Skip to content
SuperMoney logo
SuperMoney logo

Ex Works (EXW) and Other Incoterms: A Guide to Understanding International Trade

Last updated 05/04/2023 by

SuperMoney Team

Edited by

Fact checked by

Summary:
In international trade, it is essential to have a clear understanding of Incoterms, which are standard trade terms used to define the responsibilities and obligations of buyers and sellers. One commonly used Incoterm is Ex Works (EXW), which places most of the responsibility on the buyer.

Understanding ex works

Ex Works is an international trade term that represents an agreement between a buyer and seller that places responsibility for the goods solely on the buyer upon the seller’s delivery of the goods to a specified location, typically the seller’s factory or warehouse. In simpler terms, the seller is responsible for making the goods available at their premises and the buyer is responsible for transporting and insuring the goods from the seller’s premises.
Under an Ex Works agreement, the seller is not responsible for loading the goods onto the buyer’s transport or clearing the goods for export, which means the buyer must arrange and pay for all transportation, documentation, and customs clearance costs.

Ex works vs. FOB

Ex Works is often compared to another common incoterm: Free on Board (FOB). The main difference between the two lies in the point of transfer of responsibility from the seller to the buyer.
Under FOB, the seller is responsible for delivering the goods to the port of shipment, loading the goods onto the ship, and clearing the goods for export. Once the goods are on board the ship, the buyer takes on responsibility for the goods.
On the other hand, under EXW, the seller is responsible only for making the goods available at their premises. Once the buyer picks up the goods, they take on full responsibility for transporting and insuring them.

Responsibilities under ex works

As mentioned, under an Ex Works agreement, the seller’s responsibilities are limited to making the goods available at their premises. This means that the seller is not responsible for any of the following:
  • Loading the goods onto the buyer’s transport
  • Clearing the goods for export
  • Providing any export documentation
  • Paying for any transportation or insurance costs
  • Providing any assistance with customs clearance
On the other hand, the buyer is responsible for all of these tasks, as well as any additional costs that may arise during the shipping process.

Advantages and disadvantages of ex works

Like any other Incoterm, Ex Works has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the pros and cons of using Ex Works:

Advantages:

  1. Cost Savings: Ex Works can help save costs for both the buyer and seller. Since the buyer takes care of the transportation, the seller doesn’t have to worry about the shipping expenses. Additionally, the buyer can also choose the cheapest mode of transportation and carrier, which can help reduce the overall transportation costs.
  2. Flexibility: Ex Works offers a lot of flexibility to the buyer, as they have complete control over the transportation and logistics. This means that the buyer can choose the mode of transportation, carrier, and route that best suits their needs.
  3. Reduced Risk: Since the buyer is responsible for the transportation, they have more control over the goods and can ensure that they are handled properly. This can help reduce the risk of damage or loss during transportation.

Disadvantages:

  1. Increased Responsibility: Ex Works puts a lot of responsibility on the buyer, as they are responsible for the transportation and logistics. This means that the buyer has to arrange for transportation, insurance, customs clearance, and other related activities.
  2. Limited Protection: Since the seller is only responsible for delivering the goods to the buyer’s premises, there is limited protection for the buyer. If the goods are damaged or lost during transportation, the buyer may have to bear the losses.
  3. Lack of Control: Since the seller has no control over the transportation and logistics, they may not be able to ensure that the goods are handled properly. This can increase the risk of damage or loss during transportation.

Incoterms

Incoterms (International Commercial Terms) are a set of standardized trade terms published by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). These terms are widely used in international trade to define the obligations and responsibilities of buyers and sellers regarding the delivery of goods. The current version of Incoterms is Incoterms 2020.
There are 11 Incoterms in total, and they are grouped into four categories based on the level of responsibility and risk assumed by the parties involved in the transaction. Ex Works is one of the terms included in the category of “E” terms, which stand for “Ex Works.”
Here is a brief overview of the other Incoterms:
  • FCA (Free Carrier): The seller is responsible for delivering the goods to a carrier appointed by the buyer at a named place. The buyer assumes all risks and costs from that point forward.
  • FAS (Free Alongside Ship): The seller is responsible for delivering the goods alongside a vessel at a named port. The buyer assumes all risks and costs from that point forward.
  • FOB (Free on Board): The seller is responsible for delivering the goods on board a vessel at a named port. The buyer assumes all risks and costs from that point forward.
  • CFR (Cost and Freight): The seller is responsible for delivering the goods on board a vessel at a named port and paying the freight charges to transport the goods to the destination port. The buyer assumes all risks from the point the goods are on board the vessel.
  • CIF (Cost, Insurance, and Freight): The seller is responsible for delivering the goods on board a vessel at a named port and paying for the freight charges and insurance to transport the goods to the destination port. The buyer assumes all risks from the point the goods are on board the vessel.
  • CPT (Carriage Paid To): The seller is responsible for delivering the goods to a carrier appointed by the buyer at a named place and paying for the freight charges to transport the goods to the destination. The buyer assumes all risks from the point the goods are handed over to the carrier.
  • CIP (Carriage and Insurance Paid To): The seller is responsible for delivering the goods to a carrier appointed by the buyer at a named place and paying for the freight charges and insurance to transport the goods to the destination. The buyer assumes all risks from the point the goods are handed over to the carrier.
  • DAP (Delivered at Place): The seller is responsible for delivering the goods to a named place at the destination. The buyer assumes all risks from that point forward.

FAQs

Is Ex Works suitable for all types of goods?

Ex Works can be used for almost any type of goods. However, it is more suitable for goods that are easy to transport and have a low risk of damage or loss during transportation.

Who is responsible for the transportation under Ex Works?

The buyer is responsible for arranging the transportation and logistics under Ex Works.

What is the difference between Ex Works and FOB?

The key difference between Ex Works and Free on Board (FOB) is the point at which responsibility for the goods transfers from the seller to the buyer. With Ex Works, the buyer assumes responsibility for the goods as soon as they leave the seller’s premises. With FOB, the seller is responsible for the goods until they are loaded onto the shipping vessel.

What are the advantages of using Incoterms?

Using Incoterms can provide clarity and predictability in international trade transactions. They can help avoid misunderstandings and disputes by clearly defining the responsibilities of the buyer and seller at each stage of the shipment.

Do I have to use incoterms in my contracts?

No, Incoterms are not required by law. However, using them can help ensure that both parties have a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities in the transaction.

Key takeaways

  • Ex Works (EXW) is a trade term that places the responsibility for the goods on the buyer as soon as they leave the seller’s premises.
  • The buyer is responsible for arranging transportation, customs clearance, and other costs associated with the shipment.
  • Ex Works can provide cost savings and greater control for the seller, but it also carries greater risk and administrative burden for the buyer.
  • Incoterms are a set of standardized trade terms that define the responsibilities of buyers and sellers involved in international trade.
  • Using Incoterms can provide clarity and predictability in international trade transactions.

You might also like