How Much Does It Cost to Ship a Guitar | Best Expert Guide

We’ve all been there: standing at the counter of a shipping company, clutching our precious guitars and wondering, “How much will it cost to send this safely to its destination?” Well, wonder no more!

This guide will dissect the factors that influence the cost to ship a guitar, offering insights into each step of the process.


Understanding the Anatomy of a Guitar

Before we delve into shipping, it’s important to know a bit about the anatomy of a guitar. Guitars are delicate instruments composed of various materials such as wood, metal, and sometimes plastic, which all react differently to environmental changes.

This sensitivity plays a critical role in shipping guitars, as understanding the guitar’s structure can help in choosing the right packaging and shipping methods.

The body of the guitar, usually made of wood, can expand and contract with temperature changes, potentially causing damage during transit.

Similarly, the neck of the guitar, attached with a truss rod, can bend under extreme temperature or pressure conditions. By understanding these parts of the guitar, we can take necessary precautions when preparing for shipment.

Deciding Whether to Ship

Shipping a guitar isn’t always the best solution. Depending on the situation, it might be safer and more cost-effective to carry the guitar with you.

For instance, if you’re traveling a short distance or have the ability to transport the guitar by car, this would eliminate the risk of damage during shipping and save on shipping costs.

However, in many cases, shipping is necessary. If you’ve sold your guitar to someone on the other side of the country, or even overseas, shipping is the only viable option. The next sections will guide you on how to do this safely and economically.

How Packaging Influences Shipping Cost

Protecting your guitar during transit is essential. Packaging material choices will directly impact the safety of your guitar and the cost of shipping.

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Basic materials such as bubble wrap and packing peanuts can be acquired affordably and offer a fair amount of protection. Specialty guitar shipping boxes, though more expensive, provide additional security.

Professional packing can also be a worthwhile investment, especially for high-value guitars. Companies like UPS and FedEx offer packing services specifically designed for fragile items such as musical instruments. The cost of these services varies depending on the item’s size, weight, and fragility.

Understanding Shipping Insurance

Shipping insurance covers the cost of your guitar if it’s lost or damaged during transit. It’s not mandatory, but it is highly recommended, especially for expensive guitars.

The cost of insurance is typically a percentage of the declared value of the guitar, so the more valuable the guitar, the higher the insurance cost.

Most carriers, including USPS, UPS, and FedEx, offer insurance options. It’s crucial to read their terms and conditions carefully, as not all types of damage may be covered.

For high-value guitars, consider specialized musical instrument insurance providers like Clarion for comprehensive coverage.

Determining the Shipping Method (cont.)

money. On the other hand, air shipping is faster but typically more expensive. It’s ideal when time is of the essence. Lastly, express shipping offers the fastest delivery times at a premium price.

Each method has different implications for the safety of your guitar. Ground shipping may subject the instrument to more handling, increasing the risk of damage, while air and express shipping offer less handling but could expose the guitar to more pressure and temperature changes.

The Role of Shipping Carriers

Several shipping carriers can ship your guitar, each with varying service levels and costs. Major carriers like UPS, FedEx, and USPS offer multiple shipping options, from standard to express delivery. It’s essential to compare their rates and services to find the best fit for your needs.

Each carrier also has different policies regarding insurance and claim processes, so understanding these details can help you make an informed decision.

How Distance Affects Shipping Cost

The shipping cost is directly influenced by the distance between the origin and the destination. Shipping within the same city or state is considerably cheaper than shipping across the country.

International shipping is the most expensive due to higher transport costs and additional customs fees.

Keep in mind that carriers may also charge extra for delivering to remote or hard-to-reach locations. This is known as a “remote area surcharge” or “delivery area surcharge.”

Impact of Guitar’s Size and Weight on Shipping Cost

The size and weight of your guitar also significantly impact the cost of shipping. Heavier guitars cost more to ship, as do oversized guitars. Most carriers use a pricing model based on “dimensional weight,” which considers both the size and the weight of the package.

Packing material can add to the overall weight, so using lightweight but protective materials can help keep costs down.

Custom Regulations and Duties

When shipping a guitar internationally, you’ll need to consider customs regulations and duties. Each country has different rules regarding the import of musical instruments, and failure to comply can result in delays or extra charges.

In addition to the declared value of the guitar, import duties and taxes are often applied, increasing the overall shipping cost.

Websites like Dutycalculator can help you estimate these charges, but you should also check with the destination country’s customs office for the most accurate information.

