how-to-ship-a-guitar

How To Safely Pack And Ship A Guitar

Selling a guitar is the easy part; making sure it’s adequately packaged to ensure safe transit is where you’ll need to be careful.  As long as you take the proper precautions and pack your guitar properly you can greatly decrease the chances of it turning up at your buyer’s home in more than one piece!

These methods are by no-means foolproof but they will certainly go a long way in helping to prevent potential damage.

How to Safely Ship a Guitar

Keep Your Packing Materials!

First off let me say this: ALWAYS keep any packaging material you receive in the mail.  Whenever I take delivery of a guitar I make sure to keep the box/bubblewrap etc and hide them away in my cupboard/under the bed.  When shipping guitars it is imperative to ensure that they are sufficiently padded, so you can never have too much packing material saved up.  If you run out of bubble-wrap, crumpled up newspaper is near enough as good – although it is heavier.

If you prefer to buy guitars from your local store, ask if you can have the box as well.  If they don’t have it they should be able to give you a box from a similar guitar.

Pre-Packaging Checklist

1. Although not necessary, it is a good idea to slightly loosen the strings on the guitar.  Just enough to lower the pitch by a whole-step or so should suffice.   This will reduce the tension placed on the neck during shipping.

2. If your guitar has a tremolo bar remember to remove it.  Some cases will have a space cut out so that you don’t need to do this, but better safe than sorry.

3. Ensure that you have included everything inside the box.  Any manuals, leads, allen keys that you told the buyer came with the guitar should be in there.  The last thing you want to do is to package everything up and then find you’ve forgotten something.

4. Lastly, give the guitar a quick polish before you say goodbye.  You want to give the buyer a good first impression so that he/she leaves you good feedback after all is said and done!

Shipping In A Hardcase

If you have a good quality guitar chances are it came with a moulded hard-case, which is great as you already have some quality added protection against those heavy-handed couriers. Note: a hard-case is not a shipping box.  Earlier this year I bought a guitar from a seller who decided it would be a clever idea just to put the guitar in its case and slap an address label on the top – the guitar was fine, the case was not.

Shipping A Left Handed Guitar in a Hardcase MusicMan

The main goal here is to package the guitar inside the case so there is as little movement as possible.  If you have a custom moulded case like the one above then the guitar should already be a fairly snug fit, and the case should provide ample padding to protect it.  Nonetheless, I like to go around the edges of the guitar with a thin layer of bubblewrap just to ensure it is as tight a fit as safely possible.  It is also a good idea to put a couple of wraps around the neck and headstock.  Take extra care to ensure the headstock is padded well, both above and below.

Shipping A Left Handed Guitar in a Hardcase Padding With Bubblewrap MusicManOnce you’re done you should have something along the lines of the photo to the left.

Before you put your expertly padded case into your shipping box, place a layer of bubblewrap/packaging material in the bottom of the box for extra cushioning.  Once the hardcase is inside the box place another layer of padding on top before sealing it up.  Again the idea here is to ensure that the hardcase does not move around inside the box.  The padding on either end will act as a shock absorber if the box is dropped by the courier.

How To Safely Ship a Left Handed Guitar Padding

My Guitar Doesn’t Have A Hardcase!

No problem, the same rules apply!  Make sure your guitar is well wrapped and cannot move around inside the box.  Obviously depending on what you have to work with you may need a hell of a lot more padding material to ensure the guitar is safely packed.  If you have adhered to the first rule above and kept your original packaging then the job becomes much easier.

Packing a Left Handed Guitar in a Cardboard Box Padding

I Don’t Even Have A Box!

You should easily be able to grab a suitable shipping box from your local store for free.  The store I shop at throws out their boxes as soon as they are received, so as long as you show up early you should be able to grab something.  If you don’t want to appear rude, buy some strings before asking! 🙂

The alternative is to list the guitar on eBay as ‘local pickup only’.  This will mean less interest in your guitar but you can avoid all of the hassles that come with shipping.

Left Handed Guitar Packed Up and Read To Ship

Almost Done!

The last piece of the puzzle is to use a healthy dose of packing tape around both the top and bottom of your shipping box.  You don’t want the box falling to bits and/or accidentally opening after all of your efforts!

Finally, just to be super-safe, print off a copy of the buyer’s address and tape it on the box yourself.  Sometimes the courier’s computer system will enter an address in a different format –  something I recently discovered when shipping a guitar to Spain.

Which Service Do I Use?

I always use the fastest service I can afford.  Even with the best packing a guitar is still a fragile item, so you want to have it knocking around in trucks and planes for as little time as possible in order to avoid damage in transit.  So wherever possible I try to ship next day.  Within the UK, a great service to use is InterParcel. Perhaps those of you in other countries can share your preferred couriers in the comments section below.

Ship Early in the Week

If possible, try and ship your guitar earlier on in the week. Most couriers won’t deliver during weekends unless you have paid a premium for the service.  This means that a guitar shipped on Friday will probably sit around all weekend in the depot, adding more opportunities for it to be damaged or lost.

Do you have any horror shipping stories?  Leave a comment!

3 replies
  1. Vic
    Vic says:

    One note of caution about wrapping the entire guitar in bubblewrap … nitro finishes can react with plastic and I have seen vintage guitars with circles on them from touching bubble wrap for an extended period during shipment. I do use bubblewrap to protect and pad the headstock in the case, but I wrap the headstock in paper towels first so the plastic does not touch the finish. Bottom line, for me … secure the guitar inside the case, and then secure the case inside the box so it does not move when you shake the box. Use bubble wrap at the bottom especially, then crushed paper or styrofoam peanuts to lock the case inside the box. More bubble wrap at the top, and then indicate that the box should be shipped upright, to avoid having a lot of other packages stacked on top of it. That being said, even the most carefully packed guitar can be damaged by shippers, so be sure and insure it fully.

    Reply
  2. MLJ
    MLJ says:

    Good article Neal I wish the shop that sent a brand new guitar to me from the USA to Australia read it! I pleaded with the shop to ensure the guitar was up to scratch before they sent but it was not to be, it arrived seven weeks! later with the neck pickup non functioning & a ding in the body because the guitar (a set neck) was flopping loose in the crappy hardcase they sold me, no bubble wrap to be seen. I have to say the shop paid up for the repairs but if they had listened to me it would not have happened.

    Reply

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