You’ve searched the local music stores for a guitar, but they don’t have what you’re looking for. In this article, I’ll reveal the advantages and potential pitfalls of online guitar shopping, the best way to make it work for you, and where to shop online.
Keep on reading to learn everything you need to know, especially if you’re just starting out on the guitar.
You can use the table of contents below to take you to the area that interests you. Click on the little box to open it and then click on the section of the article you want to read, or you can read from start to finish if you want the full online shopping experience!
Do People Really Buy Guitars Online?
Yes, more people buy guitars and other musical instruments online than you might realize. The biggest advantage is the number of guitars to choose from, and let’s not forget the deals and price breaks.
The major drawback has always been that you cannot see and play the instrument before purchasing it. These days, it’s easy to find a review video of the guitar that gives you up-close views of the instrument and allows you to hear how it sounds. Videos of electric guitars demonstrate them played through various amplifiers and effects.
Many companies offer free shipping and free returns to make online shopping more attractive.
Online Shopping Checklist
- Set a price range – How much you can afford and what you are willing to pay
- Make a list of guitars you are interested in comparing in that price range, try to keep it to five guitars or less
- Do an initial search for each guitar on Amazon and two or three online music stores
- Email your list of guitars to a family member or friend that plays the guitar if you are a beginning guitar player to get a trusted opinion
- Make a note of which online store has the lowest price, does not charge tax in your location, and offers free shipping and return shipping
- Check the website’s return policy and if there is a “restocking fee”
- Find out which websites are offering services like a guitar inspection, an extended warranty, and technical support after the sale
- Look for verified online reviews of each guitar, read both the good and the bad reviews
- Speak with a website sales representative to get all your questions answered and inquire about any upcoming sales on these or similar guitars
- Alert the sales rep if you found another website that offers a better price on the same guitar and for the best deal
- Try to negotiate a free gig bag, or other sales incentive into the price of the instrument
- Attempt to find some brick-and-mortar music stores in your area where you can play a similar guitar
- If the online store has a physical store in your area, ask them ship the guitar there so you can play it before you take it home
Keep On Reading To Learn More!
Advantages Of Online Guitar Shopping
- Convenient 24/7 online shopping
- Objective buyer reviews and videos
- Knowledgable online sales representatives
- More makes, models, and colors of guitars to choose from
- Lower prices than many brick-and-mortar stores
- May have a free payment plan
- Don’t have to travel to pick up the guitar
- May have free shipping and free returns
- Extended warranty may be available
- May not have to pay tax at the time of purchase
Disadvantages Of Online Guitar Shopping
- Can’t play the guitar before you buy it to evaluate sound and performance
- The sound and playability of one guitar cannot be compared to that of another
- The guitar cannot be closely inspected for quality of craftsmanship
- Guitars often look different in person than in a photo
- Don’t personally know the salesperson you are speaking with
- The guitar is not as easy to return, and you may have to pay the shipping cost
- If the guitar requires adjustments you will have to mail it back or pay to have it done locally
- You are not helping to support your local businesses
Getting A Feel For The Guitar
If you are buying your first guitar or have never played the type of guitar you are thinking of buying online, it’s a good idea to play a similar one before you purchase.
You can visit a music store, or maybe your friend or a family member has one you can try.
For example, let’s say you’ve never played a Fender Stratocaster (electric guitar), but you want to buy a particular model online because you can’t buy it locally. Play any Stratocaster model before you purchase to ensure that you like the way a Stratocaster feels and plays. If it’s not for you, maybe you’re a Telecaster person or would be better off with a Gibson guitar, etc.
So, try a guitar that comes close to what you want before you buy.
Popular Online Music Stores
Here are some of the places I have bought a guitar online.
Sweetwater is one of my favorite places to buy a guitar. They offer a vast selection, their salespeople are very knowledgeable, and many of the staff are guitar players themselves. Sweetwater frequently runs major sales events and has great payment plan deals, especially during the holidays.
Guitar center has an online store as well as brick-and-mortar stores in multiple states in the USA. What I like about Guitar Center is that they can have a guitar sent to their store nearest to you from another store or their warehouse so you can try it.
They can be more difficult to bargain with if you find a lower price for a guitar at one of their online competitors. They accept trade-ins on used musical equipment at their retail stores, which can be a big help financially!
Be aware that if you have a Guitar Center in your state, you may have to pay tax on the guitar at the time of an online purchase.
I haven’t bought a guitar from them in several years, but all my past experiences were good. Their staff did not seem to be quite as knowledgeable about their guitars as some of the other online retailers, but they were always willing to get back to me with answers to specific questions.
Their standard 3-5 day ground shipping to the USA is free.
Like Guitar Center, Sam Ash has brick-and-mortar stores in 16 states throughout the USA. You can shop online and then play the guitar at a store near you before you take it home.
Sam Ash stocks instruments that might be harder to find at other online stores. I bought a Gibson Custom Shop ’59 VOS Les Paul from them several years ago because I couldn’t find it in the finish I wanted at the other online guitar stores.
