Does Replacing Pickups Affect the Value of a Guitar?

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Pickups are one of the most influential factors for the tone of your guitar, and they are naturally one of the first modifications many players do to their instruments.

Just a simple pickup swap can easily get you closer to the tone that’s in your head.

But probably, you have had someone advise you on thinking twice about this upgrade since it may harm the resell value of your guitar.

So, does replacing pickups on a guitar actually affect its value?

Replacing the pickups of a guitar will likely increase the resell value of more affordable instruments since their stock pickups are usually not that good. For mid-tier to high-tier guitars with better parts, a pickup swap might not be considered a direct upgrade and affect its value negatively.

In this article, I will go in-depth about all that’s related to changing the pickups on your guitar and how that could affect its value positively or even in a negative way.

After leaving this page you will have a clearer idea about what to do with your instrument and if this kind of modification is a sound idea.

Are you ready to get started?

Let’s go!

Will a guitar with upgraded pickups sell for more?

Upgrading the pickups of a guitar can be a very personal decision, and what a player considers a step towards achieving a better tone, for others could be something undesired.

The rule of thumb, however, is that for more affordable guitars, say under $500, a pickup swap is usually a good thing, and something with a completely positive impact.

Of course, in this case, it would be expected to add the price of the newer better pickups to the selling price of the instrument.

But as you will see later in this article, this is not necessarily the case.

Can a pickup replacement make the price of a guitar drop?

Picture this:

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You go visit your grandparents, and in their attic, you find a pristine, barely played Gibson Les Paul ‘59 inside its case.

Since you are his favorite grandson, your grandpa tells you to have it, since he stopped playing long ago.

In ecstasy, you run back to your home, and you plug it into your cranked Line 6 Spider V amp.

But something sounds off…

After just a bit of guesswork, you decide it’s its original PAF pickups not cooperating with your shredding.

So, you grab a DiMarzio X2N you have lying around in a drawer and install it, because you “just need more gain, man” and throw away the stock pickup.

Do you think that otherwise, this hundred thousand (or multiple hundred) dollar guitar will still be worth the same?

Not more, for sure.

Probably way less.

You see, this is a stupidly over-the-top example, but I think it helps make my point clear.

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Not every guitar’s price will benefit from a pickup swap.

And of course, those original PAFs this fictional guitar came with are worth thousands of dollars more than the DiMarzio’s I mentioned, but you can imagine a similar case of a vintage spec’d guitar with pickups as expensive as aftermarket DiMarzios.

If players expect a certain sound from a guitar, having pickups that don’t meet that expectation will be detrimental.

Should you change the original pickups of your guitar if you are planning on selling it?

Your guitar is yours and no one else’s until you finally sell it.

Why not upgrade it if you genuinely think it will sound or feel better to you?

Thinking about these things is, however, a good idea long-term if you are planning on a complete guitar upgrade.

It will be easier to sell a rather stock instrument than a very heavily modded one.

However, pickups are usually an easy mod to revert if you had just switched to ones of the same type and didn’t do any destructive work on your guitar.

Finally, and as I mentioned earlier, a pickup upgrade on an affordable guitar is usually a good thing, especially if you went for pickups that are commonly sought after by the majority of players that like that kind of guitar.

Should you keep the original pickups of your guitar?

By all means, yes. I really think keeping the original pickups of your guitar is a good idea, whether you plan on selling it in the future or not.

It’s just something you can fall back on if in a few years you decide its new sound is just not for you anymore, or if you want to sell it faster if your case is any of the mentioned above.

For cheaper guitars, usually the original pickups you take off of them are not worth much, so getting rid of them might not make you rich either.

In mid-tier to higher-end guitars, the situation might be different, perhaps there’s a certain demand for your stock pickups.

You should decide what’s better for you and your wallet.

Again, in my personal opinion, keeping the original pickups is a good idea and something that I would appreciate getting with a modded used guitar I buy.

Should you charge the buyer for the original pickups if you also ship them?

Charging for the original pickups of a guitar will depend mostly on their market value. 

If they are cheap ceramic pickups from an affordable instrument, I would probably give them “for free” included in the price you decide to list your guitar for.

If your old pickups are a bit more demanded you can decide on selling them separately or mention to your potential buyers that you still have them and that you could throw them in the case for an extra amount.

Many buyers will like having the option to revert an instrument to its original specs.

Best places to sell your guitar

If you are planning on selling your guitar, you should definitely check our free gear market. There you can list your instrument for free and sell it with no commissions!

However, other great alternatives are Facebook Marketplace, Reverb.com, eBay, or guitar forums, although some of these might charge you for listing or selling, cutting a chunk off your final profit.