Should You Trade In Your Guitar at a Store?

Trading in gear at a store can have some definite advantages. 

If you are running out of room you can trade in several guitars for one more premium instrument or for a smaller thing like an amplifier or effects pedal. 

And since you have already paid for the stuff you are trading in, you aren’t technically spending any money, right?. That’s the optimistic way of looking at it anyway.

Trading in your guitar at a store for credit is usually a better deal than selling it to them outright. I think it’s an acceptable choice for affordable guitars and heavy gear that don’t make sense to ship. But remember that stores that offer discounts for trading in having many exclusions on what you can buy.

On the other hand, there are times when trading in a guitar isn’t going to be a good deal. We’ll try to offer some guidelines that will help you decide what to do.

How do trade-ins work at guitar stores?

Major guitar store chains can usually be expected to have a lot of the same new items, the things you can easily order online without leaving your home. 

So having used gear on offer can be a good way to get customers in the door; you never know what interesting guitar or equipment you might find that isn’t conveniently available online.

And when stores buy your gear they certainly don’t want you walking out with your new cash. They would prefer that you reinvest it at their store. 

Therefore stores will usually offer better trade value than cash or give you a discount on new items. 

But be warned: the discounts may only apply to certain (new) items, brands, etc. 

This is a situation where you really need to read the fine print or ask a lot of questions of the store staff to make sure you can spend your credit on exactly what you want.

Do guitar stores offer good deals when trading in?

When you sell something to a music shop you will probably receive somewhere between 40% – 60% of the amount that the shop hopes to sell it for later. It’s not the greatest deal in the world. 

But if you accept trade credit you may get about 10% more in credit than you would cash, or get a 10% discount on certain items in the store (Guitar Center). 

So instead of calling it a good deal, I would say it’s a better deal

Some stores like Sam Ash Music state that they have a trade policy but won’t publish the exact rates for selling versus trading online so you will have to ask about it in-store and then decide if it’s worth it. 

Finally, if you were paying attention in economics class you may be able to use it to your advantage. 

So if you find two music stores that are across the street from each other you might get a slightly better offer than you would at a store that doesn’t have to worry about a nearby competing business.

Reasons to consider trading in your guitar at the store

Well, the best reason to trade in a guitar at a local store is that it’s time-effective and you don’t have to deal with things like responding to buyers’ questions, packing, and shipping. 

And then the value of an instrument has a lot to do with it too. If you have a budget guitar, worth let’s say $200 – $300, it might not make sense to expect someone to pay $80 to have it shipped to them. 

So unless you can find a local buyer, trading it to a store could be your best option. 

Also, some online retailers may offer free shipping on items but if you are looking for something used that is very heavy like a speaker cabinet or Ampeg SVT amp the shipping cost is going to be terrible. 

And if a store allows trade-in credit to be applied to used gear (some like Guitar Center do not, but at a store like Music Go Round everything is used) then the savings on shipping costs could be huge. 

I know you could sell your guitar online for more and then buy the item you want from the shop but if you do this you are running the risk that someone else might buy it before you get your money. 

Finally, I think having local stores that sell used music gear should be appreciated. 

So if you value being able to put your hands on a used instrument and play it before you buy it then gives the shops some of your business.

Reasons to not trade in your guitar at the store

First, if you are trying to sell or trade an expensive guitar, the low payout percentages from stores are going to cost you a lot of money. 

You may be able to find a store that will allow you to sell your guitar on consignment for a better deal though. 

The restrictions on what you can use trade credit or discounts for at certain stores can really limit your choices too. 

There may simply not be anything that catches your eye. 

And even though it is called “trading in”, doing this at a shop has the major disadvantage of having sales tax added to what you get with your credit. 

Or maybe you just have more music equipment than you really need. 

There’s nothing wrong with downsizing and getting cash for your gear, which makes selling to stores a less-attractive deal. 

So let’s examine some other options.

Alternative places to sell your guitar

There are a lot of ways to sell online and everyone is familiar with major sites like eBay and Reverb.

But these sites can cost you a lot in fees and are so big that they attract a lot of scams too. 

So I think it is better to use other free options like Facebook marketplace, or Craigslist.

You can sell remotely or specify that your guitar is only for sale locally if you don’t want to mess with shipping. 

And if you are keen on trading, then simply list what sort of items you would accept in trade for all or part of the total (you can always settle the difference with cash). 

Since this is actually a trade between two people and not a purchase with store credit, you don’t have to worry about sales tax either. 

Keeping things simple and local will be a much better deal for both you and the buyer.