I have used AliExpress and eBay for multiple years and Yes, it’s absolutely safe to buy from these sites but there are some considerations to make. During the years I have had my fair share of disappointments with junky products that I ended up not using. I will share my findings that will allow you to avoid some of the mistakes I have made and give the best alternatives.
If you want to skip the background information on the platforms you can jump straight to the products from this link.
Online retail sites to choose from
Amazon has speedy delivery times and great customer service and returns options for the products. I think those are some of the main advantages compared to the other platforms to buy from. The reason to buy from the other platforms is to save money. Buying from China directly via AliExpress makes a lot of sense in some cases.
AliExpress is an online retail service based in China that is owned by Alibaba. Alibaba provides the platform and sellers on AliExpress are all independent either businesses or individuals. So it’s not really like Amazon but rather more like eBay.
AliExpress launched in 2010. I personally prefer AliExpress over eBay because it’s easier to find better quality products and usually at a better price.
Can AliExpress Be Trusted
Yes, AliExpress can be trusted. Do note the below considerations though. Many have doubts about AliExpress since it isn’t a household name everywhere in the world yet. AliExpress works a bit like eBay since Alibaba provides the AliExpress platform and the sellers are usually independent businesses. The seller’s ratings are a great indication if the seller can be trusted. I usually only buy from sellers which have 95+ percent positive feedback and only products that are 4 or 5 stars rated.
AliExpress does provide similar safety compared to eBay for buyers in the form of buyer protection. For example, if you don’t receive the product or it is significantly different from the description you will get a refund. I have in some cases used the dispute process and it works fine.
Can you use PayPal on AliExpress
Some sellers do accept PayPal. Due to the higher commissions PayPal charges previously PayPal wasn’t a choice at all but currently, some sellers do accept PayPal. Personally, I have just inserted my credit card information on AliExpress and haven’t had any issues so far.
eBay Inc. is an American multinational e-commerce corporation that facilitates consumer-to-consumer and business-to-consumer sales through its website. It was founded in 1995 so it has been around for a lot longer than AliExpress.
eBay has a money back guarantee basically they say you get the item you ordered or your money back. Also, you can pay using pay pal which gives an additional layer of buyer protection. I have in some cases used the eBay dispute process and it works fine.
Wish, is an online e-commerce company. It was founded in 2010. It is similar to eBay, small businesses and manufacturers on Wish sell goods directly to consumers.
I have browsed wish but each time I have noticed it’s harder to find quality stuff compared to AliExpress and also the prices on wish tend to be higher so I see no reason to use wish.
When buying stuff we just need to include Amazon as one option to buy from.
Amazon.com is an American e-commerce and cloud computing company that was founded in 1994. Amazon is the largest Internet retailer in the world as measured by revenue and market capitalization, and second largest after Alibaba Group in terms of total sales.
How to avoid low quality when buying from China-based sellers
Generally, my rule of thumb is that in a certain product category it’s risky to buy the cheapest product out there. Buying an unbranded product for the cheapest price you can find it will often result in getting a junky low-quality product. You can still save a lot of money by finding a product with a Chinese brand and an equally high quality than some of the well-known brands. My all-time favorite still are the Bendu Bamboo socks.
My approach for searching on AliExpress is to write the search term for example “Moto X4 Case” and then sort by orders from highest to lowest. Among the first products whit the highest amount of orders I can usually find high-quality products with 4 or 5-star ratings.
USB cables for charging
USB cables are an accessory that you need many of since we tend to have so many devices that need charging like a smartphone, smartwatch, headphones, computer mice etc.
Buying a Samsung or Apple-branded cable can cost roughly 20 USD so if you want to have multiple cables and chargers in your home for a family it’s not unreasonable to have let’s say 10 cables amounting to 200 USD.
So saving some money and buying the cables online from AliExpress sounds like a good idea. I bought multiple micro-USB cables that are unbranded and the cheapest ones you can find on AliExpress (around 0,8USD per cable) and the end result is that they brake very quickly and it takes longer to charge since they used cheap wiring on the cables. Specifically, with the micro USB cables, the pins get loose and the cable starts falling out.
What I recommend doing instead is buying a high-quality Chinese brand of USB cables like UGREEN. You end up paying roughly 2 USD per cable so it’s around twice the price compared to the cheapest option but still 10 times cheaper than a well-known brand bought locally. Please note that the lightning cables for Apple products are around twice the price compared to micro-USB or USB-c cables.
I currently use the USB-C type cables since I have a phone with that connector and thus far none of the Ugreen cables have broken.
Check current pricing on AliExpress:
Each time you upgrade your phone it makes sense getting a phone case right away since having a case decreases the chances of breaking the phone. Getting all the accessories for your smartphone can amount quickly to a hefty sum of money. For example, a Spigen Moto X4 Rugged Armor Case can be 19.99USD.
