Complete Guide to Buying and Selling on AliExpress

As more people turn to their mobile devices than a physical store to buy products, you’ll find a multitude of online retail platforms on the internet. While Amazon and eBay have dominated the market in the United States, chances are you’ve also heard of AliExpress. You may have thought about using the platform in the past but balked at the last second for lack of knowledge on how AliExpress works.

To give you a brief overview, the platform does have a few similarities to Amazon and eBay. However, there are aspects where one has the edge over the other as you’ll learn when you read through this complete guide to both buying and selling on AliExpress. 

What Is AliExpress?

mini shopping carts on top of a laptop
By shopping on AliExpress, you get generic products at wholesale prices

AliExpress is an online ecommerce platform owned by the Alibaba Group, a multinational conglomerate based in China. In a nutshell, the platform enables individuals and businesses to buy and sell products to a global market.

AliExpress was launched back in 2010 as a means to bring together Chinese sellers and manufacturers who act as direct sellers listing their products at wholesale prices. Buyers from around the world can then browse items on either mobile or desktop and purchase items directly without the need of a middleman. Since then, the platform’s been made available to sellers in six different countries.

Unlike Amazon, AliExpress does not sell products from its brand. Instead, they make income from commissions (usually 5% to 8%) on products sold.

How Does AliExpress Work?

Buying and selling on AliExpress works just about the same in comparison to any other ecommerce platform. Sellers post their products, buyers search for a product they need, add items to their cart, then checkout. However, the process does differ when it comes to shipping.

Since AliExpress is based in China, buyers outside the country should expect more expensive shipping fees on some items and a longer wait period to receive their package. For example, on packages delivered to the United States, AliExpress’ standard shipping typically takes 15 to 45 days, while AliExpress’ premium shipping can provide a delivery time of 7 to 15 days. However, there are some items readily available in a US warehouse. You can expect the delivery time for those items to be within 4 to 13 days.

To filter your search results, once you’re on the website and search for a product, click on the flag at the top of the page and click ship to United States then head over to the ship from dropdown button and click on the United States as well.

How to set your delivery location to United Stats on AliExpress
AliExpress is available in more than 220 countries with more than 432 million visitors a month

However, even if you have filtered it to ship from the United States, it’s not a 100% guarantee the product is from a US warehouse or seller. Some sellers use this as a technique to incentivize buyers since their core audience is located in America.

To confirm whether the product is guaranteed to be from a US-based supplier, you can ask for the seller's previous shipments or check how long the app expects delivery to take to your location. If the product indicates it can be shipped within 4 to 13 days you should be in the clear.

Find out how long items will be delivered on AliExpress
AliExpress can ship products to the United States in 4-13 days depending on your shipping method

AliExpress accepts a wide range of payment methods. They support Visa debit/credit cards, MasterCard credit cards, and American Express debit cards. 

Aside from credit and debit cards, AliExpress also supports WebMoney, Alipay, PayPal, bank transfer, Western Union (for purchases above $20), and others that are only applicable in certain countries. To be safe, AliExpress advises users to use Paypal, credit cards, or Alipay.

Which Countries Is AliExpress Available In?

Although it’s based in China, AliExpress does not cater to people living in mainland China. They do, however, ship to over 200 different countries around the world. This includes Australia, Canada, the European Union, and the United States. To help sellers fulfill orders, AliExpress partners with different courier services such as ePacket, EMS, DHL, TNT, and UPS.

Is AliExpress Legit?

Yes, you can 100% rely on AliExpress to deliver your product safely to your location. Their parent company is listed on the New York and Hong Kong Stock Exchange and the app itself has more than 432 million visitors each month.

screenshot of AliExpress' web traffic
United States, Brazil, Spain, France, and India are responsible for the majority of AliExpress’ traffic.

Whether you’re a buyer or seller, getting started on AliExpress is effortless thanks to its user-friendly interface. 

How to Buy from AliExpress

To complete your first purchase on AliExpress, you’ll need to register on the platform. If you’re using a desktop, head to the top right portion of the page and click on Account > Register.

How to register on AliExpress
AliExpress’ user interface makes it easy for anyone to register on the platform and buy products

Once you click the button, you should see this pop-up.

screenshot of how you can register on AliExpress
If you have an existing email address, you can use that as your AliExpress email

You can choose to add a specific email or sync an account from either your Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, or Apple ID. Once you create an account, be sure to check your email for a 4-digit verification code to confirm your email address. From there, you’re good to go.

If you’re not looking for anything in particular, you can browse for different products by hovering your mouse on the category section to help refine your search.

Find the best deals by heading to the categories portion of AliExpress’ website

Despite the long shipping time, AliExpress has no minimum order required to purchase a product.

To help you score the best bang for your buck on AliExpress, here’s what you can do.

Let’s say you’re a buyer in the United States looking for a men's cap. You’ve already learned that you can filter products to be shipped from either the United States, Turkey, or China.

After you click the United States dropdown from the Ship From portion, the next thing you should do is filter your search by checking the box to the right of Free shipping to guarantee the seller has somewhat of a positive rating.

Improve your experience on AliExpress by viewing products with high reviews

Once you find a product you like, hover your mouse over the name of the shop. This should be found at the top left portion of the page beside AliExpress’ logo.

Viewing a seller’s shop rating and product reviews can help you determine whether a product is legit or a scam.

