— Shopping In China —

Buying From China Tips Vol.1

Know what you’re doing and you can grab items for under £2, INCLUDING delivery

Discount stores such as Poundland make a killing by buying items from China at rock-bottom prices and flogging them here. So why not cut out the middleman? Giant online marketplaces such as AliExpress* let individual traders from East Asia sell direct to UK buyers.Know what you’re doing and it’s possible to pick up huge bargains.The biggest categories include clothing, shoes, homeware, accessories, watches and stationery.

When we checked, we found the following examples, all including postage. Bear in mind the price in pounds might rise or fall, depending on currency fluctuations.£1.73 striped T-shirts (we found similar for £5 at New Look).60p iPhone 6/6s cases (comparable basic cases are £3.82 on Amazon).22p women’s belts (similar cost £1.99 on Amazon).This isn’t a straightforward click-and-buy situation though. Just as with eBay, there are no guarantees – the deal’s only as good as the seller you buy from, so check feedback thoroughly.You have fewer rights than when buying from the UK and also need to factor in customs and delivery charges. Plus you need to beware of fakes and consider safety issues.For more shopping tactics and techniques, see our Cheap Online Shopping, Amazon Tricks, eBay Buying Tips and Shopping Secrets guides.

AliExpress: the big name in buying from China

When it comes to buying goods directly from China, there’s one site which dominates – AliExpress.

Big name UK sites that cover Chinese sellers

While AliExpress specialises in goods from China, several other big-name marketplaces also connect you with sellers from east Asia. Some traders sell on a few different sites and vary their prices, so for belt and braces it’s worth checking these too.

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Buying From China Tips Vol.2

‘I’ve bought over 150 things from AliExpress… I love 
it’ – some inspiration before you start

We’ve had reports of huge successes from buying from AliExpress and similar marketplaces. Here’s some inspiration – please do tell us your successes and include links to the products if possible.

Forumite sillygoose says:My purchase history from AliExpress is now over 150 purchases. I must admit I love it! My wife has a huge collection of office dresses from Ali costing £10 to £15, good quality and fit. Tools, watches, trainers. One of my recent favourites? A set of real ceramic-blade kitchen knives at £7.82 delivered!

Pulliptears says:I do loads on AliExpress, mostly phone cases and jewellery, but I recently bought a pair of wireless headphones for £11.50. They arrived and were actually very, very good indeed.

JC383 says:I recently got into cycling and ordered cycling tops and shorts from AliExpress, which came to £15. While they took 3-4 weeks to arrive, the quality was as good as that of a UK shop, but at a fraction of the price.

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Buying From China Tips Vol.3

Factor in delivery – it’s often free…

For a true picture of the total cost, it’s important to include the cost of postage to make sure you really are getting a bargain.Many items often have free – albeit slow – delivery. But always double-check postage charges before buying.For example, when we checked at random, we found £6 bikinis, £1 belts and £1 yoga mat bags with free postage to the UK.

However, for bigger items postage can sometimes be pretty steep.

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Buying From China Tips Vol.4

Online shops based in China and elsewhere in east Asia are not the places to grab last-minute birthday and Christmas gifts. Items from east Asia typically take 3-6 weeks to arrive. However, goods can take longer if they’re held up by either UK customs or customs in the country they’re sent from.Many sellers offer expedited delivery for an additional fee. However, there can still be customs hold-ups which are outside their control, so question if it’s worth it.

Forumite paddyrg sums it up:

I’ve used AliExpress for several years. I’ve had plenty of VERY SLOW deliveries

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Buying From China Tips Vol.5

Let’s be straight – buying online from China is a relatively new concept, so don’t spend more than you can afford to lose.

If you buy online from a seller in the UK or EU, the Consumer Contracts Regulations mean you can cancel the order within 14 days of arrival for any reason (apart from perishable or personalised goods). You’ve then 14 days to send it back. So you’ve the comfort of knowing you can return it regardless of the reason. See our Consumer Rights guide for more.This is in stark contrast to buying from China, where you’ve often no legal right to return an item, even if faulty. Many of the sites listed here have their own buyer protection policies (as described in the top sites section above), but these are not the law.

Even if sellers let you return orders, the postage costs are often so high that it’s not worth it.

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Buying From China Tips Vol.6

Keep your order below £15 and you shouldn’t pay any tax

The thorn in the bed of roses that is buying from China is tax and customs. This is another reason why AliExpress is best for small, cheap bits. Buy goods under £15 and you shouldn’t pay any VAT, customs or handling charges.  What you pay depends on the item’s value, but an easy rule of thumb is that above £15, customs, delivery and VAT charges can add 30-40% to the list price. So first ensure you know what you’ll pay – the pricier the item, the bigger the fees.

20% VAT. Buy goods worth more than £15 online from non-EU online retailers and you need to pay 20% VAT. This is calculated based on the total package cost, regardless of how many items are in it. It’s charged on the full price of the package, not just items with a value that exceeds £15.
Customs duty. On top of that, customs duty applies to items shipped from outside the EU if they’re valued at £135 or more. The duty rate depends on the value, what the item is and where it comes from. 
There are about 16,500 custom duty classifications for products, with average percentages between 5% and 9%. However, customs duty can sometimes be as low as 0% or as high as 71%, depending on the goods in question. 
£8 Royal Mail customs charge handling fee. On top of this, Royal Mail charges an £8 fee if you need to pay customs charges (fees vary for other couriers).

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Buying From China Tips Vol.7

Check if it’s cheaper over here first

Just because something comes from East Asia doesn’t automatically mean it’s a bargain – especially once you factor in tax and customs charges.Always benchmark the price in the UK before buying; use shopbots (shopping robots), which whizz through scores of internet retailers, to find the cheapest price.

Then compare the benchmark price to the East Asian one, factoring in shipping, tax, customs charges and any Royal Mail charges.For more online shopping tactics and techniques, see our Cheap Online Shopping and Shopping Secrets guides.