 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.
- 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.
- Go to www.tryfleet.com, enter in your info and watch the quotes come in.
- Select a forwarder based on your price or other preferences.
- Sit back and relax as they work with your supplier to get your goods to Amazon’s warehouse.
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.