Is AliExpress safe?

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Online shopping is a great way to score a bargain and get access to products that you wouldn't otherwise be able to buy. Unfortunately, it's also rather risky if you don't know much about the site that you're purchasing from.

Sites that are newer to a particular market—such as AliExpress—are often questioned, and finding safe places to shop can be confusing. Especially when you're looking at offers that can appear almost too good to be true like many of the listings on AliExpress. 

That's why this piece is designed to shine a light on this online retailer, so you can decide if they're the right place for you to get your next great deal.

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Image: alexsl, iStock

What is AliExpress?

Before we jump into whether AliExpress is a good online shopping destination, we thought it would be wise to provide a quick run-down of what the site actually is. 

AliExpress is an online marketplace and global behemoth in its own right. Owned by multinational giant AliBaba, the site services most parts of the world and purchasing options include pretty much anything you could want to buy. As such, AliExpress is a popular destination for businesses looking to source cheap components for their products, as well as complete product solutions that they can rebrand and sell. This is generally the main focus of consumers on the site, hence why it is commonly seen as a B2B (business-to-business) platform.

Because of AliExpress' cheap pricing, many end users are now also seeking to make their purchases on the site. However, just as many are asking "is AliExpress trustworthy?" Which is probably how you ended up reading this article in the first place. 

Is AliExpress a scam?

It's never a bad thing to have a healthy sense of scepticism with online brands or marketplaces you haven't encountered before. The good news is that AliExpress, as a general rule, is not a scam, and is a safe place to shop. If you're willing to forego brand names you can save a decent chunk of change, and as sellers are often targeting the wholesale market, you can expect to get the same quality product as a shop would. 

Having said that, however, there are some pitfalls to the site. The main selling point (low pricing) coupled with product photography that, in many cases, clearly isn't professional, can be a red flag. In fact, it's probably what led you to search something along the lines of "Is AliExpress legit" in the first place. Unfortunately, while the site itself is, that doesn't mean all sellers on there are.

While some easily spotted issues - such as below-par product photography and keyword-stuffed product titles and descriptions - can simply be dismissed as cost-saving, or retailers trying to reach a larger demographic (they're operating in a B2B market after all and businesses shop differently to consumers) other signs of trouble should be taken seriously.

For example, some sellers may require a minimum order quantity (MOQ) which negates any cost savings and makes them unsuitable for end users to purchase from. Others may not be selling the highest quality products, and some can even be downright dodgy.

How to avoid issues when shopping on AliExpress

AliExpress is an online marketplace, and as noted above, that comes with its pitfalls. In order to avoid issues with your order, we suggest following these tips:

Think of it like eBay, Etsy or your other favourite online marketplace

While most sellers on AliExpress are good people simply trying to sell their products, there are bad apples on any platform. For this reason, we suggest treating AliExpress like any other online marketplace that you shop with. This means performing the same checks before committing to a purchase that you would with eBay or a similar platform. 

Ensure you're not browsing products with a MOQ

Because AliExpress has traditionally been geared towards B2B selling, some products do have a MOQ (minimum order quantity). While this isn't an issue if you're shopping for consumable products where you'll go through the MOQ in a reasonable timeframe, it can pose an issue when you're looking to make a singular purchase. The good news is that sellers will always show what their MOQ is, so it's pretty easy to stay on top of things. Plus, many will set their products up so that items come in bundles that are greater than their MOQ, making it even easier to avoid things you don't want or need.

Always check shipping costs

Shipping costs can really ruin your bargain hunting on AliExpress, as products make their way to you from all around the world. This generally isn't something that is going to cause any major issues, but it's good to double-check that your $5 item isn't going to turn into a $50 one once it starts making its way to you. Shipping fees are usually pretty transparent, so all you really need to do here is check the price.

And keep an eye on customs regulations

Depending on what you're purchasing, you may also be subject to dealing with customs. This can come with extra hassle, extended wait time, and unexpected fees and charges. Most products will usually just be checked at the border and then continue on their journey to you, but anything that throws a red flag or requires oversight from officials can lead to both problems and extra charges. The best thing to do here is to avoid ordering anything that could raise alarm bells and never order anything that is against U.S. law.

Remember that reviews are worth their weight in gold

Just like with any other online shopping experience, the reviews you'll find for products are worth their weight in gold. If you're unsure about the quality of something or want more information than the seller has provided, your first port of call should always be the review section. Customers will almost always give you a better idea of what a product is like, so it's worth taking the extra time to check. 

Don't forget about buyer protection

Finally, AliExpress offers a buyer protection program on purchases made on the site. This program applies alongside your rights under U.S. consumer law and can help you recoup your losses in the event that something isn't right with your order. While it's best not to need this service, it does provide additional peace of mind for shoppers and should allow you to have more confidence shopping on the platform.

Final word

Although precautions should be taken with any online marketplace, AliExpress is a safe shopping destination where you can score a bargain. This is something particularly useful with the ever-rising cost of living, so checking the site out is definitely worth it. However, it's important to follow the shopping tips provided in this article and perform all your standard online shopping safety checks and balances. Other than that, feel free to hit add to cart on whatever products you've got your eye on and enjoy your online shopping.

Jessica Jones
Written by
Jessica Jones
Jess has been writing educational content for almost ten years with a focus on lifestyle content. She loves coffee, dogs and all things fitness, and can often be found with her nose buried in a book and her music blaring through her earphones.

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