A lot of used music gear that is being sold online these days is priced pretty high in my opinion.
It’s listed for not much below the price of new gear and with shipping costs added it becomes really expensive.
Things probably won’t change as long as the demand for used gear is high.
But as a seller, can you offer a lower shipping cost to make your used guitar a more attractive option for buyers?
Your best bet to save money on shipping is to get quotes from several companies and ship to non-residential addresses when possible. You should also try to re-use guitar boxes and packaging materials to save money but don’t sabotage your shipping insurance by declaring your package as less than it’s worth.
We’ll take a look at some shipping options in the USA for three of the most popular options: USPS, FedEx, and UPS.
We’ll see if one is a cheaper option and then examine what other factors can influence shipping costs and which ones you should avoid. Let’s get into it.
Most affordable alternatives for shipping a guitar
To get some shipping quotes I have chosen to use a standard guitar shipping box like the ones sold on Amazon.
The dimensions are 6 x 18 x 45 inches and we’ll use a weight of 15 pounds.
So to ship from Chicago, Illinois to L.A., California, this is how it breaks down.
USPS Retail Ground: $108.70
UPS Ground: $69.22
FedEx Ground: $76.05
So UPS wins this battle but these quotes are based on non-residential destinations in large cities (I used the zip code of Chicago Music Exchange to the street address of Guitar Center on Sunset Boulevard, LA).
If the destination is in a rural area I suspect that the rates would be closer between UPS/FedEx and USPS because it would be an out-of-the-way trip for UPS/FedEx whereas USPS has to deliver mail everywhere anyway.
I also did not enter any financial values that could affect insurance coverage rates.
Should you cheap out on shipping for a guitar?
So UPS offers the best option this time for a guitar-sized package but it’s still almost $70, which is a lot of money.
You should really do quotes for each shipping company to find the best one for you; it shouldn’t take more than ten minutes.
If you want to try for an even cheaper rate and you can communicate with your buyer, I would suggest asking if they can receive packages at their workplace and trying that address versus their home address to see if one option is cheaper than the other.
I would not recommend trying to save money by saving on the insurance by listing the package value for less than your total sale price (instrument + shipping).
One other possibility to save money is to try using a website like ShipGuitars.com, which provides labels to ship via UPS but gives you access to their bulk-rate discount and extra insurance coverage.
Who pays for shipping, the buyer or the seller?
Generally, the buyer is responsible for paying the shipping cost unless a seller has specified free shipping. But in this case, you can be sure the shipping cost is built into the sale cost somehow.
It is also common for sellers to pad their costs (fees, time it takes them to ship) with the shipping quote, so the buyer is paying for more than the actual shipping cost.
Now, often you will see a shipping quote offered as a flat rate.
So once someone has purchased a guitar with that shipping quote, it is the seller’s responsibility to cover any difference between the quote and the actual cost.
For example, if the cost of shipping goes up (as it recently has) that is the seller’s problem, not the buyer’s.
Is cheaper shipping more prone to damaging the guitar?
I don’t subscribe to the idea that one shipping company is more prone to damage packages than others.
But I definitely advise against trying to ship a guitar with USPS’s cheap Media Mail option.
Even if you manage to convince the folks at the post office that the box is full of books or educational materials, I think this option is mainly cheap because the package contents aren’t considered fragile.
Another pitfall is trying to reduce the shipping costs by skimping on careful packaging (reducing the weight).
Many people probably remember doing some type of “egg drop” experiment in school, trying to build something to protect an egg when it is dropped from a tall height.
That’s really how you should be thinking about packaging your guitar, to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
So use plenty of padding and consider double boxing the guitar even if it increases the weight.
Don’t be shy with tape either and tape over all of the seams in the box to prevent moisture from getting in.
Consider also packaging cost when shipping a guitar
If you are listing a guitar for sale and trying to work up a reasonable shipping quote don’t forget to factor in the cost of shipping materials.
Boxes, packing tape, and padding such as bubble wrap or Styrofoam peanuts between boxes can add up quickly.
And if you have a shipping company package the guitar for you, you will certainly pay for it.
I don’t think you should try to make a large profit on the shipping and handling but covering your costs is legitimate.
Even better is if you have guitars and other items shipped to you sometimes. You should keep all of your boxes and padding whenever possible.
You can cut the tape on the seams of boxes to store them flat and re-make them with new tape when needed.
Not only is this less wasteful but you can save yourself some money or offer a better shipping and handling rate to potential buyers if you already have all the free recycled packaging you need.
Sell your guitar locally and don’t worry about shipping
Instead of trying to find ways to reduce the cost of shipping, I think it is better to simply avoid shipping guitars and heavy music gear whenever possible.
That doesn’t mean that you have to sell to a shop and lose money on the sale though.
There are a lot of free options to sell from person to person locally.
You can start by posting your guitar for sale on Craigslist, Facebook, or Offerup, and just specify local sales only (be aware that while Offerup is free for local sales, for remote sales the fees are really expensive (12+%).
And if your friends are also musicians then you should take advantage of that to sell or trade with them as well.
We may live in a fast-paced world where it seems things are constantly being shipped and delivered but sometimes it’s nice to slow down and keep things local.
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.