I have experimented with quite a few cases. Initially, I bought some cheap silicone cases and hard plastic cases but felt the quality was not up to par compared to for example the Spigen cases which are great.
My current recommendation is to look for cases made out of TPU. I have always found good-looking TPU cases for my phones for around 2 to 3 USD.
Check current pricing on AliExpress:
Smartphone Screen Protector
Buying a screen protector right away when I buy a new phone is something I always do because changing the screen can be half the price of a new device. With a screen protector, I have never had a broken screen.
Screen protectors from well-known brands like Spigen can cost around 20 to 25 USD. Buying one from China will be around 1 to 2 USD so a great way to save some money.
Don’t buy the cheapest ones which are just a plastic film or some thicker plastic. It makes sense to look for a tempered glass screen protector which will not change the feeling of the device’s screen in any way maintaining the colors.
I just bought a Nokia 7.1 Android One phone. In the store, the tempered glass would have been 26€ so the first thing I did was order one on Aliexpress.
Check current pricing on AliExpress:
- Msovekai tempered glass for Nokia Android One phones
- DREAMYSOW Full Cover Tempered Glass Screen Protector
Sure you can also find smartphones on AliExpress any buy them from China, but I wouldn’t buy even quality brands like Xiaomi from AliExpress since you are very likely to end up with customs fees and the prices aren’t that much cheaper compared to Amazon. With Amazon, you get great customer service and if there is a warranty issue with the phone you can trust Amazon to take care of it professionally.
My favorite option is to buy smartphones from Amazon as warehouse deals. You can check my smartphone recommendations on my recommenced gear page.
Smartwatches and Fitness trackers
I bought the Xiaomi Mi Band from AliExpress and based on my experience it’s the best fitness tracker out there in the sub $50 category. Check my full review of the Xiaomi Mi Band 3 here.
I have been also considering the Huami Amazfit Bip which has received great reviews. It has GPS and a wrist-based heart rate sensor. Battery life is advertised at 45 days which is impressive. For around $70 it must be one of the cheapest smartwatches with these features. You can also check my smartwatch buyers guide to read more about the Amazfit Bip.
- Check current pricing on AliExpress for the Huami Amazfit Bip Smartwatch.
- Check current pricing on AliExpress for the Xiaomi Mi Band 3
AliExpress is a great place to buy straps for your smartwatch if you want to give your device a new look. I have a whole other article on the topic you can check it out here.
The chargers which come with the phone are fine but I like to have chargers in multiple rooms. Like one in the living room and one in the kitchen and so on. Our family has kids as well so there are multiple phones, headphones, tablets etc. to be charged. So it makes sense to have multi-port chargers.
I have bought chargers on AliExpress but some of them don’t seem to have the output power that they state to have. So far I haven’t found cheaper deals on AliExpress on quality chargers so my advice is to get them on Amazon. You can check my recommendations on my recommenced gear page.
Led flashlights are extremely good but I don’t want to pay 50 USD for a flashlight. Instead, you can get great quality flashlights for around 5 USD or even under. I have multiple units of the XML T6 in usage and none of them have broken so far.
You can use the XML T6 with either one 18650 Li-ion battery or 3x AAA batteries. I recommend getting a chargeable 18650 since that does give more power and you can use it for a long time.
Led light Armband
If you go out for a run or walk in the dark it’s good to make sure others can see you. In Finland, it gets dark quite early during the winter time so I also want to make sure my daughter can be seen when playing outside in the afternoon. I bought multiple armbands and noted that the cheaper ones for around 1 € don’t have exchangeable batteries and are quite poor in build quality. Then I found these led armbands which have a good build quality and exchangeable batteries (check prices on Aliexpres).
I have a PS4 and noted that controllers can cost around 48 to 70 €. In my opinion, that’s really a lot. So I decided to look for options on Aliexpress. It seems there are generic options for around 20 € so I decided to order one generic PS4 controller that looks good (check prices on Aliexpress).
The PS4 controller feels sturdy, looks and works just like the original PS4 controller. I’m really happy with it and can recommend it.
Please note that there are wired options that look exactly the same for around 16€ so please make sure you get the wireless option. Comments on the product are good. Will let you know my experience with it once I have received it.
Please leave a comment if you have used one and let us know what you think.
If you happen to have an extra hard disk or SDD lying around from upgrading a laptop you might want to get a hard disk enclosure for the old one if you want to use it as a portable drive. I had one 256GB extra M.2 (SATA) SDD lying around so I found this M.2 enclosure on AliExpress for under 9USD.
