How to Import: A Guide for eBay Sellers

[Last week I published a guest post about importing from China. That article seemed to have got some of the readers dabbling in eBay excited about a new option they have not explored before for cutting through the competition. I had several mails asking me about some of the basics of getting started. Since the guest author, Alice, is an expert on this topic, I asked her if she could help us with a more basic How-To guide. And she was kind enough to oblige. I hope this will come in handy for some of you.]

I recently wrote a post about The 6 Essential tips for importing from China. Not surprisingly, it sparked an interest among some of the enterprising readers about what is possible when you import items from China to sell on eBay and they want to learn more. So, I have put together this little guide to cover some of the finer points of importing goods from China to the US. Read on to equip yourself with the knowledge you need to import cut-price goods to resell for a profit.

Finding a supplier

Obviously this is the first step to importing anything. I covered some crucial tips in my last post, but if you need a refresher, the main things to remember when ordering from an overseas supplier, from China or elsewhere, are:

  • Use safe payment methods such as PayPal or ProPay. These payment methods offer you some level of protection if something goes wrong between the time when you pay the supplier and when you receive and inspect the items at your home or warehouse.
  • Be wary of on large marketplace-style wholesale websites such as DH Gate. While there are plenty of trusted suppliers here who offer great service, these sites are also rife with scammers posing as suppliers who will either take your money and run, or deliver you poor quality items that you won’t be able to give away, let alone sell for a profit.

Ensuring that you can legally import your chosen items

Common sense can often determine whether you can import a particular item, but it’s worth doing a thorough check anyway to avoid the disappointment of spending time and money trying to import something that you cannot legally bring into the country.

Check out the Customs and Border Protection’s list of restricted items and prohibited items to check your items are fine to bring in.

Preparing for the costs associated with importing

How to Import: A Guide for eBay SellersHow much will it cost me to import X?” is a question I get often. The costs involved with your import will depend on what you are importing, how much you are importing and how quickly you want it to arrive.

Here is a quick list of what will determine your total cost of importing:

  • Your PPC or product purchase cost. This is the total cost of buying your items from your supplier.
  • Freight costs. Go for sea freight over air freight. Yes, it’s slower but unless you are making a small order, it will save you a lot of money.  When you deal with large orders there are a number of terms of shipping you can negotiate with your supplier. Freight on Board (or FOB) is the most common of these and is generally the best option for the supplier and you the importer.
  • Import duties. How much your import duties are will depend on how your products are classified by Customs and Border Control. Duties are higher on restricted or taxed items like alcohol.  Some products are classified as duty-free and therefore, you won’t incur any duties.
  • Whether you hire a Customs Broker or Freight Forwarder. Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders are professionals you can hire to make the process of importing a lot easier.  Usually you can hire them once and learn enough to do your second import yourself.  While there are upfront costs of using a Forwarder or Broker, they usually save you money (and a lot of headaches!) in the long-run. Hire trusted forwarders and brokers here.


Related posts:

Ready to Jump In? The Quick and Easy Guide to Getting Started on eBay

Making Money on eBay: 10 Tips for Super Star Selling

How You Too Can Get Started on eBay in a Very Short Time, with Minimal Investment

10 Sites for Selling Your Creative Masterpieces

Importing from China to Sell on eBay: 6 Essential Tips for Successful Importing


Filing the paper work

To import into the US you will need a business tax number. You can get these from the IRS if you don’t already have one. You will need this number to complete all your customs and importing paper work.

Clearing customs and having your products released when they arrive in the US involves a) filing the necessary paperwork to have your shipment deemed able to be released into the US and b) filing the paperwork that discloses information for “duty assessment”. You can do both these steps online here.

Preparing for duties and tariffs: What you need to know

When you bring goods into the US, they will be subjected to duty or duty-free entry conditions. How they are classified depends the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States.

The fastest and easiest way to determine what you will pay in duties and tariffs is to use the Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb system. You will need to create an account to use it, but it won’t cost you a thing.

Have you imported items before? What was your experience? A logistical nightmare, or a breeze? Share below!

About the Author: Alice is an education specialist for SaleHoo connects over 92,000 eBay sellers and online retailers with suppliers all over the world. They have a wholesale supplier directory and eCommerce software solution for online retailers.
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