The Best Way to Ship from the US to the UK

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To further grow your ecommerce business, the UK is a great country to market to. As you start making more international sales, you might notice orders coming from countries in the UK such as England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. As one of the world’s leading economies that has great trade relationships with the US, UK consumers are a great customer base to sell to.

In this UK shipping guide, we’ll go over the rules, rates, and shipping services that will help you begin shipping your products to the UK.

Carriers who ship from the US to the UK

Who ships to the UK? There are lots of carrier options available, but the big four are USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL. Below we break down the differences in service levels for shipping to the UK, including price and transit times for the carriers. 

Note: Only USPS offers flat rates to ship from the US to the UK. All other prices were calculated using the respective carrier’s pricing calculators for a 2 kg package in November 2019. Prices are subject to change.

Service Price Delivery Time
USPS Priority Mail Express International  $64.25 3-5 business days
USPS Priority Mail International $35.65 6-10 business days
USPS First-Class International Service Depends on postage pricing 11-20 business days
UPS Worldwide Expedited $45.43 2-5 business days
UPS Worldwide Saver $39.84 6-10 business days
FedEx International Priority $47.74 3-5 business days
FedEx International Economy  $40.82 6-10 business days
DHL International Express $51.38 3-6 business days 

1. USPS

USPS is a great option for UK shipping due to its flat rate shipping so you can easily forecast shipping costs. Similar to other carriers, USPS rates depend on the weight of the package and delivery timeline. 

There is one major con to using USPS for shipping to the UK: tracking packages no longer works once they leave the US. USPS packages are transferred to Royal Mail once they reach the UK. This may take anywhere from a few hours to days or even weeks and can delay delivery times.

USPS pros:

  • Flat rate shipping
  • Many locations in the US for dropping packages off
  • Ability to transport larger parcels cost-effectively
  • No pickup fees

USPS cons:

  • Packages are transferred to Royal Mail once they arrive, which can add a few extra days for delivery
  • Your tracking number no longer works once the package leaves the US
  • Tracking options are limited 

Read more: USPS UK Country Conditions

2. UPS

UPS is a great option for shipping to the UK because of its worldwide logistics network. They can pick up packages in the US and deliver them in the UK in as little as three days. Unlike USPS, the packages are tracked from pickup to delivery through UPS’s tracking system.

However, UPS can also be an expensive carrier if you’re sending heavier items that are over 10 pounds. 

UPS pros:

  • Significant presence in the US to make picking up or dropping off packages easier
  • Work with many shipping partners to reduce shipping costs
  • Can pick up packages at your location
  • Ability to transport packages of all sizes
  • Great package tracking capabilities 

UPS cons:

  • Generally higher shipping costs
  • Can get a little fee-heavy

3. FedEx

FedEx is another option for shipping to the UK. Because their biggest competitor is UPS, they offer the same services and comparable shipping costs. They can also pick up packages in the US and deliver them to addresses in the UK in as little as 3 days. FedEx is a good option if you’re shipping large amounts of packages.

FedEx is generally more expensive than the USPS but offers competitive pricing with UPS and DHL. If you’re shipping a small amount of packages, USPS is often a better choice due to cheaper pricing. 

FedEx pros:

  • Significant presence in the US to make picking up or dropping off packages easier
  • Many shipping partners to reduce shipping costs
  • Can pick up packages at your location
  • Prices can be good if shipping in bulk

FedEx cons:

  • They may have a lot of fees 
  • Customs can slow down package delivery times

4. DHL

DHL is well known for its expertise in international shipping for US-based businesses. They have an HQ in Germany, so they are closely located to the UK which makes transportation even easier. If you want to ship overseas, DHL is your go-to carrier. 

However, they don’t have as big of a presence in the US compared to UPS and FedEx, so you might have to go out of your way to find a DHL location to drop off packages. The shipping costs can get somewhat pricey due to some higher fees.

DHL pros:

  • Expansive international presence
  • Express delivery for many countries
  • Cost-effective air and sea delivery options
  • No pickup fees

Disadvantages of DHL:

  • Limited US presence, so drop-off locations are harder to find compared to USPS, UPS, and FedEx
  • Generally higher shipping costs due to international focus
  • Typically more fees compared to other carriers

As a non-EU member, you’ll face some big tariffs

Because of the costs associated with international shipping and trade agreements between countries, shipping from the US to the UK can get pricey. Unlike the trade agreements with the UK and the EU, the US and UK trade agreements lead to big tariffs for shipments. The Value Added Tax (VAT) for these products can get as high as 20%.

