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Finding the cheapest way to ship overseas is key for all ambitious online retailers. Plus, expanding your reach to international customers is a great way to exponentially grow your business. However, it does come at a cost.

How can you save on international shipping costs and expensive mistakes? Which are the trustworthy yet cheap international courier services? We’re here to show you how.

In this guide, we’ll unveil 12 actionable tips that’ll teach you how to ship internationally for cheap.

12 tips to help you find the cheapest way to ship overseas

1: Choose the right courier

“Cheaper isn’t always better” is a pretty controversial statement in a guide that’s trying to help you ship internationally for cheap. That being said, less reputable shipping companies may cut corners leading to more expense in the long run.

Research, research, research. Never jump into a relationship with a provider (or anything or anyone for that matter) without doing your what? Research! Online reviews and testimonials are a good way to get the opinions of like-minded businesspersons like yourself.

Choosing the wrong courier and then having to switch to another costs time. And as the main man, Benjamin Franklin, said “time is money”.

Sendcloud’s courier recommendations for cheap international shipping are Evri, FedEx, DPD, and DHL.

2. Choose the right destinations

This may not seem that profound but shipping costs vary per country. If you want to know whether shipping costs will leave you in the red or the black, you need to really dive into the analytics.

Generally speaking, the further away, the higher the costs. Spend some time researching shipping costs in the countries you’re interested in selling to, then start shipping smarter.

3: Consider your product size & weight

Dimensions and weight directly influence the cost of shipping. Simply put, shipping heavy or large items costs more.

Consider the weight and size vs. cost of each product you ship before offering it internationally. You may even want to invest in a postage scale to help you estimate costs and to select the correct shipping options.

Also, be sure to carefully measure an item before you buy packaging to ensure you don’t end up with more packaging than you actually need.

A photo of Sendcloud parcel boxes.

4: Ship with multiple international shipping companies

Finding cheap international courier services isn’t that simple. The trick to saving money is to use multiple couriers.

In Tip 3, we explained that heavier or larger packages cost more to ship. If you sell a range of products in different sizes, use multiple carriers to your advantage by finding carriers that offer a better rate for sending larger packages.

This way, you can continue shipping your regular packages with your primary carrier, but ship larger packages with the best shipping rates available.

Want to know how to ship with multiple couriers but still manage all your orders in one place? Find out more here.

5. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate

Each carrier uses a price schedule based on volume: the more parcels you ship, the lower the rate becomes. Many small online stores do not realise that they too can have bargaining power with carriers such as the postal service, DHL, DPD and UPS.

If you let them know that you are comparing carriers for cheaper shipping of your parcels and you expect your online store to grow, you may be able to get a better price.

Alternatively, many shipping companies (including Sendcloud) have pre-negotiated shipping rates with some of the largest UK couriers.

6. Cut down on paper & printing

Paperless trade is the electronic process of transmitting your customs documents. International shipments (to destinations outside the EU) require customs documentation, so the contents can be checked by local tax authorities at the border of the destination country. Usually you need to print multiple copies of these documents and attach them to the box.

With paperless trade, there’s no need to print any additional documents other than your shipping label. Your customs documentation will be sent digitally to the shipping carrier and associated with the shipment.

Sendcloud offers paperless trade with UPS, FedEx, and DHL Express.

7. Reuse packaging material

This is a great tip, especially for smaller, up-and-coming businesses wanting to know how to ship internationally for cheap.

Keep all the packaging material you receive yourself. Online stores can reduce shipping costs considerably in this way. You can even ask family and friends to keep packaging materials or see if there is a company nearby that throws away a lot of material unnecessarily.

8. Purchase packaging in bulk

Buying packaging in bulk usually results in hefty discounts. Work out which packaging you use the most and consider buying 6 months in advance.

This is another time when it’s a good idea to compare prices from several packaging wholesalers.

9. Go for Final-mile delivery services

Final-mile (also known as Last-mile) delivery refers to the final stage in the parcel’s journey; the carrier delivers the package to the recipient’s local post office, where a local carrier undertakes the final stage of delivery.

Final-mile delivery reduces residential surcharges and offers one of the cheapest ways to ship packages overseas from the UK.

10. Consider Ex Works (EXW) international shipping

Ex Works or EXW is an Incoterm (International Commercial Terms) is one avenue for cheaper, stress-free shipping.

EXW hands over shipping payments and arrangements to the buyer. EXW benefits buyers by giving them full transparency on the costs of the shipping. All you need to take care of is the documentation for the export processes.

Of course, there are upsides and downsides to Ex Works. However, they’re still definitely worth looking into for your business.

11. Choose the best international shipping software

Shipping software can make your shipping processes more cost-efficient. The right tools can automate your processes, print your labels, better organize customer data, manage data from a range of international shipping providers, and automatically calculate your shipping — among other benefits.

12. Pick your insurance carefully

You should always make sure you cover international shipments with the right insurance. International deliveries are frequently subject to damages or losses. To ensure you pick the right provider, take the time to carefully review the options available to you — cross-check your choices against online reviews with stores that sell similar items to you.

At Sendcloud, we provide affordable insurance that can cover you for any amount and is easy to arrange. Curious to learn more? Please get in touch.

How to choose the right cheap international shipping company

Storing packages on a DHL delivery van.

With so many options on the market, it can be hard to decide on the right international shipping company for you. It’s important to carefully research the options available — considering long-standing players and newer providers.

These are some questions you can ask to help you narrow down your options:

  1. Do they offer the shipping options you need?
  2. What are the weight or size restrictions?
  3. What are the added costs?
  4. Do they offer tracking?
  5. What are their reviews like?
  6. Do you need goods that are subject to restrictions?
  7. Is their customer service well-reviewed?
  8. Can you ship the majority of your items with a single freight shipping company? If so, they may be able to offer a discount.
  9. Do they provide international shipping tools to help streamline your processes?
  10. Do they offer a flexible service? Can you ship via air and sea?

How to find a cheap international courier

How affordable an international shipping company is depends on the services you require. As above, here are the questions you should ask when reviewing shipping providers:

  1. What are the sizes and weight of your items?
  2. Which countries are you shipping to?
  3. How fast do you need delivery to be?
  4. What are the potential customs restrictions you need to think about?
  5. Do you need packaging materials?
  6. Do you need priority mail?

Take a look at case studies and online reviews to get a full picture of how cheap a shipping company is (i.e keep an eye out for any hidden costs). Take note of companies that ship similar products to similar locations. In addition, don’t forget that you can save by using multiple carriers.

Understand the key international shipping terms

The international shipping industry uses specific terms and acronyms that are important to know. Dubbed Incoterms or International Commercial Terms, these three-letter terms are developed by the International Chamber of Commerce. To help you understand these terms, we created a complete guide to incoterms.

Discover the easiest way you can start shipping internationally

International shipping doesn’t have to be rocket science especially not when you’re first starting. Download our guide to discover all of the basic steps you need to start selling outside of the UK.