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Choosing the Best Freight Forwarder
06/13/20 — 0 min read

How to Choose a Freight Forwarder for Amazon FBA

If you want to ship internationally to Amazon FBA, you need a freight forwarder to get your product from the factory to the warehouse. But how do you choose the right company? With all the surprise costs and variables, you can make or break your margins with your choice in freight company, so you need to pick the one that works best for you.

If you’re still asking “what is a freight forwarder?” we suggest you follow that link to go back and review it before continuing here. If you’re not sure where to source your product from, you’ll also want to address that first.

Scroll down for Massview Picks, the best freight forwarding companies according to our veteran Amazon sellers. Once you know what you’re looking for, this list will save you the hassle of finding the best freight forwarder for your needs.

We’re also offering you our free Chrome extension to calculate Amazon FBA fees for almost any product. This calculator accounts for everything from initial manufacturing costs to shipping and warehouse storage. Read to the end to learn more about it, or sign up for a free account to jump right in.

Freight ship with shipping containers

What you need to know before choosing a freight forwarder

How do you find a freight forwarder that’s best for your product and situation? You’ll need to familiarize yourself with the associated costs, as well as the common pitfalls. On the surface, freight forwarders themselves cost a bit more than if you handled it on your own, but with how much could go wrong in the shipment process, you’re better off having one.

There are all types of freight charges, and many might catch you off guard. You should generally consult an expert for this kind of logistics, because costs can change due to any number of conditions. Any good freight forwarding company will be willing and able to guide you through the process if you ask

Getting a reliable quote for your shipment

Some freight forwarders offer extra services to handle the entire end-to-end shipping process – from product sourcing, packaging to unpacking, organizing, warehousing, distributing, and delivering them to the right customers.

When you compare quotes, be sure to understand what is (and isn’t) included in the estimate so you know which offers the best value for your money. To get a sense for what your freight forwarding costs might look like, we highly recommend the Freightos quote calculator. Using the info in the list below, they’ll give you one of the most reliable (and fast) quotes on the web. They also give you the option to estimate costs based on shipping directly to Amazon FBA.

You’ll want to make sure your freight forwarder offers a good tracking system, so you can stay up to date on your shipments and inform your customers about relevant changes. This might include: exception notifications, purchase order management, customized reports, digital copies of paperwork, and proof of delivery (both online and offline).

Tip: if you’re shipping a high-volume load, consider getting 40-foot containers instead of 20. There’s a marginal cost increase for double the storage space.

freightos Shipping calculator sample.jpg

To get a reliable quote, you’ll need the following info:

  • Buyer/Seller info: where goods are picked up from, and where goods are delivered to. This includes contact details of the Buyer and Seller, and physical addresses for pickup and delivery.
  • Your US company Tax ID. This is required to be a Customs “Importer Of Record”.
  • Dimensions of every box, pallet, etc. Figure out the total cubic volume too, ideally in metric. If you won’t fill a container, you can often get better quotes by looking at pallets and crates. Simply enter the dimensions.
  • Total weight
  • Product description – different types of products can have difference associated costs, depending on everything from tariffs to special storage fees
  • Value of Shipment
  • Date shipment will be ready
  • Co-Mingled Inventory at FBA: depending on how you want your inventory stored with Amazon, there may be some associated preparation costs (be wary, co-mingling inventory comes with its own associated quality control risks)

Costs vary with freight forwarders – ask what’s covered in their service

We’ve gone over freight shipping costs in more detail in our introduction to freight forwarding, so if you need more info about costs, we suggest reading that.

When choosing a freight forwarder, you’ll want to ask for a complete breakdown for what is included in their quote. Not all companies offer the same combination of services, but any good freight forwarder will provide you the full breakdown, and this makes comparisons easier.

Here are some areas to ask about. Coverage may differ, depending on the plan you want:

  • Mode of Transport – air, sea, and land costs differ
  • Fullness of Container – do they suggest FCL or LCL for your shipment?
  • Incoterms – which set of terms do they suggest, given the size of your shipment?
  • Special Considerations: does your product require special handling or storage?
  • Insurance – is it optional or included in the cost? (You’ll want to get it regardless)
  • Destination costs – does the cost cover terminal handling charges, port security fees, warehousing fees, unpacking and unloading from ports or warehouses, inland haulage?
  • Amazon FBA fees and packaging requirements – are they familiar with FBA requirements? Are these costs included? You don’t want your shipment sent back (at your expense) due to common mistakes
  • Fluctuating fuel costs – are there fuel surcharges such as BAF or CAF?
  • Port-to-port, or door-to-door – do they deliver to the destinations you need them to? To all the Amazon warehouses you’re using? Remember, more service means higher costs

Common Issues with Freight Shipments

Again, learn more about these in our “what is a freight forwarder” post. You’ll want to ask if there are any issues you should know about for your product and packaging, particularly in the following categories:

  • Hazardous materials - are you able to ship this product with the packaging you want?
  • Pallet fumigation – required when shipping from some countries
  • Intellectual Property (IP) – do some research on your own for this
  • Shipping Specifics – food, electronics, pharmaceuticals, etc., may need special shipping for a safe delivery
  • Environmental issues – both with product and packaging
  • Packaging issues – if your order will be mixed with others, does this company handle all the correct labeling to ensure it’s not lost?
  • Paperwork – what do they handle for you, and what’s your responsibility?

For lesser-known forwarders in particular, you may want to get a sample package sent first (one that can be physically checked), before you invest too much money.

