How to ship from Germany to the USA

Shipping from Germany to the USA is a frequent need for many international businesses and understanding what the process entails and – what it could cost – is a key consideration. 

As each load and journey may be different, overseas shipping can be complex. There is huge variation at each stage that needs to be factored in to time and expense expectations.   

The first thing to know about shipping from Germany to the USA, is how much the process will cost, how long it will take and where you can ship to and from in each country. Another vital consideration is around the necessary documentation required to get your items through US customs.

What costs do I need to consider when shipping from Germany to the USA?

Shipping costs can vary greatly, based on several factors. These include the volume, weight and dimensions of the package(s) being shipped, what the goods are that are being shipped, the method of transportation. Also, it is important to consider the shipment’s insurance and the time of year. 

SeaRates can help calculate the cost of shipping from Germany to the USA, but as general rule: 

- Air freight is typically more expensive than sea freight (although it can be cheaper to send small packages via plane)  

- Shipping expensive goods that carry a high insurance premium will increase your shipping costs

- If you can’t fill a shipping container with your goods, LCL shipping (less than container load) is a cheaper shipping method than FCL shipping (full container load). 

Considering these cost factors can feel overwhelming. SeaRates’ Online Freight Marketplace can help you to figure out the best freight rates; to see what your options are, all you need to know is your ports of origin and destination, when you plan to ship your cargo and what type of shipment you’re sending. 

In general, the cheapest shipping from Germany to the USA would be FCL shipping via the ocean outside of the peak time of year. 

How long does it take to move cargo from Germany to the USA? 

Shipping cargo door-to-door from Germany to the USA could take anything up to 47 days depending upon your chosen port of origin and destination, what is being shipped along with the method of transportation. 

Air freight is the fastest transportation method, with cargo taking between 1 and 16 days to reach its destination port in the USA. 

Ocean freight takes longer. It can take up to 33 days for goods to reach their USA destination port from Germany. 

Your end destination to also makes a big difference. 

From Germany, a ship can reach the Eastern USA is as little as 16 days, but to travel to the West Coast it would take a shipment around 33 days. 

In addition, FCL shipping is a faster process than LCL shipping because of the logistics involved in loading and unloading the goods at either end of the journey. 

Germany to USA, port to port 
11-21 days
14-24 days
Air cargo
4-8 days

When is the best time to ship from Germany to the USA?

Both air and sea freight rates – especially for FCL shipping – are affected by seasonal factors. 

The main peak season to consider when shipping from Germany to the USA is from mid-August to mid-October, ahead of Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year. During peak time, prices increase because demand is high and container space is low. It is therefore cheaper to ship freight away from peak season. 

When in the month you choose to transport goods can also make a difference to the price.

The last two weeks of the month can be cheaper to book a shipment because carriers are trying to fill spots on vessels. The beginning of the month can be a more expensive time, as carriers can levy General Rate Increases on cargo spots.

Generally, the cheapest shipping costs come from booking early. 

What are the rates for shipping from Germany to the USA? 

As shipping rates can vary significantly, the SeaRates Online Freight Marketplace can help to find a quote to suit you.

After adding in the basic details, such as the destination and date of shipment, the marketplace will allow you to compare various freight journeys. This allows you to view the detail on how your shipment will be processed, and duration of transit. The marketplace also provides a cost breakdown for each leg of the journey, to help you control your budget and spend. 

You can request a more tailored quote. This more detailed process asks specific questions about your shipment, such as its commodity type, its HS Code and its weight. SeaRates will then contact you directly with some options. 

What do you need to think about when packing your container?  

Taking a practical approach to your packaging requirements when shipping cargo is vital. You will need to consider your shipment’s weight, dimensions and what packaging material you will require.

While there is a lot to think about, SeaRates’ Load Calculator can help you understand what your shipment will look like and the space it will need. 

The Load Calculator will ask you a series questions about your shipment, including what equipment you will need to ship, your cargo dimensions and what method of shipping you will use. 

The calculator will finally produce an image of what your cargo will look like in your chosen container, as well as the total volume and weight it will reach. 

What are the essential documents that need to be completed when shipping from Germany to the USA? 

Correctly packaged and labelled cargo is essential for it to have a smooth journey from Germany through the custom clearance process in the USA. Having the necessary documents is also key, such as an importation permit for certain goods, commercial invoice and a packing list. 

Documents you need when shipping to the USA include:  

- Commercial Invoice

- Packing List

- Bill of lading 

- Certificate of origin 

- Letter of Credit or other payment terms 

You may also need a special permit if you’re shipping certain goods like hazardous materials.  

Should you insure your container? 

We encourage our customers to always insure their cargo. Cargo insurance is often the only protection you have if your shipment is damaged or lost. 

You can find cargo insurance via the freight forwarding community or a third-party insurance agent. SeaRates can also help find the right insurance policy for you. 

Insurance costs are typically in the region of 0.3% to 0.5% of your Commercial Invoice value.  

What are the major shipping ports in Germany?

Your factory, supplier or freight forwarder will likely be happy to offer advice on which port is right for you. Certain ports may prove better for you based on their location, customs processes and goods handling volumes, or perhaps your factory has a special agreement with a particular port. 

Major ocean cargo ports in Germany include: 

  • Hamburg 
  • Bremerhaven 
  • Bremen 

Major air cargo ports in Germany include: 

  • Dusseldorf
  • Frankfurt
  • Berlin-Tegel
  • Munich
  • Nuremberg

What are the major shipping ports in the USA?

Major ocean cargo ports in the USA include: 

  • Los Angeles
  • New York
  • Houston 
  • Miami

  • San Francisco 
  • Baltimore

Major air cargo ports in the USA include: 

  • Chicago O’Hare
  • New York, JFK
  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Philadelphia

Lilia Khovrak is a professional content manager from Odessa, Ukraine. Loves life by the sea. Dreams to see Paris and eat a croissant on the thresholds of Notre Dame de Paris. Hates to read meaningless articles.