Ask any guitarist you know: buying, selling, and trading guitars via the Internet is a huge part of any modern axe-master’s life. In fact, online guitar exchanges occur almost every day. You may want to sell your vintage sunburst Les Paul for some extra cash. You may want to swap out your bright Taylor for a darker-sounding Martin, or you may want to snag that used road-worn Telecaster you’ve had your eye on for years. Whatever the case, shipping out a guitar isn’t as easy as vamping on an open E chord…but that’s where Shipping School comes in. This guide is all about how to ship a guitar, and how to do it for the cheapest rates around. Let’s get rockin’!
Properly Packaging Your Guitar for Shipment
If your guitar comes with a hardshell case, you should absolutely ship the case with the guitar inside of it. Then, you can stuff the entire thing into a brand new corrugated cardboard box. Shipping the guitar inside the case will make the package heavier, but it will also keep the guitar from sustaining any damage it might undergo during transit. You never know what could happen on the journey that a case can protect your guitar from…your package could fall off a shelf in the delivery truck, or someone may accidentally step on the neck. Could you imagine? Randy Rhoads would turn over in his grave.
If your guitar doesn’t have a case, then you should surround your guitar with enough packing material to keep it from moving at all inside of the box. We suggest wrapping your guitar in material like thick air pillows, bubble wrap, or foam sheets. The more you use, the better off it will be!
Learn about the different types of packing material here.
Where to Get Boxes for Guitars
Here’s the thing about shipping guitars: they have unusual dimensions compared to most consumer products, and finding boxes that fit them is pretty difficult. You won’t find any cardboard guitar boxes at your local Target, or even in your local Guitar Center or Sam Ash.
That said, you can pick up some cardboard guitar boxes on the ULINE website. That box we linked to will fit most electric guitars, and ULINE also has a variety of other sizes you can browse through on their website (for dreadnought acoustic guitars, bass guitars, miniature grand auditoriums, etc).
Determine the Cheapest Shipping Carrier for Shipping Guitars
Once you’ve packed your guitar, it’s time to see how much it’ll cost to ship it. You don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on shipping, so it’s important that you choose the shipping carrier that will offer you the cheapest rates. In this case, that particular carrier is the US Postal Service, or “USPS” for short.
Generally speaking, USPS is best for smaller, heavier shipments, and a guitar fits perfectly into this category. UPS offers the best rates for oversized shipments and emergency deliveries, while FedEx specializes in business deliveries and niche shipments like frozen food.
A Quick Price Comparison
Here’s why USPS is the best carrier for shipping a guitar. Let’s say you’ve got a Stratocaster that you need to send from Los Angeles to Phoenix. It fits into a a 50 x 8 x 20″ box from ULINE, like the one we linked to above. An average Strat weighs about 8 pounds, and with its hardshell case included, the total weight of your shipment comes out to 10 pounds.
Two comparable services here are USPS Priority Mail (from USPS), and UPS 2nd Day Air (from UPS). Both services offer roughly the same delivery timeframe and quality of service. In this case, UPS 2nd Day Air would run you $158.74 to send this package. USPS, on the other hand, will only charge you $57.45 at the Post Office to ship the same box. That’s over $100 cheaper…and you’ll get an even better price when you use shipping software to buy your postage online!
Use Online Shipping Software to Get the Cheapest USPS Rates
If you’re a fan of Tenacious D, this advice we’re about to give you is equivalent to snagging the Pick of Destiny: don’t go to the Post Office. Instead, use shipping software to buy discounted postage online.
Online shipping software companies allow you to access the deepest level of discounts that USPS offers, known throughout the industry as Commercial Pricing. In fact, when you use shipping software, that same package from the example earlier will only cost you $46.89 to ship via Priority Mail. That’s an 18% savings, and you just pocketed that extra cash for free. Talk about turning your profit up to 11!
Here’s the bottom line: you should always use shipping software to buy postage. You’ll save the most money that way, and you can print off the postage from the comfort of your own home, so you’ll never have to go to the Post Office again. Oh…and did we mention that the best shipping software companies are totally free?
Pro Tip: There are a ton of different shipping software companies out there, and some are way better than others. If you’re looking for a place to start, check out our Reviews page to see which one is right for you!
Don’t Forget to Purchase Insurance
Remember: guitars are fragile. They are made of wood, and while wood is sturdy, the neck of a guitar can easily fracture or snap if it takes too much pressure or experiences sudden drops during transit. Also, a lot of guitars are high-value items that can easily be worth several thousands of dollars. Since this is the case, we always recommend purchasing shipping insurance whenever sending out a guitar, no matter if you’re shipping a Fender Squier or a vintage Eric Clapton “Fool” SG.
When you use online shipping software to buy postage, you’ll always have the option to purchase insurance through a third-party insurance partner. Most shipping insurance companies will cover you for the entire cost of your guitar if you properly declare its value and pay for the corresponding protection. In our opinion, it’s always worth spending a few extra bucks on insurance, just in case anything happen to your axe during the journey to its final destination. After all, it’s pretty easy to break a guitar by the neck if you apply enough force and pressure…just watch this video of Pete Townsend smashing one on live TV if you don’t believe me.
Have any questions about shipping guitars? Drop us a line in the comments and fire away!