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What’s the cost to ship a product sample?

By Crystal Ge

cost to ship a product sample

Whether you’re working on a tight deadline and budget or have all the time in the world and are flush with cash, as an importer of goods made in Asia, you’re probably going to want to see a product sample before mass production begins.

Otherwise, how will you know if that new line of sneakers you’re manufacturing in Hanoi, Vietnam is made with the same materials you require? And how will you know if those diamond earrings you’re importing from Yi Wu, China will have the proper bevel setting?

It’s hard to be confident without seeing a product sample beforehand.

But while requesting a golden sample for prior approval might be obvious to many importers, how much it will cost to ship a product sample may be less so.

A reliable courier is important in order to deliver the samples on time so that you can approve or decline the sample and let the supplier know if production can begin.

What’s a reasonable cost to ship a product sample from Asia? There are many courier companies out there in the market, so how do you choose one that’s best for you?

5 couriers for international shipping

There are five main couriers that are used most in China for international deliveries:

• Express Mail Services (EMS)        • UPS

• FedEx                                      • DHL

• TNT Express

Comparing service between couriers

The cost of the delivery normally depends on the weight and dimensions of the packaged items. If you have no urgent requirements in terms of the date to be delivered, using EMS will likely be the cheapest option here. But different couriers offer different options for shipping—some more costly than others—depending on your target date for receiving a product sample.

Despite being a lower-cost option, EMS is the least reliable among couriers in terms of on-time delivery and tracking accuracy. But as one of the largest couriers in China, EMS is able to have your package sent back to China at no extra charge if there are any custom clearance issues and your package has to be returned.

When it comes to arranging a delivery, FedExUPS and DHL are a cut above EMS and TNT Express, with more user-friendly websites that make it easy to calculate shipping rates without needing to phone a representative.

Comparing price between couriers

The majority of product samples are shipped by air mail. And although air mail can be up to 15 times more expensive than shipping by sea, it’s a much faster and more common shipping method for samples. Shipping parcels by air that weigh less than 10 kg is generally fast and reasonably priced for the U.S. and Europe.

The below table shows benchmark shipping rates for various product samples sent from Shanghai to New York City. Using this table can help you determine the relative cost to ship a product sample.

Shipping Rates for Product Samples Sent From Shanghai to New York City
Product sampleDimensionsWeightDHLUPSFedEx
Metal knecklace with gems13cm x 11cm x 4cm0.2kg$72 – $82$86 – $145$82 – $147
Sneakers30cm x 18cm x 10cm2kg$138 – $148$135 – $204$130 – $205
Electic juicer31cm x 20cm x 20cm2.3kg$152 – $162$151 – $220$146 – $222
Cast iron pot32cm x 32cm x 8cm6.8kg$300 – $311$272 – $364$264 – $363
Raw fabric82cm x 37cm x 12cm3.4kg$316 – $326$311 – $411$289 – $393



There are a few factors that affect the shipping cost for product samples, such as origin, destination, number of parcels, weight and dimensions. You’ll probably want to choose the courier that offers you a combination of the most reliable shipping and the lowest price. While sending a parcel by EMS may be less costly than by FedEx, the latter is more established and generally has a better reputation.

Crystal Ge is a Client Manager at InTouch Manufacturing Services, a QC firm that performs product inspections and factory audits in Asia for clients in the US, EU and Australia. 

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