How much does it cost to import?

Importing costs depend on a wide variety of factors, including what goods you import and from where. Here are some basic costs to understand.

U.S. Customs Duty Rate

Every product imported into the United States falls under a classification code in the Harmonized Tariff System (HTS).

The HTS code tells U.S. Customs (CBP) exactly what you are importing and determines the appropriate duty rate.

While some HTS code duty rates are straightforward, be sure to pay attention to any additional duty rates that might apply (such as Column 2 rates, and additional tariffs such as China tariffs, steel tariffs, or quotas).

If you need help finding the right classification, your Customs broker can help. Note that even with the assistance of a Customs broker, U.S. Customs can question any classification at any time, as they have the final say. Customs holds the importer responsible for the classification of their products, as you know your product best!  

Antidumping (AD) and Countervailing Duties (CVD)

Know whether your product is subject to AD/CVD before you make any purchasing decisions.

These additional duties are imposed when the Department of Commerce determines that a product is being dumped or improperly subsidized by a foreign government so the producer can sell it at a price lower than the cost of production.

Additional Duties / Tariffs

Make sure you thoroughly research your product, and with the help of your Customs broker, so that you know if any additional duty rates apply.

China tariffs, steel tariffs, and duties on merchandise subject to quotas are just three examples of additional duties that could apply to your product on top of the normal duty rate.

Customs Fees

These are a couple standard Customs fees to be aware of:

Merchandise Processing Fee (MPF): 0.3464% based on the entered value of the product (minimum $29.66 and Max $575.35)

Harbor Maintenance Fee (HMF) for ocean shipments: 0.125% based on the entered value of the product

Transportation Costs

You will need a quote from a freight forwarder to know the exact cost of overseas shipping.

As a general rule, air freight is the fastest and most expensive mode of transit. Ocean freight involves longer transit times, but usually at a lesser cost.

Shipping costs are subject to change, and the quote you receive will likely only be valid for a specific time frame.

It is usually best to route your freight to the closest port/city to its final destination. Your freight forwarder/Customs broker should also be able to assist you with any domestic transportation costs.

Customs Broker Cost

Your Customs broker will be able to provide you with a personalized quote depending on what services you request and how much documentation your shipment requires.

For example, many commodities will require additional documentation for Partner Government Agencies (PGAs), such as FDA, USDA, Fish & Wildlife, ATF, etc.

Similar to hiring an accountant to file your taxes, the cost of hiring a Customs broker will depend on the complexity of your supply chain, what documents you will need your broker to submit on your behalf, and how much assistance you would like in preparing those documents.

Additional Costs

Leave room in your estimate for unexpected costs.

Here are some examples of unpredictable costs that vary widely in their total expense:

Customs exams

CBP is allowed to inspect any shipment, for any reason, at the importer’s expense. Expenses include transportation to an exam site, storage costs, and the cost of the inspection itself.

Some exams are minimal and relatively inexpensive, while more intensive inspections will involve significant time and resources.

Loss or damage

Any form of transportation comes with the risk of damage or loss to your shipment. We recommend obtaining cargo insurance coverage from your Customs broker/freight forwarder to mitigate costs.


Delays due to port congestion, inclement weather, etc. can result in additional fees such as storage or per diem charges.


You will need a quote specifically tailored to your shipments in order to know the cost of importing your product.

If you are looking for assistance from a Customs broker and freight forwarder, our team will be happy to talk with you!

Our blog posts are for informational purposes only. While we use reasonable efforts to furnish accurate information, C J is not liable or responsible for the accuracy or reliability of any information contained herein.


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