Buy from China

Buy goods online in China

With several online orders for bicycle parts, clothing, etc. at Amazon, Wish, Ebay and Ali-Express, I would like to briefly describe what you should definitely pay attention to when buying Chinese goods in order not to experience any nasty surprises. If you are willing to make small compromises when it comes to quality, you can often find real bargains with Chinese products. Products that are not available at all in Germany because they do not correspond to the market are also interesting. These include, for example, extremely powerful LED bicycle lamps for mountain bikers without approval from the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA). If you want to save yourself a lot of trouble when buying Chinese products, you should at least roughly know the German tax and customs laws:


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

  • The so-called import duties consist of customs and VAT. Shipments up to EUR 150 are duty-free, but nice from a value of 22, - EUR including shipping costs (!) the import sales tax (EUSt) of 19% must be paid (in very few cases 7%).
  • Unofficially, this 22, - Euro amount is 26, - EUR, as taxes below 5 euros are not levied. Attention: Exceptions confirm this rule ...
    Alcohol, tobacco and perfumes are definitely excluded from this duty exemption
  • Do you have a chinese friend? Then pure private broadcasts are even Exempt from customs duties and import tax up to a goods value of 45, - Euro.



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 order a set of LED lights 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 inches + 34.05 EUSt = 213.25 EUR

Tip: There is a convenient> online customs fee calculator here




Disadvantages of online shopping in China

  • The delivery time usually takes several weeks
  • Goods of unknown brands 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 sending from China is cheap)
  • The dealer does not have a 24-month warranty because there is no German sales contract
  • Instructions for use are inadequate, not translated or missing entirely
  • Counterfeits or technical products without a CE mark are withheld by customs, and there is also a risk of warning - also for the recipient of the goods!
  • German customs offices have rather challenging opening times for working people if you receive your goods there


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

The tricks of the Chinese traders

Shipping from China is via Great Britain, here the duty-free limit is not 22 EUR but 39 pounds - currently a good 45 EUR. This trick will likely disappear with Brexit. It's actually not bad.

Purchased goods are declared as a “gift” (up to EUR 45 free). This often works, but is fished out randomly by customs and then withheld. There is probably no punishment, but of course “the gift” never arrives. Trouble with the dealer is then often inevitable.

Beware of so-called “Amazon Marketplaces” or, more recently, quite inconspicuously called “Selling on Amazon”: Amazon even delivers here partly directly from Germany, but you conclude the purchase contract with a Chinese dealer in China, with all the risks mentioned above. Amazon only acts as a pure logistics partner without any responsibility.

Another popular cheating: Especially with electrical goods, used components are often built in that are not visible at first glance, such as battery cells, circuit board parts or memory cards. Not all electronic products from China go through the so-called EMC tests, which are required in Germany: Articles are tested for electromagnetic compatibility and other safeguards. An important aspect, especially with wireless bike computers. There are very few spare parts for Chinese products, and there is no recycling obligation in China.




Tips for safe shopping in Chinese online stores

  • If possible, pay not directly via credit card, but via PayPal or similar services in order to prevent credit card fraud
  • Do not use the Wish app at, but order via the browser, as the app tries to extract sensitive data
  • I have had the best experiences so far with Ali-Express: Four orders - everything arrived perfectly!
  • Do not use Amazon Marketplaces: You bear the full risk with the seller alone, customs are particularly careful at Amazon
  • Generally no expensive to purchase products from China online
  • Under no circumstances should you buy data storage media such as USB sticks, SD cards, SSDs, etc., as many products do not work properly or are counterfeit


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


My own experience with Chinese online shops and the products they deliver

LED Thorfire high-performance floodlights Ordered from a Chinese Ebay dealer in Hong Kong for a good 30 EUR. Waiting time 6 weeks, the quality was surprisingly good, but one cell in the LiIon battery had already burned out. This only lasted a few minutes. Because of the acute risk of fire, I immediately disposed of all four cells at the recycling center and replaced them with expensive branded cells. I also avoid the cheap charger. The headlight itself is really very powerful and there are hardly any comparable products on the German market.

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


Two Skoda Fabia emblems or logos for a good 12 EUR ordered from Ali-Express. Wait several weeks, both logos arrived. They really looked like an original Skoda part. During assembly, however, I quickly pressed irreparable dents into the thin sheet metal of the tailgate logo. In the front, the dents came by themselves through environmental influences over the winter. The emblems are corrosion-resistant, but far too sensitive to pressure, as the laminated plastic under the sheet metal has not been reinforced. It's a shame, as the assembly work is quite time-consuming. Incidentally, the emblems cost X times as much at Skoda dealers.

Black photo canvas for 23.50 EUR ordered from Amazon. Only after ordering I noticed the company headquarters in China due to the long delivery time. Three weeks later, a logistics service provider from Frankfurt Airport reports in writing with the request to fill out a customs document with three options: 1. Return goods free of charge, 2. Goods cleared and delivered by the service provider for an additional 29.75 EUR or 3. Customs the goods with the EUSt because the sender did not provide sufficient information about the customs clearance of the goods. Well, the coal is probably never gone again ... After this experience, I no longer buy goods from non-EU countries on Amazon via the marketplace, although I really want to praise the helpful customer service at Amazon as a long-term customer.

Addendum 4/2019: The dealer in China reimbursed me after asking Amazon. This saved him from a bad rating on Amazon. Still, I learned from this case.


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

Customs calculator import sales tax and import duties> Tip!

The “Customs and Post” app from the Federal Ministry of Finance calculates customs regulations and import duties explains details about shipments from a non-EU country for private individuals is actually a Chinese price search engine, but has tested many China shops

The warns against the carefree purchase in Chinese online shops

"Cheap but unfair?" Good article on the topic of “order directly in China” in c’t issue 7 of March 16, 2019 (subject to a charge)