If you are spending a lot of money the last thing you want to do is spend more money, right?
And when you’re told that an instrument is the best product on the market for the price it shouldn’t need repair, right?
But retailers are increasingly offering extended protection plans even if the gear is covered by a manufacturer’s warranty and it can be confusing to sort out.
Usually, if you are paying for a protection plan it is better to think of it as insurance, rather than a warranty. Extended plans like Guitar Center offers have advantages but considering how and where you use your instruments will help determine if it is in your best interest to spend the money.
For the purpose of this article, I will focus on retailers in the USA, namely the big two: Guitar Center and Sweetwater (sorry Sam Ash, it’s nothing personal).
There are some big differences in cost since one is free, what is covered, and how I think your personal situation should affect your decision.
Do guitars usually have normal warranties?
Since we are going to cover two retailers I will follow suit and discuss Fender and Gibson guitars’ warranty policies.
Fender (FMIC) updated their warranty policies in 2017 and I don’t think it was to consumers’ benefit.
For example, Fender amplifiers have a two-year warranty now and I know for a fact it used to be five years on at least their high-end models.
Likewise, Fender and Squier guitars also feature a two-year warranty but the list of things that are not covered is pretty long.
Basically, you will be covered if certain parts/wiring are defective but fret wear, nut wear, rust, corrosion, anything to do with the finish, or changes in weather, are not included.
Gibson guitars have similar disclaimers on what is covered but come with a warranty for the lifetime of the original retail purchaser.
I think they can be a little more generous because all the instruments are made in their own USA factories. See? They can still do some things right. Gibson is the clear winner here.
How much do guitar protection plans usually cost?
Now Sweetwater has a pretty nice policy (Total Confidence Coverage Warranty) that includes a free two-year warranty on a lot of products.
It is similar to manufacturers’ warranties in what it covers but they take care of it for you.
But you are responsible for shipping costs both ways and that can be a lot of money plus the risk that comes with shipping instruments.
Guitar Center offers a Pro Coverage option that is definitely not free but is more like an insurance policy.
They don’t offer information on a flat percentage fee for the plan but looking at a Fender Strat that sells for $2500, the longest and best-value plan is sold for $690 for five years of protection.
I think it is easier to consider it monthly so it is $11.5 per month or an extra charge of about half a percent of the guitar’s value every month for the five years.
It adds up quickly but it does have some advantages that may appeal to you.
What do extended warranties or protection plans from dealers include?
To continue with Guitar Center, their insurance covers a lot of the things that the manufacturers and Sweetwater’s plan does not.
It includes coverage for cracks, damage from spills and falls, power surges, heat/humidity, etc.
I am sure it is within reason and things like fret wear and minor changes from use aren’t covered.
But it sure sounds good as long as you can argue that your situation falls within the guidelines.
Are extended guitar warranties or protection plans from dealers worth it?
Retailers obviously sell extended warranties and insurance as services to make money.
They’ve already done all of the calculations to determine the prices and still make money so I think the macro view is they are not worth it.
But they are there if you think you will need them and it is up to you to decide how you feel.
And there is no such thing as a free lunch so even when a company offers a free service plan, the cost is embedded elsewhere in the business model for sure.
Reasons to take an extended warranty or protection plan
Time is a big factor in having repair work done.
Often parts or replacements can be back-ordered for weeks, months, or simply unavailable, and I think it is only getting worse with all of the shipping delays and factory problems now.
So if you gig or play your instrument at church having the leverage of paying extra might help you get your gear repaired or replaced sooner.
And keeping it local also saves time as well as eliminates the risk of shipping an instrument.
Then there is the issue of how likely you think your gear is to get damaged or dropped, not resulting from a manufacturer defect.
If you have young children or pets, particularly big dogs, the extra money for insurance like what Guitar Center offers might be worth it.
When you are dealing with musical instruments, Fido the Irish Wolfhound is not a good boy.
And lastly, some people just like the peace of mind that comes from having insurance so if you fit in that category then I think you should go for it.
Reasons not to take an extended warranty or protection plan
I think there are a lot of reasons that it is okay to feel safe with the manufacturer’s warranty, provided there is one.
To continue with the time factor, you may be lucky enough to have backup instruments so waiting a month or two for a repair wouldn’t be a big deal.
Or if you live in a rural area without many big retailers near you then trying to avoid shipping your instrument might be a moot point.
Maybe you are just a hobbyist and would rather save your money and put it towards something new in five years and there is nothing wrong with that.
I tend to go with this point of view myself. Besides, I don’t think that the actual electronic components in a guitar are particularly prone to failure if you take care of your instrument.
Of course a MIDI or modeling guitar like a Line 6 Variax has a lot more going on inside than just capacitors, pots, and switches.
But a lot of musicians like to modify their gear too and sometimes the changes can’t be undone.
You can remove strap locks and re-install the original strap buttons if you need warranty service but most mods can’t be hidden easily and there goes your warranty.
Lastly, there is the possibility that a service center or store will simply take care of you even if you, ahem, may have done something that caused a problem.
Without naming any names, I once removed a guitar with a strap over my head and bumped one of the tuning keys on the ceiling, not hard, but enough to damage it.
Thank God, the shop that I purchased it from was able to replace the tuning key under the manufacturer’s warranty.
I’m sure it was obviously my fault but they hooked me up so I was lucky and I’m grateful for it.
Anyway, let’s wrap this up and I hope you have good luck if you ever need repairs too.
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.