VAT on common items

VAT can be around 20% worth of the goods you send over, which is pretty high. Common VAT items include:

  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Biscuits (chocolate covered only)
  • Bottled water (including mineral water)
  • Calendars and diaries
  • Carbonated (fizzy) drinks
  • Chocolate
  • Clothes and footwear (excluding those for children under 14 years old)
  • Confectionery and sweets
  • Delivery charges (postage and packaging)
  • Fruit juice and other cold drinks (not milk)
  • Nuts (shelled, roasted or salted)

VAT on uncommon items

Items like children’s clothing and energy materials are taxed anywhere from 0-5%. Uncommon items include:

  • Children’s clothing (under the age of 14 years old)
  • Fish (including live fish)
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Live animals for human consumption
  • Meat and poultry
  • Milk, butter, and cheese
  • Newspapers, magazines, and journals
  • Nuts and pulses (raw for human consumption)

Update shipping policies for UK shipments

In order to not be slapped with big VAT charges, make sure your shipping policy clearly states whether you or the buyer is entitled to pay the tariff. Customers may cancel their orders if the VAT charges are too high, so make sure they can see an accurate cost of shipping and taxes to help inform them of the costs.

There are benefits to taking on the costs of tariffs yourself, though you will have to charge more for products to make up for the costs. This is known as delivery duty paid (DDP) shipping (as opposed to delivery duty unpaid or DDU, which requires the end customer to pay the duties incurred once the package enters the destination country).

Learn how DDP shipping can help you with international shipping costs.

Common slowdowns in the UK

The UK has robust infrastructure for shipping and deliveries. Even with the rise of ecommerce and improved logistics operations, delivery delays can happen due to traffic, geography, weather, and general customs procedures. When shipping to the UK, keep in mind exactly where you’re shipping so customers can expect accurate delivery windows. 

All USPS shipments are handed off to Royal Mail

USPS packages are transferred to Royal Mail once they reach the UK. Because of this transfer, it may take anywhere from a few extra hours to days or weeks for the package to be delivered.

Common weather patterns

Weather, like heavy rain, sleet, and snow are very common in the UK, especially in the north (Scotland). Factor in slowdowns for these weather conditions before you ship, and communicate to your customers when they do. 

Customs

Because of the transition from USPS to Royal Mail once the packages reach the UK, deliveries can be delayed by a few hours to a few weeks depending on how long it takes to complete the transfer. 

Shipping to the United Kingdom? A 3PL can help!

If you need help shipping products to the UK, consider working with a 3PL to help make UK shipping hassle-free and easy. 

3PLs like ShipBob store your inventory, fulfill your ecommerce orders, offer substantial shipping discounts, provide easier infrastructure for customs forms and taxes, and connect you with other international partners who can help you in the UK and beyond. 

With ShipBob handling logistics and fulfillment for packages going to the UK, you can rest easy knowing your products are being delivered to your customers. Here’s why you should let ShipBob handle UK shipping:

Offer shipping to UK customers

It takes time and money to set up the proper infrastructure for UK shipping. Many mid-sized ecommerce companies lack the resources to do it in-house. With ShipBob, you can expand your shipping network to the UK and other international countries in a shorter time frame than doing it yourself. ShipBob has locations throughout the US as well as Canada and the EU.

ShipBob provides great shipping services that an in-house operation likely lacks. We can ship orders out from the US to locations in the UK, all while providing order updates and tracking numbers.

“As our customer base grows, so does our global reach. Having orders shipping internationally, ShipBob’s affordable rates solved our need for international fulfillment capabilities.”

Carl Protsch, Co-Founder of FLEO

Save time and money

By partnering with ShipBob, you don’t need to manage warehouses, shipping operations, or hire labor. Working with ShipBob can actually turn logistics and warehousing into a revenue driver because you can increase revenue and offer the shipping options and delivery speeds that customers want. 

You also save time by outsourcing fulfillment tasks to ShipBob. You won’t have to spend time packing orders, waiting for pickups, or leasing and finding extra warehouse space. Working with ShipBob gives you time back to focus on more strategic initiatives, such as customer service and product development.

“Since switching to ShipBob, my company’s orders have more than tripled now that I’m able to spend more time looking at the big picture, rather than doing things like stuffing envelopes all day.”

Anastasia Allison, founder of Kula Cloth

Leverage industry expertise

Running an ecommerce business means being responsible for marketing, sales, customer service, shipping, logistics and more. You don’t have the time to become an expert in every detail of your ecommerce business, especially for time-consuming warehousing and shipping tasks.

That’s where ShipBob comes in: staffed by ecommerce shipping professionals, we are knowledgeable and up-to-date with the latest industry trends and complexities — so you don’t have to be.

ShipBob also has the technical resources and partner network — including carrier partnerships, custom packaging providers, and more — that allows us to constantly make improvements to the supply chain and help drive your ecommerce success.

“Our Account Manager has worked hard to understand our needs and offered more flexibility than other 3PLs. They have used their expertise to give us business-specific solutions that have really made a difference.”

Pablo Gabatto, Business Operations Manager at Ample Foods

Conclusion

Shipping to the UK from the US doesn’t have to be complicated, especially if you partner with a 3PL. For your growing ecommerce business, UK customers will help you create a great base as you expand even further throughout Asia. 

If you need help shipping to the UK, learn how ShipBob can make shipping even easier by filling out the form below. 

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