I wanted a roof top tent. They’re really convenient and make you look like a serious overlander, all the cool kids are doing it. Of course, I can’t afford the $3000 Maggiolinas or Barouds, so I looked into buying a Chinese clone. Several companies are importing them from Alibaba and rebranding them and selling with their own name for about $2000 which is a bit more palatable but still too pricey for my cheap 🍑. I then went onto Alibaba myself and tried to import them, and here what it takes:
Finding and contacting the manufacturer: Just do a quick search for “roof top tent” on Alibaba.com and they’ll give you thousands of results.
Just contact the suppliers and they’ll get back to you within the next day. Hard shell tents cost about $8-900 and soft shell is $4-500. If you pay via PayPal, they charge you a PayPal fee of $70. I don’t know if there are other fees for other forms of payment.
Shipping prices are only $100 each to port of Long Beach, CA. That’s the quote the suppliers give you, which seems reasonable. But this Alibaba and importing and customs and complexity.
The Port of Long Beach charges $300 to get anything shipped there. This price doesn’t matter whether you order 1 or 10, it’s $300. And then, to my surprise, you have to pay someone to do all that customs 💩. A customs broker, I don’t know why we needed one, but the port wouldn’t tell me where my tent was. So I hired one, for $250. They gave me some papers to sign and told me where to get my tent. It was in some warehouse 35 miles away from Long Beach. The warehouse charged another $300 to have stuff stored there. From the warehouse, you bring all the signed papers from the customs broker and you get your tent. Total cost is $1820 and about four weeks from the time you pay the manufacturer.
Obviously, if you order more than one, the prices goes down per tent. Now that you know, you can do a group buy or start your own business.