At the checkout of your first order, that’ll be the time AliExpress will ask for your shipping address and payment method. Once finished, the details will be automatically saved to your account for future use.

To track your order, simply go to My Orders > click View Detail > Logistics Information.

Can You Return Products to AliExpress?

Yes, as long as it's returned within 15 days after you received the product. Some sellers even indicate free returns on their products to help you avoid incurring any additional costs.

AliExpress also provides a 90-day buyer protection program that starts once the product is shipped out and can be extended for 15 days once a dispute has been raised within 90 days. A refund on your purchase can happen if it meets the following criteria:

    • The product fails to arrive during the expected time frame
    • Product isn’t close to what was described in the product description
    • Item/s are damaged upon receiving
AliExpress also has buyer protection on their products to avoid buyers from getting scammed.

In the event you want to return a product, you should first contact the seller to settle the dispute. If you fail to agree on a solution, you can raise a ticket to AliExpress and they will settle the rest.

To raise a ticket, go to your account > order > order details > select item you want a refund for >
select Refund only or refunds & return application type.

Once the refund has been processed, it takes 3-20 working days depending on your payment method to receive the refund.

Generally, most items are eligible for return except

    • Items that have been worn, washed, or if the packaging and/or hygiene stickers are removed
    • Fresh & frozen food
    • Live plants
    • Underwear 
    • Adult products
    • Tickets, vouchers, and virtual products
    • Free gifts
    • Customized products

What Are the Best Selling Items on AliExpress?

AliExpress offers an extensive selection of products you can buy ranging from electronics, fashion, beauty and health, sports, and more. Upon scrolling the app, you should expect to find a mix of both branded and unbranded items.

Here’s a quick list of some of the most popular and fast-selling items on AliExpress

    • Cellphones
    • Clothing for men, women, and children
    • Electronic devices and accessories
    • Health and beauty products
    • Home appliances
    • Jewelry
    • Motorcycle and car accessories 
    • Shoes and accessories

Why Is AliExpress So Cheap?

When you compare prices of generic products on Amazon and AliExpress, you’ll find AliExpress will have significantly lower prices.

The main reason most of the products on AliExpress are so cheap is that you are buying directly from Chinese manufacturers. Since you’re buying directly from the source, this eliminates third-party sellers from marking up prices. Because competition is high, some sellers would rather lower their profit margins rather than not sell their products at all.

While there are a lot of good finds when you buy from AliExpress, they do also allow sellers to post counterfeit and used goods on the platform. Aside from filtering your search to only sellers with high ratings, another useful tip to get the best deals on AliExpress is to check the product’s description and communicate with the seller before you purchase a product.

Selling on AliExpress

Setting up your e-commerce shop on AliExpress can be done with a few simple steps. As of writing, only people residing in Brazil, China, France, Italy, Spain, and Turkey can currently apply to sell on the platform.

Guide to selling on Aliexpress
Only citizens living in selected countries are allowed to sell on AliExpress

However, this doesn’t mean you still can’t make money on the platform if you live outside the countries mentioned above. AliExpress is a goldmine to start a dropshipping business.

Once you’ve decided which item/s to drop ship, make sure you check for any trademarks to avoid committing any violations. Next, create a test order. This ensures that you at least have an idea of the quality of the product before selling them.

If you’re satisfied with the quality of the product, you’ll then need to create an online store. The most common platform sellers use is Shopify. But if the price is a bit over your budget, there’s nothing wrong with considering other alternatives to Shopify. From there, all you need to do is set up your shipping and payment processes and then wait for customers to purchase from your store.

What Items Are Prohibited on AliExpress?

To ensure only quality products and sellers are on the platform, AliExpress instills a “penalty point method” whenever sellers commit a violation or sell prohibited items.

Once a seller accumulates 12 penalty points, the account will be frozen for seven days. If a seller accumulates 48 penalty points or commits a ‘very serious violation’, the seller’s membership will automatically be terminated. A seller can only create a new account or have his account reactivated at AliExpress’ discretion.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the categories of unaccepted items on AliExpress:

    • Illicit drugs, precursors, and drug paraphernalia 
    • Hazardous materials
    • Firearms and ammunition
    • Restricted weapons
    • Government, law, or military used items
    • Medical drugs and devices
    • Adult and obscene materials
    • Circumvention devices and equipment used for illicit purposes 
    • Illegal services
    • Collections, artifacts, and precious metals
    • Human parts, human remains, and protected flora and fauna
    • Materials detrimental to National Security
    • Tobacco and related products
    • Gambling equipment
    • Sanctioned and otherwise prohibited items
    • Substandard and dangerous goods
    • Other goods restricted due to local laws

If you want to know the specific products banned on the platform, go check out AliExpress' Prohibited and Controlled Information List.

Final Thoughts

If you’re thinking of buying products from AliExpress, make sure you’re comfortable with what you purchase. The process to return items can be a headache due to the cost of return shipping and communication with most likely a Chinese seller.

If you want to make AliExpress part of your next business venture, make sure you do your research and test the product before selling them.

Have you tried selling on AliExpress? What challenges did you encounter when you first signed up on the platform?

Derick Quinanola

With a passion for helping businesses navigate the world of ecommerce and online marketing, Derick has been working as a writer and digital marketer for more than 3 years, helping companies of different niches grow their online presence. In his spare time, Derick loves to exercise, play video games, and spend time with his family.

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