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Shipping from the US to the UK: Shipping Times, Costs, and Delays

Shipping Cost from the US to the UK

Freight rates determine how much it will cost to transport cargo from one point to another. The total cost is affected by the type of goods, the mode of transport, the dimensional weight of the cargo, and the distance to destination.

Other factors go into the cost of shipping from the US to the UK, including location, size, and shipping mode: sea FCL, sea LCL, air, or express. This guide will give you pricing estimates for each shipping mode from popular ports in the UK to popular ports in the United States.

Ocean Freight from the US to the UK

Ocean Freight FCL

FCL, or full container load, means your goods fill an entire container, either 20’ or 40’ long. If you are shipping at a high volume, you’ll save time and money by shipping FCL. Pricing for FCL is done as a flat rate, regardless of whether or not your container is completely full.

Learn more about FCL here.

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Ocean Freight LCL

LCL, or less than a container load, means your goods do not fill an entire container, and will be shipped along with other boxes or pallets. Note that when you ship LCL, your goods will need to be consolidated at the origin port and deconsolidated at the destination port.

That’s why LCL shipping takes a few days longer than FCL.

Air Freight from the US to the UK

Air cargo shipping cost from the US to the UK per kg

Shipping by air is generally faster but more expensive than shipping by ocean, so the mode you choose will depend on the size and weight of your shipment, and how quickly you need it to arrive at destination.

For help choosing which mode is right for your shipment, use our air vs. ocean comparison calculator.

Shipping from the US to the UK transit time

Ocean, Air and Express freight transit time from the US to the UK

How long will it take to ship from the US to the UK?

Your shipment’s transit time will be impacted by location, shipment size, and season. Transit times aren’t always the same. Depending on market conditions, acts of nature, and other occurrences, freight shipments may be delayed.

Use the following table for timing estimates for each shipping mode from the US to the UK.

How much is shipping from the US to the UK?

International freight quote calculator & freight rate estimates for shipping goods by ocean, air, and truck

Get an estimate from the world’s largest database of freight rates with our freight calculator and then
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US to the UK shipping delays: are shipments delayed?

For shippers from the US to the UK, the coronavirus has been profoundly disruptive, causing major delays to both manufacturing and shipping.

Production is back to normal, but COVID-19’s impact is creating a variety of other challenges including high demand for containers and delays at ports and warehouses.

Additionally, with new waves of the virus, restrictions on air travel can dramatically reduced air freight capacity, leaving space tight and prices volatile.

For the latest developments in international freight, visit the Freightos.com updates page

It’s also important remember that freight rates are seasonal, with regular fluctuations throughout the year. During holiday shopping season in the fall, freight shipping prices are generally higher than the rest of the year.

Top shipping routes from the US to the UK

When you’re shipping from the US to the UK, there are many different viable routes that you might want to ship. 

Freightos has global shipping rates for all of these lanes and can provide real-time FCL, LCL & Air rates for shipping from the US to the UK. 

The top 3 shipping lanes for shipping freight from the US to the UK are:

Get an estimate from the world’s largest database of freight rates and then join Freightos.com to compare, book, and manage your upcoming shipments.

Cheapest shipping from the US to the UK?

Often the most important freight factor when shipping is cost.

Shipping Small Packages

If you’re importing small goods, like a new product sample, freight shipping is overkill. It will cost you more and take you longer. You’re safer falling back on:

Regular Post

Mail might be an economical shipping option for shipping light and small products.

Check each option and compare it with courier charges before choosing your mode. The heavier the parcel, the more likely it is that a courier will be cheaper. Mail is cheap, but with snail mail you’re also looking at a long wait time.

Express Shipping from the US to the UK

Using an international courier is generally more reliable and quicker than by mail, whether it’s DHL, UPS or TNT.

As a rule of thumb, at about $5 per kilo, express freight is the cheapest shipping mode for packages or small shipments up to about 150 kg. But watch out because some couriers will charge an astronomical amount if you are not a registered customer.

