The Best Way to Ship from the US to the UK
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To further grow your ecommerce business, the United Kingdom (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.
As one of the world’s leading economies that has great trade relationships with the United States (US), UK consumers are a great customer base to sell to.
However, since Brexit, shipping to the UK has come with additional challenges. With new regulations, customs, and import duties, online retailers will have to rework their strategies to prepare for these changes.
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. We’ll also provide insight on what Brexit means for businesses importing goods into 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.
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 5 lb package in March 2023. Prices are subject to change.
Note: These are general options for consumers shipping orders. You will always want to factor in additional import duties and fees that have increased significantly post-Brexit. To know what ShipBob offers when shipping to other countries like the UK, please request a quote here.
ShipBob’s exact rates for customers will vary as we charge an all-in ‘total fulfilment cost’ that includes picking, packing, and shipping, among other factors.
|USPS||Priority Mail Express International||$97.80||3-5 business days|
|USPS||Priority Mail International||$83.95||6-10 business days|
|USPS||First-Class International Service||Depends on postage pricing||11-20 business days|
|UPS||Worldwide Expedited||$48.67||2-5 business days|
|UPS||Worldwide Saver||$54.44||6-10 business days|
|FedEx||International Priority||$49.74||3-5 business days|
|FedEx||International Economy||$42.82||6-10 business days|
|DHL||International Express||$53.38||3-6 business days|
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.
- Flat rate shipping
- Many locations in the US for dropping packages off
- Ability to transport larger parcels cost-effectively
- No pickup fees
- 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
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.
- 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
- Generally higher shipping costs
- Can get a little fee-heavy
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.
- 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
- They may have a lot of fees
- Customs can slow down package delivery times
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.
- 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
Brexit: as a non-EU member, you’ll face some big tariffs
Although Brexit was officially in January 2020, there was an 11-month-long transition period while both sides worked out the specifics of the departure. They finally came to an agreement on December 24, 2020, which came into effect on January 1, 2021.
Because of the costs associated with international shipping and trade agreements between countries, shipping from the US to the UK can get pricey.
It’s important to understand the implications of Brexit on value-added tax (VAT). As a US business owner, you will now be required to register for a VAT number and create an online account from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Once you have a VAT number, you will be required to collect all VAT fees from your buyers ahead of time.
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
- 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).
“We want to focus on making the experience better for our customers. Localizing shipping has been a great way to avoid customers getting hit with customs fees and delays. We stuck with Delivery Duties Unpaid for the last drop, so we’re exploring Delivery Duties Paid for future drops as ShipBob rolls out DDP shipping from more countries.”Will Kerr, Apparel Lead at Quadrant
Learn how DDP shipping can help you with international shipping costs.
Apply for an EORI number
Before you start shipping to the UK, you will be required to apply for an Economic Operator’s Registration and Identification (EORI) number.
This application process is one of the most important post-Brexit changes to be aware of. The EORI number is a unique ID that tracks and registers customs information in the EU. It simplifies your customs processes by preventing delays at the border and avoids incurring extra costs.
You can apply for an EORI number here. Be sure to apply ahead of time as it can take a few weeks to process.
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.
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. ShipBob is a 3PL that offers an international fulfilment including in locations in Manchester, Birmingham, Swindon, and much more.
With ShipBob, you can bulk ship your your inventory to our UK locations and fulfil orders within the UK. You will only have to pay import duties once when you initially ship your products to one of our UK-based fulfilment centre locations, rather than paying duties on each package.
Along with customs, duties, and becoming a non-resident importer, ShipBob will walk you through the process of sending freight to our UK fulfilment centre.
With ShipBob handling logistics and fulfilment for UK orders, you can rest easy knowing your products are being delivered to your customers. Here’s why you should let ShipBob handle UK fulfilment and shipping:
Offer shipping to UK customers
With ShipBob, you can store inventory in one or more ShipBob fulfilment centres based on where your customers are located. If you’re interested in expanding into England or the UK, ShipBob can help you enter this market easier and more affordably.
For each package, ShipBob’s technology automatically searches rates from each of the top mail carriers, and finds the cheapest and fastest route. That way, you and your customers get the best shipping option for each package without having to lift a finger.
The average transit time to all of the UK is 1-4 business days using Royal Mail and DPD. We also plan to add more carrier options and shipping destinations.
ShipBob has worked with thousands of brands all over the world to scale retail fulfilment, lower logistics costs, and boost growth. Partner with us and you get faster fulfilment and shipping while saving time, money, and energy.
“As we expand our online presence internationally, both directly and selling through marketplaces, we knew we needed a trusted fulfilment partner with a physical presence overseas.
From our history through the years with ShipBob, it was a no-brainer to expand into other markets with them. We know they have done their due diligence to meet the ShipBob standard.”
Marc Fontanetta, Director of Operations at BAKblade
We’ll work with your current carrier or freight partners, or you can leverage ShipBob’s relationships with cross-border freight shipping specialists.
Save time and money
By partnering with ShipBob, you don’t need to manage warehouses, shipping operations, or hire labour. 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 fulfilment 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.
“We ended up shipping to 55 different countries and all 50 states. There’s a pair of Ombraz on every continent, so international shipping is very important to us — not only in terms of costs but also the customer experience.”
Nikolai Paloni, Co-Founder of Ombraz Sunglasses
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
Shipping to the UK from the US doesn’t have to be complicated, especially if you partner with a 3PL. By fulfiling orders within the UK, you significantly save on costs while speeding up transit times for international orders.
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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