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How to sell a guitar on eBay and not get screwed (much)

eBay electric guitars

There has never been a guitar I've parted with where I regretted selling or trading in for something else. I've owned some fairly ritzy axes in the past, both electric and acoustic (one of them was an upper-end Ovation Balladeer with a stereo output). Once I decide it's time to get rid of a guitar, I get rid of it and don't look back.

Lots of guys buy guitars but never sell them. Or if they do sell, it's rare when it happens.

The reason some guys hang on to guitars is because of the crapola involved with selling one on eBay.

Important note: What I'm going to tell you below is absolutely not the cheapest way to sell a guitar. Not by a long shot. But it is the easiest.

The crap most people deal with when selling a guitar on eBay, and how to work with it

When you sell a guitar on eBay, you do get screwed because you lose so much by selling there. But once you know all the costs involved, at least you feel more comfortable selling that way if that's what you want to do.

Typical scenario:

  1. You have a guitar you want to sell, and the guitar is in pretty good shape. Not perfect, but still good.
  2. You have absolutely no idea how to ship the guitar properly, nor do you have any packing materials to ship with.
  3. You have absolutely no idea how much you're going to lose in fees and shipping.

Here's how it works. All the ugly truth of it.

Step 1. Use a gig bag instead of a guitar case no matter what the guitar is

(Tip: If you want extra padding, get the bag for acoustic guitars even if shipping an electric.)

A guitar shipped in a guitar case vs. in a gig bag is the difference between a 18-to-20 pound shipment and a 9-to-12 pound shipment. Use the gig bag to ship with.

If you're thinking, "That's insane!" No, it isn't. All that matters is the bag so the guitar doesn't get scratched up; UPS takes care of the rest. Keep reading.

Step 2. Understand eBay and PayPal fees

You're going to lose 13% off of whatever you sell your guitar for. A 10% fee will be taken by eBay, and a 3% fee will be taken by PayPal.

Step 3. Understand how to list on eBay

Always post the listing with free shipping, and adjust your price to accommodate for shipping costs and 13% eBay/PayPal fees you're going to lose. Don't use the eBay shipping calculator because you'll lose money that way. Ship free and adjust price. Why? Because it will make the guitar sell faster.

Step 4. Understand how much it costs to ship from a UPS Store

A guitar in a case will run you somewhere between $100 to $150 to ship. Yes, it will cost that much. A guitar shipped in a gig bag will be around $75 to $90. Obviously, this varies dependent on how far it has to ship.

You use UPS Store for three reasons. First, they take care of the packing and boxing and you don't have to pack a thing. Second, they take care of the forms for you. Third, they have full tracking from start to finish.

What you're paying for with UPS Store is convenience. Worth it? If you don't feel like packing a guitar yourself (which is a royal pain to do) and don't feel like dealing with stupid forms, yes it is.

Step 5. Understand how to ship

You always ship a guitar with signature-required-on-delivery and full shipping insurance whether the buyer asks for it or not.

If you don't ship with signature-required and insurance, there are some buyers out there who will try to screw you over with that "I never received it" lie and try to get a free guitar out of you. You avoid this by shipping it with signature-required and insurance. If the buyer tries any funny stuff, send him straight to UPS and tell him package was shipped fully insured, and if he did not receive it to contact UPS and file a claim.

Believe me, you do not want to take the risk of not using a signature or insurance when shipping guitars, because it can cost you dearly.

Step 6. Do not sell internationally

Stay within your country borders because otherwise your shipping costs will jump up to an insane level.

Without fail you will always get a guy who will write you a question on your eBay listing and ask if you ship to his country. Ignore it, because he's trying to get you to change the listing in the hopes you will not adjust your price for international shipping and may even try to get a free guitar out of you as described above. Don't fall for this. Stay within your borders so you can keep your price the way you set it originally.

An example of how much you will lose with all fees taken out

We'll use the example that you sold a guitar for $500 within the US, and the guitar will be shipped 1,000 miles to its destination by UPS Store.

13% of $500 is $65. You end up keeping $435 before shipping.

Assume $100 for shipping with packing by the UPS Store, signature and full insurance. Now you're left with $335.

On a $500 sale, you keep $335, which is close to 33% taken out from what you made.

Yeah, it's like I said, you get screwed. But at least you now have a very good idea of how much you would get screwed.

Yes, there are many other ways to sell cheaper

The method I listed above is probably one of the most expensive (if not the most expensive) way to sell a guitar on eBay.

But like I said, it is the easiest because there is nothing to pack.

This is the process to ship after your guitar is sold:

  1. Get the buyer's shipping address; you obviously need that.
  2. Drive to your local UPS Store with the guitar in a gig bag.
  3. Ask UPS (yes, you must do this) to ship the guitar with signature-required-on-delivery and shipping insurance for the amount you sold the guitar for.
  4. Pay the shipping fee. This is the part that sucks, but it must be done.
  5. Get a receipt with the tracking number.
  6. Go home, update the sold listing with said tracking number.
  7. Send a message to the buyer that the guitar has been shipped UPS Ground with signature required on delivery and full shipping insurance.

That's it.

Again, there are many ways to do this cheaper, but none easier. You pack nothing, you don't have to fuss around with any stickers or labels, you need no packing materials since UPS Store takes care of it all, and so on. Expensive? Yes. But very easy.

The question people want answered more than any other when it comes to this stuff is, "How BAD can it get when it comes to fees and shipping expenses?" Well, now you know.

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