Shipping from the United States to the UK pricing

Air freight costs and rates from the US to the UK

Standard air freight is the cheapest option for shipments between about 150 kilos and 500 kg. Very light shipments for their size might be charged on dimensional weight, rather than actual weight.

Air freight by far the fastest for the price. Express air freight is a little more expensive.

Freight rates can vary widely between freight forwarders and prices change regularly, so make sure you shop around.

For larger shipments sizes and origin/destination pairs, LCL (less than container load) ocean freight costs might actually be cheaper than air freight costs – make sure you check it out!

Sea freight costs and rates from China to the US

Once a shipment weighs more than around 500 kg, sea freight becomes the cheapest option. Ocean freight offers tremendous economies of scale (some ships can carry 20,000 twenty-foot containers).

Some freight forwarders offer a premium service, often called expedited freight, which is a little more expensive than normal ocean freight. Like air freight, ocean freight rates vary widely between forwarders, and over time, so again – shop around.

You can even start shopping around right now with our handy freight rate calculator. It will give you instant shipping estimates for both air and sea.

Sea freight costs and rates from the US to the UK

Once a shipment weighs more than around 500 kg, shipping by sea becomes the cheaper option. Ocean freight offers tremendous economies of scale (some ships can carry 20,000 twenty-foot containers) – but prices have risen steadily since summer 2020 making sea freight less economical than before the pandemic. Like air freight, ocean freight rates vary widely between forwarders and over time, so shop around before choosing your forwarder.

You can even start shopping around right now with our handy freight rate calculator. It will give you instant shipping estimates for both air and sea.

How can Air Freight be cheaper than Sea Freight?

Each shipping mode has its own combination of base and variable costs. Modes with a lower base cost are cheaper for smaller shipments while modes with lower variable weight costs are the cheaper options for larger shipments, even if they start out with a high base cost.

How long does it take to ship from the US to the UK?

Rules of thumbs for lead times (in regular conditions) are 1-2 weeks for regular post, 3 days for air express freight, 8-10 days for air freight, and 30-40 days for ocean freight.

These estimates can be affected by a wide range of circumstances, especially in the current market, so it’s worth checking with your logistics provider. With things the way they are, expect that there may be delays.

Regular Post

Shipping the US to the UK by surface mail takes a long time. Quicker, cost-effective options such as airmail and express mail are both likely to take significantly less time.

Customs agencies will deprioritize release of parcels if something looks wrong with the paperwork. So, increase your chances of regular post only taking one week, by checking that the supplier gets the paperwork right before sending.

Express Shipping Options

When shipping by international courier, allow at least three days for picking up the parcel at the supplier’s door (unless the supplier has dropped it off at their depot). If it’s really urgent, there are more expensive premium services which may even be delivered overnight.

Air Freight

Standard air freight between the US to the UK generally takes around 8-10 days. It’s not that planes are slower; it comes down to the fact that air freight processes are more complicated than for express freight.

Container Rates and Costs from the US to the UK

At a minimum of 30-40 days for a door to door shipment from the US to the UK, sea freight has the longest lead time. That’s because ships move a lot slower than planes.

Beyond additional preparation, ocean liners also move slower to save fuel (and money) whenever possible.

On top of that, port congestion, customs delays, and bad weather condition affect sea freight more than they do for air freight.

More on Shipping Modes from the US to the UK

As important as cost and speed is when shipping from the US to the UK, you should also be aware of some key details and differences between various modes.

Regular Post

Shipping small packages of samples might be cost-effective by regular post. Also, importers just getting started might consider this mode to mail directly from the factory to the customer – essentially drop shipping.

This process can be set up quickly and avoids having to make an early outlay for warehousing costs. But from a cost perspective, you’re going to want to rethink your strategy when sales volumes start to pick up.

Express Shipping from the US to the UK

The two big US domestic couriers, FedEx and UPS, are also popular choices for US-UK deliveries. Other major international couriers like DHL and TNT also deliver in the United Kingdom.