They are very professional, and their customer service reps go above and beyond to attend to all your questions and product needs.
I bought one guitar from Amazon because they had it in stock and other online dealers did not. Everyone knows Amazon to be highly reputable in customer service and returns.
When you buy a guitar from them, you cannot take advantage of things such as a free inspection and setup or send the guitar back to them for routine service.
Amazon is an excellent option for buying low-price entry-level guitars for beginners or starter packs that contain a guitar, strap, tuner, and amp, which are perfect for that Birthday or Christmas gift! It can be more challenging to find some of the higher-end guitars that professionals might want.
Be aware that you may be required to pay tax on the guitar at the time of payment, depending on your location.
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The following two places are generally known to be reputable but I have never bought a guitar from them.
Reverb.com is a huge dealer of used and new musical equipment. Equipment is bought and sold by musicians and music dealers. You can shop by category, like guitar type, best sellers, or deals & steals.
Reverb has a tremendous selection of guitars. If you cannot find what you are looking for elsewhere, the chances are good that you will find it here!
Sellers are reviewed and rated. Reverb lists the total number of sales for each seller right next to each item.
Unlike eBay, which typically auctions off anything to the highest bidder, Reverb.com only deals in musical equipment, so the guitars generally are well cared for by other musicians or store dealers.
eBay is the biggest international auction house globally and sells anything you can possibly think of. It is generally a safe place to buy guitars if you purchase from a “power seller.”
eBay will get involved if you have a problem with a buying transaction and the seller cannot resolve the matter to your satisfaction.
If you’re looking for an antique vintage instrument or rare guitar from various places in the world, eBay is the best place to find it.
Important Listings To Visit Online
Be sure to check out these areas while you shop online, especially if you’re not sure what guitar you want. They may lead you in a new direction and help you find something you didn’t know existed!
Even if there is a particular guitar that you are looking to buy, never forget to check for deals! Most online stores have a “daily deals” section. You might find a guitar that strikes your fancy and saves you a lot of money.
With daily deals or flash sales, always check to ensure that you can return the guitar without a hidden penalty (restocking fee, you have to pay return shipping, etc.).
If you are buying your first guitar or are unsure what you are looking for, always check the best sellers area. You can let the experience of other guitar players direct you to a popular guitar because it is a good deal for the money or plays and sounds great.
If you’re looking to save money on a good guitar, you can sort the list by price: low-high. Players that want a high-performing guitar can sort by average customer review.
Most online stores have a what’s new website. If you are looking for the latest and greatest, here’s where to start. This area is essential if you are looking for more recent models for electronic devices or accessories such as digital recording equipment, etc.
Most of the guitars here will not be on sale, but it’s always worth looking. If you decide to buy something, always check to see if it is currently available and when it will ship. Chat with an online sales rep to ensure you are well informed before purchasing.
You can always sort by “newest arrivals.” no matter where you are on the website, but the What’s New section will give you the big picture.
Brand Names For Beginners
If you’re a guitar-playing newbie, here is an alphabetic list of some reliable brand names to look for. They offer good quality acoustic and electric guitars at a price you can afford.
Although there are other high-quality brand names outside this list, beware of guitars with a price tag that is too good to be true.
- Fender “Squier” series
Fender, Gibson, Martin, PRS, and Taylor also sell lower-priced guitars, but they tend to be at the higher end of the spectrum. If you are looking for a deal on these brands, look for pre-owned guitars or big holiday sales.
Beware Of High-Interest Rates On Free Payment Plans!
Some online music stores offer 1 to 4-year interest-free payments but tack on high-interest rates and penalties if you don’t pay on time or don’t pay the guitar off by a certain date within that time period!
It’s essential to read all the fine print of the payment contract. If you don’t completely understand the payment terms and requirements, speak to a sales rep and get clarification.
Is Online Guitar Shopping Legit?
Online guitar shopping is becoming an increasingly popular way to find the most brands and models of guitars at some of the best prices.
The larger dealers offer demonstration videos and free shipping to compensate for not being able to play the guitar before you purchase it.
More experienced players will generally find it easier to locate what they need online. First-time buyers and less experienced players can find an online guitar purchase more challenging than a trip to the local music store.
Some online music stores, like Guitar Center and Sam Ash, offer the ability to buy a guitar online and have it shipped to a store near you so you can play it before taking the instrument home.
Visiting well-known websites will help ensure a legitimate and fruitful shopping experience. Beware of websites that are not “authorized dealers” of guitars and other musical equipment. Buying from them may void the manufacturer’s warranty or lead to a poor shopping experience.
Using the information and recommendations in this article will help you get precisely what you need without unforeseen problems.
- Enlist the input of a family member or friend that plays guitar if this is your first online purchase
- Read user reviews for each guitar you are considering as a purchase
- Speak to an online sales rep whenever you need additional information
- Enquire about the product warranty, return policy, shipping cost, and tax
- Ask about a free guitar setup and gig bag (if the guitar does not have one)
- Always visit more than one online store to shop for the best deal
Are You Qualified To Make Guitar Adjustments Or Modifications?