Now that you know what to ask though, let’s get to the important part: choosing a forwarder.

Massview Picks: the Top 5 Freight Forwarders for Amazon Sellers

Watch this New Mogul video to learn more about the best freight forwarders we’ve worked with.

We’ve worked with different freight forwarding companies over the years, and there are plenty of great ones out there. Different freight forwarders provide different levels and types of service, so it’s important to choose the one that works best for your needs.

There are so many options, we decided to make the process easy and narrow it down to our top 5 freight forwarding companies (don’t worry, none of these companies are paying us to be mentioned here):

1. Freightos

Freightos The Freight Network.jpg

Our favorite company to work with. Freightos offers much cheaper rates, because they’re not technically a freight forwarder, but a marketplace. They match you up with different shipping providers, and the competition keeps prices down. You’ll have to do a bit of your own research among their options though, as some listings have lower reviews than others. That said, they’re a great option if you’re new to freight forwarding, and make it very easy to compare your options.

Freightos allows for easy and transparent searches, and they let you compare prices for different container sizes for a given port-to-port journey. As another extra, they offer the FBX (Freightos Baltic index), also called the Global Container Index, which tracks container-shipping rates over time, and illustrates current trends.

2. Shapiro

Shapiro Freight forwarding company.jpg

Shapiro is one of the oldest freight forwarders out there, and used to be one of the only options available. They’ve stood the test of time with great customer service and a hands-on approach. If you’re looking for a more personal touch with a company who can really streamline the process for you, they’re a great way to go.

3. Flexport

Flexport Freight forwarders.jpg

If you’re tech-oriented, Flexport might be the best choice. They offer a full service setup, as well as an impressive software stack that lets you run the whole thing online with helpful integrations. The downside is that they can cost much more than options like Freightos – in our explainer video above, they quoted about double the Freightos price, a $1000 difference for a shipment.

4. FBA Express

Fba Express freight forward.jpg

As the name implies, these guys specialize in Amazon FBA. For any Amazon seller who just wants a straightforward process, FBA Express is made for you. With a wide range of transport options and factory-to-FBA shipment, they’ll make the process easy.

5. AMZ Transit

Amz Transit.jpg

Much like the last company, AMZ Transit (as in, Amazon transit) focuses on serving Amazon sellers. They’re known for taking care of all the extra steps to save you as much hassle as possible – they even do product photography! They’re based in China, so if you still use Chinese suppliers, they could be a good fit for you.

A note on other freight forwarders:

You may be wondering why you don’t see big names like DHL or UPS in this list. While these services can be great for express shipments (by air), particularly for smaller loads, they’re much less cost efficient for sea freight. In a nutshell, they’re not economically sustainable choices.

Massview FBA Calculator:

Okay, we get it: this is a ton of information to wrap your head around, and way too many numbers to deal with. If you’re like us, you’re groaning at the thought of doing the math for each individual freight forwarding option – even with this narrowed-down list.

That’s why we created the Massview FBA calculator for Amazon sellers. This free Chrome extension lets you plug in all these costs and fees (manufacturing cost, shipping sizes, shipping costs, time in storage, FBA storage fees, etc) and runs the numbers to estimate your total costs, revenues, and profits before you even start selling. To begin, sign up for our Free Plan (it’s free forever) and download our Chrome extension.

Massview amazon Freight calculator estimator.jpg

Sellers who feel overwhelmed or discouraged by the complexities of shipment find that our sales calculator not only simplifies the process, but helps them figure out whether a product they want is even worth pursuing via Amazon FBA.

Summary of Steps

Let’s boil it down, here’s how to choose freight forwarder that’s right for you:

  • Gather your info: make sure you have all the relevant info you might need to talk business. Learning about the specifics of your product beforehand will speed up the process. Rule out any forwarding options that don’t seem like a good fit – are you tech focused? Or do you prefer a hands-on approach, someone to walk you through things? What kind of budget do you have?
  • Consider Costs: review your potential costs, and ask each forwarder what they include in their package. Get a complete breakdown from each, for easy comparison
  • Potential Pitfalls: ask the forwarder about any potential risks or snags with your product and minimize risk. They’ll know what kind of issues you can expect.
  • Gather Quotes: if you didn’t use the Freightos quote calculator, you’ll need to provide your information and get a quote from the representative you’re talking to.
  • Compare Quotes using the Massview FBA Calculator: these calculations have a lot of moving parts, so this extension will simplify your cost comparisons. It’ll also help you figure out if you’ll make a substantial profit from this product.
  • Choose a Freight Forwarder! Once you’ve figured out which company is best for you and your product, based on budget and personal preference, pick one and get started!

Remember that as costs go down, it usually means lower levels of service. Bigger freight companies may have low costs, but don’t always offer the most intensive service. If you have a product with special requirements, you may want to pay the extra cost for peace of mind, often with a smaller company.

If you’re a small time seller, you’ll sometimes find larger companies aren’t so enthusiastic about working with you anyway. Smaller local forwarders can be a great alternative because they tend to be more hands on, more reachable, and have more time to take responsibility for your shipment.

Closing points

International shipping can feel inaccessible to the newcomer. With all the caveats and documents and terminology, it’s like running into a jungle. But don’t lose hope! The jungle isn’t as deep as it looks, and once you’re through the beginning, it gets much easier. Soon enough you’ll find the right combination of product and freight forwarder to dominate the Amazon marketplace.


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