Like sending personal mail, the process is simple: just find the rates online – no need for a formal quote. And like the other mode options, most courier companies provide air express shipping options.

Importers planning on buying large quantities of stock and using sea or air freight should still arrange a trial shipment by courier before signing a big contract with a supplier. This tests the waters with product sales and helps estimate profitability: the cost of this shipment being an upper limit for ongoing freight costs.

Air Freight from the US to the UK

The larger the shipment, the more complex the shipping process. It’s harder finding space in a plane’s hold than with regular courier services and shipments are delivered to a facility where they are consolidated (packed with other shipments) first.

You also have to keep in mind that there are limitations on what products you can ship.

International law, national law, carrier organization regulations and individual carrier regulations all play their part in defining and restricting what goods are considered dangerous for transport.

Generally, more products are restricted as air cargo than ocean cargo, including: gases (e.g. lamp bulbs), all things flammable (e.g. perfume, Samsung Galaxy Note 7), toxic or corrosive items (e.g. batteries), magnetic substances (e.g. speakers), oxidizers and biochemical products (e.g. chemical medicines), and public health risks (e.g. untanned hides).

For further information on shipping hazardous material, check out the Freightos.com Hazardous Material Table.

FCL and LCL Shipping from the US to the UK

Ocean freight usually means full containers. But if you don’t have enough material to fill a full 20’ or 40’ container’s worth of shipment (FCL), it’s usually worthwhile to ship a less-than-container load (LCL).

With LCL, several shipments are consolidated and packed into one container. This means more work for the forwarder when consolidating various shipments into a container before the main transit, and de-consolidating the shipments at the other end.

It is more difficult to keep a trace of a shipment that is one of many in a container than it to keep tabs on a container with FCL. And of course, there’s extra paperwork involved and more risk of delay.

For larger LCL shipments, it often makes more sense to upgrade to a 20-foot container and go FCL. The tipping point is typically somewhere around 15 cubic meters. FCL has three big advantages over LCL:

  1. FCL takes less time to deliver than an LCL shipment. For US-UK, LCL typically takes an extra one or two weeks.
  2. There is less chance of damage, misplacement, and loss with FCL.
  3. FCL costs less. For an average shipment, the main transit cost is often double an FCL charge when broken down by per cubic meter.

Freight Forwarders from the US to the UK

When shipping from the United States, there’s a lot of factors involved in mastering your freight. Getting the right mode is a good start.

If you are looking at air freight or ocean freight, make sure that when you request freight quotes that you are selecting a forwarder with a good reputation as well as a good price.

Find a Freight Forwarder

Using a freight forwarder will steer you clear of the pitfalls and take over the organizing and troubleshoot where necessary. But there’s one step that is often made before bringing in a forwarder. Before agreeing to a deal with your supplier, be sure that you understand about selecting incoterms.

Freight Documents and Forms

Having a forwarder means that you don’t need to understand everything about freight. But help yourself by being prepared for the barrage of paperwork and arm yourself with knowledge about freight documents.

You should take a few extra minutes to make sure that all documentation is complete and accurate. Those few minutes are very much worth the effort. And have a freight charges reference at hand; don’t blindly accept every surcharge and fee.

Use Correct Packaging

If you are looking at ongoing shipments, discuss packaging options with your supplier. You might be able to seriously cut freight costs.


What are incoterms and how do they affect freight prices from the United States to the UK?

When you’re comparing freight quotes, note the level of service the freight forwarder is offering.
For example, if you’re shipping from Los Angeles, United States to Felixstowe, UK, you’re going to want to ask your supplier about the cost difference between shipping from the supplier’s warehouse in Los Angeles– which means using the EXW incoterm– and shipping from the port of Los Angeles(USLAX) – which means using the FOB incoterm.
Prices for FOB are typically lower, but shipping FOB doesn’t mean your total costs will necessarily be lower. You might make up the cost by paying your supplier to bring your goods to port. When comparing prices, take all your costs into account.
Note that some incoterms, including FOB, are used for sea shipping only.
Learn all about incoterms here.

