Introduction: Buying Low Volume Parts From China - the Right Way

A while ago I was badly burned by some bad parts off, so I went to a Chinese supplier I had bought from in the past and re-ordered from them. Here's the article I posted about that experience.

The bad experience prompted me to write this article. And I know, some will say "That's what you get from buying China." or will quote "Chinese only make junk". But you only need to look as far as the smart phone or PDA you are using to read this article to know different!!!!!

The reality is China is willing to build whatever we are willing to pay for, and because we are cheap skates not willing to pay more than $39.95 for a Blue Ray player or more than $9.00 for a set of ear buds does not make the quality we receive for most consumer goods their fault.

Step 1: Aliexpress - the Modern Market Place

This did not start out as an article about but these days you can't talk about buying from China and other countries without discussing their service. AliExpress offers a service that builds trust from both sides through checks and balances.

The system works like this:

  1. A supplier offers his goods through AliExpress.

  2. You agree to buy the product.

  3. You pay for the product with your credit or debit card.
  4. But instead of the payment going to the seller, it's held by AliExpress until your order is delivered.
  5. You inspect the product and release payment when satisfied.
  6. The seller collects his payment.
  7. If you are not happy with the product you follow the guidelines on the sellers posting for a full or partial refund. Most AliExpress sellers offer a no questions asked full refund or a full refund after you return the product.

Step 2: Searching AliExpress for Your Purchases

Searching is easy, you just plug in what you are looking for in the "I'm Shopping For" search bar and hit the magnifying glass to the right.

For example, I buy LED light strips from China through AliExpress, and I already know what I want to buy so a typical search term for me might be "SMD5050 60led/m flexible led strip light 5M 300led".

SMD5050 = 50mm X 50mm LEDs because I know these are super bright.
60led/m = 60 LEDs mounter per meter (3'), again super bright.
flexible led strip light = it's the ones that ship coiled up & that I'll unroll to install.
5M - one 5 Meter (about 15 feet) string.
300led = 300 LEDs on a string.

You could just as easily search for "flexible led strip light" but then you would have thousands to search through instead of a hundred or so. In other words, be as descriptive as possible!

Step 3: Reviewing Results (sellers)

Not surprising to me, one of my favorite suppliers Youmyelectric LTD popped up on top of the search results, so I'll use their listing as an example.

Looking at the selection I outlined you'll see:

  • A picture of the product for sale.
  • A short description of the part for sale.
  • The name of the business with an icon to the left.
  • It's important to buy from a business that has at least one diamond icon to the left of the name.
    One diamond icon shows a overall store feedback score of at least 500. But more diamonds is not better, more usually means it's just a bigger shop! The important part is the vendor's feedback should be 90 or better. You will never see 100 because too many customers leave bad feedback for purchases that are heir own fault.
  • To the right side will be price or a price range if the offer comes with options.
  • Below this is usually the quantity.
  • Then you see shipping options.
  • A row of stars - this is feedback for this specific item.

Step 4: Select an Item From the List

Clicking on the picture or description will bring up the item details.

The LED string I selected has options that change the price. in this example, one color strings sell for $12.60 while their RGB (3 color) strings sell for $14.00.

On this page you will also see:

  • Usually multiple pictures of the product.
  • The seller's return policy.
  • Usually a bulk price option - in this case, if I buy 5 or more I pay $12.10 each instead of $12.60 each.
  • A contact now button that sends the seller a email.
  • A chat now button that from my experience, works very poorly.
  • And below this whatever details the vendor believes is important for his product.
  • You will also see the vendor's feedback stats again. And in this case Youmyelectric LTD has feedback rating of 96.4% - a very good rating as far as I'm concerned.

Step 5: Vendor's Other Items

While on this page it's worth mentioning that you can look through your vendor's other items. And more than once I looked through what else a favorite vendor had for sale and found another neat item to purchase!

Step 6: Selecting Your Purchase, Shipping Options and Shipping Expectations

Clicking "Buy Now" will put the item in a shopping basket and offer shipping options. And in this case "Free Shipping" is ePacket. Most vendors will offer shipping options, and most of the time these are extra cost options.

The most important thing to remember is that we are spoiled by the best, most efficient transportation system in the world. A system where we can order something from 2600 miles away and expect to have it delivered tomorrow morning!!!

NOW throw all of these expectations away when buying from another country, and not just China - any other country!!!

The shipping times quoted do not include processing time on their end, the time it takes for the seller to deliver to the carrier or the time it takes the US Post Office to process an order to you. A 7 day shipping quote can easily become 30 days or more and not one bit of the delays will be the seller's fault!

Step 7: Payment

To pay, you select your card type, enter all the right numbers, you get a confirmation message and the cash disappears from your debit or credit card.

Then you wait.

and wait.

and wait.

and wait.

Step 8: Tracking Your Order

But AliExpress does not leave you stranded at this point. They give you a screen where you can monitor and track all of your orders. Plus, you will get notification when your order ships and once in the states you have excellent package tracking.

Step 9: Receiving Your Order and Releasing Money to Your Supplier

The day has finally come!

You received notification that your package shipped almost three weeks ago and it seems like forever!

You tracked the package through Chicago, through Birmingham, then finally tracking says it's out for delivery!

You get your box and it's wrapped in yellow tape.

You open the box and you are either extremely excited or extremely disappointed!

And by the way, most purchases are great providing YOU did your homework!

I've had both, but more often than not I received exactly what I expected. And when I did not receive what I expected more often than not I did not do my homework correctly. I ordered what I purchased but did not fully understand what I ordered.

The final part is to log back into and confirm you received your parts because this is how your supplier gets paid. Also, don't forget to give your supplier a fair review!

All images taken for this instructable were of an actual purchase I made from Youmyelectric LTD through AliExpress. I needed to buy another LED strip for my storage building and the purchase was the perfect opportunity to write this article.

Youmyelectric LTD and their products can be found at

Thanks, Tom