Buy goods online in China - tricks and tips

© Photo by lutfi gaos on Unsplash

DI would like to briefly describe what you should pay attention to when buying Chinese goods, so as not to experience unpleasant surprises when ordering several online bike parts, apparel, etc. from Amazon, Wish, Ebay and Ali-Express. Anyone willing to make a small compromise on quality can often make a real bargain on Chinese products. Also interesting are products that are not available in Germany at all because they do not correspond to the market. These include, for example, extremely strong LED bicycle lamps for mountain bikers without approval from the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA). Who wants to save a lot of trouble when buying Chinese products, should at least roughly the German tax and customs laws know:

Up to what amount are products from China "duty-free"?


  • The so-called import duties consist of customs and VAT. Up to 150, - EUR, shipments are duty-free, but nice from a value of 22, - EUR including shipping costs (!) the import sales tax (EUSt) must be deducted from 19% (in very few cases 7%).
  • Unofficially, this 22, - Euro amount is 26, - EURsince royalties under 5, - Euro are not charged. Attention: exceptions confirm this rule ...
    Alcohol, tobacco and perfumes are definitely excluded from this exemption
  • Do you have a Chinese friend? Then even private shipments are even up to a value of 45, - Euro exempt from customs duties and import tax.

Three calculation examples for customs duties:

Case A) You buy a bicycle saddle for 18, - EUR + 4, - EUR postage = 22, - EUR duty and tax free

Case B) You are ordering an LED light set for 23, - EUR + 4 EUR postage = 27, - EUR + 5,13 EUSt = 32,13 EUR

Case C) You purchase a complete set of bicycle clothing for 150, - EUR + 10, - Postage = 160, - + 19,20 Customs + 34,05 EUSt = 213,25 EUR

Tip: There is a comfortable one here > Customs fee calculator on-line

Disadvantages of shopping online in China

  • The delivery time usually takes several weeks
  • Goods of unknown brand from Chinese production are often of inferior quality than in Northern Europe
  • The exchange within 14 days is difficult, a return is also very expensive (only the sending from China is favorable)
  • The 24-monthly warranty obligation of the dealer does not exist, as no German purchase contract arises
  • Instructions for use are poor, not translated or missing altogether
  • Forgeries or technical products without CE mark are retained by the customs, moreover, there is a danger of warning - even for the recipient of the goods!
  • German customs offices have quite challenging opening hours for working people if they receive their goods there

Useful bike mirror from Ali-Express under 3, - EUR incl. Shipping costs

This bike mirror was ordered from Ali-Express and delivered without any problems

The tricks of the Chinese traders

Shipping from China is via the UK, where the duty free border is not 22, - EUR but 39, - pound - currently good 45, - EUR. This trick will probably disappear with the Brexit. He is not really bad.

Purchased goods are declared as "gift" (until 45, - EUR free). This often works, but is randomly fished out by customs and then withheld. A penalty threatens probably not, but "the gift" is of course never. Trouble with the dealer is then often pre-programmed.

Attention in so-called "Amazon Marketplaces" or recently quite inconspicuous called "selling on Amazon": Amazon even delivers here partly directly from Germany, but you conclude the purchase contract with a Chinese dealer in China, for all the risks mentioned above. Amazon acts here only as a pure logistics partner without responsibility.

Also a popular cheating: Especially for electronic items like already used components are installed, which are not obvious at first glance, such as battery cells, board parts or memory cards. Not all electronic products from China undergo the so-called EMC tests, which are prescribed in Germany: Articles are tested for electromagnetic compatibility and other safety factors. Especially with wireless bike computers an important aspect. There are only a few spare parts for Chinese products, and there is no need to recycle in China.

Tips for safe shopping in Chinese online shops

  • If possible do not pay directly through the credit card, but via PayPal or similar services to prevent credit card fraud
  • At Wish.com do not use the Wish app, but order through the browser, as the app tries to extract sensitive data
  • So far I have had the best experiences with Ali-Express: Four orders - everything arrived perfectly!
  • Do not use Amazon Marketplaces: they carry the full risk with the seller alone, the inch looks particularly accurate at Amazon
  • Generally no expensive, buy products from China online
  • Do not buy data storage devices such as USB sticks, SD cards, SSDs, etc., because many products do not work properly or are fake

Cinesian Skoda emblem from Ali-Express

The Skoda emblem of Ali-Express was unfortunately dented after assembly. I regret the purchase and especially the time-consuming assembly.

My own experiences with Chinese online shops and the delivered products

LED Thor Fire high-performance headlamps at Chinese Ebay dealer in Hong Kong for good 30, - EUR ordered. Waiting time 6 weeks, quality surprisingly good, but already had a cell burned at the LiIon battery. This lasted only a few minutes. As a result of acute fire hazards, I immediately disposed of all four cells at the recycling center and replaced them with expensive brand cells. I also avoid the cheap charger. However, the headlight itself is really very powerful and hardly comparable products can be obtained on the German market.

Three different bicycle helmet mirrors ordered from two different Ali Express dealers for just under 3, - EUR. Waiting for several weeks, all mirrors arrived. The quality was different, for serious testing and use of the bicycle helmet the quality of a copy was sufficient.

Two Skoda Fabia emblems or logos for good 12, - EUR ordered from Ali-Express. Waiting for several weeks, both logos arrived. They really looked like Skoda original part. During assembly, I pressed the but irreparable dents in the thin sheet metal of the tailgate logo. At the front, the dents came from winter alone through environmental influences. Corrosion resistant are the emblems, but too sensitive to pressure, as the laminated plastic under the sheet was not reinforced. Too bad, because quite time-consuming installation effort. Incidentally, the emblems cost the Skoda dealer X times.

Black photo canvas ordered for 23,50 EUR on Amazon. Only after the order I noticed the company headquarters in China due to the long delivery time. Three weeks later, a logistics service provider from Frankfurt Airport announces in writing that it has to fill out a customs document with three options: 1. Return goods for free, 2. Goods are cleared by the service provider and have delivered for additional 29,75 EUR or 3. Duplicate goods with the EUSt itself, as the sender has not provided sufficient information on the customs clearance of the goods. Well, the coal is probably goodbye away ... After this experience, I buy at Amazon no more goods from non-EU countries on the marketplace, although I really want to praise the helpful customer service at Amazon as a long-standing customer.

Addendum 4 / 2019: The dealer in China has refunded the amount to me after inquiry at Amazon yet. As a result, he has spared himself a bad rating at Amazon. Nevertheless, I have learned from this case.

Helpful links for buying goods online in China and non-EU countries


customs calculator Import VAT and import duties> Tip!

The App "Customs and Post" The Federal Ministry of Finance calculates customs regulations and import duties

Zoll.de explains details about shipments from a non-EU state to private individuals

Pandacheck.com is actually a Chinese price search engine, but has tested many China shops

The verbraucherzentrale.de warns against the safe shopping in Chinese online shops

"Cheap but unfair?" Good article on the topic "order directly in China" in the c't edition 7 of the 16.03.2019 (paid)


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