I think the aluminium case covers were too tight and I had a hard time opening it without bending the aluminium. Might be just a bad unit, but if you have the same experience please leave a comment here and be sure to dispute the order on AliExpress if the quality is poor to get a full or partial refund. I disputed my order due to quality issues and was happy with how AliExpress stepped in to resolve it.
I was looking for a lighter for my fireplace at home and came across this butane lighter/welding torch on Aliexpress. I ordered one for around 5 USD and it works really nicely as a lighter and in the jet mode you get a really hot flame out of it and it’s handy if you are outdoors and try to light a fire and I find it also handy when lighting a fireplace indoors and I want to get a bigger piece of wood on fire without any kindling.
Clothes and Accessories
Are AliExpress Clothes Good
You might be asking yourself are AliExpress Clothes and accessories of good quality since they are so cheap. My experience is that you can find good quality clothes and accessories if you look at the order volumes and ratings and choose wisely. There are lower quality items out there as well and one challenge is to get the correct size.
I have had a good experience buying the products like socks, belts, and shorts (you can find some more information below and links as well). I have also bought a dress shirt which I didn’t really ever wear since the fit wasn’t just right (fabric quality was ok though) and also some boxer shorts which were too small.
Are AliExpress Sizes Smaller
Yes, AliExpress sizes are smaller than what residents of the US or Europe would expect. Sizes in Asia are different but you should be fine if you follow the sellers sizing tables. I wouldn’t buy if no sizing information is provided. For example, in my case, I had to choose the 5XL size to get the same size as XL would have been locally.
Neoprene Beach Socks / Scuba socks
If you are snorkeling, scuba diving or playing underwater rugby you might have noticed that it’s a good idea to wear neoprene socks in your fins to avoid blisters. I used to wear regular socks while playing underwater rugby but after an hour in the pool I still got blisters. After I discovered these neoprene socks (link to Aliexpress) I haven’t gotten blisters a single time anymore.
I have also used these neoprene socks as beach footwear. You don’t burn your feet on hot sand and when going swimming you avoid cutting your feet on sharp rocks etc. If you are using them over sharp objects though they will wear out. I ruined one pair of them in Thailand, but they are so inexpensive so it doesn’t really matter. I was happy to avoid any scratches on my feet.
Belts from San Vitale
I did not imagine I would ever by clothes or accessories from Ali express. Ended up looking for belts online and ordered a San Vitale leather belt since it looked nice and the price was good. I have been wearing San Vitale belts ever since and have ordered a total of three belts with different buckles.
I would recommend buying the belts from the San Vitale official store to get reliable and prompt shipping. Check prices for the belt I have from Ali Express San Vitale Store.
Bamboo Socks from Bendu
I started looking for bamboo socks after I tried a pair I received as a gift. For some reason, bamboo socks are more comfortable to wear than cotton socks. It’s easy to put them on since they stretch. Bamboo socks tend to be a bit expensive but I found these bamboo socks from Bendu (check price on Aliexpress) to have a good price and excellent quality. I have ordered 20 pairs for myself and given as many as gifts. None of the socks have broken so far although I have used them daily for a year.
If you end up ordering these socks would really like to hear what you think. Would appreciate a comment on this post below.
Update February 2019: I still think these are the best everyday socks I have. What a good find.
I have bought some cufflinks from Aliexpress but the first ones had plastic parts and broke within the first year. I ordered a second pair of cufflinks but found some which are entirely metal and they have been great (check prices on Aliexpress). It’s nice to leave them in the shirt until it needs to be washed so I ordered already some more.
I’m not sure are all the choices behind the link metal but at least the ones in the image which I use are entirely metal and have been very durable.
I was looking for shorts for my upcoming holiday and in Finland, I wasn’t able to find anything in the local stores since it was already winter time. I took a chance and ordered a pair of inexpensive shorts from Aliexpress which looked good to me. To my surprise, the shorts were a lot better than I expected and they fit really well. I measured my waist and used their sizing table and ordered the 5XL size which would equal a regular US XL size.
Knitting and crocheting
Creating Amigurumi creatures has become surprisingly popular. Amigurumi is the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small, stuffed yarn creatures. My daughter came across an Amigurumi book in a public library and since she loves stuffed animals she was instantly eager to create her own stuffed animals
The first thing one needs is a crochet hook or actually many hooks since one needs different sizes. I checked a local store and one can get one for around $3 but you could also get a full set of 12 crochet hooks of different sizes for around $3 on AliExpress.
- Set of 12 Bamboo crochet hooks for around $2 – these are the ones I bought
- Set of 12 Aluminium crochet hooks for around $3 – If you prefer aluminium these are very well rated as well
You might need other accessories, yarn and knitting tools to create your amigurumi stuffed creatures and you can pretty much find it all on Aliexpress.
Disclaimer about the AliExpress links
This site is a participant in the AliExpress Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to AliExpress.com.