Customs duties and taxes will I owe when shipping from the United States to the UK?

When importing from the United States to UK, you will need to pay Customs Duty and VAT before your goods are released into the country. Customs and VAT can be significant. Researching your costs early can keep you from getting caught by surprise.

UK Duty
Customs duty is calculated based on the HS Code, which is an international system for classifying goods for trade. Different products have different duty percentages, generally ranging from 0-12%, determined by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. You’ll pay this percentage on the total value of the goods.
So let’s say your shipment is worth $10,000, and your product is taxed for duties at 10%. Your duty amount is $1,000.

VAT is calculated based on the cost of your goods, plus the cost of shipping them, plus duty. The standard VAT rate in Y is 20%.
So for your $10,000 shipment that cost $1,000 to ship, you’ll pay: 20% of (10,000+1,000+1,000) = $2,400.

How the Customs Process Works?

When goods arrive at port, customs officials will first check to make sure all your paperwork is in order, and then calculate the amount of duties owed and collect payment. After payment, goods will be released.
To handle customs clearance, you can hire your own broker, or use the brokerage provided by your freight forwarder. If you book on Freightos, you can use our brokerage services as well.

Do I need insurance to ship from the United States to the UK?

When calculating your shipping costs, don’t forget to protect yourself in case your goods are damaged or lost. You can do this through your freight forwarder or a third party insurance agent. Insurance costs are typically around 0.3% – 0.5% of your Commercial Invoice Value, which is the amount you paid for the goods.

What paperwork do I need to ship from the United States to the UK?

Shipping ports in the UK

When shipping freight from the United States to the UK, in addition to standard shipping paperwork such as the Commercial Invoice, you will need an EORI number. Anyone shipping from outside to inside the European Union needs this number in order to clear customs. To apply, click here if you are VAT registered, here if you’re not.
Use our paperwork checklist here to make sure all your paperwork is in order before you ship.

How do I ship from the United States to an Amazon FBA Warehouse in UK?

As an Amazon shipper from the United States to UK, you’ll need to consider issues of timing and storage, as well as choosing the right forwarder. Check out this guide to learn more.

Shipping ports in the United States

Your factory, supplier, or freight forwarder will likely advise you which port is best for your export from the United States, based on location, ease of customs clearance, transit time, port volume, and any relationships or agreements between the factory and the port.
If you’re choosing a port on your own, important factors to consider include location, cost, and transit time. Here are the top ports for exporting from the United States:
Port Name: Los Angeles
Port code: USLAX
Port Name: New York
Port code: USNYC
Port Name: Houston
Port code: USHOU

Shipping ports in UK

These are the top ports for importing into UK:
Port Name: Felixstowe
Port code: GBFXT
Port Name: Southampton
Port code: GBSOU
Port Name: London
Port code: GBLON

Tips for Keeping Down Costs and Shipping Time from the US to the UK

  • Book in advance. Shipping by sea is the cheapest, but also takes the longest. Booking in advance when you can saves you money– and cuts out the stress if delays arise.
  • Ship off-peak. When carriers get busy, both shipping prices and transit times go up. Ship during off-peak seasons whenever you can.
  • Get your documentation in order. Having your documentation in order can make all the difference when it comes to clearing customs quickly.
  • Know your HS Codes. A lot of shippers are surprised by how much customs fees can affect business costs. Do your research so you can budget effectively.
  • Compare quotes from different providers. Quotes can vary, so check out offers from different providers before making a decision.
  • Understand what’s included in your quote. Is your quote port to port or door to door? What service does it include? Know what you’re paying for to avoid getting hit with surprise fees.

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  • Improved selection across price, mode, vendor, performance metrics on each shipment
  • Reduced management time with on-demand documentat management and tracking
  • Real-time service through automated services, real-time chat, and integrated messaging options
  • Powerful payment options, including credit, batch processing, reconcilations and more.

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