It’s great to work on your guitars, especially if you have a lot of them, but you should always be aware of your limitations.
Adjusting things like an electric guitar’s string height (action) or pickup height can be straightforward. Still, some adjustments require the proper training and experience, like adjusting a guitar’s truss rod.
When you doubt your ability to adjust, repair, or modify your guitar, it’s always best to bring it to a competent guitar technician or luthier (guitar designer & builder). You can permanently damage your guitar, and it might never play and sound right again!
Making modifications to your guitar can void its manufacturer’s warranty and cause permanent damage to the instrument. Certain modifications are irreversible, so you may be stuck with them, even if you desperately want to restore the guitar to its original condition!
I learned that the hard way over the years until I did a three-year apprenticeship in a guitar repair shop. Now I have my own home workshop with the proper training and equipment to safely maintain and repair all my instruments.
Remember: “When In Doubt, Send It Out!” If you buy a guitar online that needs adjustment, it’s better to mail it back to the company, or you might void their warranty or damage your instrument.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the questions I get asked about Online Guitar Shopping.
If your question does not appear here, please put it in the comments, and I will get right back to you with an answer.
What Is The Best Time Of Year To Buy A Guitar Online?
You should try to target the major holidays. Christmas time and “Black Friday” are two of the best times to find great deals. Many dealers run specials in April and May for players getting income tax rebates. Summer is also a good time of year to shop around.
Which Guitar Brand Is Best?
There isn’t a single brand of guitar that is clearly better than all the rest. The brand of guitar you buy will depend on things like your budget, the type of music you play, and the quality of the instrument you want.
Are Epiphones As Good As Gibson Guitars?
Although Gibson acquired Epiphone many years ago, Epiphone guitars are generally lower quality than American-made Gibson guitars. Still, Epiphone is an excellent choice for any guitar player.
How Many Types Of Guitar Are There?
Acoustic guitars can be classified as classical (nylon string) and Spanish or “folk” (steel string). There are also electric (steel string) guitars and Hawaiian or “Lap Steel” guitars.
Does Fender Own Squier?
Yes, Squier is Fender’s lower-end guitar line for beginning guitarists and players on a budget. They are usually made in China and Indonesia.
Online guitar shopping can be an excellent alternative to buying your instrument in a brick-and-mortar store, especially if you want the most extensive selection.
Even though you can’t play the guitar before you purchase it online, many online dealers have tried to level the playing field by offering no tax at checkout, free shipping and return shipping, user reviews, demonstration videos, and the ability to have the guitar shipped to a physical store near the player.
Still, it’s always a good idea to try playing a similar guitar in a music store or at a friend’s before making your online purchase.
I encourage you to continue routinely visiting your favorite music stores and add online shopping to enhance your consumer experience. For more info, see Buying A Guitar In A Guitar Store – Best Tips And Tricks!
Now that you know how to buy a guitar online, to learn more, check out the following articles (click on the titles below):
1. Cheap Guitar Gig Bags – 8 Best Options For Under $100!
2. How To Store A Guitar – Avoid These Mistakes To Keep It Safe
3. Is Sweetwater Legit – Will This Music Store Treat You Right?
Tell Me What You Think
Please leave a comment below if you enjoyed this article, have any questions about online guitar shopping, or want to give your point of view. I will be happy to help you.
- Have you bought a guitar online? Were you happy with the outcome?
- What other types of musical merchandise have you bought online?
- Which online music store is your favorite? Why?
- After reading this article, would you consider buying a guitar online?
6 thoughts on “Online Guitar Shopping – The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly!”
Thanks for this practical article. I have looked at guitars online as a present, but have not been sure about the sites. I appreciate your list of sites. The suggestion about contacting someone who knows guitars is a big help. I also found your suggestion about guitar brands helpful. Thanks for the article.
Thank You for your comments!
So glad you liked the article. You can use it as a guide for future purchases. Consider buying yourself an entry-level guitar. It could be one of the best presents you have ever received. 😊
Excellent article Frank, I appreciate all the online purchasing tips! I haven’t bought a guitar online yet but it certainly could be something I find myself doing in the future. I do buy many other things online and it seems like guitars would be pretty expensive to ship depending on what online outlet you are buying from. Have you ever had shipping costs become a barrier to you purchasing a guitar online?
Thank You for your comments!
I always buy online from a store that is offering free shipping, but if you don’t live in the USA, that could be challenging to arrange. The other thing to do is find out the store’s return policy and speak with a sales rep to see if you can get free return shipping if you are not happy with the guitar.
Let me know if you have any other questions,
I am not able to make a decision whether to buy a new guitar or repair my Dad’s old guitar. I prefer online purchases, there we get some discounts. If anyone can suggest what will be good for a beginner – buying a new guitar or repairing an old guitar?
If your dad’s guitar has sentimental or high resale value, I would consider repairing it. Check out Stewmac dot com. They have a variety of guitar parts and tools. It might be best for you to take the guitar to a repair shop or luthier to get an appraisal of its value and a repair estimate.
You can get some good guitars for beginners’ deals online.