Tracking and Delivery Confirmation

Most carriers offer tracking services, allowing you to monitor the progress of your shipment. While this doesn’t directly increase the shipping cost, opting for a service with detailed tracking can be slightly more expensive.

Delivery confirmation ensures you’re notified when the guitar has been delivered. It often comes at a small extra cost but offers peace of mind that your guitar has safely reached its destination.

Return Shipping Costs

If you’re selling a guitar, it’s crucial to consider potential return shipping costs. If the buyer decides to return the guitar, you may be responsible for the return shipping fees, which can be significant, especially for international sales.

To avoid unexpected return shipping costs, consider offering a clear return policy, accurately describing the guitar’s condition, and providing high-quality photos to the buyer.

Case Study: Average Cost to Ship a Guitar (cont.)

average costs; the actual cost may vary based on factors discussed earlier, like packaging materials, insurance, and customs duties.

These estimates are based on standard ground shipping. Opting for expedited or express delivery will increase the costs.

Hidden Fees and Surcharges

Shipping costs aren’t always straightforward. There can be hidden fees and surcharges that increase the total cost. For instance, fuel surcharges, residential delivery fees, and Saturday delivery charges can add to the final bill.

Be sure to read the fine print and ask the carrier about any additional charges before you ship. Tools like FedEx’s Rates and Transit Times estimator can help you understand all the costs involved.

Money-saving Tips for Shipping a Guitar

Shipping a guitar can be pricey, but there are ways to save money. Here are a few tips:

  1. Compare Rates: Different carriers offer different rates, so it’s worth comparing to find the best deal.
  2. Package It Yourself: If you’re confident in your packing skills, doing it yourself can save on professional packing costs.
  3. Plan Ahead: Express shipping is expensive. If you plan ahead, you can opt for slower, more affordable shipping options.

Professional Packing and Shipping Services

If you’re not comfortable packing and shipping the guitar yourself, consider using professional packing and shipping services. These services, offered by companies like The UPS Store, take care of the entire process, from packing to insurance and shipping.

While these services come at a premium, they can save you time and offer peace of mind, especially when shipping high-value guitars.

Guitar Shipping Horror Stories: What Can Go Wrong


Shipping a guitar isn’t without risks. There are plenty of horror stories about guitars being damaged or lost during shipping. For instance, in 2009, musician Dave Schneider had a vintage 1965 Gibson ES-335 guitar severely damaged during a Delta Airlines flight.

Such stories underline the importance of proper packaging, insurance, and choosing a reliable shipping service.

Successful Guitar Shipping Stories

Despite the potential risks, many guitars are successfully shipped every day. For example, online marketplaces like Reverb and Ebay report thousands of successful guitar shipments each year.

These successes are largely due to careful packing, appropriate insurance coverage, and using trusted carriers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Before we conclude, let’s look at some commonly asked questions about shipping guitars:


While you technically can ship a guitar without a case, it’s strongly recommended not to do so. A case provides the first line of defense against potential damage during transit. If you don’t have a hard case, at the very least use a soft gig bag for some protection. Remember, the goal is to minimize movement and protect the guitar from any impact.


The best materials for packing a guitar for shipping include a hard-shell guitar case, bubble wrap, packing peanuts, and a sturdy shipping box. Wrap the guitar securely in bubble wrap after placing it in its case to prevent movement, fill any empty spaces with packing peanuts, and then place the case in the shipping box. Also, consider using packing tape to secure the box further.


Yes, it is recommended to loosen the strings before shipping a guitar. The change in pressure and temperature during transit can cause the strings to tighten and possibly snap, causing damage to the guitar. By loosening the strings, you reduce the tension and minimize the risk of damage.


The safest way to ship a guitar is to use a hard-shell case, properly secure the guitar inside the case with bubble wrap, and then place the case in a sturdy, appropriately sized shipping box filled with packing peanuts or another type of protective filler. Choose a reliable carrier and opt for shipping insurance to cover any potential damage or loss during transit.


Shipping cost for your guitar can be estimated using online tools provided by various carriers such as USPS, FedEx, or UPS. You’ll need to input details like the origin and destination zip codes, the weight of the package (including the guitar, case, and any packing materials), and the dimensions of the box. Remember, this is just an estimate; the actual cost may vary depending on additional factors like insurance, delivery speed, and any value-added services you choose.


Shipping a guitar involves several variables, all of which contribute to the cost.

From understanding the anatomy of the guitar, choosing the right packaging materials and shipping method, to knowing the implications of distance, size, and weight – it’s a process that demands careful attention.

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